The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel (Cambridge University Press, June 2009) by Dr. Benjamin D. Sommer, professor of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), has been presented with the American Academy of Religion’s (AAR) 2010 Award for Excellence. The scholarly work—one of four books to receive this honor—was recognized for its impeccable analysis in the category of Textual Studies. The award was presented to Dr. Sommer on October 31, 2010, in Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency Hotel at the AAR’s annual meeting.
The AAR’s jury described The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel as “engaging and detailed . . . [a] highly readable tour de force of biblical scholarship [that] deserves to have a significant impact on many aspects of the study of religion.” According to the jury, the book situates “ancient Near Eastern tendencies concerning the conception of a god`s body as corporeal, fluid and multiple . . . in conversation with biblical sources, rabbinic thought, mystical speculation, and Christian reflection. In doing so, the work explores the inadequacy of the monotheist-polytheist dichotomy by exploring the legacy and impact of the conception of divine fluidity in Judaism and Christianity.”
In 2009, Dr. Sommer’s Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel also received the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award from the Association for Jewish Studies as the best book written between 2006 and 2009 in the category of Biblical Studies, Rabbinics, and Archaeology.
Dr. Sommer joined the JTS faculty in 2008. Previously, he served as the director of the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies at Northwestern University. Dr. Sommer has been a visiting faculty member at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, Spertus Institute in Chicago, and Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth.
The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel explores a lost, centuries-old Near Eastern perception of divinity in which the essential difference between gods and humans was that gods had more than one body and fluid, unbounded selves. Dr. Sommer argues that this perception has important repercussions not only for biblical scholarship and comparative religion, but for Jewish-Christian dialogue as well. The paperback edition of The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel will be published in December 2010.
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