I wanted to let you know about my new book, The Great Shift: Encountering God in Biblical Times. The title really says what it’s about. People did encounter God in biblical times—as some people do today—but the form these encounters take place changed radically over the roughly the 1,000 years of ancient Israel’s existence. At first, people like Abraham and Sarah, Jacob and Moses and other prophets, are actually said to have seen God. Now this is puzzling. No matter what really happened, wouldn’t it have been a more reasonable thing to say that the people involved heard God’s voice or saw God in a dream. But apparently the opposite was true—for a while. And then, perhaps halfway through the biblical period, things began to change. This is my attempt to explain why.
Regarding The Great Shift, The Atlantic said: "What was it about the minds of ancient Israelites that allowed them to hear and see God directly—or at least, to believe that they did? In his new book, The Great Shift, Kugel investigates these questions through the lens of neuroscientific findings, [showing] that ancient people had a “sense of self” that was fundamentally different from the one modern Westerners have—and that this enabled them to experience and interpret prophecy differently than we do. Then he uses scientific research to show that we shouldn’t assume their view was wrong. If anything, our modern Western notion of the bounded, individual self is the anomaly; most human beings throughout history conceived of the self as a porous entity open to intrusions. In fact, much of the rest of the world today still does."