The Embodied God

Brittany Wilson
Oxford University Press
Published Year: 
Embodied God cover depicting artwork of God, Jesus, and holy dove

Brittany E. Wilson, associate professor of New Testament, has written a new book on divine embodiment that challenges modern assumptions that the God of the New Testament is an invisible, incorporeal being.

The book, The Embodied God: Seeing the Divine in Luke-Acts and the Early Church, was published by Oxford University Press in June. In it, Wilson reframes approaches to early Christology by focusing on how many early Jews and Christians envisioned God as having a visible—and even embodied—form.

Within the New Testament, Wilson argues, Luke-Acts emerges as an important example of a text that portrays God in visually tangible ways. In Luke-Acts, God is a perceptible, concrete being who can take on a variety of different forms, as well as a being who is intimately intertwined with human fleshliness in the form of Jesus. In this way, the God of Israel does not adhere to the incorporeal deity of Platonic philosophy, especially as read through post-Enlightenment eyes. Given the corporeal connections between God and Jesus, Wilson writes that Luke's depiction of Jesus's body also points ahead to future controversies concerning his divinity and humanity in the early church. According to Wilson, questions concerning God's body are inextricably linked with Christology and shed light on how we are to understand Jesus's own visible embodiment in relation to God.

“Brittany Wilson’s engaging new book The Embodied God challenges us to rethink conventional historical and theological assumptions about divine embodiment and offers fresh insight into the interrelatedness of early Christian and (other) Jewish ways of representing the divine,” said John T. Carroll, Harriet Robertson Fitts Memorial Professor New Testament at Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Wilson’s first book, Unmanly Men: Refigurations of Masculinity in Luke-Acts (Oxford University Press, 2015), won the Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise. Her current book project (tentatively titled Imaging the Divine: God’s Body in the New Testament) explores divine embodiment in the New Testament more broadly and looks at the different ways that Jews and Christians did (and did not) express God’s corporeality.