The word midrash, based on the Hebrew root DaRaSH (“search”), means “interpretation” or “exegesis.” Midrash also more formally refers to the compilations of such interpretations of Scripture. As Dr. Jacob Neusner explains, these compilations “reached closure and conclusion in the formative stage of Judaism, that is, the first seven centuries of the Common Era, the time in which the Mishnah (ca. 200), Talmud of the Land of Israel (ca. 400), and Talmud of Babylonia (ca. 600) were written.”
Midrash is not so much about Scripture as it is a subordinate part of Scripture: “They did not write about Scripture,” Dr. Neusner says. “They wrote with Scripture … much as painters paint with a palette of colors.”
The Midrash: An Introduction is the second volume in Dr. Jacob Neusner’s series of introductory volumes on classical rabbinic literature. As with the first volume – The Mishnah: An Introduction – this book offers the layperson a concise description of the religious literature and, drawing on Dr. Neusner’s own translations of the texts, walks readers through the selections, providing them with firsthand experience with the document itself.
As Dr. Neusner says in his preface to The Midrash: An Introduction, “In these pages I mean to make it possible for readers to know one such compilation from the other and so to begin studying their own.”
The book begins with a study of the characteristics of rabbinic literature and a demonstration of why this literature cannot be easily used for the kind of history New Testament scholarship proposes to produce. Then follow critiques of the writings by various New Testament scholars and the differences between Professor Neusner and his critics. A concluding section pays tribute to the New Testament field for all it has taught the author.
Renowned scholar Jacob Neusner introduces readers to the Talmud, defining it, explaining its historical context, and illustrating why it remains relevant today. Neusner's The Talmud: What It Is and What It Says invites readers to engage with the text, and emphasizes that the Talmud will continue to be an important cultural guidebook for Jewish life through the next millennium.
Four internationally known scholars set out to tackle these deceptively simple questions in an accessible way. Some scholars argue that while beliefs about God may differ, the object of worship is ultimately the same. However, these authors take a more pragmatic view. While they may disagree, they nevertheless assert that whatever they answers to these questions, the three faiths must find the will (politically, socially, and personally) to tolerate differences.
Perhaps what can help us move forward as pluralistic people is ia focus on the goal – peace with justice for all.
In a close analysis of texts by the Christian theologians Eusebius, Aphrahat, and Chrysostom on one hand, and of the central Jewish works the Talmud of the Land of Israel, the Genesis Rabbah, and the Leviticus Rabbah on the other, Neusner finds that both religious groups turned to the same corpus of Hebrew scripture to examine the same fundamental issues. Eusebius and Genesis Rabbah both address the issue of history, Chrysostom and the Talmud the issue of the Messiah, and Aphrahat and Leviticus Rabbah the issue of Israel. As Neusner demonstrates, the conclusions drawn shaped the dialogue between the two religions for the rest of their shared history in the West.
Key topics covered include:the Torah Israel – the state and its people Passover Reform Judaism, Orthodox Judaism and Zionism the impact of the Holocaust.
With a glossary of terms and extensive suggestions for further reading, Judaism: The Basics is an essential guide through the rich intricacies of the Jewish faith and people.
Exploring a range of philosophical and religious thought from Greco-Roman philia to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, from Hinduism in India to Buddhism and the religions of China and Japan, the authors find that altruism becomes problematic when applied to religious studies because it is, in fact, a concept absent from religion. Chapters on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam reveal that followers of these religions cannot genuinely perform self-sacrificing acts because God has promised to reward every good deed. Moreover, the separation between the self and the other that self-sacrifice necessarily implies, runs counter to Buddhist thought, which makes no such distinction.
By challenging our assumptions about the act of self-sacrifice as it relates to religious teachings, the authors have shown altruism to be more of a secular than religious notion. At the same time, their findings highlight how charitable acts operate with the values and structures of the religions studied.
Religious Foundations of Western Civilization introduces students to the major Western world religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—their beliefs, key concepts, history, as well as the fundamental role they have played, and continue to play, in Western culture.
Contributors include: Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck, Bruce D. Chilton, Th. Emil Homerin, Jon D. Levenson, William Scott Green, Seymour Feldman, Elliot R. Wolfson, James A. Brundage, Olivia Remie Constable, and Amila Buturovic.
"This book provides a superb source of information for scientists and scholars from all disciplines who are trying to understand religion in the context of human cultural evolution."
David Sloan Wilson, Professor, Departments of Biology and Anthropology, Binghamton University, Binghamton, New York
This is the right book at the right time. Globalization, religious revivalism, and international politics have made it more important than ever to appreciate the significant contributions of the Children of Abraham to the formation and development of Western civilization.
