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The Hidden Face of God Paperback – November 8, 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Hidden Face of God is a record of biblical scholar Richard Elliott Friedman's attempts to understand why, after God tells Moses in Deuteronomy, "I shall hide my face from them," God proceeds to disappear from the face of the earth. "Gradually through the course of the Hebrew Bible ... the deity appears less and less to humans, speaks less and less. Miracles, angels, and all other signs of divine presence become rarer and finally cease," Friedman writes. This freewheeling work of biblical and cultural criticism considers the ways modern writers such as Friedrich Nietzsche have continued to develop the idea that "we are finally utterly on our own," wrestles with the insecurities, moral ambiguities, and spiritual doubts that modernism has aggravated, and looks to contemporary science and Jewish mysticism for some clues as to how God's absence may in fact be His way of showing His presence. Without ever lapsing into intellectual laziness or maudlin sentiment, Friedman provides an accessible survey of some of this century's biggest moral dilemmas. And within those dilemmas themselves, Friedman finds hope. --Michael Joseph Gross

About the Author

Richard Elliott Friedman is professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature and holds the Katzin Chair at the University of California, San Diego. One of the premier biblical scholars in the country, he received his doctorate at Harvard and was a visiting fellow at Oxford and Cambridge. Author of The Hidden Face of God, The Hidden Book in the Bible, Commentary on the Torah, The Exile and Biblical Narrative, and the bestselling Who Wrote the Bible?, Friedman is also the president of the Biblical Colloquium West. A consultant to universities, journals, encyclopedias, and publishers, he is also the editor of four books on biblical studies and has authored over fifty articles, reviews, and notes in scholarly and popular publications.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (November 8, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006062258X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060622589
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In THE HIDDEN FACE OF GOD, Richard Elliot Friedman tackles three interrelated mysteries. The first mystery concerns the disappearance of God in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. Using God's words to Moses ("I shall hide my face from them. I shall see what their end will be.") as a touchstone, Friedman traces the distance travelled from the early pages of the Old Testament where God manifests Himself directly to people, to the book of Esther which does not even mention God. Then he turns to the struggle with God, reminding us that "Israel" - the name God gives to Jacob - means "one who fights with God". Turning conventional wisdom on its head, Friedman points out that while God was a matter of belief for later biblical generations (as for us), when God regularly appeared to his prophets and people - remember that God was present to the whole Hebrew people day and night for 40 years while they wandered in the wilderness! - when there was no need to "believe" because God was right before their eyes, they chose to argue, rebel and disobey. I had never noticed this obvious fact before: that major prophets argue with God in the Old Testament and even make suggestions as to how He might conduct Himself vis-a-vis humans. Even more astonishing is that God usually takes their advice! Friedman concludes his discussion of this first mystery with a chapter on the twin developments of rabbinical Judaism and Christianity as they relate to the concept of "divine hiddenness".
The second mystery concerns Nietzsche's descent into madness, a passage from Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and the 'death of God' in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. For Friedman, this moment represents our species' coming of age.
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Format: Paperback
In hardback, the name of this book was THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GOD: A DIVINE MYSTERY. I suppose the publishers thought that was a bit too much for the average reader, thus the new title. Friedman is a Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at UCSD, in California. This work is definitely off beat, tracing what Friedman sees as the gradual withdrawal of God's presence through what most Americans would call the Old Testament. He then gets a bit mystical re: Jesus and the Kabbalah, then wrestles with none other than Nietzsche, and his conclusion moves on to the 20th century. Does this sound strange? Well, the truth is it's utterly fascinating! Repeatedly, Friedman deftly overturns the expected interpretations of essentially everything, including Nietzsche! This work is thought-provoking like few you'll ever come across. I suppose I like Friedman for some of the same reasons I like philosopher Michel Foucault. I don't always agree with everything Foucault says, but I sure do like the way I think when I read Foucault.
As an unusual addendum, I was duly impressed to see a quote from Friedman on the jacket of science fiction writer James Morrow's most recent novel in his series re: the death of God. "Morrow understands theology like a theologian and psychology like a psychologist," says Friedman. The same might be said of Friedman with regards to THE HIDDEN FACE OF GOD. Check it out!
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Format: Paperback
Portions of this review originally appeared in Louvain Stuides 22(Summer 1997): 188-190.
Our current age is frequently characterized by its loss of a sense of transcendence. It is a legacy inherited from centuries of evaluating the relationships between the divine, human, and cosmic realms. In his second book, Richard E. Friedman investigates the complexities of these relationships. The divine has slowly moved from direct interaction with the human and cosmic to a sphere of existence hidden from mortal concerns and worldly actions. Friedman's exposition begins with the Hebrew Bible and extends to the modern thoughts of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, the mysticism of Kabbalah, and to the scientific notion of the Big Bang. Far from presenting these varied subjects as disjointed topics, Friedman unites them under the three sections of his book.
The first section is a most intriguing biblical odyssey, investigating when and where God can and cannot be found throught the Hebrew Scriptures. These first six chapters are the highlight of the book and are essential reading for anyone interested in seriously discussing God's presence or absence from within the Judeo-Christian tradition. Friedman embarks upon a re-reading of the Hebrew Scriptures with a new hermeneutical key: tracing how God systematically disappears from one historical period to another, and how the balance of power between the divine and the human shifts along with it.
The second section is devoted to the "death of God" as a legacy of the present age, particularly as it comes to us from Nietzsche and Dostoevsky. This section is about half the length of the first section, yet it tends to be repetitious. More about Nietzsche's doctrines and less about their relation to his madness could have strengthened this section.
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Format: Paperback
If you read this book, you will without a doubt agree that Friedman is strikingly intelligent and highly educated on the covered topics. His critique of other works is impressive. When he focuses on logic, he is impressive. When he moves to theories and ideas of his own, he is less impressive. I was repeatedly turning to the idea that if he had critiqued his own work as he had the works of others, he would have torn his own work apart. For example, he gives no logical explanation to his statement that a new major religion is developed every 600 years, even though he implies that it is not due to a coincidence. In addition, it is not very convincing that the three "mysteries" of the universe--while each intriguing--are either connected or significant as a whole. His weaving of the three mysteries together is a clever use of language but not of logic.
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