Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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HARR IS /JUDA ISM IN THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION
41
somewhat confounded as to the proper place of the Hebrew
Bible in the history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Now,
to be sure, there are good, longer entries devoted to Jewish
views of biblical exegesis and to Torah, which make clear that
the Hebrew Bible was a seminal text in the history of Judaism;
still, by reading the shorter entries, one could get the sense
that only some of the books and figures matter to Jews, while
the rest do not. A stronger editorial hand would have been
appropriate here, so that all entries would have dealt with the
importance of the given book or figure, where possible, in the
history of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
That having been said, it must still be noted that in
The En­
cyclopedia of Religion
the Hebrew Bible is recognized as an im­
portant religious text in its own right, and is not treated as
nothing more than a precursor to some other religious tradition.
This is particularly evident in the excellent discussion of the
biblical Temple by Baruch Levine, as well as in the survey article
on Hebrew Scriptures written by Nahum Sarna. At the same
time, it is recognized that the Hebrew Bible must also be seen
as the foundation text of Judaism, and as a fundamental text
in the history of Christianity, even if the smaller entries some­
times fail to do justice to this vision.
In looking at the entries that pertain to Judaism proper, a
very clear vision of its development is discernible in the biog­
raphies, if it is true, as I assume, that those people included
in this list are those who are considered by the “area editor,”
Professor Robert M. Seltzer, as the most significant figures in
the history of Judaism. In looking at the biographical entries
in chronological sequence we find that the vision of Judaism
standing behind them is as follows: throughout the first
millenium of the Christian Era Judaism’s primary manner of
religious expression is essentially halakhic. This is evident from
the many entries on Tannaim and Amoraim, which focus, pri­
marily though not exclusively, on the contributions of these fig­
ures to various areas of Jewish law. While aggadah is not ig­
nored in these entries, it is clearly secondary. More to the point,
given the figures who were chosen, there seems to me to be
little doubt that the vision of the editor here was of a highly
nomistic (and exegetical) religious community.