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Faith Finding MeaningA Theology of Judaism$
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Byron L. Sherwin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195336238

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195336238.001.0001

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From Crypto-Jews to Crypto-Judaism

From Crypto-Jews to Crypto-Judaism

(p.3) 1 From Crypto-Jews to Crypto-Judaism
Faith Finding Meaning

Byron L. Sherwin (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In the seventeenth-century, Baruch Spinoza began a campaign to discredit theology in general and Jewish theology in particular. By the dawn of the twenty-first century sociological data confirmed the success of his efforts. This chapter traces the origins of many of Spinoza's views to the converso community out of which he came, and follows the development of features of his “secular faith” through the Enlightenment to our own times. Such features include: the replacement of divine revelation with human rationality, religious obligations with individual moral autonomy, peoplehood with universalism, rabbinic Judaism with the ethics of “prophetic Judaism.” These features are further traced in Sabbateanism, Kantian philosophy, the Jewish Enlightenment, early Reform Judaism, and the biblical scholarship of Julius Wellhausen, to contemporary Jewry's advocacy of new forms of “prophetic Judaism,” and the emergence of the “sovereign self.” A conclusion of this chapter is that contemporary American Jewry, which has disengaged itself from authentic Jewish theological discourse, has become a new form of “crypto-Judaism.”

Keywords:   Spinoza, crypto-Jews, conversos, prophetic Judaism, Wellhausen, Sabbateanism, sovereign-self

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