Monday, June 14, 2021

Where did it come from?

Have you ever wondered where the idea that Judaism was only about law came from? Abraham Joshua Heschel has an interesting thesis, which is todays' extract from his book Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays
Spinoza was the man who attempted to destroy Jewish theology. He found many admirers and they followed him (I discuss this in the early part of God in Search Man). He claimed that the Bible, as such, has nothing relevant to say regarding philosophy and ideas. To him the Bible was not theology but only law. This concept was, paradoxically, taken over by Moses Mendelssohn. He must have grasped the situation existing in the Western world, that throughout the seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries there was only one book written about Judaism, and that was the Tractatus, by Spinoza. Since it was the only book available on Judaism in the Western language, it had the most profound impact on Christians and Jews alike. It is evident when studying Kant or Hegel that whatever they have to say concerning Judaism was derived from the Tractatus. Paradoxically, Moses Mendelssolm was profoundly influenced by this book and by its approach. Moses Mendelssohn’s influence upon Jews, in turn, was enormous. Thus, a system was developed whereby Judaism was halacha, Law—nothing else.—Abraham Joshua Heschel in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays, 155
<idle musing>
Not sure if he is correct, but it makes sense to a degree. But there were currents of it running around as far back as Augustine, as an essay by Paula Fredriksen in an SBL Press book coming out soon makes clear. And Luther definitely thought that Judaism was nothing but law. Perhaps Spinoza's book simply hardened that view and made it more firmly entrenched—with devastating effects.
</idle musing>

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