The Invention of God


“Who invented God? When, why, and where? Thomas Römer seeks to answer these questions about the deity of the great monotheisms—Yhwh, God, or Allah—by tracing Israelite beliefs and their context from the Bronze Age to the end of the Old Testament period in the third century BCE.

“That we can address such enigmatic questions at all may come as a surprise. But as Römer makes clear, a wealth of evidence allows us to piece together a reliable account of the origins and evolution of the god of Israel. Römer draws on a long tradition of historical, philological, and exegetical work and on recent discoveries in archaeology and epigraphy to locate the origins of Yhwh in the early Iron Age, when he emerged somewhere in Edom or in the northwest of the Arabian peninsula as a god of the wilderness and of storms and war. He became the sole god of Israel and Jerusalem in fits and starts as other gods, including the mother goddess Asherah, were gradually sidelined. But it was not until a major catastrophe—the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah—that Israelites came to worship Yhwh as the one god of all, creator of heaven and earth, who nevertheless proclaimed a special relationship with Judaism.

A masterpiece of detective work and exposition by one of the world’s leading experts on the Hebrew Bible, The Invention of God casts a clear light on profoundly important questions that are too rarely asked, let alone answered.”


Journal of Hebrew Scriptures – Volume 17 (2017) – Review
“The Invention of God is an English translation (beautifully rendered by Raymond Geuss) of Thomas Römer’s L’invention de Dieu, published in French in 2014. The rather provocative title is not intended to reflect the antagonistic and somewhat widespread notion of Iron Age goat herders or corrupt priests fabricating the God of Israel out of whole cloth, but the longue durée development of the conceptualization of Israel’s patron deity. At the outset Römer outlines an important point of departure: a close reading of the Hebrew Bible demonstrates that God was not always the sole and only God over the entire universe. This raises a host of questions regarding the development of YHWH’s conceptualization and worship. The goal of the book is to provisionally trace the trajectory of that development from its earliest possible reconstruction to its final canonical form in the Hellenistic period.”

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