Recovering Judaism

Recovering Judaism

by Jacob Neusner PhD

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780800632687
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress, Publishers
Publication date: 10/09/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 220
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)

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From the Preface (pre-publication version):
This book aims to prove that, in its normative writings, Judaism is a universalistic religion, speaking a language common to all humanity and offering a place in God's kingdom to everyone. That proof is required because Judaism is commonly portrayed by both the faithful and the competing religions as ethnic and particularistic, exclusive and unwelcoming. Two forces today aim at the ethnicization of Judaism into a mere culture, Christianity and Jews themselves.

From New Testament times, Christianity has represented Judaism as insufficient because it excludes the gentiles from that "Israel" of which Scripture speaks, the Israel that knows and worships the one and only God of all humanity. But on its own, Christianity cannot stifle the vitality of Judaism within the community of the faithful.

The Jewish community defines itself in ethnic and political terms, and even rabbis function more often than not as ethnic cheerleaders. Jews, so people maintain, have attitudes and feelings and opinions acquired through birth and upbringing and not accessible to other people, as do all other ethnic or racial groups. By Judaism then people mean, the Jews' ethnic culture. Then in an age of ethnic celebration, a time in which people emphasize difference and not commonality, Judaism finds itself represented as an ethnic religion, which is not a religion at all. It is the sum of Jews' experience: the culture, the history, the sentiment, and consciousness of the Jewish people. So difference and particularity rule, and Judaism, a religion that I shall show from its origins means to address all humanity from beginning to end, fromcreation to redemption at the end of days, loses all hearing.

To state matters simply: the Jews used to be a people with one religion, Judaism. Now, Judaism is becoming merely the religion of one people, an ethnic religion, thus, in the monotheist framework of a universal God of all humanity, deprived of its religiosity altogether.

The argument of this book, with its stress on the universalistic character of the thought and argument of Judaism in its normative canon, means to reestablish the claim of Judaism to constitute a universal religious tradition, addressing the entirety of humanity exactly as do Christianity and Islam, competing with the other two monotheisms on an even playing field for the attention and affirmation of all who maintain that the one and only God who made heaven and earth has made himself known to humanity. All three monotheisms concur that there is only one God, and the naked logic of that concurrence requires that all three are speaking of one and the same God. Then the claim that one of the three monotheisms affords access to the one and only God to only one sector of humanity, a sector sustained principally through ethnic or racial ties, and that that one and only God is inaccessible to everybody else-that absurd claim laid against Judaism caricatures Judaism and violates the generative logic of monotheism, whether in its Islamic or Christian or Judaic formulation.

Each of the three monotheist religions-Judaism, Islam, and Christianity-chooses its own medium to convey one universal message to all humanity concerning the one and only and unique God. All encompass in the story that they tell humanity the one God's self-manifestation to Abraham, then in the Torah given by God to Moses at Sinai, and, more generally, in the Hebrew Scriptures of ancient Israel. All concur on a further stage in revelation: God in Christ; God to the prophet, Muhammad; God in the Oral Torah, for Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, respectively. Judaism represents one of the three possibilities that inhere within the dialectics of monotheism. But while Christianity and Islam set forth a message of universal significance and appeal, Judaism finds itself represented as a backwater, not part of the mainstream of monotheism.

What I mean to demonstrate in these pages is that in its normative writings, Scripture as conveyed in the Mishnah, talmudic amplifications of the Mishnah, and midrash (terms defined in the Glossary), Judaism addresses all of humanity and appeals to everyone to accept the yoke of God's kingdom as set forth in the Torah of Moses. In this account of the method and message of the Judaic monotheism defined in the classical and normative documents of Judaism in their formative age, coinciding with the formation of Christianity and concluding at the eve of the advent of Islam, I show the universal character and appeal of Judaic monotheism in the mainstream of humanity.

It is, I demonstrate, a monotheism for all, not just for an "us." Appealing to the revelation of Sinai, oral and written, Judaism frames a shared, accessible logic that forms of the Torah a universally applicable and compelling system of salvation. Judaic monotheism aims to persuade the world to accept the one and only God's dominion and to identify, in the world, the marks of God's rule. So addressing all of humanity Judaism appeals to a reasoned reading of revelation. As there is no ethnic physics or mathematics, so in the framework of monotheism, Judaism, like Christianity and Islam, claims there is no ethnic theology, only a universal claim on the intellect of every person in the world resting on the authority of God's revealed will recorded at the Torah-the instruction-of Sinai.

