"The Spirit within Me" by Carol A. Newsom

The Spirit within Me Self and Agency in Ancient Israel and Second Temple Judaism Carol A. Newsom, John Collins

The Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library
Publication date:
12 Oct 2021
Yale University Press
296 pages: 235 x 156mm
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The first full-length study of the evolution of self and agency in ancient Israelite anthropology

Conceptions of “the self” have received significant recent attention in philosophy, anthropology, and cultural history. Scholars argue that the introspective self of the modern West is a distinctive phenomenon that cannot be projected back onto the cultures of antiquity. While acknowledging such difference is vital, it can lead to an inaccurate flattening of the ancient self.
In this study, Carol A. Newsom explores the assumptions that govern ancient Israelite views of the self and its moral agency before the fall of Judah, as well as striking developments during the Second Temple period. She demonstrates how the collective trauma of the destruction of the Temple catalyzed changes in the experience of the self in Israelite literature, including first-person singular prayers, notions of self-alienation, and emerging understandings of a defective heart and will. Examining novel forms of spirituality as well as sectarian texts, Newsom chronicles the evolving inward gaze in ancient Israelite literature, unveiling how introspection in Second Temple Judaism both parallels and differs from forms of introspective selfhood in Greco-Roman cultures.

Carol A. Newsom is the Charles Howard Candler Professor Emerita of Old Testament at Candler School of Theology, Emory University. The editor of the acclaimed Women’s Bible Commentary, she lives in Atlanta, GA.

“Elegant, learned, accessible and deeply engaging—I couldn’t stop reading. This is a masterfully written text from beginning to end.” Hindy Najman, University of Oxford