Jewish Theology and Scripture 10/15/2013
Sacred doesn’t always mean heavenly, but can be local and of human origin. Still
sacred: taken seriously and devoutly, engaged in a close manner.
Actually share scripture—literal or simply narrative.
Judaism is a scriptural religion, revolving around texts
Words of Meaning
What is in the Hebrew Bible?
Torah: law, instruction: made up of a variety of narratives and laws
Ketuvim: writings, could mean miscellaneous
Five books of Moses
Genesis tells the story of how the universe came to be into existence: ex nihilo. All
created things are good—different from Mesopotamian and Mediterranean worldview—
creation was chaos.
Two creation accounts
Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning god created the heavens and the earth”
Vegetation created on the second day, humans on the sixth day. God= Elohim (plural)
Genesis 2:4—“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were
God gets called something different—lord god/YHWH Elohim
Humans are created first, and then vegetation
What is God called?
Elohim vs. YHWH (Elohim)
D (Deuteronomic Historian)
Etiological myths (origins)
Genesis opens with biblical myth, then biblical legend (Abraham, Moses), then biblical
“history” (Exodus, entry into Canaan, tribes, monarchy, etc.)
All of this is mythologized to a certain extent.
Biblical myths and mythical characters
Adam and Eve; Garden of Eden
Cain and Abel
Noah—the Flood story
Also found almost exactly the same in ancient religious sources (Gilgamesh) Sources for Stories
Epic of Gilgamesh
Tower of Babel
Torah: the five books of Moses
Genesis. Hebrew name: Bereshit
Leviticus: priestly purity and other commandments
Numbers: from wilderness to Canaan
Deuteronomy: more laws, death of Moses
Nevi’im : Prophets
Former: Joshua, Judges, Samuel (as one book), Kings (as one book)
Later: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve
Hosea, Micah, Malachi (as one book)
Prophets speak God’s judgment of Israel’s behaviour
The news is always bad—a prophet’s job is to condemn The sin wave!
The Jewish perspective: the prophetic indictment—god was punishing the people for
doing bad things
God’s care and love for Israel—keeps sending people to remind them when they’re
proverbs (advice), psalms, Job, Ruth
God isn’t mentioned much in these sections; may not even be religious.
T + N + K = TaNaK = Tanakh
Other important writings
A variety of voices; history of interpretation, explanation, engagement.
Multiple ways of interpreting the same text
Midrash: narratives trying to explain what was going on behind the scenes in certain
Halakhah: midrash of legal material
Haggadah/Aggadah: midrash about narratives/stories
Theological dispute=greater insight
“oral law” of the Pharisees
Rabbi Judah Ha=Nasi, or Judah I
c. 200 CE
Interpretation of Mishnah—Gemara
Jewish communities are set on interpretations of their texts Talmud
Mishnah + Palestinian Gemara = Palestinian Talmud/Yerushalmi (completed 450 CE)
Really only interesting to scholars of the period
Mishnah + Babylonian Gemara = Babylonian Talmud/ Bavli (completed 500 CE)
The one Jews refer to
Rabbinic Judaism: revelation is over, it’s about interpretation now..
Like the father whose children grow up and he doesn’t have a say in their lives
anymore: “my children have defeated me” Jews tend to argue with one another about practice: not about belief or thought.
Orthopraxic: how to be Jewish properly
Other Important Writings
Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitshak (1040-1105 CE)
Most famous and respected of the Talmudic commentators
Disputation and Dialogue
History and trajectories of Jewish writing, an openness to disagreement
Theology of Judaism
-henotheism vs. monotheism
Shema: Closest thing in Judaism to a creed—statement of belief about god