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God: A Biography Paperback – Apr 1996

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679743685
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679743682
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 938,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Can a literary character be said to live a life from birth to death or otherwise to undergo a development from beginning to end? Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Bevan TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 July 2009
Format: Paperback
A brilliant work, quite unlike any other I've ever read on the Hebrew Bible. Ambitious in scope and penetrating in its insights, it's an exploration of the developing `personality' of God as a literary character in the Jewish scriptures. Miles, a former Jesuit seminarian, clearly knows his scriptures well, and each chapter (broadly corresponding to a book of the Bible) could easily serve as a stand-alone introduction to/overview of the relevant book. But the outstanding merit of Miles' work is the way he depicts the evolution of God. The almighty is first creator (Eden) and then destroyer (the flood), then creator-destroyer later in the book of Genesis, with apparently contradictory impulses towards the chosen people. The liberator of Exodus, and the conqueror of Joshua morphs into something more benign - successively wife in Haggai/Zechariah/Malachi, counsellor in the Psalms and bystander, recluse and puzzle in the scrolls (Ruth, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes). Finally, God becomes an absence in Esther (not mentioned by name once therein), and a mere reference-point, a word, a name, in Ezra/Nehemiah.

It's fascinating how this perspective of God `fading out' emerges from Miles' treatment of the material in the order it's arranged in the Hebrew Bible, and not that of the Christian Old Testament - which would have given a quite different perspective. Perhaps not surprisingly, Miles ends his work by asking whether this frighteningly unpredictable God loses interest in the project begun with the creation, and asks, if this is so, whether God can be said to be a truly tragic character ?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By William Cohen VINE VOICE on 23 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was sitting on a train to Bournemouth and I put Jack Miles's God on the table. Next to me a chap came into the carriage and put down Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion - "Look at the symmetry", I said to him. He didn't seem to find it amusing. Perhaps he thought you were deluded, a friend said later.

I've never read any Dawkins, but I have to say that Jack Miles has written a masterpiece. The literary approach could be interpreted as a very secular approach. No matter, the book, written in a very entertaining style, explains the character of God as he develops in the Bible.

Things like love, and fatherly concern for his children, were not part of his make-up at the outset. The project of the human race seemed like a good idea at the start, but he lost patience and wiped it all out with the Flood. He then became a superhuman Tony Soprano, leading his crew and murdering anyone who got in his way.

God may be a delusion, but the entity that comes out of the Old Testament is fascinating, and how we understand it informs how we understand the exercise of power in the world today. As Jack Miles points out God is a lot quieter these days. He's dropped the voice from the volcano stuff. Instead, chaps like George Bush and Tony Blair have stepped into the breach.

This book explains monotheism, and what it's implications are. I've picked up books before about the Bible, but I've always found them to be academic. This book greatly enhanced my knowledge of the Old Testament and it was great fun, too.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME on 14 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
Jack Miles has responded to a number of theses concerning the character of his deity. Many biblical critics have suggested the early books present several gods lumped together by editorial fiat. Miles insists that the god of the Hebrew Bible is but one. That circumstance, uniqueness and solitude, is the cause of various character changes this god went through in the course of history. He has neither siblings nor peers. It's a very human story, but Miles doesn't portray this god as a human personification with superior powers. On the contrary, this god is unaware of the powers he possesses until he tries them out. They become, predictably, addictive with the passage of time. As the god develops, he exhibits changes in character that would be considered "growing up" in people. Finally, for unknown reasons, but perhaps just fatigue, the god retires from human contact. People are left only with previous lessons to follow.
Although "God" is the result of intensive knowledge of the Hebrew Tanakh, Miles dismisses the notion that his study is a psychoanalysis of the god, but that's because he's dealing with a divinity. The character variations Miles chronicles, the creator, destroyer, family patriarch, liberator and others, could be applied to any complex character. Any good biography of a national leader might evince the same personifications. The depiction might manifest as many, if not the same, characteristics. Miles' demurral may be overlooked, since his presentation is a compelling account delivered with lively writing skill. He is able to achieve a cool detachment, but not clinical aloofness, in presenting a deity to which he retains some level of adherence.
Miles' personal faith doesn't restrict what minimal judgments he offers on this god.
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