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The concept of God in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions

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!T Series-Books-In-Brief

The IIIT series is a valuable collection of the Institute's key publications written in condensed form, designed to give readers a basic understanding of the main contents of the original.

Written in a short, easy-to-read, time-saving format, these compendiums offer a faithful and carefully written overview of the larger publication and will hopefully stimulate readers to delve further into the original.

Anthropomorphic Depictions of God: The Concept of God in the Jewish, Christian & Islamic Traditions: Representing the Unrepresentable by Zulfigar Ali Shah is a monumental study originally published (in full) in 2012. It carefully examines the issues of anthropomorphism in the three faiths Abrahamic, as seen in the texts of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran.

Throughout history, Christianity and Judaism have attempted to make sense of God. By juxtaposing the Islamic position with this, the author addresses the Judeo-Christian worldview and how each has chosen to regulate their encounter with God, to what extent this was the actual result of Scripture and to what extent the product of theological debate, or of the decrees of the Church in later centuries and the absorption of Hellenistic philosophy. Shah also examines Islam's profoundly anti-anthropomorphic position and the Islamic theological discourse of Tawhid as well as the Ninety-Nine Names of God and the significance these have had on Muslims' understanding of God and His attributes. As he describes how these became the touchstone of Muslim dialogue with Judaism and Christianity, he criticizes theological statements and perspectives that have dampened, if not counteracted, rigid monotheism.

While secularism debates whether God is dead, the question of anthropomorphism has become a matter of immense importance. Research

of God, especially in this day and age, is partly a pursuit of intellectual desire. For Shah, anthropomorphic concepts and corporeal representations of the Divine are perhaps among the main factors of modern atheism. As such he ultimately draws the conclusion that the postmodern desire for God will not be canceled out by ancient anthropomorphic and corporeal concepts of the Divine, which simply brought God into this universe, with a precise historical function and a specific position, reducing the intellectual and spiritual strength of what God is and represents, leading the soul to diminish the sense of the sacred and, therefore, faith in Him.

Dr. Shah's work provides an important backdrop to any study or discussion of this historically crucial theological issue.


This work is a detailed exposition on the issues of anthropomorphism and corporeality (the description of God in human physical terms, categories or forms inappropriate for the Majesty of God) in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and how these are covered in the texts of the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and the Koran. It is also a detailed examination of subsequent developments in theological thought, scriptural interpretation, and exegetical criticism regarding anthropomorphism and how these elements have significantly influenced the perception of God by followers of all three traditions. God created man in His moral image, which means that He wanted humanity to live a life marked by justice, equality, fairness, mutual respect, sympathy, love, compassion, charity, etc. On the other hand, humanity has also chosen to violate the most basic moral commandments of God and return the favor by creating God in its own image of man, rather severely, bringing the ineffable transcendental Other into the realms of structure and space, only to serve hidden agendas and selfish desires. Indeed, the sons of Abraham (by which is meant the Semitic consciousness) personalized, nationalized, and anthropomorphized the transcendental Deity so that He actually became only a larger, more powerful, and more lethal version of themselves. As such, humanity has not hesitated to invoke its own varied individual, municipal and national strategies, practices, ideas, likes and dislikes, etc. to God. to thus create an absolute exterior of finite ideas of nationality, ethnicity, race, politics, ideology and even theology. By raising to the highest levels of importance limited historical phenomena such as the earth, race, a historical figure, or a particular notion of divinity or law, what humanity has ultimately succeeded in doing is to replace the One and Absolute Only, having created infinitely inferior absolute multiples, of intrinsically limited nature and value compared to Him. It was inevitable that this idolatrous speculation,

this man-made idea of ​​a national or personalized God,

It would have led to a heated response, a violent resistance that would have ultimately degenerated into futility. Enlightened "Deism", if.

Quito scientific agnosticism and finally atheism would have been the fatal result. As science has inexorably developed and a philosophy of secular humanism and materialism has replaced the ideas of religion and God becoming the new cultural ethos, bold statements, such as those of Karl Marx for whom religion was the opium of the people, have deeply imprinted in the common imagination. The key to human happiness now lay in maximizing one's material needs in this life and not postponing gratification until some sort of paradise after death. Naturally forgetting that the raison d'être of religion is to give an answer to the meaning of existence, provide spiritual and ethical solutions to material problems, prepare for life after death and not to satisfy man's ego, his greed, his desire for promiscuity and love of instant gratification.

Meanwhile, what could not be measured, quantified, or simply observed was rendered obsolete. Hence, the transcendental

Anything else that rose against and beyond the utilitarian sphere and that did not self-reduce to an empirically demonstrable scientific fact was itself rendered useless, with religion simply eliminated as the product of childhood fears and experiences. The result was an enormous and tragic loss of faith, such that even the American theologian Harvey Cox can assert in his bestseller, The Secular City, the death of God and the deification of humanity, rather than a transcendent deity.

Yet, statistics speak louder than statements. The brave new world of Western Orthodoxy embodied in scientific rationalism and secular humanism may have succeeded somewhat in eliminating both God and religion from our immediate consciousness, but it has failed to eliminate human suffering, injustice and violence. Indeed, some of the worst wars in human history have been fought under the banner of secular ideologies and dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. Some argue that the hopes of the Enlightenment died at Auschwitz, the romance of socialism and communism died during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Chinese Revolution and the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, while the allure of capitalism and science died during the two world wars. Furthermore, the atheistic ideas of recent centuries have created deeper and more entrenched problems, namely nihilism and purposelessness, robbing man of the great strength and hope that can come from

from a religious vision. These questions are more illogical and problematic than belief in God, cosmic design, and a purposeful life. The search for God is intrinsic to human nature, because it is the search for meaning, for the purposes of our existence. A divinized humanity represents no solution to this universal longing. The true solution lies in the mysterious, ineffable and transcendental Other which is the source of existence and the ultimate answer to humanity's desire for meaning. The true solution to humanity's suffering, anxiety, and longing lies in an adequate response to this transcendental source of being, rather than in worrying about Its essence or simply believing in Its existence. Religion is a deeply subjective experience, and so God is known, not through calculation, but through internal feelings and communication.

This type of response requires the involvement of the totality of our being, a series of spiritual exercises and a pious, dedicated, disciplined and moral lifestyle. And it is precisely this compassionate lifestyle, which will allow humanity to free itself from the chains of selfishness, greed, ego and narrow identity, to reflect the true unity of Almighty God, promoting the the unity of humanity, existence and cosmos. In a world of violence and injustice, largely perpetrated in the name of God, perhaps the way forward is to come to recognize the degree to which we human beings have, for millennia, recreated God in our image and allow may this motivate us to work to bring the human/divine relationship back to its correct place. This won't happen without first understanding how we got to where we are today. In summary, it is the opinion of this author that the postmodern and post-secular desire for God cannot be satisfied by ancient anthropomorphic and corporeal concepts of the Divine, which have simply lowered God down to this cosmos, with a precise historical function and a specific position, reducing Him to a tiny god, and leading the soul to diminish the great sense of awe and reverence that should be felt and that we should feel at the mention of Him.

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