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The Disappearance of God Hardcover – 4 Apr 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (4 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316294349
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316294348
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,171,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

In this bold and illuminating new work, Richard Elliott Friedman probes a chain of mysteries that concern the presence or absence of God. He begins with a fresh, insightful reading of the Hebrew Bible, revealing the profound mystery and significance of the disappearance of God there. Why does the God who is known through miracles and direct interaction at the beginning of the Bible gradually become hidden, leaving humans on their own by the Bible's end? How is it possible that the Bible, written over so many centuries by so many authors, depicts this diminishing visible presence of God - and the growing up of humankind - so consistently? Why has this not been common knowledge? Friedman then investigates this phenomenon's place in the formation of Judaism and Christianity.

About the Author

Richard Elliott Friedman is professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature and holds the Katzin Chair at the University of California, San Diego. One of the premier biblical scholars in the country, he received his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge. Author of The Hidden Face of God, The Hidden Book in the Bible, Commentary on the Torah, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, and the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman is also the president of the Biblical Colloquium West. A consultant to universities, journals, encyclopedias, and publishers, he is also the editor of four books on biblical studies and has authored over fifty articles, reviews, and notes in scholarly and popular publications.


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Format: Hardcover
In my opinion the strongest part of this book is the first part which makes a strong (and scholarly) case that God gradually withdraws from contact with humanity as the books of the Old Testament follow one another. The author is keen to state that his argument can be accepted by atheist and believer alike. This is certainly true of this first part of the book. However when the author gets on to more recent developments (and he is fairly selective in what he choses to discuss - see the other reviews on this site for details) I got a growing feeling that, for all his protestations to the contrary, ultimately the author believes in some sort of deity and this assumption underpins much of his concluding discussions.

Perhaps as an American (where church membership is much higher than in Europe) he does not feel so keenly the secularisation of our age, but I would have expected a discussion of the disappearance of God to include a reflection on the situation we have now (at least in much of Europe) where God has in some sense disappeared from our current society. (I know this is a broad generalisation, but you get my drift.)

I was also struck that the book is written very much from a perspective of being written firmly within the Jewish/Christian/Western tradition. While the last part of the book seeks to draw conclusions applicable to all mankind, I'm not sure what someone who had grown up in a Hindu or Buddhist society (or even an Islamic one) would make of the prescription offered.

Nevertheless this is a thought provoking and interesting book worthy of 4 stars.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought the book very original in concept and the scope is diverse. If you want to know more about what the book is about read the synopsis on Amazon - it is a long time ago that I read it but have always remembered it. I mean to get my own copy to re-read as I borrowed it from the library. It is well worth buying for the wide scope of ideas it intoduces. The chapters on Dostoevsky and Nietzsche had particular resonnance with me - they had a peculiar connection with each other although never actually meeting. I'm sorry I can't be more detailed but I don't want to misrepresent "The Disappearance of God". I did however want to endorse it as a book that I would encourage anyone fascinated with religion to read.
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 18 Oct. 2009
Format: Paperback
In this absorbing work, Freedman investigates 3 mysteries concerning the presence/absence of God. The first part deals with the gradual disappearance of the visible presence of God throughout the Old Testament, part two considers Nietzsche and Dostoevsky's experience of this phenomenon and their premonitions of the future, whilst the last part examines correspondences between religion and science in view of the return or rediscovery of God.

The author traces the diminishing presence of the deity through the course of the Hebrew Bible, showing how the nature of communication changes from visible to indirect whilst signs of the divine, like miracles, become rarer, finally ceasing altogether. A related development is a shift in the balance of control in human destiny - a transition from divine to human responsibility. This is observed in the actions of Adam & Eve, through Noah who builds the ark himself, Abraham who even challenges a decision of God, through Moses and down to the Book of Esther where the name of God is not even mentioned overtly. As the author notes, the apparent control is shifting.

The same phenomenon is evident in the non-historical books. The prophets encounter the divine through dreams and visions - not face to face as in earlier times - and their impressions are filtered through their own personalities. Some prophets like Isaiah are explicit about the absence of God and the promise of reunion. This is also reflected in the Psalms. The word of God now replaces the acts of God.
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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Feb. 2008
Format: Hardcover
In this absorbing work, Freedman investigates 3 mysteries concerning the presence/absence of God. The first part deals with the gradual disappearance of the visible presence of God throughout the Old Testament, part two considers Nietzsche and Dostoevsky's experience of this phenomenon and their premonitions of the future, whilst the last part examines correspondences between religion and science in view of the return or rediscovery of God.

The author traces the diminishing presence of the deity through the course of the Hebrew Bible, showing how the nature of communication changes from visible to indirect whilst signs of the divine, like miracles, become rarer, finally ceasing altogether. A related development is a shift in the balance of control in human destiny - a transition from divine to human responsibility. This is observed in the actions of Adam & Eve, through Noah who builds the ark himself, Abraham who even challenges a decision of God, through Moses and down to the Book of Esther where the name of God is not even mentioned overtly. As the author notes, the apparent control is shifting.

The same phenomenon is evident in the non-historical books. The prophets encounter the divine through dreams and visions - not face to face as in earlier times - and their impressions are filtered through their own personalities. Some prophets like Isaiah are explicit about the absence of God and the promise of reunion. This is also reflected in the Psalms. The word of God now replaces the acts of God.
Read more ›
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