Divine Corporeality: Remembering Yhwh's Different Body Parts in Late Persian/Early Hellenistic Yehud/Judah

  • Author / Creator
    Heffernan, Rachael J
  • In an effort to contribute to the rich and ongoing conversation on divine anthropomorphism(s), this work examines references to Yhwh’s various body parts in Late Persian/Early Hellenistic period texts of (what is now known in scholarly circles as) the Hebrew Bible from the perspective of social memory. The divine body is studied through an examination of the memories, encoded in the texts, of Yhwh’s various body parts, their interactions with each other, and their presentation in comparison to human bodies. It is argued that though Yhwh was conceptualized as having a complete and intact body by the Persian-period literati, certain parts were remembered more often and thus received more mindshare by the community, while other parts were not highlighted very often or even at all. A divine part’s prominence in memory generally depended upon 1) its breadth of symbolic connotations, and (relatedly), 2) its ability to fit into or somehow contribute to the larger mnemonic landscape of the deity found within the Late Persian/Early Hellenistic-period texts. For the literati of the community, remembering Yhwh’s body parts meant remembering a body both like and unlike those of human beings. It is important to note, though, that even Yhwh’s described physical differences work within the existing framework of bodily symbolism presented in the texts; Yhwh’s body and bodily abilities are hyperbolized, or are described as having normally impossible features or capacities. While this study is not exhaustive, it does include chapters exploring memories of Yhwh’s hands, arms, and fingers, his eyes, his ears, his nose, his mouth, his face, his heart (לב), and his feet. In every examination, it is clear that conceptualizations of the deity’s body parts primarily contribute to and are shaped by understandings of his divine kingship. Each organ contributes to Yhwh’s various kingly motifs (such as justice, creative acts, warrior ability, and so on) through their own particular figurative associations (and, relatedly, physiological realities), while simultaneously linking different aspects of the deity’s kingship through their all being a part of Yhwh’s (whole) anthropomorphic body.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2017
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Landy, Francis (History and Classics
    • Haagsma, Margriet (History and Classics)
    • Ben Zvi, Ehud (History and Classics)