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Das anthropomorphe Gottesbild. Berechtigung und Ursprung aus der Sicht antiker Denker
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of Linguistics and Philology.
2020 (German)Book (Other academic)
Abstract [sv]

Undersökningen omvärderar den antika filosofins hållning till den officiella gudsbilden. Att man var kritisk till att gudarna i kulten framställdes som snarlika människor är bekant. Att man systematiskt reflekterade över hur denna felaktiga gudsbild uppstått och kunnat slå igenom är däremot helt okänt. Undersökningen visar att man systematiskt reflekterade över om den felaktiga gudsbilden hade uppstått spontant (dvs av misstag) eller om den hade uppfunnits aktivt och i så fall av vem, för vem och varför. Grundprincipen är att kultens gudar i grunden är desamma som de gudomliga principerna i den filosofiska teologin (”vi dyrkar samma gudar”); kultens sätt att presentera gudarna är däremot felaktigt.

Först mycket sent finner vi exempel på en positiv filosofisk acceptans av den antropomorfa gudsbilden. Mänskligt gestaltade gudabilder skall ha införts för att på ett konkret, visuellt sätt förmelda kunskap om den osynliga, outsägliga gudomen. I bokstavlig mening är den antropomorfa gudsbilden fortfarande felaktig; poängen ligger i att den från början varit avsedd att förstås i överförd mening.

I två särskilda kapitel behandlas de två (marginella) modeller där den antropomorfa gudsbilden betraktas som bokstavligen sann, nämligen den epikureiska ståndpunkten, enligt vilken gudarna har någon form av mänsklig gestalt, resp. den s k euhemerismen, vars poäng är att den gudarnas mänskliga gestalt är historiskt berättigad -- kultens gudar är ingenting annat än forna historiska gestalter.  

Abstract [en]

Scholars tend to locate ancient philosophers’ struggle with anthropomorphism within a discourse concerned with myth and mythology, i e., to connect it with allegorical exegesis of poetry. However, allegorical exegesis of the poetical narrative about the anthropomorphic gods centers around plots and deals with the gods’ thoughts, actions and reactions, not with their human shape. Allegoresis presupposes and operates from a philosophical image of the divine but it does not include an assessment of the gods’ anthropomorphic form. It has so far never been realized that there is a more basic problem concerning the gods’ human shape as such.

Another common mistake is to group statements concerning the truth value of the anthropomorphic images of the divine with comments concerning other aspects of them (e.g., craftmanship, material, finish and the like) and to regard all this as a separate, self-contained topic. However, behind any reflection on the truth status of the anthropomorphic images lurks the general problem of the truth status and origins of anthropomorphic representation as such.

For the first time ever, the problem is here defined and the relevant material is investigated systematically to reveal ancient philosophers’ theories about how the concept of humanlike gods had arisen. Although there is little explicit evidence for an ongoing debate about the origins of the anthropomorphic image of the divine, the answer to the question often reveals itself to the attentive eye as implicit in the texts. The low rate of explicit discussion is a sign that for a long time one specific model was so predominant as to be next to a communis opinio. According to this model, as reconstructed by me, the idea of gods in human shape was a deplorable result of linguistic misunderstanding. Once, in the time of early mankind, there had been made valuable and truthful accounts describing the influence and operations of the divine in the cosmos by means of a metaphorical language, thereby drawing on such close and familiar source domains as family relations, sex, and the human body. When in the course of time people lost sight of the fact that all these fathers and mothers, marriages and love affairs, arms, heads, embraces and quarrels were to be understood metaphorically, and began to take them literally, they came perforce to believe in a pantheon of real mothers and fathers, men and wife and so on.

This model, which I think can be safely reconstructed from the texts, is described in full in the third chapter (3.1.1.). Explicit statements mostly represent more marginal opinions. Thus, for instance, the rather modern-looking theory that can be worked out from Xenophanes, fragments 14–16 Diels/Kranz remains unique throughout (ch. 3.1.3).

Both these two models effectively preclude any possibility of assigning a philosophically acceptable significance to the anthropomorphic images of the gods. For this, a radically different view of origins was required, one that held anthropomorphism to have been intentionally invented with the aim to symbolically refer to the unrepresentable, unspeakable Supreme Being. It took a very long time for ancient philosophy to come up with such a theory. The first case attested is in the later work of Varro (ch. 4). Other advocates of a model of this kind are Plutarch, Dio Chrysostomus, Cornutus and Maximus of Tyre (ch. 5).

The logically most attractive model for explaining the rise of the anthropomorphic image of the divine claimed that the anthropomorphic gods had in fact once been men. This is the theory put forth by Euhemerus. Although this model found very few followers until Christian authors seized upon it, an extensive treatment is called for because of the mistaken ideas about it in current scholarship (ch. 6).

Brief survey of contents:

Kap. 1. Einleitung. Abgrenzung der Forschungsaufgabe und Festlegung grundlegender Distinktionen

Kap. 2. Das anthropomorphe Gottesbild als Träger buchstäblicher Wahrheit ‒ die epikureische Position

Kap. 3. Die Ursprungsfrage A ‒ Das anthropomorphe Gottesbild als grundsätzlich unwahr

Kap. 4. Vertreter zweier Standpunkte ‒ Marcus Terentius Varro

Kap. 5. Die Ursprungsfrage B ‒ Das anthropomorphe Gottesbild als in übertragenem Sinne wahr

Kap. 6. Die Ursprungfrage C ‒ Das anthropomorphe Gottesbild als historische Tradition und deshalb buchstäblich wahr: Euhemerismus

Kap. 7. Rückblick

 

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag , 2020. , p. 382
Series
Potsdamer altertumswissenschaftliche Beiträge ; 69
Keywords [de]
antike Philosophie, Gottesbild, Anthropomorphismus, Wahrheitsgehalt des Gottesbildes
Keywords [sv]
antik filosofi, gudsbild, antropomorfism, sanningsvärde
National Category
Philosophy, Ethics and Religion
Research subject
Philosophy, with specialization in history of philosophy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-395487ISBN: 978-3-515-12419-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-395487DiVA, id: diva2:1362417
Funder
Swedish Research Council, Dnr 421-2001-4891
Note

Utkommen 15.10.2019 (copyright-år 2020)

Available from: 2019-10-19 Created: 2019-10-19 Last updated: 2019-10-20

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Wifstrand Schiebe, Marianne

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