James D. Tabor
This article focuses on ancient Jewish and early Christian millennialism, which are found to be intrinsically inconsistent—there are no specific pointers towards marking the end of time; messianic figures appear in some texts and not in others; and God is humanized in some while others are exclusively emphatic on the transcendental paradigm. It makes the whole millennialist gamut essentially subjective. The groundwork was laid by the pre-Hellenic invasions of Israel and the context for the emergence of Jewish millennialism was provided by the widespread suppression under Greek emperor Antiochus. This article demonstrates that from the second and third centuries onwards, the trend increasingly tended from literal expressions towards symbolic subjective millennialism, to the extent that the former was considered inferior.
In the Old Testament, apocalyptic literature (or simply ‘apocalyptic’, as the genre is often called) might not seem to occupy a prominent place. Only the book of Daniel falls into this category. Despite its poor representation in the Bible, apocalyptic literature is not a fringe activity; nor are its contents peripheral to an understanding of Judaism (or Christianity, for that matter). This article focuses on the book of Daniel, the main Old Testament exemplar, and the book of 1 Enoch, which contains the earliest and in many respects most important Palestinian Jewish apocalypses.
Michael A. Knibb
The beliefs of the movement that lies behind the scrolls were influenced by the eschatological ideas of the early Enochic writings and by the Book of Daniel, and although the movement does not seem to have produced many apocalypses, eschatology and messianism formed a significant part of its thought-world. But the movement was concerned above all with the proper observance of the Torah. It seems likely that the development of dualism and to some extent of eschatology was a way of coping with the fact that their interpretation of the Torah was not accepted by the leaders. The discussion also holds that the eschatological and messianic beliefs of the Dead Sea Scrolls represent a development of traditions already contained in the Hebrew Bible and form part of the spectrum of beliefs that were common to Jews of the period.
Apocalyptic phenomena and discourses run as a thread through Jewish, Christian, and Muslim history, playing a lead role during times of transition and ferment. Apocalyptic phenomena announce not only ‘the end’ but the completion of history and an essentially better world to come, and may therefore be seen as radical optimism, the product of a profound discontent with present conditions. Although Apocalypticism frequently played a role in political upheavals, apocalyptic discourse has been used also by conservative elements; theologically, apocalyptic arguments can pose a solution for problems of theodicy. In the Abrahamic traditions, apocalyptic discourse frequently concerns a messiah as well as a counter-messiah as lead figures in the events of the eschaton. Apocalypticism continues to this day, as most of the groups usually labelled religiously radical or fundamentalist in the Abrahamic traditions see themselves as actors in an apocalyptic drama.
Christianity, Islam, and Judaism all claim that God has given humans a revelation. Divine revelation may be either of God, or by God of propositional truth. Traditionally Christianity has claimed that the Christian revelation has involved both of these. God revealed himself in his acts in history; for example in the miracles by which he preserved the people of ancient Israel, and above all by becoming incarnate (that is human) as Jesus Christ, who was crucified and rose from the dead. And God also revealed to us propositional truths by the teaching of Jesus and his church. Some modern theologians have denied that Christianity involves any propositional revelation, but there can be little doubt that from the second century until the eighteenth century, Christians and non-Christians were virtually unanimous in supposing that it claimed to have such a revelation, and so it is worthwhile investigating its traditional claim. This article is concerned with the Christian claim to have a propositional revelation. The first section describes the process by which Christians of past centuries have come to believe that certain propositions have been revealed. The second assesses alternative philosophical accounts of what constitutes a belief that such-and-such propositions have been revealed, being a ‘justified’ belief (or a ‘warranted’ or ‘rational’ one).
Eryl W. Davies
This article begins with a discussion of the methodological issues faced by scholars of ethics in the Old Testament and New Testament. It then identifies the basis of Old Testament ethics in law, natural law, and the imitation of God. This is followed by a discussion of New Testament ethics covering Jesus and the law, Jesus and eschatology, the background of Paul's ethics, and Paul's Christology and eschatology.