Specifically, Judaism transforms the specificities of the Torah into generalizations that encompass the story of all humanity, beginning, middle, and end. That story begins with Adam and Eve and their fall from Eden and the advent of death and ends with the restoration of humanity to eternal life. How do the sages of the Judaic documents of ancient times turn the particular story of Adam and Israel into the universal account of humanity at large? What transforms Scripture as portrayed by Judaic monotheism into a universal statement is its appeal to the shared intellectual qualities of the human mind. Common rules of thought and analysis, Judaism maintains, transform the Torah's particularities into universally accessible and rationally compelling truth.1 We deal with a universality of intellectual medium, not only of message-a transcendence over particularities made possible by appeal to self-evidence: to the shared modes of thought and analysis that all reasonable persons find compelling. Judaism appeals above all to logic, reason, and rationality in the reading of the revealed Scripture common to the three monotheist religions.

Table of Contents


Preface

1. The Universalistic Message of Judaic Monotheism
Dunn's Representation of Judaism as Particularistic
A Different Way of Addressing All of Humanity
Demonstrating the Universalistic Character of Judaism
The Starting Point
Israel as Counterpart to Humanity
The Monotheist Theology of the Torah: Four Principles
The Universalistic Character of Judaic Monotheism
"Israel" as Ethnic, as Supernatural: The Issue Joined

2. The Legal Medium: From the Case to the Governing Rule
Norms of Behavior, Norms of Belief
How Does the Halakah Speak to Humanity at Large?
The Particular as the Medium for the General
Rational Analysis of Data: Classes of Things
Natural History in Mishnaic Analysis
Where Does God Abide in Reasoned Analysis?
Science: The Universal Knowledge
Rules of Natural History: Aristotle and the Sages
Where the Sages Part Company from Aristotle
Where Material Things Become Means of Revelation

3. The Legal Message: Restoring Eden through Israel
God's Unity and Dominion
Between Israel and God: Shebi'it
Israel's Social Order: Sanhedrin-Makkot and the Death Penalty
Inside the Israelite Household: Shabbat-[Erubin
What These Cases Tell Us

4. The Narrative-Exegetical Medium: Paradigmatic Thinking
Scripture's Narratives and Laws: Governing Principles of the Social Order
Judaism Rejects Historical Thinking
The Modes of Paradigmatic Thinking
How to Find Paradigms
How Paradigms Replace Historical Time
Past and Present
Philosophy Replaces History
The Universalization of the Patriarchs andMatriarchs
"Israel" as the Paradigm
Paradigms Discerned through Particular Cases
Particular Historical Narrative to Exemplary Social Generalization
The Four Principal Models for Organizing Events
Supernatural Israel Transcending the Tides of Time
The Purpose of Paradigmatic Thinking
From Scripture to Torah
The Character of the Torah's Paradigms

5. The Narrative-Exegetical Message: Restoring Adam to Eden, Israel to the Land
Restoring Israel to the Land, Humanity to Eden
The Resurrection of the Dead and Judgment
Standing under God's Judgment
The Restoration of Humanity to Eden
Exile and Return
Redemption from Egypt, for the World to Come
Creation the Model of Redemption
Humanity at Large in the Eschatology of Judaism
Who and What Then is Israel?
From Concrete Event to Evocative Symbol
Life in the World to Come
Idolaters = Gentiles and the World to Come

6. Rational Israel: God's Justice, Humanity's Reason
Humanity Explains the Reason Why
Everyone Has the Power to Understand
God's Justice: The Reason
Scripture: God Obeys the Rules of Justice
The Reason Why Not
When Israel ("Those Who Know God") Sins
Measure for Measure
Predestination and Free Will
Suffering Is Reasonable Too
Anomalies in the Just Order
Beyond Reason, the Human Condition

Epilogue: Recovering Judaism
Notes
Glossary
Index

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