The Face of God

Years of Activity: 2010

Research Status:

Not Active

Yoav Ashkenazi, Salman Bashier, Debbie Gera, Aviya Hacohen, Moshe Halbertal, Yehuda Halper, Melila Hellner-Eshed, Ariel Hirschfeld, Ruth Kara Ivanov-Kaniel, Eran Laish, Merav Mack, Itay Marienberg, Omer Michaelis, Sinai Rusinek, Christoph Schmidt, Eli Schonfeld, Sarit Shalev Eini, Assaf Sharon, Michael Shenker, Levi Spectre, Talila Warshawsky, Nathan Wasserman, Ziv Weiner

The “Face of God” study group set as its aim the exploration of a highly sensitive topic in Jewish Theology and culture – namely, that of iconography. From the Old Testament and its parallels – the Homeric corpus and Mesopotamian hymns – through medieval Jewish poetry and mystical texts, and up to the writings of Levinas, the group tried to delineate the main topics of “textual iconography.” A special focus was placed on theological significations of the divine countenance, as understood in contrast to and in dialogue with four prominent theological themes: the prohibition to create a Tzelem (idol) or a picture of God; the idea of the human face as an icon (Tzelem) of the divine; the rationalistic theology of a transcendent, non-corporeal God; and finally, the subjectivity and personhood of Christ. The group’s sessions, attended by more than twenty participants, generated a lively ongoing conversation on various aspects of the textual appearances of the divine countenance. Among the themes which were developed in the meetings were the tension between personality and universality in the various manifestations of the divine countenance; the phenomenal uniqueness of the face with regard to its rich expressive horizons; anthropomorphic versus mechanistic aspects of textual testimonies on the face of God. These recurring themes enabled the group to create a meaningful continuum out of highly diverse materials, and may lay the foundations for useful conceptual schemes in further research.