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Book Review

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In this short, engaging, and learned book, Susan Niditch takes readers into the world of sixth–fifth century BCE Judah/Yehud to understand what it might have meant for religion during this period to have become “personal.” Books like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Job, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, Proverbs, and Zechariah, among others, take center stage as examples of the turn toward the individual’s relationship to God and the personal psychology of discrete actors in the process of figuring out their place in the world. Though biblical scholars have often correctly emphasized the “group identity” of ancient Israelites, rallying around symbols like temple, land, and king, the era under Niditch’s focus saw many fascinating expressions of a singular person, a “self” in the making, forging an autobiographical relationship to the deity. Not limited purely to biblical texts, Niditch illuminates this phenomenon through the sociological study of religion as well as archaeology. Her simple but convincing argument is that during the exilic and post-exilic periods in Israel authors turned toward complex descriptions of the self, and in doing so ushered in a new period in which religiously creative expressions of personality entered the world of “lived religion” as never before.


Originally published in Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 71:3.

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