This book concerns the history of the Bible, Christianity, Rabbinic Judaism, and theological-political thought in the West. Its operation is threefold. First, it shows that the biblical text can be read as a theological-political narrative about a god who strives to be recognized as such by a group of people. Second, it reconstructs the history of the conversation that took place around this narrative from the fourth century BCE to the beginning of the Middle Ages, showing how it was dependent on social and political circumstances, rather than on theological notions. Lastly, it distinguishes between two strands of the conversation—the Christian and the Rabbinic—that carried the narrative through the Middle Ages and explains why the latter offered a more advanced interface with the political reality than the former. This book introduces a reading of the biblical narrative that takes seriously the difference between the two creation stories that begin the Book of Genesis and considers them as referring to two distinct divinities. This reading reveals in the Bible an overarching narrative about the god Yhwh, who tries to impose himself as the sovereign of Israel by claiming that he is the same god as Elohim—the benevolent creator of the perfect world.
Ron Naiweld holds a research position at the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; National Center for Scientific Research) and teaches at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), in Paris, France.
Introduction: “Why Would the French be Interested in the Talmud?”
Chapter One: The Myth of Yhwh and its Monotheization
Chapter Two: The Beginning of the Conversation
Chapter Three: Experience in Sovereignty
Chapter Four: A New Great Story
Chapter Five: The Rabbinic Israel
Epilogue: A Nation of Monks
About the Author
Ron Naiweld’s thought-provoking new book reflects about the rabbinic knowledge that was excluded from Europe at the heart of Europe. Going beyond the oft-debated questions of anti-Semitism, Holocaust, and genocide, Naiweld asks what the West 'lost by excluding rabbinic knowledge as a discourse of truth': 'Where do we place rabbinic knowledge on the axis that extends from ancient Athens, through the Hellenistic and Roman philosophers, and Christian thinkers of late antiquity and the Middle Ages, to Kant and Hegel, and their critical demise by Nietzsche, Heidegger, Marx, and Freud?' By challenging the hegemonic scholarly treatment of rabbinic literature as a mere historical document for past life of gone Jews, by thinking not on Jewish bio-politics, but on rabbinic theo-politics, Naiweld’s book is a powerful act towards the decolonization of Jewish Studies.
Challenging and provocative, an attempt to attend to the discussions the rabbis entertained with the texts of their ancestors. Bible or Talmud, these texts were like a meeting room where conversations have been held between time and space. No need to be convinced to sit around the table and enjoy the talks.