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Summary

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOLFSON PRIZE 2022

Three thousand years ago, in the Southwest Asian lands we now call Israel and Palestine, a group of people worshipped a complex pantheon of deities, led by a father god called El. El had 70 children, who were gods in their own right. One of them was a minor storm deity, known as Yahweh. Yahweh had a body, a wife, offspring and colleagues. He fought monsters and mortals. He gorged on food and wine, wrote books and took walks and naps. But he would become something far larger and far more abstract: the God of the great monotheistic religions.

But as Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou reveals, God’s cultural DNA stretches back centuries before the Bible was written, and persists in the tics and twitches of our own society, whether we are believers or not. The Bible has shaped our ideas about God and religion, but also our cultural preferences about human existence and experience; our concept of life and death; our attitude to sex and gender; our habits of eating and drinking; our understanding of history. Examining God’s body, from his head to his hands, feet and genitals, she shows how the Western idea of God developed. She explores the places and artefacts that shaped our view of this singular God and the ancient religions and societies of the biblical world. And in doing so, she analyses not only the origins of our oldest monotheistic religions but also the origins of Western culture.

Beautifully written, passionately argued and frequently controversial, God: An Anatomy is cultural history on a grand scale. 

©2021 Francesca Stavrakopoulou (P)2021 Macmillan Publishers International Limited

Critic reviews

"Rivetingly fresh and stunning." (Sunday Times)

"A tour de force, a triumph." (Catholic Herald

"One of the most remarkable historians and communicators working today." (Dan Snow) 

What listeners say about God

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Poor narration distracts.

Although I'm familiar with the Professor's accent and way of speaking, I think she should have left the narration of this book to a professional.

The reading is too fast and too many words are STRESSED in each sentence. The speed can be corrected in the player, but the speech pattern quickly becomes irritating.

It may also be helpful to download its Kindle Sample which contains a map of the region. Sadly, there is no accompanying PDF.

This is a valuable book -but it may be better to buy in a different medium.

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Not worth it!

The title is eye catching but the obsession with small points, finding contractions, and unending explanations was just too repetitive.
The content is not worth listening to. I lost interest after first 15 minutes and regretted the purchase.

2 people found this helpful

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Richly revealing

A satisfyingly scholarly book by a leading authority. Detailed and thoughtful content delivered with superb clarity makes this a great listen for religious believers and atheists alike. Expertly read by the author.

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Excellent narration, fascinating account

This is a wonderfully told account, forensically examining the body of the God of the Bible. Well researched and unyielding it explores well known stories in so many ways it is sure to expand your current thoughts. It has garnered praise and recognition from believers and non-believers alike. Thoroughly recommended.

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Interesting premise but needlessly infuriating

I was interested in listening to this after hearing the serial on BBC Radio 4 but found the whole work to be trite and deliberately controversial at times for no reason other than to be controversial. I found myself perpetually frustrated by it but not stimulated. Certainly worth remembering it takes a very “protestant” approach to what it calls Christian Theology.

I feel the premise is an incredibly good one and could have added a significant amount to the topic but fails in many respects. Without taking a literary and critical view of spiritual texts (which could be done to balance the specific point of the writer) it misses some key points.

I take issue with the word “real” often used to describe the image that it presents. Very fee theologians worth their salt would present a work claiming to have truth or “real” interpretation and that for me makes this work more troubling. A real shame for what could have been great.

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Excellent!

Bringing the most recent biblical scholarship to bear in a popular level book was always going to be a triumph for Francesca Stavrakopoulou. This is an excellent book, frequently funny, always informative. I can think of many people who should read it!

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Fantastic.

So good I purchased the book.
Very nicely read.
The Bible is far more interesting if read with a none spiritual mind.

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makes the history of religion digestible.

amazing and interesting insight to the history of YHWH and the birth of religion

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A fascinating new perspective on Bible origins

I've never heard the word "p5nis" so much on my way to work, and I listen to Richard Herring. 5 stars.

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  • 13-05-22

Highly recommend trying this book

This is a really interesting and well written book. So glad I heard about it via The Ancients on History Hit. Anyone with an interest in the ancient history of the Middle East will enjoy this. Anyone concerned about or looking for a humanist perspective won’t find it and therefore it is a book suitable for everyone! Professor Stavrakopoulou talks about religions in respect to their history and specifically covers historic times, peoples and their beliefs. I found it a really useful companion piece to other books and podcasts I’ve read or listened to about the region; ones who have covered the history of the empire or king or people but not the gods and beliefs.
I really enjoy hearing academic authors read their books, but Professor Stavrakopoulou does read quite fast, so I found I enjoyed it more and took more in with the speed set at 0.9. Highly recommended.

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  • Hansag
  • 08-04-22

I wish more people read this

Fascinating description of what a lot of people take for granted they know, but apparently do not know at all.

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  • Greg
  • 25-03-22

Enlightening!

I really enjoyed this. Well written and packed full of information that most Christians wouldn't know.

It's sad that I probably couldn't get my mom to read this as think it will make the cognitive dissonance far too uncomfortable to bear.

There is no overt attack on Christianity or any religion in here, but the simple portrayal of how gods were made by us is is impossible to ignore. Well done 😁

Read this book if you want to know where it all came from. My only regret is not being able to see some of the pictures that would be in the physical book.