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Ancient World Seminar: Jutta Jokiranta, ''How to Think of God? Anthropomorphism and Agency in the Dead Sea Scrolls''

When:Tu 18-05-2021 16:15 - 17:30


This paper begins to address the question of divine conceptualizations in the Scrolls and explore what we might learn from recent cognitive approaches. The Hebrew Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls are often approached with the assumption that they reveal a gradual but steady development of “monotheism.” This assumption can be nuanced by analysing how people conceptualize divine entities: To think of one omnipresent and omnipotent God and to make distinctions to other beings as ‘not-God’ is not cognitively easy. A related question is if anthropomorphic depictions of God came to be avoided, as has been suggested in relation to Greek translations of some Hebrew Bible passages. Yet no consensus exist as to how widespread phenomenon this may have been. I will argue that, instead of seeking an anti-anthropomorphic tendency in the Scrolls, they may be successfully approached for other tendencies that help us to understand how thinking of God(s) mattered and was facilitated.

About the speaker

Jutta Jokiranta is Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and Cognate Studies at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Theology. She defended her doctoral thesis Identity on a Continuum: Constructing and Expressing Sectarian Social Identity in Qumran Serakhim and Pesharim in 2005, and earned her Doctoral Degree in Theology at the University of Helsinki in 2006. Her special field within Hebrew Bible Studies is Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls) studies and Second Temple Judaism. Her research interests include social changes within late Second Temple Judaism, ritual studies, social identity construction in ancient religious movements, ethnicity, archaeology of Hellenistic and Roman Palestine, cognitive science of religion, sociology of sectarianism in early Judaism and early Christianity, and collective memory and transmission of traditions.