American Jewish history as a field of scholarly inquiry takes as its subject-matter the experience of Jews in the United States and places it within the context of both modern Jewish history and the history of the United States. Its practitioners see their intellectual project as inextricably connected to both histories. At the beginning of the twenty-first century the enterprise of American Jewish history enjoys a condition of robust health. By the 1990s American immigration history had generally declined in favour within the ranks of American historians. That Jews, outsiders to American culture upon their arrival in the United States, were able to penetrate barriers and enter the mainstream clashes with the way historians want to see the American past. As a group who craved both economic security and respectability, their story lacks the dramatic punch of resisters and rebels to the American ethos.
Robert S. Pelton C.S.C.
Before Vatican II, pastoral theology reflected a clear distinction between the ordained and non-ordained members of the Church, but a gradual nuancing of this issue was taking place in Latin America as early as the 1950s. In those areas, there had been rather intensive study of “modern” European theologians. Through their writings and pastoral visits to the region of America, these progressive European theologians began to strongly influence Latin American theology —especially in Chile and Brazil. This influence was shown through the beginnings of small Christian communities, and through an emphasis on doing “contextual” theology. This is a theology that emphasizes the experiential in the light of tradition, which eventually led to Latin American liberation theology. The Church of Latin America has long been a leader in innovations that incorporate the role of Scripture in everyday life: the preferential and evangelizing option for the poor, small Christian communities (also known as CEBs or BECs), lay apostolates and lay missionaries, and other endeavors to put the Church at service to the People of God. “Laying boots on the ground” has become truly essential to carrying out the Church’s mission in the world and pastoral ambience contributes strongly to this growing appreciation of the Catholic laity. Combined with the importance of theologically reflecting within the context of regional realities, this approach can provide hope for a challenged but youthful and vibrant Catholic Church of Latin America.
This article notes that the study of the modern history of East European Jews is not a field driven at present by deep conceptual or ideological divides or abiding scholarly or methodological controversies. The past debates on this score between Israeli and diaspora Jewish scholarship have all but disappeared, as has even more dramatically the attempt at a Marxist version of juedische Wissenschaft. While the major works of the founders of the field from Simon Dubnov on ought to be studied and the impressive resurgence of interest in the history and culture of East European Jewry in the modern age is underway, the work is still largely undone. The crucial challenge to the field is not to succumb to the lachrymose and romanticized stereotypes of Jewish life in Eastern Europe while continuing to explore the history of this the largest Jewry in the world before the Holocaust.
This article describes conceptions of the early modern period in Jewish historiography, the Italian Renaissance, intellectual history, the Jews of Central Europe in the early modern period, the Sephardic diaspora in Western Europe, and messianism. Classical Jewish historiography depicted a sharp break between medieval and modern patterns, the movements of transformation seeming to emerge virtually out of nothing. Cecil Roth's The Jews in the Renaissance introduced Jewish historians to the riches of Jewish life in this multifaceted world. Jewish intellectual history in the early modern period is characterized by successful attempts to cross traditional disciplinary boundaries. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 and from Portugal in 1497 had a profound impact on the life of Western European Jews, even beyond that on Iberian Jewry itself. Meanwhile, the messianic movement of Sabbatai Zevi reverberated strongly through the Jewish historiography of the early modern period.
This article presents a narrative history of the Jews between the destruction of the Second Temple (70
The most significant contemporary challenges to humanism do not come from critics who relegate it to anti-religiousness or exclusively immanent concerns, but from those who critique humanitarianism and human rights as the most powerful humanist discourses of our time. These critics bring two important insights: they identify humanism as both religious and secular in character, and they point to it as an enacted rather than merely an intellectual disposition. The critics in question, however, sustain a narrow, Western centric understanding of what humanism is. This chapter seeks to destabilize that view but also to move beyond the mere “critique of critics” (Rita Felski, The Limits of Critique) to gesture toward the particularity and plurality of humanist traditions as platforms for ethical and political practices—humanitarianism and human rights included.
