Page 169 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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B
l a u
— J
ew i sh
P
h il o so p h y
a n d
R
e l ig io n
149
Jewish philosophy and religion as if these products of the Jewish
mind and spirit were evolved solely out of the consciousness of
Jews. Newer Jewish academic scholarship recognizes the shaping
forces of the cultural environment and the life problems shared
by Jews and Gentiles within that environment as equally ingredi-
ent with the Jewish background in the elaboration of new reli-
gious forms and philosophical ideas. In so doing, they enrich the
meaning of Judaism for both Jews and Gentiles by placing it
in a context broader than the merely ethnic.
The work of two “elder statesmen” of Jewish scholarship de-
serves special mention in this connection. Professor Harry A.
Wolfson’s
Philo: Foundations of R e lig ious Philosophy in Judaism
(Harvard University Press, 1947), together with his works in
later years, enunciates the controversial but, as Wolfson shows,
defensible position that Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, in work-
ing out a technique for interpreting the Bible in terms of Hel-
lenistic philosophy, set the terms in which philosophy of religion
was to be carried on not only by the Jews but also by Christians
and Muslims down to the seventeenth century. Baruch Spinoza,
another Jew, developed the critical position that ended the long
reign of the successors of Philo. Professor Salo W. Baron’s re-
vised edition of his
Social and R elig ious H istory of the Jews
(Columbia University Press and The Jewish Publication Society
of America, 1952־ ) now boasts ten volumes and has not left the
Middle Ages. In this and in such other works as his
Modern
Nationalism and R e lig ion
(Harper & Brothers, 1947), Baron has
consistently presented aspects of Jewish intellectual and religious
history within the broad context of what was happening in the
world in which the Jews lived.
Of the younger scholars who follow the ways of these masters,
Professor Ellis Rivkin may be mentioned, especially for his excel-
lent study of
Leon da Modena and the K o l Sakhal
(Hebrew
Union College Press, 1952). So, too, many of the contributors
to
Essays in Jewish L ife and Though t
presented in honor of S.W.
Baron (J.L. Blau, A. Hertzberg, P. Friedman, I. Mendelson, eds.;
Columbia University Press, 1959), all of whom were formerly
students of Baron, have learned from their teacher that even the
finest jewel may be enhanced by its setting. Professor Blau’s
essay in this volume, “Tradition and Innovation,” offers a theo-
retical argument for placing the study of Jewish material in its
non-Jewish context. He has carried this program out in other
works, notably
Th e Christian In terpre ta tion of the Cabala in the
Renaissance
(Columbia University Press, 1944; Kennikat Press,
1966),
The Story of Jewish Philosophy
(Random House, 1962),
and
Modern Varieties of Judaism
(Columbia University Press,