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All the Names of the Lord

Lists, Mysticism, and Magic

Christians face a conundrum when it comes to naming God, for if God is unnamable, as theologians maintain, he can also be called by every name. His proper name is thus an open-ended, all-encompassing list, a mystery the Church embraces in its rhetoric, but which many Christians have found difficult to accept. To explore this conflict, Valentina Izmirlieva examines two lists of God’s names: one from The Divine Names, the classic treatise by Pseudo-Dionysius, and the other from The 72 Names of the Lord, an amulet whose history binds together Kabbalah and Christianity, Jews and Slavs, Palestine, Provence, and the Balkans.

This unexpected juxtaposition of a theological treatise and a magical amulet allows Izmirlieva to reveal lists’ rhetorical potential to create order and to function as both tools of knowledge and of power. Despite the two different visions of order represented by each list, Izmirlieva finds that their uses in Christian practice point to a complementary relationship between the existential need for God’s protection and the metaphysical desire to submit to his infinite majesty—a compelling claim sure to provoke discussion among scholars in many fields.

224 pages | 10 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2008

Language and Linguistics: Anthropological/Sociological Aspects of Language

Literature and Literary Criticism: Slavic Languages

Medieval Studies

Religion: Christianity, Judaism


“There are some heavy conceptual seas between All the Names of the Lord’s point of departure in literary theory—I was already reaching for the deck rail—and its passage across such fearsome ports of call as the name theology of Dionysius the Areopagite and the Kabbalah. But Izmirlieva navigates them with such clarity of vision and steadiness of hand that the reader has both the time—and the powerful inclination—to pause and admire the seascape along the way. Clarity we expect, or least hope for, in a work that essays to tell us something about such profoundly embedded matter as the Names of God. Clarity Izmirlieva gives us, a great deal of it, but what we do not expect is an elegance of style and, what is rare in academic prose, an immediacy in the writing that makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. All the Names of the Lord is not only an intellectual adventure; it is a literary treat.”—F.E. Peters, New York University

F.E. Peters, New York University

“Izmirlieva’s wide-ranging book demonstrates an impressive grasp of religious literature covering many centuries and a geographic area from Eastern Europe to the western Mediterranean. Her ability to draw on primary sources from a variety of languages is quite astounding. This thoughtful and sensitive book will bring a considerable number of little-known religious texts to the attention of scholars across several disciplines, and her analysis will stimulate readers to consider a range of questions at the intersection of theology, philosophy, and personal piety.”—Lawrence E. Frizzell, Seton Hall University

Lawrence E. Frizzell, Seton Hall University

“A scintillating combination of historical knowledge, philosophical sophistication, and literary verve testifies to the intellectual vitality of this young scholar while also displaying the hallmarks of a superior teacher. Valentina Izmirlieva has laid bare the classical ‘names of God’ in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, leading inquiring readers to a veritable feast.”--David Burrell, University of Notre Dame

David Burrell

“One of the rare books that will redefine a field. Its insights and methodologies illuminate concerns at the very heart of cultural history, cutting-edge literary studies, religious studies, medieval studies, semiotics, and theology. Izmirlieva’s scholarship and erudition are virtuosic. She brings out beautifully the tension between the desire to submit and to control, to surrender and to order. This is a book for every scholar, indeed every person, interested in how human beings attempt to make sense of their lives and their relationship to God.”—Nadieszda Kizenko, University at Albany, SUNY

Nadieszda Kizenko, University at Albany, SUNY

"This is a fascinating and quite original book. . . . It is very rarely that, having read a work of scholarship, I want to read it again right through . . . . but that is what I felt as I approached--all too soon, it seemed--the end of this book. That is partly, too, because it is written so well, itself the sign of the clarity of expression and profundity of conception that the author combines. . . . [The book] suggests connexions that one would never have made before, and admits one to a kind of kaleidoscopic vision that will continue to disturb the more confined ideas with which one had approached these topics hitherto. It might even change your life."

Andrew Louth | Journal of Ecclesiastical History

Table of Contents

Divine Names as Terms of Order 
What Kind of Order? 
Lists as Figures of Display 
What Is Symbolic Production of Order? 
The Material 
Part One: The Claim of Theology: “Nameless and of Every Name”
1. The Divine Names and Dionysius the Areopagite 
Myth and Mystification 
The Exegetes 
The Translators 
Disputed Authorship and Indisputable Authority 
2. Back to the Sources 
The Bible and the Name 
The Trouble with Logos 
The Two Roads, or the Nature of Divine Names 
3. The Synthesis of Dionysius 
The Dionysian Vision 
The Theological Project 
United Differentiations 
A Hierarchy of Names 
Nameless and of Every Name 
4. Theory and Practice 
Biblical Exegesis 
The Proper Name of God Is a List 
Listing the Names of God 
Part Two: A Magical Alternative: The 72 Names of God
5. How Many Are the Names of God? 
The Number of God’s Names 
The Larger Context 
The Synonymy of 72 and 70 
6. A Body of 72 Parts and the 72 Diseases 
7. An Apostle for Every Nation 
The Division of the Languages at Babel 
The Septuagint 
The 72 Disciples of Christ 
The Ideal Quorum 
8. The Peculiar Codex Jerusalem 22 
The Facts 
A Kabbalistic Hypothesis 
The Balkan Context 
Three Possible Kabbalistic Indices 
The Emphasis on 72 
Kabbalah and the World of 72 Parts 
9. Christian Culture and the 72 Names 
Kabbalah in Christian Garb 
The Christian Amulet East and West 
10. Printing and the Career of the Slavonic Text 
The Miscellany for Travelers and the Remaking of the Text 
The Spectacular Aftermath 
Building Textual Affinities 
Commercial Success 
The Abagar of Philip Stanislavov 
                        Two Visions of Order 
                        Religion, Need, and Desire: A Reorientation

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