Over 700,000 copies of the original hardcover and paperback editions of this stunningly popular book have been sold. Karen Armstrong's superbly readable exploration of how the three dominant monotheistic religions of the world—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—have shaped and altered the conception of God is a tour de force. One of Britain's foremost commentators on religious affairs, Armstrong traces the history of how men and women have perceived and experienced God, from the time of Abraham to the present. From classical philosophy (...) and medieval mysticism to the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the modern age of skepticism, Armstrong performs the near miracle of distilling the intellectual history of monotheism into one compelling volume. (shrink)
The issue of incarnation in the formative centuries of the Judaism of the dual Torah concerns not the invention of an essentially new conception of God but the recovery of what was among other Judaisms an entirely conventional one. What concerns us is not so much why in light of the prior Judaic systems and their statements, the Judaism of the dual Torah represented God inincarnate form. It is how the incarnation of God attained realization. For in the earlier stages (...) of the unfolding of the canon of the Judaism of the dual Torah, e.g. in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and related exegetical writings, we have no hint of an incarnation of God, and it is only in the final and complete statement of that Judaism that we confront, in full and whole realization, the notion of God with an individuality, a personality, a corporeal character. The answer to that question requires us to pursue two distinct lines of inquiry. The first concerns incarnation – treating as human and fleshly and corporeal what is to begin with either an object or an abstraction – as a mode of thought, not with special reference to God. Here we want to know the point at which, in the unfolding of the canon of the Judaism of the dual Torah, the conception of incarnation serves as a mode of presenting as a human person or personality some thing or some idea. Within this inquiry, further, we want to know precisely how the conception of incarnation comes to expression. The second addresses the issue why is it that in the pages of the Bavli in particular the process of incarnation reaches the person of God? (shrink)
The idea of creation in the divine image has a long and complex history. While its roots apparently lie in the royal myths of Mesopotamia and Egypt, this book argues that it was the biblical account of creation presented in the first chapters of Genesis and its interpretation in early rabbinic literature that created the basis for the perennial inquiry of the concept in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yair Lorberbaum reconstructs the idea of the creation of man in the image of (...) God attributed in the Midrash and the Talmud. He analyzes meanings attributed to tselem Elohim in early rabbinic thought, as expressed in Aggadah, and explores its application in the normative, legal, and ritual realms. (shrink)
Revelation and the God of Israel explores the concept of revelation as it emerges from the Hebrew Scriptures and is interpreted in Jewish philosophy and theology. The first part is a study in intellectual history that attempts to answer the question, what is the best possible understanding of revelation. The second part is a study in constructive theology and attempts to answer the question, is it reasonable to affirm belief in revelation. Here Norbert M. Samuelson focuses on the challenges given (...) from a variety of contemporary academic disciplines, including evolutionary psychology, political ethics, analytic philosophy of religion, and source critical studies of the Bible. This important book offers a unique approach to theological questions and fresh solutions to them and will appeal to those interested in the history of philosophy, religious thought, and Judaism. (shrink)
Monotheism is usually considered Judaism's greatest contribution to world culture, but it is far from clear what monotheism is. This work examines the notion that monotheism is not so much a claim about the number of God as a claim about the nature of God. Seeskin argues that the idea of a God who is separate from his creation and unique is not just an abstraction but a suitable basis for worship. He examines this conclusion in the contexts of prayer, (...) creation, sabbath observance, repentance, religious freedom, and love of God. Maimonides plays a central role in the argument both because of his importance to Jewish self-understanding and because he deals with the question of how philosophic ideas are embodied in religious ritual. (shrink)
This cogently argued and richly illustrated book rejects the dichotomy between the God of Abraham and the God of the philosophers to argue that the two are one. In God of Abraham, one of our leading philosophers of religion shows how human values can illuminate our idea of God and how the monotheistic idea of God in turn illuminates our moral, social, cultural, aesthetic, and even ritual understanding. Throughout Goodman draws on a wealth of traditional, philosophical, historical, and anthropological materials, (...) and particularly on a wide range of Jewish sources. He demonstrates how an adequate understanding of the interplay of values with monotheism dissolves many of the longstanding problems of natural theology and ethics and guides us toward a genuinely humanistic moral and social philosophy. (shrink)
The central debate of natural theology among medieval Muslims and Jews concerned whether or not the world was eternal. Opinions divided sharply on this issue because the outcome bore directly on God's relationship with the world: eternity implies a deity bereft of will, while a world with a beginning leads to the contrasting picture of a deity possessed of will. In this exhaustive study of medieval Islamic and Jewish arguments for eternity, creation, and the existence of God, Herbert Davidson provides (...) a systematic classification of the proofs, analyzes and explains them, and traces their sources in Greek philosophy. Throughout the study, Davidson tries to take into account every argument of a philosophical character, disregarding only those arguments that rest entirely on religious faith or which fall below a minimal level of plausibility. (shrink)
Chap. 1. Creativity in the first kabbalistic writings -- Chap. 2. The philosophic ethos -- Chap. 3. Investigating God in rabbinic and later Jewish literature -- Chap. 4. The philosophic ethos in the writings of the first kabbalists -- Chap. 5. Investigating God in Sefer ha-Bahir -- Chap. 6. The philosophic ethos in the writings of Nahmanides.
