Friday, May 30, 2008

Book Review: The Limits of Orthodox Theology, Introduction

I'm starting my long-delayed and promised (at least I think I promised) review of Marc Shapiro's the Limits of Orthodox Theology. The book has a simple goal, but one has caused a lot of notice in Orthodox circles.

Maimonides' Thirteen Principles are considered by the greater Jewish community to define traditional Judaism. Maimonides himself wrote that anyone denies or doubts any of the Principles is a heretic and has removed himself from the Jewish people.

The central thesis of the book is that Maimonides' Thirteen Principles are not the last word in Jewish theology. By that, Dr. Shapiro means that the Thirteen Principles are considered the central truths of Orthodox Judaism. But several thinkers within the mainstream of Orthodoxy, both before and after Maimonides, disagreed with some of the Thirteen Principles. Interestingly engouh, Dr. Shapiro details where Maimonides himself disagrees with his own Principles.

Shapiro examines each of the Principles and then documents the disagreements or controversies surrounding each Principle. He also makes sure he omits scholars outside the Orthodox community. In medievel times, when there were no non-Orthodox religious denominations, he makes sure to exclude more controversial figures who weren't accepted by large segments of the Jewish community.

The book, and hence this ongoing review, may seem like a repetition of facts, quotes, and people. But, given Shapiro's thesis, this is unavoidable. If you are going to say that there has been disagreements, you are going to have to list them.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look forward to reading the review, and how it fits in with your larger agenda.

6/01/2008 05:41:00 PM  

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