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Theology and Symbolic Vocabulary RELIG 210: Introduction to Judaism Lecture 7
Today’s Class • Review/Finish Scripture and Interpretation • Overview of Theology and Symbolic Vocabulary • Examine conceptions of God, Torah, Israel and Messiah in various sources
Admin • Next Class: Readings available on-line • Mid-Term Exam-Questions On-Line • Kugel Lecture (2/6 at 7 pm)
Modern Challenges to Scripture and Tradition • Biblical and Historical Criticism • Loss of Interpretive Community – “I” as authority – Secular Knowledge as authority • Stagnation of Oral Law among traditional communities – Literal reading vs. fluid interpretation
Goals for Lecture • Gain an understanding of the core concepts of Jewish Symbolic Vocabulary (God, Torah, Israel and Messiah) • Identify key similarities and differences in these concepts in Biblical, Rabbinic, Jewish Philosophical, and Mystical Sources • Note Conflicting Views and lack of consensus
Theology and Symbolic Vocabulary • What are the core beliefs/symbols that orient the Jewish tradition? – – God Torah Israel Messiah/Redemption • How have these concepts changed over time in dialogue with surrounding cultures?
God • Diverse Conceptions – Theology distilled from cultural tradition of neighbors – Personal, Anthropomorphic to Transcendent • Three Central Preoccupations 1. God as Unique Creator (monotheism) 2. God as Revealer of Torah 3. God as Redeemer of Israel
Challenges for Theology • • Philosophical Linguistic Historical Scientific
Torah • Revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai – In what form? – What content? • Divine Word • Means of Communication
Israel • Chosen People – Covenantal Promise – Unique relationship • Mission to Humanity
Messiah • “One who is anointed with oil” – High Priest – King David • Symbolic of autonomy • Concept evolves in Second Temple Period
Messianic Vision • Cosmic Culmination of Creation – Resurrection of dead – End of history – Israel returns to the Land • Messianic Prerequisites – Davidic Ancestry – Initiate Kingdom of God • Conflicting Visions of Redemption • Relationship between Redemption and Suffering
GOD The Structure of Judaism’s Basic Symbolic Vocabulary TORAH ISRAEL MITZVOT Time/History MESSIAH
Symbolic Vocabulary and Surrounding Cultures Canaanite Pantheon Christian and Islamic Mysticism Greco-Roman View of the Cosmos Modern Philosophy and Ethics
Many Names of God • Biblical – Y-H-V-H - Proper Name – Adonai (Lord) Substitute for Y-H-V-H – Elohim (God) • Rabbinic – – Hakadosh Barukh Hu (Blessed Holy One) Ha. Makom (The Place) Harakhman (The Merciful) Goel Yisrael (Redeemer of Israel)
More Names… • En Sof (The Infinite) • Ha. Shem (The Name) • What is the significance of multiple names for God?
God and the Bible • Personal God involved in drama – Accessible through prophets – Initiates Covenant • Multiple Personalities – Merciful, gracious and vengeful warrior – Speaks yet not visible – Intimately involved and far in the distance
The Bible and Monotheism • “Hear O Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is one. ” (Deuteronomy 6: 4) – Only One or Unique? • “Who is like unto thee among the Gods? ” (Exodus 15: 11) – Early traces of Henotheism
Rabbinic Theology • Particular God of Jewish People • God more removed from history and law • The Rabbinic Parable: “Let me tell you a story…”
To What is God Similar? • Images of King, Emperor or Parent – God=Emperor – Israel=Subjects – Language of Roman Empire • Why a Theology of Parables? • Ekhah Rabbah 4: 11 (p. 90)
Hekhalot Literature and the Hellenistic Cosmos God of Israel or Cosmic Mind? Chambers or Planets?
Kabbalah • Rabbinic movement (12 th Cent onward) • Hidden tradition of scriptural interpretation
Kabbalah and Symbolic Vocabulary • God- Transcendent and Immanent – En Sof, “The Infinite” – Only know aspects of divine being (Sefirot) – Sefirot as DNA of natural and supernatural reality • Sefirot in Chaos-Need Restoration • Read Zohar, Akharei Mot (p. 98)
Kabbalah and Scripture • Scripture is like a Walnut – Literal Content is Outer Shell – Secret truth hidden within • Goal: Go through layers of meaning to find kernal – Example: Divine Emanations – Dangerous Work (Four who enter Garden)
Kabbalah and Interpretation • Written and Oral Torah and later readers part of ongoing process of revelation • Diminishes Authority of Written Torah • Why Madonna/Esther has it wrong! – Confined by Jewish law, but still dangerous!
Torah and Israel From the Rabbis Perspective… • Avodah Zarah 2 A-2 B (91) • How did Israel get the Torah? – Voluntary or Coercion – Spouse or Parent? • What is the relationship between Israel and other Nations?
Hellenistic Philosophy and Revelation • • From Particular Story to Universal Truth Personal God with Natural Laws Moses as Ideal Lawgiver (p. 88) What Limitation does Philo’s Theology have?
Messiah in Rabbinic Thought • Always Coming, Never Here – “If you are about to plant a sapling and you hear the Messiah has come, plant the sapling and then go to greet him. ” (Avot d’ Rabbi Natan) • Davidic Lineage or Humble Leper? • Birth Pangs and Redemption • Why are the Rabbis hesitant about Messiah? • Sanhedrin (96 B-98 A) (P. 96)
Early Modern Messianic Movements • Medieval Messianism (p. 97) • Messianic Movements Sparked – Response to Persecution and Destruction – Kaballah and Cosmic Redemption • Shabbatai Zvi (1666) – Dealing with his conversion – The power of transgression (p. 99)