The German text of Cohen’s Spinoza on State & Religion, Judaism & Christianity (Spinoza über Staat und Religion, Judentum und Christentum) first appeared in 1915 in the Jahrbuch für jüdische Geschichte und Literatur. Two years before, in the winter of 1913, Cohen taught a class and a seminar on Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. This was Cohen’s first semester at the Hochschule, after retiring from more than thirty years of teaching at the University of (...) Marburg. Cohen’s fame at the time was at its zenith, and his move to the Hochschule was a cause for celebration and excitement. According to the testimony of some students who attended the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus seminar, Cohen left no place for any expression of dissent (regrettably, the academy frequently encourages such authoritarian behavior). The text of Spinoza on State, which was the product of this seminar, still bears the marks of this “didactic” attitude. It is bombastic and feebly argued. Thus, in one moment of emotional crescendo in the text, we can literally hear Cohen shout: When Spinoza, with merciless severity, makes his own nation the object of contempt – at the time that Rembrandt lived on the same street and immortalized the ideal type of the Jew - no voices rises in protest against this humanly incomprehensible betrayal. Such patriotic rhetoric is quite typical of Cohen’s Spinoza on State, as the work reads more like a series of rants against the devil incarnated (“the demonic spirit of Spinoza”) in the figure of the traitor from Amsterdam than like a sustained and serious philosophical polemic. From time to time, one can observe hints of critical arguments, but hardly any are fleshed out. The text is also replete with rudimentary factual and interpretative errors. Thus, when Cohen argues that Spinoza traces his pantheism to Jewish sources, Cohen erroneously cites Spinoza’s reference in E2p7s to “some of the Hebrews [quidam Hebraeorum]” who argued for the identity of Sekhel, Maskil, and Muskal (the Intellect, the Intellecting Subject, and the Intellected Object) – a Maimonidean doctrine that has nothing to do with pantheism – while the text Cohen clearly had in mind was Spinoza’s claim, in Letter 73, that the traditions (traditionibus) of the “ancient Hebrews [antiquis Hebraeis]” agree with Spinoza’s claim that “all things are in God.” Similarly, and on the very same page, Cohen ascribes to Spinoza the claim that “the God of the Old Testament is only a body,” a claim which is nowhere to be found in Spinoza’s works, and which can be inferred from Spinoza’s text only through a patent fallacy. If I may add one last example, consider the following passage from Cohen’s Spinoza on State: [For Spinoza] divine law is grounded in our mind. Yet this does not mean that our mind bears responsibility for producing and obeying the law. Instead, it means that, by definition, the human mind and God are identical, inasmuch as He exists in the human mind. Hardly any claim in this brief passage is correct. Yet, what is most striking is Cohen’s derivation of the identity of God and the human mind from the claim that God exists in the human mind. If I exist in North America, this obviously does not imply that I am identical to North America (there are, for example, a couple of North American porcupines and alligators that are distinct from me). What rule of inference Cohen sought to employ in this argument, and how this impressive inference of the identity of God and the human mind is supposed to square with Cohen’s view of Spinoza as a pantheist – i.e., as considering the physical nature to be divine – is beyond my grasp. Instead of tracking down the dozens of crude errors and fallacies in Cohen’s text, I would like to concentrate here on one crucial issue: Cohen’s critique of Spinoza’s pantheism. By doing this, I will have to pass silently over a couple of surprising agreements between the two figures, such as the (false) claim that all of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible taught the same universal and simple morality. My discussion of pantheism will be divided into two sections. In the first, I will examine Cohen’s understanding of Spinoza’s pantheism. In the second, I will briefly examine the historical validity of Cohen’s claim that pantheism is a Christian doctrine, diametrically opposed to Judaism. (shrink)
Can a rational religious faith be maintained in a world full of evils? In this theological dialogue two characters, the skeptical Simon and the man of faith, Joseph, grapple with this question. What follows is a wide-ranging conversation touching on the nature and meaning of morality, God, revelation, the Bible, evil, and the viability of faith itself.
