Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture

Cascade, 2013
ISBN: 9781625641557


Explore ancient and modern manifestations of deification with Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture. From the ancient pharaohs to modern transhumanists, people have sought divinity. They include megalomaniacs, mystics, sages, apostles, prophets, magicians, bishops, philosophers, atheists, and monks. Some aim for independent deity, others seek eternal union with God. Some anticipate godhood in heaven, others sought to walk as gods on earth. M. David Litwa identifies and analyzes some common themes in deification philosophies, including immortality, superhuman power, and supernatural knowledge or love, and how they inform how we view deification today.

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Key Features

  • Provides an overview of deification concepts in Western culture
  • Analyzes common deification philosophies
  • Compares views of supernaturalism and divinity through history


  • Merging with the Sun: The Deification of Amenhotep III
  • The New Dionysus: Divine Assimilation in Greco-Roman Ruler Cult
  • “You Have Been Born a God”: Deification in the Orphic Gold Tablets
  • “We are Being Transformed”: Paul and the Gospel of Deification
  • “Immortalized in This Very Hour”: Deification in the “Mithras Liturgy”
  • “I Have Been Born in Mind!”: Deification in the Hermetic Literature
  • “I Have Become Identical with the Divine”: Plotinus on Deification
  • “The Flash of One Tremulous Glance”: Augustine and Deification
  • “I Am the Truth”: The Deification of Husayn ibn Mansur al-Hallaj
  • “God’s Being Is My Life”: Meister Eckhart’s Birth in God
  • “Uncreated by Grace”: Deification in Gregory Palamas
  • “By Faith a Human Becomes God”: Martin Luther on Deification
  • “Then Shall They Be Gods . . .”: The Mormon Restoration of Deification
  • “Rather Be a God Oneself!” Nietzsche and the Joy of Earthly Godhood
  • The Posthuman God

Praise for the Print Edition

This engaging and informative study explores a neglected but fascinating theme, demonstrating through diverse historical and cultural permutations, from antiquity to the present, a perennial human aspiration not merely to self-transcendence but to divinity itself. There is much here to interest students of antiquity, of Christianity, and of the history of ideas.

Harry Gamble, professor of religious studies, University of Virginia

The earliest religious texts in the West ascribe to humankind both a prehistory and a destiny among the gods. M. David Litwa presents a striking survey of the varieties the latter of these beliefs has had, both within and outside the Christian tradition. Becoming Divine reconstructs an accessible and fascinating mosaic of this too-long neglected idea, utilizing figures as disparate as Orphic cultists, Augustine, and Nietzsche.

—Terryl L. Givens, professor of literature and religion, University of Richmond

Deification is a fascinating but strangely neglected topic in the history of religions. Bizarre though it might seem at first sight, the idea that human beings can become divine is a recurring one from antiquity to the present, not only in ‘pagan’ Hellenistic contexts but in Christian and Islamic ones as well. M. David Litwa’s very well-researched and eminently readable overview fills an important gap.

—W.J. Hanegraaff, professor of history of hermetic philosophy, University of Amsterdam

Product Details

  • Title: Becoming Divine: An Introduction to Deification in Western Culture
  • Author: M. David Litwa
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 290
  • Christian Group: Orthodox
  • Resource Type: Topical
  • Topic: Philosophy of Religion

About M. David Litwa

M. David Litwa (PhD) is currently an instructor in Greek at the University of Virginia. He is author of We Are Being Transformed: Deification in Paul’s Soteriology and Iesus Deus: The Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God.

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