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anthropomorphism

Attribution of human characteristics to God. Frequently anthropomorphic terms were used in Scripture; yet the desire to distance Jewish belief from such terminology was apparent in the biblical emendations of the scribes. Such a process also filtered into the early translations of the Hebrew Bible into Aramaic and Greek - here the concept of the word of God was frequently added to the text. Hellenistic thought, as represented by the writings of the first-century philosopher Philo, was devoid of such anthropomorphic terminology. Nonetheless, in rabbinic sources anthropomorphic expressions were frequently employed to describe God's nature and activity. In this connection, the mystical text Shiur Komah ('Measurement of Stature') contains references to God's body. In the writings of medieval Jewish philosophers such as Moses Maimonides, however, there was a conscious rejection of such descriptions. According to these writers, God is incorporeal. However, despite the influence of these thinkers, anthropomorphic expressions were introduced into kabbalistic texts.


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Reprinted with permission from A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism,
by Dan Cohn-Sherbok
.© Oneworld Publications.