God: An Anatomy by Francesca Stavrakopoulou - review by Simon Yarrow

Simon Yarrow

Does He Really Have a Beard?

God: An Anatomy


Picador 608pp £25 order from our bookshop

What does God look like? For Christians, a ready answer lies in the familiar iconography of Jesus Christ in medieval and Renaissance sacred art. Unlike the other Religions of the Book, Judaism and Islam, Christianity regards Jesus as God incarnate, a deity embodied in human form. To be more technical, he is a person of the Triune God, equal in substance with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The body of Jesus Christ is only one, late iteration of God as he appears in Francesca Stavrakopoulou’s anatomising work. In this fascinating book, we get to see what is obscured by that radically anthropomorphised version of God. Stavrakopoulou shows us how the person of Christ has curiously distanced and dulled our image of God. Her subject is Yahweh, the ‘God the Father’ of the Trinity and the God of the Jewish covenant, the ostensibly bearded old man familiar from Monty Python, but, in fact, a god whose historical morphology has uncanny resemblances to those of other gods of ancient southwest Asia.

Around the ninth century BC, the storm god, Yahweh, distinguished himself from the pantheon of ancient gods by supporting his people in the formation of two newly emergent kingdoms, Judah and Israel. Yahweh’s father was El, the leader of the pantheon, and his consort was Asherah (a reversioning

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