Desiring Divinity: Self-Deification in Early Jewish and Christian Mythmaking

ISBN : 9780190467166

M. David Litwa
256 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Dec 2016
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Perhaps no declaration incites more theological and moral outrage than a human's claim to be divine. Those who make this claim in ancient Jewish and Christian mythology are typically represented as the most hubristic and dangerous tyrants. Their horrible punishments are predictable and still serve as morality tales in religious communities today. But not all self-deifiers are saddled with pride and fated to fall. Some who claimed divinity stated a simple and direct truth. Though reviled on earth, misunderstood, and even killed, they received vindication and rose to the stars. This book tells the stories of six self-deifiers in their historical, social, and ideological contexts. In the history of interpretation, the initial three figures have been demonized as cosmic rebels: the first human Adam, Lucifer (later identified with Satan), and Yaldabaoth in gnostic mythology. By contrast, the final three have served as positive models for deification and divine favor: Jesus in the gospel of John, Simon of Samaria, and Allogenes in the Nag Hammadi library. In the end, the line separating demonization from deification is dangerously thin, drawn as it is by the unsteady hand of human valuation.


Introduction: Types of Self-deification Mythology

PART I: The Self-deifying Rebel
Chapter 1 I am a God. The Primal Human as Primeval Self-deifier
Chapter 2 I Will Be Like the Most High! The Self-deification of Helel
Chapter 3 I am God and there is No Other! The Boast of Yaldabaoth

PART II: The Self-deifying Hero
Chapter 4 I and the Father are One. The Self-deification of Jesus in John
Chapter 5 I and You are One. Simon of Samaria as Hero and Heretic
Chapter 6 I Became Divine. Allogenes and Gnostic Self-deification
Conclusion The Many Myths of Self-deification

About the author: 

M. David Litwa earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia (2013). He has taught in the Classics departments of the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary. His most recent books include Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God (2014) and a new edition of the Refutation of all Heresies: Text, Translation, and Notes (2015).

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