The Virtue of Humility in Judaism: A Critique of Rationalist Hermeneutics

Journal of Religious Ethics 13 (2):298 - 311 (1985)
Abstract
The virtue of humility was central to the moral-religious understanding of traditional Judaism, although the significance of the virtue has yet to receive extensive attention from contemporary scholarship. An investigation of humility's role within the tradition, particularly as it illuminates the meaning of pride and idolatry, shows that an approach focusing on the moral significance of humility in isolation from its religious meaning is misleading. Humility's simultaneous meanings as true worship and as the foundation of all good works and virtues are intertwined and interdependent. Professor Ronald M. Green's paper (1973) about humility in Judaism is valuable because it explicates and emphasizes the virtue's central and broad importance. Nevertheless, Green's attempt to show that humility is congruent with what turns out to be a particularly modern understanding of moral reason (contemporary contractual ethical theory) needs to be challenged. The prophet Micah's exhortation "to walk humbly with thy God" cannot be translated into Green's exhortation to enter impartially into the original position-at least not without considerable loss and distortion.
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