Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture, 2013
About the Author
M. David Litwa is Research Fellow in biblical studies and early Christianity at Australian Catholic University, Australia. Litwa is the author of many books, most recently Posthuman Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean Thought and The Evil Creator: Origins of an Early Christian Idea.
About the Book
Some have called it the essence of sin, others the depth of salvation. Regardless of one’s evaluation of it, however, deification throughout Western history has been a part of human aspiration. From the ancient pharaohs to modern transhumanists, people have envisioned their own divinity. These visionaries include not only history’s greatest megalomaniacs, but also mystics, sages, apostles, prophets, magicians, bishops, philosophers, atheists, and monks. Some aimed for independent deity, others realized their eternal union with God. Some anticipated godhood in heaven, others walked as gods on earth. Some accepted divinity by grace, others achieved it by their own will to power. There is no single form of deification (indeed, deification is as manifold as the human conception of God), but the many types are united by a set of interlocking themes: achieving immortality, wielding superhuman power, being filled with supernatural knowledge or love–and through these means transcending normal human (or at least “earthly”) nature.
“This engaging and informative study explores a neglected but fascinating theme, demonstrating through diverse historical and cultural permutations, from antiquity to the present, a perennial human aspiration not merely to self-transcendence but to divinity itself. There is much here to interest students of antiquity, of Christianity, and of the history of ideas.”
–Harry Gamble, University of Virginia
“The earliest religious texts in the West ascribe to humankind both a prehistory and a destiny among the gods. M. David Litwa presents a striking survey of the varieties the latter of these beliefs has had, both within and outside the Christian tradition. Becoming Divine reconstructs an accessible and fascinating mosaic of this too-long neglected idea, utilizing figures as disparate as Orphic cultists, Augustine, and Nietzsche.”
–Terryl L. Givens, University of Richmond
“Deification is a fascinating but strangely neglected topic in the history of religions. Bizarre though it might seem at first sight, the idea that human beings can become divine is a recurring one from antiquity to the present, not only in ‘pagan’ Hellenistic contexts but in Christian and Islamic ones as well. M. David Litwa’s very well-researched and eminently readable overview fills an important gap.”
–W. J. Hanegraaff, University of Amsterdam
Summary of Introduction (excerpt)
- Deification: A Cross-Cultural Look at Transcendence
- Deification is the process of making someone or something a god.
- It manifests itself in many forms, including achieving immortality and transcending earthly nature.
- Deification can involve independent deity, eternal union with God, accepting divinity by grace or through will to power.
- The concept is as old as human aspiration and has been practiced around the world since ancient times from pharaohs to transhumanists.
- Ludwig Feuerbach argued that God is an ideal magnified infinitely by humans seeking transcendence.
- Claims about Jesus’ physical resurrection have been challenged continuously throughout history.
- Evaluating The Talpiot Hypothesis: Examining Jesus’ Bones in Southeast Jerusalem
- In 2007, an archaeological finding in a southeast suburb of Jerusalem sparked the Talpiot Hypothesis an idea that Jesus’ bones had been found in a tomb
- This claim has raised questions and doubts among believers, prompting many to seek answers online
- Despite its initial widespread media attention, no definitive conclusion can be drawn from this discovery as of yet
- William Lane Craig’s Christian philosopher offers insight on how best to understand and evaluate the Talpiot Hypothesis evidence for Jesus’ bodily resurrection
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2 thoughts on “Becoming Divine”
All readers are invited to this discussion.
In my multiple spontaneous experiences of the mystical experience of the non human, non biological Reality that rules all existence known and unknown, I never came across other humans or human constructs such as religions, cultures, ideologies, races, politics, hierarchies, or national and local communities. Suchlike human mind stuff are no part of the Reality that is taking us to our true individual destinies.