Cor van der Weele and Henk van den Belt
The chapter argues that in human relations with technology, assumptions about ourselves are just as crucial as assumptions about technology. Neither the optimistic traditional humanist belief in human freedom and autonomy, nor the pessimistic view that humans are necessarily anthropocentric, will do for building sound relations with technology. The chapter develops this argument through three debates. First, Heidegger’s antihumanism, in which humans do not have any agency in their relations with technology, may not be convincing, yet lack of control is still a relevant theme. Second, the section on evolutionary humanism (turning to transhumanism and AI) shows that humans now often look vulnerable rather than masterful in their relations with technology. Third, Anthropocene debates tend to rest on bleak views of human beings, so that hard-to-control technologies may then seem to be our only hope. The chapter argues for a need to develop more detailed insights into how we function by facing and exploring our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, as well our under-recognized abilities for responsibility. This may open perspectives on more modest and entangled forms of agency, more humane technologies, and more de-centered relations with nature.
Atheism, humanism, and naturalism are three expressions of nontheism. They are “ideal types,” abstractions from the empirical messiness of the phenomena they describe. These types represent three levels of complexity and depth. Humanism sublates atheism, that is, transforms and lifts it higher. In turn, naturalism sublates (aufheben) humanism. At its best, naturalism assumes a pragmatic form. After an arguing for a serial relationship of increasing sophistication and intensification among atheism, humanism, and naturalism, the chapter culminates with an overview of George Santayana’s pragmatic religious naturalism. The thesis of the chapter is that Santayana provides the most sophisticated and capacious account of anti-supernaturalism and nontheism as a religious orientation.
This chapter addresses secular humanism in Europe and the way it is “lived” by and within its major institutions and organizations. It examines how national and international secular humanist bodies founded after World War II took up, cultivated, and transformed free-religious, free-thought, ethical, atheist, and rationalist roots from nineteenth century Europe and adjusted them to changing social, cultural, and political environments. Giving examples from some selected national contexts, the development of a nonreligious Humanism in Europe exemplifies what Wohlrab-Sahr and Burchardt call “Multiple Secularities”: different local or national trajectories produced a variety of cultures of secularity and, thus, different understandings of secular humanism. Apart from this cultural historization, the chapter reconstructs two transnational, ideal types of secular humanism, the social practice type, and the secularist pressure group type. These types share similar worldviews and values, but have to be distinguished in terms of organizational forms, practices, and especially policy.
For all Jews in this period, in both diaspora and homeland, the Jerusalem Temple was the central religious institution. The wide dispersal of Jews prevented many from regular participation in Temple worship, but no religious Jew seem to have ignored the significance of the sacrificial and other offerings in Jerusalem. The second pillar of common Judaism was the Torah. It was during these centuries that the biblical text took a form resembling that of the present day and acquired something close to its later authority. Most of the debate about the relation of Jews to the surrounding culture has concentrated on the Hellenization of Judaism. The motivation of Christian scholars for investigating the relationship of Judaism and Hellenism has naturally been very different and more concerned with the origins of ideas found in the early Church.
After a brief overview of the social context and role of marriage and sexuality in Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures, the chapter traces the impact of the Genesis creation narratives, positively and negatively, on how marriage and sexuality were seen both in the present and in depictions of hope for the future. Discussion of pre-marital sex, incest, intermarriage, polygyny, divorce, adultery, and passions follows. It then turns to Jesus’ reported response to divorce, arguing that the prohibition sayings should be read as assuming that sexual intercourse both effects permanent union and severs previous unions, thus making divorce after adultery mandatory, the common understanding and legal requirement in both Jewish and Greco-Roman society of the time. It concludes by noting both the positive appreciation of sex and marriage, grounded in belief that they are God’s creation, and the many dire warnings against sexual wrongdoing, including adulterous attitudes and uncontrolled passions.
The Hebrew Bible is sometimes understood as the source of a ‘traditional’ Judaeo-Christian approach to marriage and sexual practice. A comprehensive examination reveals, however, that biblical assumptions about sex, gender, and kinship are complex and internally diverse. Some of these assumptions stand in tension with traditional Jewish and Christian norms for marriage and sexual activity. This essay reviews such matters as the biblical vocabulary for, and representations of, marital relations; the status of women in households organized around fathers; the role of polygyny; differing standards for the sexual conduct of husbands, wives, and concubines; intermarriage and inter-ethnic sexual relations; prostitution; the use of sex and marriage within male contests for power and honour; the use of sexual and marital images in representations of Israel’s relationship to God; and the attitudes towards sex and gender found in less frequently read books of the Bible such as the Song of Songs.
