Religion of the Gods: Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity

Religion of the Gods: Ritual, Paradox, and Reflexivity

by Kimberley Christine Patton
     
 

ISBN-10: 019509106X

ISBN-13: 9780195091069

Pub. Date: 02/09/2009

Publisher: Oxford University Press

In many of the world's religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, a seemingly enigmatic and paradoxical image is found—that of the god who worships. Various interpretations of this seeming paradox have been advanced. Some suggest that it represents sacrifice to a higher deity. Proponents of anthropomorphic projection say that the gods are just "big

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Overview

In many of the world's religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, a seemingly enigmatic and paradoxical image is found—that of the god who worships. Various interpretations of this seeming paradox have been advanced. Some suggest that it represents sacrifice to a higher deity. Proponents of anthropomorphic projection say that the gods are just "big people" and that images of human religious action are simply projected onto the deities. However, such explanations do not do justice to the complexity and diversity of this phenomenon.

In Religion of the Gods, Kimberley C. Patton uses a comparative approach to take up anew a longstanding challenge in ancient Greek religious iconography: why are the Olympian gods depicted on classical pottery making libations? The sacrificing gods in ancient Greece are compared to gods who perform rituals in six other religious traditions: the Vedic gods, the heterodox god Zurvan of early Zoroastrianism, the Old Norse god Odin, the Christian God and Christ, the God of Judaism, and Islam's Allah. Patton examines the comparative evidence from a cultural and historical perspective, uncovering deep structural resonances while also revealing crucial differences.

Instead of looking for invisible recipients or lost myths, Patton proposes the new category of "divine reflexivity." Divinely performed ritual is a self-reflexive, self-expressive action that signals the origin of ritual in the divine and not the human realm. Above all, divine ritual is generative, both instigating and inspiring human religious activity. The religion practiced by the gods is both like and unlike human religious action. Seen from within the religious tradition, gods are not "big people," but other than human. Human ritual is directed outward to a divine being, but the gods practice ritual on their own behalf. "Cultic time," the symbiotic performance of ritual both in heaven and on earth, collapses the distinction between cult and theology each time ritual is performed. Offering the first comprehensive study and a new theory of this fascinating phenomenon, Religion of the Gods is a significant contribution to the fields of classics and comparative religion. Patton shows that the god who performs religious action is not an anomaly, but holds a meaningful place in the category of ritual and points to a phenomenologically universal structure within religion itself.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195091069
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
02/09/2009
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
512
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.60(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction The Problem of Sacrificing Gods 3

I Ancient Greek Gods in Ritual Performance

1 Is Libation Sacrifice? 27

2 Iconographic Evidence 57

3 "Terribly Strange and Paradoxical": Literary Evidence 101

4 "Divine Libation": A Century of Debate 121

5 The Problem Defined and a Proposed Solution: Divine Reflexivity in Ritual Representation 161

II The Wider Indo-European World: Polytheism

Introduction Ritualizing Gods in Indo-European Religious Traditions 183

6 Zoroastrian Heresy; Zurvan's Thousand-Year Sacrifice 189

7 "Myself to Myself": The Norse Odin and Divine Autosacrifice 213

III The Peoples of the Book: Monotheism and Divine Ritual

Introduction The Special Interpretive Challenge of Divine Ritual in Monotheism 239

8 The Observant God of the Talmud 249

9 "God and His Angels Pray for the Prophet": A Qur'anic Paradigm 283

Conclusion: "Religion of the Gods" 307

Notes 317

Bibliography 457

Index 483

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