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Beyond Reasonable Doubt [Paperback]

Louis Jacobs

Price: £16.95 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

8 July 2004
More than forty years have passed since Louis Jacobs first put forward the argument that traditionally observant Jews have no reason to take issue with the results obtained by the historical critics in their investigation into the Bible and the other classical sources of Judaism. In his numerous works on Jewish theology and in lectures worldwide, Jacobs has argued that the traditional doctrine which claims that 'the Torah is from Heaven' can and should be maintained-provided that the word 'from' is understood in a non-fundamentalist way to denote that there is a human as well as a divine element in the Torah: God revealing His will not only to but through the Jewish people in their historical experiences as they reached out to Him. As a result of these views, which were first published in the still-controversial text We Have Reason to Believe, the Anglo-Jewish Orthodox hierarchy banned Jacobs from serving as an Orthodox rabbi. This was the cause of the notorious 'Jacobs affair', which culminated in the creation of the New London Synagogue and, eventually, in the establishment of Masorti in the UK, a movement having strong affinities with Conservative Judaism in the United States. In this book, Louis Jacobs examines afresh all the issues involved. He does so objectively but with passion, meeting the objections put forward by critics from the various trends within the Jewish world, both Orthodox and Reform, and inviting readers to follow the argument and make up their own minds. 'Jacobs cogently and clearly presents his views on diverse topics.' Roger S. Kohn, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter 'Brims with scholarship and is powerfully argued. Jacobs's mastery of the full range of Jewish religious sources-legal, philosophical, and mystical-is apparent on every page, and is well deployed in making his case for liberal supernaturalism as a breakthrough religious synthesis. And that case is hardly a timely one, for Jacobs is hardly alone in hungering for a form of traditionalism that can combine halakhic observance with an open intellectual outlook. Indeed, this is today the shared meeting ground of the right wing of Conservative Judaism and the left wing of the Orthodox movement.' David Singer, Commentary 'A learned and compelling argument for an enlightened form of traditional Judaism . . . written in a lucid, accessible style for lay readers, who will benefit enormously from Rabbi Jacobs's honest and critical assessment of the major tendencies in contemporary Judaism . . . a major critique of Jewish fundamentalism and a compelling alternative to it.' Allan Nadler, Forward 'Here is a scholar who . . . has much to offer British Jewry.' Cecil Bloom, Jerusalem Post 'The book will enlighten because Jacobs is a reliable and lucid authority on the issues discussed.' Robert Weissman, Jewish Quarterly 'A very personal, and very mature and honest, statement of "where I stand".' Norman Solomon, Journal of Jewish Studies 'The most engaging aspect of the book is the personal style in which it is written. The book is positively brought alive by a wealth of personal anecdotes and stories.' Emma Conway, Le'ela

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Review

Brims with scholarship and is powerfully argued. Jacobs's mastery of the full range of Jewish religious sources legal, philosophical, and mystical is apparent on every page, and is well deployed in making his case for liberal supernaturalism as a breakthrough religious synthesis. And that case is hardly a timely one, for Jacobs is hardly alone in hungering for a form of traditionalism that can combine halakhic observance with an open intellectual outlook. Indeed, this is today the shared meeting ground of the right wing of Conservative Judaism and the left wing of the Orthodox movement. --David Singer, Commentary

A learned and compelling argument for an enlightened form of traditional Judaism . . . written in a lucid, accessible style for lay readers, who will benefit enormously from Rabbi Jacobs's honest and critical assessment of the major tendencies in contemporary Judaism . . . a major critique of Jewish fundamentalism and a compelling alternative to it.' --Allan Nadler, Forward

A very personal, and very mature and honest, statement of where I stand . --Norman Solomon, Journal of Jewish Studies

