God’s Body Up Close

Jack Miles at the LARB:

As an undergraduate, Francesca Stavrakopoulou observed to her theology professor that “lots of biblical texts suggest that God is masculine, with a male body,” and was told, to her evident frustration, that these texts were metaphorical, or poetic. “We shouldn’t get too distracted by references to his body,” her professor asserted, because to do so would be “to engage too simplistically with the biblical texts.” Anything but distracted by biblical references to God’s body, Stavrakopoulou is aesthetically entranced by them and programmatically attentive to their iconographic and literary contexts, from ancient Southwest Asia in the fourth millennium BCE to Christian and Jewish Europe as late as the 16th century. Her work, true to its subtitle, is anatomically organized into five parts plus an epilogue: I, “Feet and Legs”; II, “Genitals”; III, “Torso”; IV, “Arms and Hands”; V, “Head.” Each of these five major parts comprises three or four chapters, and each chapter has its own fresh emphasis and coherence. “Head,” for example, has separate chapters for ears, nose, and mouth.

more here.