Page 93 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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While Christian theologians often begin the ir theological works
with an exposition o f a rgum en ts fo r the existence o f God, con­
tempo rary Jewish theologians often feel compelled to in troduce
the ir works with argum en ts fo r the existence o f Jewish theology.
While works a ttem p ting to o ffe r systematic presen tations o f
Christian theology abound , systematic presentations o f Jewish
theological speculation are sparse indeed.
T he first attem p t at a systematic Jewish theology in English was
K aufmann Kohler’s
Jewish Theology: Systematically and Historically
First published in 1918 and not reissued until 1968,
this work stood almost alone until the publication o f two works
du r ing the 1970s. In 1971, the late Samuel S. Cohon’s
was posthumously published. Regrettably, Cohon died
before he was able to complete this erud ite and prom ising work.
In 1973 Louis Jacobs published
A Jewish Theology,
a clearly
written and remarkably erud ite summary and analysis o f the
central concerns o f Jewish theological speculation. A fea ture o f
Jacobs’ work, which clearly distinguishes it from Kohler’s, is the
prom inence Jacobs gives to the role o f Jewish mysticism in Jewish
theological development.
According to Jacobs, “Jewish theology is an a ttem p t to think
th rough consistently the implications o f the Jewish religion.”
Utilizing his vast learn ing and keen analytic skills, Jacobs adm ira­
bly succeeds in accomplishing the task he has set fo rth for Jewish
theology. However, as Jacobs is quick to note, he presents a Jewish
theology, not
Jewish theology. Thus Jacobs assumes diversity
o f though t to be an essential characteristic o f Jewish theological
speculation. (For a extensive analysis o f Jacobs’ work, see B.L.
Sherwin, “Louis Jacobs,”
28:1, W inter 1979.)
During the late 1960s serious — though often unsystematic —
investigations into the theological implications o f the Holocaust
began to emerge. In the 1970s, the works o f th ree Jewish thinkers
dom ina ted this nascent field: Richard Rubenstein, Emil Fac-
kenheim and Eliezer Berkovits. Rubenstein’s ex
plosive After Au­
(1966) offered a challenge to Jewish thinkers to confront
the theological implications o f “the two decisive events o f ou r time
for Jews, the dea th camps and the birth o f Israel.” Rubenstein has
argued vigorously tha t an honest theological response to the
Holocaust must entail a rejection of basic categories o f Jewish
theology (e.g., belief in a superna tu ra l God active in human
history), and a reform u lation o f Jewish theology to confron t the