Mark Johnston’s book, Saving God (Princeton University Press, 2010) has two main goals, one negative and the other positive: (1) to eliminate the gods of the major Western monotheisms (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as candidates for the role of “the Highest One”; (2) to introduce the real Highest One, a panentheistic deity worthy of devotion and capable of extending to us the grace needed to transform us from inwardly-turned sinners to practitioners of agape. In this review, we argue that Johnston’s (...) attack on traditional forms of monotheism has less force than his criticism of the “undergraduate atheists” (e.g., Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins); and that his candidate for Highest One is not the greatest possible being, and so could not play the role Johnston casts for it. -/- . (shrink)
This article approaches Judaism through Rabbi Bradley S. Artson’s book, God of Becoming and Relationships: The Dynamic Nature of Process Theology. It explores his understanding of how Jewish theology should and does cohere with central features of both process theology and Robert S. Hartman’s formal axiology. These include the axiological/process concept of God, the intrinsic value and valuation of God and unique human beings, and Jewish extrinsic and systemic values, value combinations, and value rankings.
This book is the fullest study in English for many years on the role of God in Spinoza's philosophy. Spinoza has been called both a 'God-intoxicated man' and an atheist, both a pioneer of secular Judaism and a bitter critic of religion. He was born a Jew but chose to live outside any religious community. He was deeply engaged both in traditional Hebrew learning and in contemporary physical science. He identified God with nature or substance: a theme which runs through (...) his work, enabling him to naturalise religion but - equally important - to divinise nature. He emerges not as a rationalist precursor of the Enlightenment but as a thinker of the highest importance in his own right, both in philosophy and in religion. (shrink)
_ Source: _Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 232 - 255 In Book III of _The Star of Redemption_, Franz Rosenzweig contrasts Judaism and Christianity: Judaism consists in the eternal passage of a people from creation to revelation; it suspends the divide between God’s presence and his worldly manifestation. For Rosenzweig, being Jewish means to be with God in the world. Christianity, however, defers salvation. While Judaism is with God in the world, Christianity retreats from God and the world. Christianity therefore (...) has no “immediacy.” How can both Judaism and Christianity then live in immediacy with God in the world? Seeking to overcome Rosenzweig’s dichotomy, I endeavor to think an immediate relationship with God in the world by turning to one of Rosenzweig’s “biggest names”: Hermann Cohen. Following Cohen, I take it that Judeo-Christian continuity begins before both religions. I wish to explore the passage from the origin to the prophetic that constitutes the idea of a “pure monotheism” in Cohen’s philosophy. (shrink)
Faith in reason, reason in faith -- The nature of God, the God of nature -- Torah from heaven -- Divine providence -- The oral Torah and rabbinic tradition -- Religion and superstition -- Israel and humanity -- Conversion to Judaism -- Eternal Torah, changing times -- Faith and reason.
In this book, the author presents two worldviews. The first is the theocentric view of divine providence: God governs and is involved in the development of the world, including that of the animal kingdom. The second worldview is atheistic-materialistic and secular. It regards the abundance of different life forms, human society, economics, beliefs, and emotions as the products of one factor: matter and its movement. Through an analysis of the foundations and assumptions of the secular worldview, the author demonstrates its (...) weakness and lack of rational basis. (shrink)
The purpose of Judaism -- The Exodus-Sinai continuum of Jewish life -- Genesis : Abraham and "the call" -- Exodus : embracing the covenant -- Leviticus : roadmap to a more perfect world -- Numbers : from wilderness to prophecy -- Deuteronomy : how central is God? -- Sinai applied : seven core values of the rabbinic tradition -- The American Jewish community and the public square -- Jews and the struggle for civil rights -- Soviet Jewry : a cause (...) of our own -- Protecting and defending the state of Israel -- What is a Jewish issue? -- Beyond self-interest -- Social justice takes root -- Reconciling Exodus and Sinai -- Conclusion : responding to "the call". (shrink)