From the archetypical story of Abraham smashing his father's household idols to God's commandment at Mount Sinai that "You shall have no other gods before Me," the prohibition in Judaism against the worship of idols has been unyielding. Idolatry is conceived as the antithesis to the worship of the invisible, unnamed, and articulate God. The proscription against using images in worship sets Judaism, together with Islam, apart from all other religious systems. In Beyond the Graven Image, Lionel Kochan sets out to explain the reasons for this prohibition and to demonstrate how influential this image-ban has been in determining key aspects of Jewish thinking. The Jewish conceptions of holiness and symbolism, our relationship with God, and the role of memory in religion, he argues, as well as the preference for non- material arts such as music over visual modes of artistic expression within Judaism, have all been profoundly shaped by the prohibition against physical representations of God.
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