Karaism is best defined as a Jewish religious movement of a scripturalist and messianic nature, which crystallized in the second half of the ninth century in the areas of Persia-Iraq and Palestine. This article highlights new developments and breakthroughs in research, with specific emphasis on the state of manuscript sources, and the fields of Karaite history and hermeneutics. It also attempts to redefine the major impetus behind the Karaite movement. It concludes by reviewing the issues that have been raised and outlines the major paradigmatic shift in the current understanding of Karaism. Two separate modes of explanation have traditionally been pursued in the light of comparative religious phenomena. One identifies the major motivation underlying Karaism as intrinsic to Judaism, drawn from earlier scripturalist models, and the other identifies it as external to Judaism, borrowed or grafted onto it from heterodox Islamic models.
Alexander W. Hall
Aaron S. Gross
What do animals have to do with religion? This article answers this broad question with special attention to issues related to animal ethics and animal philosophy. Topics covered include the religious dimension of human-animal relationships; the role of animals in human self-imagination; the formation of religions based on human-animal relationships, especially in responding to the dilemmas and tensions raised by killing animals for food and sacrifice; and central issues in the method and theory of critically studying animals and religion. Working at the intersection of the history of religions and animal studies, this essay provides grounding in the subfield of “animals and religion,” as well as references to a wide range of work on the study of animals. The article also cites studies of the subject in both the religions of traditional peoples, including the Cree, Koyukon, Naxi, Nivkhi, and Tuvan, and the so-called world religions, including Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions; Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions; and Daoist traditions.
Theodore W. Jennings Jr.
While the Bible is often understood to forbid same-sex love, a closer examination reveals a wide variety of forms of same-sex love that are presupposed and even celebrated in these texts. After demonstrating that biblical texts taken to prohibit same-sex love have been misunderstood, the chapter explores multiple forms of same-sex love in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Love between women in the story of Ruth, the expressions of warrior love in the stories of David and the centurion who came to Jesus, the transgendering of Israel in the prophets and the transgendering of Jesus and Saint Paul in the New Testament, even tales of sexual awakening and violence, provide a rich tapestry of same-sex love exhibited in biblical literature giving deeper meaning to the message of divine love which for Christians is exemplified by Jesus.
Sarah Abrevaya Stein
Despite significant achievements, certain challenges still confront the student of Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries. This article delineates four such challenges. First, the conceptual language and categories still need to be rethought: what is to be gained and lost by grouping Sephardi and Middle Eastern Jewries into one historical category? Second, while recent scholarship has challenged the ‘Sephardic Mystique’ and the ‘neo-lachrymose view of Jewish-Arab History’, there are other influential teleologies that warrant reconsideration, among them the teleologies of Westernization, modernization, and Zionism, all of which assume a Eurocentric perspective. Third, there remain numerous important gaps in the knowledge of Sephardi and Mizrahi culture and history, including social history, women's and gender history, comparative and inter-ethnic history. Fourth, there is still the task of using the scholarship on non-Ashkenazim to reconsider pre-existing assumptions about Jewish culture.
John Witte Jr.
The chapter analyses the mainline Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican models of sex, marriage, and family and their gradual liberalization by Enlightenment liberalism. The theological differences between these models can be traced to their grounding in Lutheran two kingdoms doctrines, Calvinist covenantal theology, Anglican commonwealth theory, and Enlightenment contractarian logic. Lutherans consigned primary marital jurisdiction to the territorial prince or urban council. Calvinists assigned interlocking marital roles to local consistories and city councils. Anglicans left marital jurisdiction to church courts, subject to state oversight and legislation. The early Enlightenment philosophers, many of them Protestants, pressed for a sharper separation of church and state in the governance of marriage, and for stronger protections of the rights and equality of women and children within and beyond the marital household. But they maintained traditional Protestant prohibitions on extramarital sex and no-fault divorce in an effort to protect especially women and children from exploitation.