Avi Elqayam

Abstract

This article explores the metaphysical, epistemological, and mystical aspects of happiness in the Judeo-Arabic Treatise on Ultimate Happiness (Kitāb as-Saʿāda al-Ākhira), of which only two chapters have survived from what is thought to have been a more comprehensive text. Although the treatise is attributed to Moses Maimonides, the conception of happiness (saʿāda) it presents is clearly that of the Pietists (Ḥasīdīm), the Jewish-Sufi circle of thirteenth-century Egypt. The discussion of happiness in this short treatise constitutes an important chapter in the philosophical and mystical discourse about happiness in medieval Jewish-Islamic thought, especially within the Jewish-Sufi mystical stream led by Maimonides’s descendants.

Aviram Ravitsky

Abstract

In the fourth treatise of his legal-theological work Kitāb al-Anwār wa-al-Marāqib, Yaʿqūb al-Qirqisānī analyzes a criticism of the Aristotelian syllogism and its epistemological foundations. Qirqisānī defends Aristotelian logic by quoting a passage from an unknown commentary on Aristotle in which the Aristotelian theory of syllogism is explicated. This paper focuses on the historical, theological, and philosophical meanings of the criticism of the syllogism in Qirqisānī’s discussion and analyzes his interpretation of the syllogism as a source of knowledge that should be applied in the realm of legal reasoning and in the interpretation of biblical law.

“A Community Should Be Present as He Prays so that He Can Bind Himself with Their Soul”

R. Nahman’s Vision of the Birds and Its Origins in the Zohar

Moshe Goultschin

Abstract

During his final years, R. Nahman of Bratslav endeavored to find a solution for the paradox of unrealized messiahs. His solution was outlined in his dream about birds in December 1806, on the Sabbath of Parashat Va-yeḥi. This dream was influenced by his reading of a story told in the Zohar, Parashat Va-yeḥi, of a “vision of birds” of R. Yehudah, a disciple of R. Shimon bar Yohai, that exemplifies the crisis experienced by the circle of disciples of R. Shimon following his death. The essay elaborates on the connections between the dream and the Zohar story and their influence on R. Nahman’s messianic endeavor.

God, Being, Pathos

Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Theological Rejoinder to Heidegger

Daniel Herskowitz

Abstract

Martin Heidegger’s philosophy has elicited many theological responses; some enthusiastic, others critical. In this essay I provide an organized and critical analysis of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s theological critique of and rejoinder to the thought of the German philosopher. By looking at Heschel’s 1965 Who is Man? as well as earlier and later texts, I demonstrate the way in which Heschel presents his biblical theology as an alternative to Heidegger’s philosophy.

Christopher M. Cuthill

Abstract

This paper challenges the widespread emphasis on the absence of God in post- Holocaust historiography, theology, and art by suggesting that Barnett Newman’s Stations of the Cross may have been conceived under the theological category of the apophatic rather than the aesthetic category of the sublime. This paper focuses on the “anti-realist” position of Newman and other artists for whom the Holocaust necessitated a renewed aniconic tendency in Jewish aesthetics. His work, I suggest, holds out a tension between absolute absence and redemptive presence that at once resists and affirms a negative aesthetic of God’s solidarity with suffering.

Revealing What’s Implicit

Maimonides’ Account of Creation and Revelation beyond Naturalism and Politics

Paul E. Nahme

Abstract

This article reinterprets Maimonides’ theory of creation and revelation by focusing upon the relationship between belief in creation and the affirmation of miracle and law described in Guide II:25. Focusing upon Maimonides’ use of inference to describe creation and revelation, I re-evaluate Maimonides’ account as an instance of inferential reasoning. That is, Maimonides makes use of, rather than proves, the implicit norms of creation and revelation in their explicit function of legal reasoning. Thus, I suggest that Maimonides’ emphasis upon inferential judgment in justifying law is a defense of creation and revelation as rules of reasoning.

Iddo Dickmann

Abstract

The talmudic sages granted the legal status of sefer (book) to five texts: the Torah, tefillin, the get, the mezuzah, and the Scroll of Esther. These texts share two features: they have a ritualistic format and use, and they are the only sacred texts that demonstrate mise en abyme—the trait of literary self-containing. These two traits turn the rabbinic book into a radical case of “open work”: the sefer consists of both textual signs and the actual body of an empirical reader; its pragmatic level is not bracketed out in favor of the semiotic one. I argue that Deleuze’s reception theory best accounts for the sefer.

Comparative Theology

A Critical and Methodological Perspective

Series:

Paul Hedges

In this first volume of Brill Research Perspectives in Theology, the field of comparative theology is mapped with particular attention to the tradition associated with Francis Clooney but noting the global and wider context of theology in a comparative mode. There are four parts. In the first section the current field is mapped and its methodological and theological aspects are explored. The second part considers what the deconstruction of religion means for comparative theology. It also takes into consideration turns to lived and material religion. In the third part, issues of power, representation, and the subaltern are considered, including the place of feminist and queer theory in comparative theology. Finally, the contribution of philosophical hermeneutics is considered. The text notes key trends, develops original models of practice and method, and picks out and discusses critical issues within the field.

Comparative Theology

A Critical and Methodological Perspective

Series:

Paul Hedges

Abstract

The nature and field of comparative theology is mapped with particular attention to the tradition associated with Francis Clooney but noting the global and wider context of theology in a comparative mode. There are four main parts. Firstly, mapping the current field and exploring its methodological and theological aspects, with particular attention to global and intercultural theologies, comparative religion, and the theology of religions. Secondly, considering what the deconstruction of religion means for comparative theology and how the term “religion” may be deployed and understood after this. It also takes into consideration turns to lived and material religion. Thirdly, issues of power, representation, and the subaltern are considered, including the place of feminist and queer theory in comparative theology. Finally, an original and constructive discussion on philosophical hermeneutics, as well as the way certain hermeneutical lenses can bring issues into focus for the comparative theologian, is offered. The text notes key trends, develops original models of practice and method, and picks out and discusses critical issues and lacunae within the field.

The Concept of Evil in 4 Maccabees

Stoic Absorption and Adaptation

Hans Moscicke

The concept of evil in 4 Maccabees differs from what we find in most ancient Jewish literature, and little attention has been paid to its philosophical background. In this article I submit that the author of 4 Maccabees has absorbed and adapted a Stoic conception of evil into his Jewish philosophy. I trace the concept of evil in Stoicism and in 4 Maccabees using the categories of value theory, natural law, and the emotions. The outcome is an integrative philosophy that embraces vice as the sole evil, yet maintains a belief in the “goodness” of an afterlife; redefines natural law in terms of the Torah, reckoning any deviance from that Law as vicious; and conceives of the emotions as false belief and the cause of evil behavior, while still maintaining their God-given nature.