Bible Review 18:5, October 2002

Dining with the Divine

Anyone and everyone could pray to a god in ancient times, but often only family members could join him for meals.

By Paula Fredriksen

Bible Review

Divinity, in antiquity, was local. It attached to places. However gods were imagined, whatever their relation to the upper cosmos, they lived in human society, too. Groves, grottos, mountaintops and springs: Nature provided earthly homes for the divine. Gods, of course, were also urban creatures. Cities held shrines. In Olympus, Delos and Jerusalem, on earth as in heaven, gods dwelled in particular locales, even in particular buildings. The Gospel of Matthew makes this point nicely. “He who swears by the Temple,” Jesus taught, “swears by it and by Him who dwells in it” (Matthew 23:21).

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