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Hidden Face Of God, The [Paperback]

Richard E Friedman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan. 1 2000

Bestselling author Richard Elliott Friedman, whose Who Wrote the Bible? was an intriguing took at the origins of the Bible, takes on another momentous theme for the third millennium "to point the way toward a possible final reconciliation of science and religion and to provide the basis for a new moral code acceptable to believers and nonbelievers alike" (Cleveland Plain Dealer).

Remarkably readable, this inspiring work explores three interlinking mysteries: the amazing fact that in the Bible God gradually becomes more hidden; the eerie connection between Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, who arrived at the idea of "the death of God" almost concurrently -- but independent of one another; and the extraordinary cosmic parallel between the big bang theory and the mystlcism of the Kabbalah. Bible Review hailed this book as "brilliant, an elegant and learned reflection on one of the central mysteries or the Bible and of modern life."


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The Hidden Face of God is a record of biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman's attempts to understand why, after God tells Moses in Deuteronomy, "I shall hide my face from them," God proceeds to disappear from the face of the earth. "Gradually through the course of the Hebrew Bible ... the deity appears less and less to humans, speaks less and less. Miracles, angels, and all other signs of divine presence become rarer and finally cease," Friedman writes. This freewheeling work of biblical and cultural criticism considers the ways modern writers such as Friedrich Nietzsche have continued to develop the idea that "we are finally utterly on our own," wrestles with the insecurities, moral ambiguities, and spiritual doubts that modernism has aggravated, and looks to contemporary science and Jewish mysticism for some clues as to how God's absence may in fact be His way of showing His presence. Without ever lapsing into intellectual laziness or maudlin sentiment, Friedman provides an accessible survey of some of this century's biggest moral dilemmas. And within those dilemmas themselves, Friedman finds hope. --Michael Joseph Gross

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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Ignoring the greatest modern miracle Feb. 11 2008
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
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, it is the apparent control that 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 like 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 takes the place of the acts of God. Scholars have not paid enough attention to the growing human role during the receding visibility of the deity. This is especially remarkable as the phenomenon appears with chronological consistency in a narrative composed by many authors over many centuries.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Hidden Face of God reveals Friedman's word view June 17 2004
Format:Paperback
If all politics is local then all religion may well be biographical. This putative maxim is very much on display in this interesing intriguing work in which Richard Friedman departs from his usual fare of biblical exegis to the related -- but different -- area of theological speculation. Through his other books, Who Wrote the Bible, The Bible with Sources Revealed to name a couple we find a confident scholarly Friedman wielding his knowledge of biblical Hebrew and text analysis to lock pick the secrets of the Bible. He can rightly be regarded as nothing less than the expert on source theory. This skill shows itself in the development of this book wherein Friedman tackles three interesting problems in turn. The first, his discovery of the "disappearance" of God from Torah is by far the most confidently written. As can be seen by reading the Bible shorn of the New Testament, one sees a biblical story wherein the characters have progressively less and less interaction with God. In the beginning God ordains creation itself and causes Adam and Eve live in His garden. After the expulsion, Noah is spared the destruction of His world. After the flood, Abraham receives His call and Moses saves his nation. So from creation, to the destruction of a global deluge to the saving of people we observe a definite pattern of less human contact with God. Friedman's second problem stems from his analysis of the "God is dead" craze wherein this loss of contact came to find home in the now passe assertion that "God is dead." Friedman's third interesting problem relates to the similarity between contemporary notions of the origin of the universe and Kabbalah. It is at this point Friedman's theology reflects the hearty benefits of good education. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling theological mystery May 2 2004
By Anne
Format:Paperback
In THE HIDDEN FACE OF GOD, Richard Elliot Friedman tackles three interrelated mysteries. The first mystery concerns the disappearance of God in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Using God's words to Moses ("I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be.") as a touchstone, Friedman traces the distance travelled from the early pages of the Old Testament where God manifests Himself directly to people, to the book of Esther which does not even mention God. Then he turns to the struggle with God, reminding us that "Israel" - the name God gives to Jacob - means "one who fights with God". Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Friedman points out that while God was a matter of belief for later biblical generations (as for us), when God regularly appeared to his prophets and people - remember that God was present to the whole Hebrew people day and night for 40 years while they wandered in the wilderness! - when there was no need to "believe" because God was right before their eyes, they chose to argue, rebel and disobey. I had never noticed this obvious fact before: that major prophets argue with God in the Old Testament and even make suggestions as to how He might conduct Himself vis-a-vis humans. Even more astonishing is that God usually takes their advice! Friedman concludes his discussion of this first mystery with a chapter on the twin developments of rabbinical Judaism and Christianity as they relate to the concept of "divine hiddenness".
The second mystery concerns Nietzsche's descent into madness, a passage from Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and the 'death of God' in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For Friedman, this moment represents our species' coming of age.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Delusion, Hubris and a Programme for Antichrist
I found this book riveting, fascinating and also, at times, nauseating. Particularly near the end of the book I had an acute awareness that I was reading the preparation manual for... Read more
Published on Sept. 14 2003 by Joseph Simpson
4.0 out of 5 stars No cheap solutions here!
The theory of the disappearance of God is thought provoking. The first and second mystery (parts) are convincing. Friedman knows what he is talking about. Read more
Published on Aug. 28 2003 by J. G. Butti
4.0 out of 5 stars from a Christian of Jewish descent
The earlier chapters of the book were absolutely fascinating, and as gripping a read as any well-written novel. Read more
Published on Nov. 11 2002 by Richard G. Wilkes
2.0 out of 5 stars One and a half cheers for the Hidden Face of God!
As a fan of Friedman's Who Wrote the Bible, I expected more of the same - which Part One of the Hidden Face of God delivers. Read more
Published on July 13 2001 by Mike Cherepov
5.0 out of 5 stars Going...Going...Gone?
In hardback, the name of this book was THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GOD: A DIVINE MYSTERY. I suppose the publishers thought that was a bit too much for the average reader, thus the new... Read more
Published on June 17 2001 by Jon G. Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking, but theories not convincing
If you read this book, you will without a doubt agree that Friedman is strikingly intelligent and highly educated on the covered topics. His critique of other works is impressive. Read more
Published on March 19 2000 by "derchyk"
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written and very thought provoking
This book is full of interesting ideas, and connections between ideas, to ponder. It has been more than a month since I finished reading it and I still reflect on it from time to... Read more
Published on June 4 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A Challenge to Believers AND Unbelievers
Portions of this review originally appeared in Louvain Stuides 22(Summer 1997): 188-190.
Our current age is frequently characterized by its loss of a sense of transcendence. Read more
Published on March 18 1998 by pjl_123
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and intensely entertaining
The book addresses three mysteries, namely:
1. Why does God seem to disappear in the Hebrew bible? Read more
Published on March 18 1998
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