Classical and traditional Jewish culture is fundamentally a text culture — formed, informed, and reformed by Scripture (the Hebrew Bible) and its interpretation. This Scripture has always served as the Centre or source of all legal and intellectual meaning or purpose. Disagreement and contestation arise over the source and status of its ongoing interpretations, which are variously asserted to be divine or human. The nexus between Scripture and its exegetical traditions is therefore crucial, and the claim by different groups to be the proper bearers of Scripture and its interpretation becomes the claim to be the true heirs of ancient Israel and the embodiments of its divine destiny. The normative patterns of Judaism are inseparable from this phenomenon, and it is equally evident in its schismatic and sectarian offshoots.
This article examines two commentaries on Leviticus, Jews in the mainstream, biblical versus post-biblical literature, and the pre-critical, critical, and post-critical stances. It describes two particular developments within biblical studies that may be ascribed to the influence of Jewish biblical scholarship. Both of them, broadly speaking, entail the recognition that the Bible (that is, the Tanakh) is a Jewish book, and both therefore legitimate the study of the Bible in its Jewish contexts. This view of the Bible is both a point of entry for Jewish scholars into critical biblical scholarship, and also the potential meeting-ground for biblical scholars with their colleagues in Jewish studies. Interaction between specialists in those fields may yield important new insights into the formation of the Jewish Bible, and into the way the Bible, in turn, has served to shape Jewish mentalities and communities throughout the ages.
This article gives an overview of the basic problems in biblical theology from the point of view of how they have developed since the beginnings of biblical theological work in the seventeenth century and how they appear today. This sketch of the problems will therefore concern itself less with a discussion of details than with major trends and contexts. After a definition of the term ‘biblical theology’ and a brief outline of the history of interpretation, there follows a sketch of those problems that are at present most intensively discussed. The main emphasis will be on the Old Testament and its significance for a theology of the whole Bible.
Classical rabbinic literature comprises all those ancient Jewish literary compilations which transmit the traditions of tannaitic (70–200
This chapter examines such current expressions as ‘the three monotheisms’, ‘the three religions of Abraham’, and ‘the three religions of the book’, points to their falsity and the dangers inherent in their use, and argues they mask real differences underneath a surface harmony. Concerning monotheism, it points to the fact that not only the Abrahamic traditions are monotheists, and the Abrahamic traditions frequently do not recognize each other as such. Concerning Abraham, it argues that while a person with this name indeed appears in the scriptures of all these religions, this figure is rather a source of disagreement than of concord, interpreted in widely differing ways; furthermore, each religion believes only its version of Abraham to be the true one. Concerning ‘religions of the book’, it claims that the character of the three religions’ scriptures are highly diverse, and each religion has a very different relationship with its own ‘book’.
Ellen T. Charry
This chapter examines the difficulties the Holocaust posed and continues to raise for Jews, Jewish theology, and specifically Jewish ethics, identifying eight major commitments made by Jews and non-Jews that have since then inspired Jewish and global responses to human-made atrocities such as genocide and crimes against humanity. These are (1) to survive; (2) to perpetuate the memory of what happened; (3) to survive as Jews; (4) to set the moral bar high such that people are expected to be “upstanders,” not bystanders, in the face of evil; (5) to recreate relationships with people of other faiths; (6) to combat discrimination and genocide; (7) to define and demand humane standards for medical research; and (8) to learn how to attain both justice and reconciliation after genocidal atrocities.
Warren Zev Harvey
This chapter discusses the ethical views of medieval Jewish philosophers, showing that the varieties of Jewish philosophy in the medieval period defy easy categorization, let alone condensation into a single notion of Jewish ethics. Scholars surveyed include Saadia Gaon, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Bahya ibn Paquda, Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Daud, Moses Maimonides, Levi Gersonides, Jedaiah Bedersi, Hesdai Crescas, Joseph Albo, and Joseph ibn Shemtob.
