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When God’s Face is Hidden: Theology in Times of Crisis

  • Course Dates: Wed 28 April, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

This interactive day course will use art and photography, as well as ancient and modern literary sources, drawing specifically upon the Jewish tradition and the Hebrew Bible, to discuss the rich interplay between God’s hiddenness and self-revelation in the theological imagination.

Our study will be prefaced by an overview of the relation between voices of protest and praise in the Hebrew Bible and wider Jewish tradition; between God’s personal attributes as one who, in the rabbinical literature, weeps and jokes with us – is even outwitted by us – and the one of whom one can say only what he is not.

There will be some reflection on the meaning of God’s presence specifically to the Jewish people figured in rabbinic, mystical and feminist texts as the feminine Shekhinah.

The course will go on to explore the difficult theology of a God who sometimes hides his face/presence from those who seek him. Sometimes God’s absent presence is simply an unknowable aspect of the mysterious being of God; at other times, especially biblically, it is an act of withdrawal that is a punishment for sin. Modern Jewish and Christian theologians have often understood God’s hiding as making way for human freedom and becoming.

The group will be invited to draw on their own faith (or none) to explore the (dis)appearance of God in classic and more contemporary post-Holocaust Jewish thought, whose dominant theme has been the deafening silence of God..

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Course Details

Wed 28 April
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
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Melissa Raphael is Professor Emerita (Jewish Theology) at the University of Gloucestershire and teaches Jewish religious thought at Leo Baeck College, London. She is the author of a number of books including Rudolf Otto and the Concept of Holiness (Oxford University Press, 1997); The Female Face of God in Auschwitz (Routledge, 2003) and Judaism and the Visual Image (Bloomsbury, 2009). Her most recent book is Religion, Feminism and Idoloclasm: Being and Becoming in the Women’s Liberation Movement (Routledge 2019).
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