Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 6 (1947-1948)

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5
BLOCH ---- THE YEAR ’S BOOKSHELF
(Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1947). Indeed, it is a
superb work, meeting most adequately this requirement. Con-
cerning itself entirely with problems of the relation of faith and
reason, its central thesis is tha t Philo was not, as is generally as-
sumed, an eclectic who syncretized the
disjecta membra
of Greek
and Hellenistic minds but tha t he was a very original thinker and
a critic of those minds. TJiis thesis calls for a complete revision of
the prevailing conception of the role Philo’s ideas played in the
theological teachings of the three monotheistic faiths: Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. Professor Wolfson finds th a t Philo’s
fundamental ideas of the relation of philosophy to religion were
not challenged prior to Spinoza. Interesting, too, is Professor
Wolfson’s most successful application of his method which he calls
the “hypothetico-deductive method of text-study,” the “method
of historical criticism of what the philosopher meant by what he
said, how he came to say what he said, and why he said it in the
manner in which he happened to say i t .” The rich and illuminating
content of the work and its author’s plan to produce a whole series
of related works around it make it epoch-making. His clarity of
thought and simplicity of expression have a magic about them
which makes plain the most abtruse problems of philosophical
speculation. He dodges no dogma — whether it be characteristic
of Judaism, Christianity or Islam, all are discussed with authori-
tative knowledge and appropriate dignity. This two-volume work
of Professor Wolfson’s will certainly go very far in clarifying the
relation of faith to reason. I t is an indispensable introduction to
the understanding of the solid foundations of faith in*Judaism,
Christianity and Islam. I t is one of the very few works of modern
Jewish learning tha t will survive for future generations. I t is a
solid undertaking, brilliantly executed.
But those who are concerned more with the practical than with
the speculative aspects of faith and practice as known in Jewish
religious life will do well to turn to the pages of
The Jewish Religion
by Dr. Michael Friedlander (New York, Pardes, 1946). In philo-
sophical conception, in deep piety and in lucid interpretation of the
fundamental principles and practices of traditional Judaism, this
standard work hardly has an equal in the English language. The
American edition is provided with a biography of the author, a
foreword by Dr. Theodor H. Gaster and a preface by Dr. Joshua
Bloch. A more popular explanation is
Outlines of Judaism
, a
manual by Rabbi Samuel Price (New York, Bloch, 1946). I t has
the virtues of clarity and unpretentiousness. I t aims at no original
interpretation and adds little to our knowledge of Judaism. An
authoritative presentation of “Judaism based on tru th , justice
and peace” by Dr. Abraham A. Neuman, the learned president