About the Author

Louis Jacobs, founding rabbi of the New London Synagogue, was a renowned scholar with an international reputation as a lecturer. He was the author of The Jewish Religion: A Companion (1995) and of many other distinguished books, several of them published by the Littman Library, including A Tree of Life (second edition 2000), Hasidic Prayer (paperback 1993), and Theology in the Responsa (paperback 2005), as well as an edition and translation of Zevi Hirsch Eichenstein s Turn Aside from Evil and Do Good (1995). He died in 2006.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bold effort to synthesize modern research with belief. 22 Jun 2000
By Edward Weiss - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In defense of Jacobs' much-maligned works, I believe that this book makes a valiant effort to describe a mode of Judaism that harmonizes historical-critical research and belief. Although the author himself admits that gray areas do exist in his non-traditional "liberal supernaturalism", it is certainly a step toward a definition of belief for today's Jews. The book is written in a very personal tone, one that some readers may find distracting; I found it to add an interesting autobiographical flavor, one that reflects Jacobs' journey from yeshiva student to Masorti proponent. Incidentally, he makes no claim that the so-called "High criticism" represented by Wellhausen's Documentary Hypothesis has been utterly rejected, only that it has been subject to scholarly revision and modification in recent years.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leading theologian makes convincing arguments 13 Oct 2000
By R. Kaiser - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I find one of the reviews on this site curious; it makes the bizarre claim that modern day academics have abandoned the findings of higher biblical criticism: i.e. the fact that we now know that the current text of the Torah was redacted together from several earlier sources. The fact is that this is not a matter of debate in any academic circles, religious or non-religious. No uneducated and bible-thumping fundamentalists can claim otherwise. On this subject, it is best to read "Who Wrote the Bible" by Richard Elliot Friedman.
The strenght of Louis Jacob's theology is that he moves beyond the "Do it because I told you God said so" approach so popular among the Orthodox. Orthodox Jews claim that the text of the Torah is a direct quote from God, and thus we are obligated to follow its rules. Non-religious Jews use the findings of modern critical Bible study to show that since our understanding of how the Bible was edited is now known to be flawed, then it can't possibly be inspired in any way; therefore, humanity is free from trying to follow the word of God in this way (or in any way). In between these paths lies a view promoted by Rabbi Jacobs, and by Masorti and Conservative Judaism in general. He notes that *how* God inspired man is one question; whether or not God does so is another. If God does exist, and does inspire mankind in some way, then the Torah may well contain man's understanding of God's will, as Judaism has always claimed. Unfortunately, no brief review can do justice to the subtle and convincing arguments that Rabbi Jacobs makes for his views: non-fundamentalist, observant, authentic Judaism. You will have to read it for yourself - and you'll be the better for it.
Also, I strongly suggest obtaining "Halakha for Our Time" by Rabbi David Golinkin, published by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and "The Dynamics of Judaism", by Rabbi Robert Gordis.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars really two books smushed into one... 4 Dec 2005
By Michael Lewyn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Each of which would have been better had they been separate books.

The first book criticizes the traditional Jewish belief in the Torah as divine revelation, and proposes "Liberal Supernaturalism" as an alternative (i.e. accepting man-made halacha even if it rests on a man-made Torah rather than a purely Divine Torah). Contrary to what one reviewer wrote, Jacobs does not limit his justification for this view to Psalms; he goes over a few inconsistencies in the Pentateuch itself. Nevertheless, the broader point stands: Jacobs devotes one chapter to an issue that really is worth a full book or something close to it.

Jacobs then justifies halacha on the ground that it connects us with the Jewish tradition and with holiness generally- a point of view likely to persuade more-or-less observant Jews, but less likely to persuade the apathetic.

The second book is an excellent little guide to the factions within Judaism (leaving aside Conservative Judaism, which the author's "Liberal Supernaturalism" chapter implicitly argues for). Jacobs seems to maintain an OK balance between criticism of and respect for both Reform and for various tendencies within Orthodoxy (including Hasidism, mysticism, Modern Orthodoxy, and other more traditional variants of Orthodoxy).
3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A guide in misusing Biblical texts 28 Aug 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book should really be entitled 'Beyond Reasonable Scholarship.' Dr Jacobs bases his argument on the false claim that Jewish tradition only countenances a single author for Psalms i.e. King David. Then he goes on to infer that as this is untrue (how could David write about future events?) the belief in the divine authorship of the five books of Moses must also be untrue. This is blatant nonsence as Dr Jacobs must know.
There are several Talmudic references to Psalms as a composite work and many later commentators such as David Kimkhi and the Malbim also explain how Psalms was the work of over 10 authors, edited in his generation by David and that later editions added Psalms written in the Babylonian exile. Therefore the supposed authorship of Psalms has not a jot to do with the authorship of the Pentateuch. This a bad book full of bad scholarship. It is also an insult to any academic or traditionally learned Jew who is aware of the sources.
3 of 20 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Read, Poor Arguments 24 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Louis Jacobs is trying his best to defend the obviously untenable position of having-the-cake-and-eating-it-too, by offering another book to explain the Jewish Conservative movements "Liberal Supernaturalist" view. He wants to explain how one can deny the historical truth of Judaism's core beliefs, the Revelation at Mount Sinai, and the divine source of the Oral Code - while at the same time stay committed to the observance of Halacha. The core of Jacobs' argument is that Biblical Criticism is a scientific fact. But when faced with the fact that modern scientists totally reject the premise of High Criticism - he reverts to the indefensible stance that current critics do not accept the divine source of the Torah. The current rejection of the "popular" Criticism is enough to give the believer a reason to stand by his beliefs.
It is also quite boring to read the history of English Jewry and the personal adventures of Jacobs the person.
Still, it is a good read.
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