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The Responsive Self

Personal Religion in Biblical Literature of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)

Susan Niditch


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Works created in the period from the Babylonian conquest of Judea through the takeover and rule of Judea and Samaria by imperial Persia reveal a profound interest in the religious responses of individuals and an intimate engagement with the nature of personal experience. Using the rich and varied body of literature preserved in the Hebrew Bible, Susan Niditch examines ways in which followers of Yahweh, participating in long-standing traditions, are shown to privatize and personalize religion. Their experiences remain relevant to many of the questions we still ask today: Why do bad things happen to good people? Does God hear me when I call out in trouble? How do I define myself? Do I have a personal relationship with a divine being? How do I cope with chaos and make sense of my experience? What roles do material objects and private practices play within my religious life? These questions deeply engaged the ancient writers of the Bible, and they continue to intrigue contemporary people who try to find meaning in life and to make sense of the world.
The Responsive Self studies a variety of phenomena, including the use of first-person speech, seemingly autobiographic forms and orientations, the emphasis on individual responsibility for sin, interest in the emotional dimensions of biblical characters, and descriptions of self-imposed ritual. This set of interests lends itself to exciting approaches in the contemporary study of religion, including the concept of “lived religion,” and involves understanding and describing what people actually do and believe in cultures of religion.

Praise For The Responsive Self: Personal Religion in Biblical Literature of the Neo-Babylonian and Persian Periods (The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library)

“A comprehensive and important work on personal religion as a dimension of religious life and experience. This book will be well received and become a standard text for any studies of aspects of personal religion in ancient Israel and specifically the Hebrew Bible.”—Patrick D. Miller, Princeton Theological Seminary
— Patrick D. Miller

“Susan Niditch brilliantly conceptualizes new avenues into the study of personal religion. She lucidly articulates how the religion of the individual was experienced and portrayed. From self-reflection and representation to how the interiority of the individual is characterized in narrative, ‘lived religion’ has never come more alive!”—Theodore J. Lewis, Johns Hopkins University
— Theodore J. Lewis

“In this pivotal and fascinating study, Susan Niditch looks anew at the people of the past to uncover a wealth of evidence attesting to the personalization of religion. For the first time, religiously-engaged selves emerge convincingly from the faceless masses. This book marks a crucial new direction in the trans-disciplinary study of the religious realities of ancient Israelite, Judahite and Jewish groups.”—Francesca Stavrakopoulou, University of Exeter
— Francesca Stavrakopoulou

“Susan Niditch, the leading scholar of how the Bible adapts folk literature, here examines how biblical religion gets personal as classic conventions are adapted to express individual sensibilities and concerns. Illuminating readings and insights are elegantly expressed for the benefit of scholar and student alike. A gem.”—Edward L. Greenstein, Bar-Ilan University, Israel
— Edward L. Greenstein

Yale University Press, 9780300166361, 200pp.

Publication Date: September 1, 2015

About the Author

Susan Niditch is Samuel Green Professor of Religion at Amherst College. She lives in Amherst, MA.