This chapter explores the medieval genre of sifrut ha-musar (ethical literature), which has largely been ignored in the recent burgeoning of the field of Jewish ethics. This neglect is attributed to the fact that the genre does not call halakhah into question, as does Jewish ethics generally, particularly through the notion of lifnim mi-shurat ha-din (supererogation), that one must act beyond the letter of the law. But this does not mean that musar is non-ethical; rather, its purpose was to “harmonize the spirituality of God with the values guiding his worship.” This spiritualization of Jewish ritual and culture generated creativity for nearly a thousand years around the Jewish world, first in Islamic contexts and then climaxing in Christian milieus.
Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert
This chapter first sets out the difficulties in studying the sources for Jewish ethics in classical rabbinic literature. Not only do rabbinic texts lack the very notion of ethics, they also emerge from different terrains and times and perforce bespeak different moral conclusions if not presumptions on how to reach those positions. However, one exception is texts classified as rabbinic “ethical” literature, which include 'Avot or Pirkei 'Avot and its companion text(s), Avot de-Rabbi Natan. The discussion then turns to the relationship between law and ethics in rabbinic literature; ethical limits to halakhah in rabbinic literature; and issues of universality and particularity in rabbinic literature.
Jonathan K. Crane
This chapter focuses on the thoughts of the early twentieth-century German Jewish thinkers Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Martin Buber. These three German scholars, writing in the decades surrounding World War I, were both attracted to and repulsed by modernity. On the one hand, the modern drive toward nationalism inspired their commitment to Jews and Judaism, and so each plumbed the Jewish textual tradition to ground their ethical theories. Yet the destructiveness caused by self-centeredness led each man to promote an ethic that attended to others. The chapter explores this turn to others and otherness—a turn that oriented much subsequent Jewish ethical theorizing.
Elaine Adler Goodfriend
This chapter reviews ethical concepts in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh). Fear of God (yir'at Elohim) is perhaps the most pervasive and powerful notion inspiring social concern and behaviour. The Bible contains multiple ways to motivate people to do what is right and good—ways that are championed by later contributors to Jewish ethical theories. The chapter discusses motivations for ethical behaviour in the Torah; the prophets' views on ethics; works within the “Writings” (Ketuvim) section of the Hebrew Bible; outlooks on human nature and free will; and universal standards for ethical behaviour.
This chapter highlights some key contexts in which feminist ethical discourses emerge, and important methods that Jewish feminists employ in order to address gender and other inequalities, arguing that all the many forms of Jewish feminism are “fundamentally about ethics.” Across denominations, in the broader feminist movement, in academia, and in Israel as well as North America, Jewish women have been reshaping what and how Jews and non-Jews think and act—regarding women, gender, inequality and injustice, and many other critical ethical issues, including Judaism itself. Feminist methodologies creatively critique halakhah, theology, liturgy, ritual, and textual interpretation, with implications for social and political analysis and activism. In doing so, Jewish feminists “have created both a rich literature and a legacy of activism that is ethical to its core.”
In his analysis of postmodern theology, which details the imbrication of theology in discourses of power, Gavin Hyman casually evokes the term “Indian territory” to connote the space from which the theologian must resort to the tactics of the “outlaw.” In his larger argument, he evokes an Agamban-like state of exception for theology, where theology must be conducted in the realm of radical undecidability, a theology excluded from but belonging to the law, as it were. So, it is significant that, to make this argument, Hyman relies on the obvious racist connotation of Natives as “outlaws” who live in a place without a home. This chapter argues that this tendency to depict Natives as “outlaws” is not unique to Hyman, but exists even within feminist and liberation theologies. That is, the United States, despite the critiques which many theologians make of it, is still envisaged as a place of law, thereby rending Native peoples, whose genocide is the foundation of the USA, outside the law. Consequently, the theological strategy of engagement with Native peoples does resemble the tactic of “raid and return”: that is, a selective use of “indigenous” principles without engagement in the fundamental contradiction indigenous peoples expose in the project of liberation. Furthermore, this problematic engagement is fundamentally gendered.