NONFICTION

God's Favorites: Judaism, Christianity, and the Myth of Divine Chosenness

Beacon. Apr. 2019. 200p. maps. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780807001943. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780807001950. REL
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Coogan (Harvard Divinity Sch.; The Ten Commandments: A Short History of an Ancient Text), a highly regarded and prolific biblical scholar, argues that the concept of divine chosenness is both false and damaging. The author writes from a nontheistic perspective, which he believes allows him to analyze texts through historical criticism and without significant theological biases. The first part of the book focuses on the Bible and the concept of chosenness. Coogan notes that many biblical books developed over a period of time and with the use of multiple sources. He sees passages on divine election as coming from later sources that help to justify actions that had already taken place against outsiders. A kind of tribalism emerged that resulted in outsiders sometimes experiencing isolation, violence, and oppression. In the work's second half, Coogan shows the damage this concept has caused in American history, focusing on three examples that relate to American exceptionalism and exploitation, Zionist fundamentalism, and attitudes toward immigrants and refugees. His concern ultimately is about the present situation.
VERDICT Those interested in biblical interpretation and in American religious history will find this to be a helpful work.

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