John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director of the Center for Muslm-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
Jacob Neusner is Research Professor of Religion and Theology, and Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
General Interest/Other Religions/Comparative Religion
The arguments are introduced by a general discussion of the founding figures of the two religions, Moses and Jesus, and how their inherent authority distilled itself through the structure of their religious institutions and intellectual thoughts.
The philosophical tradition in which the Mishnah takes its place, Neusner explains, utilizes the Aristotelian method of hierarchical classification to demonstrate the proposition (important to Middle Platonism and profoundly expressed by Plotinus) that many things really form a single thing: many species, a single genus; many genera, an encompassing, well-crafted and cogent whole. Through the systematic and orderly hierarchical classification of the things of nature, the framers of the Mishnah illustrate the ultimate unity of all being emanating from the One on high. Arguing that the document's writers chose a legal form for a philosophical proposition, this book completely changes a centuries-old way of reading the Mishnah. Judaism emerges as a sustained demonstration of the unity of all being under one God.
Freshly examining the Golden Rule in broad comparative context provides a fascinating account of its uses and meaning, and allows us to assess if, how and why it matters in human cultures and societies.
The result is a relatively quick and easy entry into the sometimes difficult and complex world of the Mishnah and its laws concerning agriculture, appointed seasons, women and property, civil and criminal law, conduct of the cult and the Temple, and preservation of cultic purity in the Temple and under certain domestic circumstances, with special reference to the table and the bed.
Any valid description of early rabbinic thought - and therefore of early Christianity - must begin with the Mishnah and must focus on the subjects the sages considered important. This book introduces the reader to the world of the Mishnah in a thoughtful, engaging, and spirited manner.
"Perhaps no group in the past two hundred years of revolutionary change has moved so far, so fast, and in so many directions as the Jews.... "
from the Introduction
*The religion's forms and history
*Its institutions, religious practices and life cycle rites
*Key texts and people, symbols and holy days
*An understanding of theological terms, doctrine and philosophy.
Professor Neusner accomplishes this task by selecting the central Jewish symbol of Torah and describing its role down through the ages. First Torah is defined--the dual Torah, oral and written--and related to Jewish identity. Then follows an account of the formation of the written Torah and the development of the Mishnah after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. This leads into an account of Midrash and the composition of the Talmud.
After a discussion of Torah as a symbol, chapters follow on Maimonides, the Zohar, Reform Judaism and Zionism. The book ends by pulling the threads together into a woven portrait of Judaism.
Here, in concise and readable form, is the model volume for writing the history of Judaism (or of Judaisms) as well as the history of any particular religion.
In Evil and Suffering, acknowledged experts in each religion offer clear answers to these and similar questions. Through their discussions, the history and diversity of the traditions are also revealed.
In this volume, editor Jacob Neusner address the topic from the standpoint of Judaism, Bruce Chilton presents the perspective of Christianity. Jonathan Brockopp discusses Islam, Brian K. Smith presents Hinduism, and Charles Hallisley discusses Buddhism.
Neusner reconstructs and interprets the Mishnah's intellectual history, presenting a picture of the beginnings and first major expression of Judaism. "What makes this account distinctively historical," writes Neusner in his Introduction, "will be our sustained effort to relate the unfolding of the ideas of the Mishnah to the historical setting of the philosophers of the document, to compare context and concept, to ask about the interplay between idea and social, material reality."
Neusner succeeds in this specific task and in the greater task of providing a work with methodological significance for the entire field of the history of religions.
About a millennium — 750 B.C. E. to 350 C. E. — separates Scripture’s prophets from the later sages of the Mishnah and the Talmud. It is quite natural to recognize evidence for differences over a long period of time. Yet Judaism sees itself as a continuum and overcomes difference. The latecomers portray the ancients like themselves. “In our image, after our likeness” captures the current aspiration. The sages accommodated the later documents in their canon by finding the traits of their own time in the record of the remote past. They met the challenges to perfection that the sages brought about.
Of what does the process of harmonization consist? To answer that question the author surveys the presentation of the prophets by the rabbis, beginning with Moses. To overcome the gap, Rabbinic sages turn Moses into a sage like themselves. The prophet performs wonders. The sage sets forth reasonable rulings. The conclusion expands on this account of matters to show the categorical solution that the sages adopted for themselves, and that is the happy outcome of the study.
Jacob Neusner outlines and examines the four stages in which the initial period of the historical development of Rabbinic Judaism divides, beginning with the Pentateuch and ending with its definitive and normative statement in the Talmud of Babylonia. He traces the development of Rabbinic Judaism by exploring the relationships between and among the cognate writings which embody its formative history.
In this book, Bruce D. Chilton describes early Christian thought and Jacob Neusner describes early Judaic thought on fundamental issues such as creation and human nature, Christ and Torah, sin and atonement, and eschatology. At the end of each chapter, each assesses the other's perspective, and a final chapter explains why the authors believe theological confrontation--not just comparison--defines the task of interfaith dialogue today.