In the Bible there are no articles of faith or dogmas in the Christian or Islamic sense of the terms. Although trust in God is regarded as a paramount religious virtue (Gen. 15:6; Isa. 7:9; cf. Job 2:9), there is nowhere in Scripture an injunction to believe. Even a verse like II Chronicles 20:20 "believe (haʾaminu) in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe His prophets, and you will succeed" expresses only King Jehoshaphat's advice to the people; it is not a religious commandment. Furthermore, the verb heʾemin (האמין "to believe"), the noun ʾemunah ("belief "), and other forms derived from the stem ʾmn (אמן) mean to trust, have confidence; and faithfulness; and in this sense are used both of God and of man (Gen. 15:6; Deut. 32:4; Prov. 20:6; Job 4:18). This usage is in striking contrast to the concept of "belief " in the New Testament (e.g., John 3:18). It is only in the Middle Ages, when Jewish theologians began to formulate articles of faith, that derivations of the root ʾmn came to be used in a dogmatic sense.
The reason for the absence of a catechism in both the Bible and the rabbinic tradition is probably twofold: in Judaism the primary emphasis is not on profession of faith but on conduct (Avot 1:17); and speculative and systematic thinking is not characteristic of the biblical or the rabbinic genius. Dogmatics entered Judaism as a result of external pressure; contact with alien religious systems, which had formulated theological doctrines, compelled Jewish thinkers to state the basic creeds of their own faith. In a sense, Jewish dogmatics forms part of the larger category of Jewish apologetics.
No religion, however, is conceivable without fundamental doctrines or axiomatic principles, and Judaism, in its scriptural as well as rabbinic aspects, is no exception. Indeed, the Bible contains certain summary statements that might be considered incipient dogmas. The *Shemaʿ (Deut. 6:4), underscoring the unity of God; the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1 ff.; Deut. 5:6 ff.), providing an epitome of Jewish precepts; the formulation of the divine attributes in Exodus 34:6–7; Micah's sublime summary of human duty (6:18); and the majestic simplicity of the Lord's assurance to Habakkuk "but the righteous shall live by his faith" (2:4) are a few examples culled from many. But valuable as these formulations are, they do not embrace the complete range of fundamental biblical teachings. Only an analysis of scriptural doctrines against the background of the entire complex of biblical thought can yield the essential religious beliefs, moral ideals, and spiritual truths that underlie the faith expounded by the Scriptures.
That "God is" is axiomatic. He is One (Deut. 6:4) and incomparable (Isa. 40:18); there are no other gods (Deut. 4:39). He is omnipotent (Job 42:2), omnipresent (Ps. 139:7–12), omniscient (Job 28:23 ff.), and eternal (Isa. 40:6–8; 44:6). Even more important is the doctrine that He is the God of justice and love (Ex. 34:6–7); it is His moral nature that makes Him holy (Isa. 5:16). In His might He willed the creation of the universe (Gen. 1), and in His love He continues to sustain it (Ps. 104; 145:14 ff.). He made the laws of nature; the miracles are exceptions to these cosmic rules, but both the normal and the abnormal conform to the Divine Will. Mythology, except for idiomatic phrases, is excluded from biblical teaching. Magical practices are forbidden (Deut. 18:10); unlike miracles, they do not issue from the will of God, but seek to overrule divinely established laws of nature.
The apex of creation is man, created in the divine image. This "image" is reflected in the moral and spiritual qualities of human nature. In man creation achieves a new dimension – a moral personality endowed with freedom of will. The relationship between God and man has a voluntaristic ethical character. It is an encounter between the Divine Person and His human counterpart, between Father and child. Ideally it is an "I–Thou" relation. But man may disobey; sin is spiritual treason, which transforms the "nearness" of God into "estrangement." The divine "Thou" then becomes "It."
Human freedom of choice (Deut. 30:15, 19) is the source of man's responsibility, upon which are predicated rewards and penalties, both collective and individual. Divine retribution is a corollary of God's righteousness; but its purpose is primarily not punitive but educative and reformative; it aims to restore the "I–Thou" nexus. Thus God does not desire the destruction of the wicked, but their return to the path of goodness (Ezek. 18:23, 32), and heaven's grace far exceeds the measure of divine punishment (Ex. 20:5–6; Deut. 5:9–10). Hence all the predictions of the prophets are conditional (cf. Jonah). The Heavenly Father hopes for His punitive decrees to be nullified. Conceptually there appears to be a contradiction between God's omniscience and omnipotence on the one hand, and man's freedom of action on the other. But the Bible harmonizes them in a supreme historic event. Human rebellions will ultimately end in a great reconciliation. In the messianic era Zion's teaching will become a universal heritage (Isa. 2:2 ff.; Mic. 4:1 ff.). "In the end of days" the divine design of history will be realized as perfectly as His cosmic plan.
Human waywardness was manifest from the beginning of history. Man has constantly been tempted to do wrong: "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil
By accepting the Torah, Israel became the "treasured people" of the Lord, a holy nation in the service of the Holy God (Ex. 19:5; Lev. 19:2). They entered into a covenant with Him (Ex. 24:7; Deut. 29:11, 12), calling for unswerving obedience on their part and protective providence on the part of God. The election of Israel was not an act of favoritism. On the contrary, it represented a mission involving special responsibility and corresponding retribution. "You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities" (Amos 3:2). Nor was God's providential care limited to Israel; there was a Philistine and Aramean exodus comparable to that of Israel (ibid. 9:7). The covenant with Israel was an integral part of God's universal historic plan of salvation (Isa. 49:6). Hence the Israelites were as indestructible as the cosmos (Jer. 33:25–26). Their sins would be punished, but redemption would succeed every disaster. The national hope of restoration and return to the Land of Israel is thus indivisibly linked with the redemption of all mankind. Jewish nationalism and universalism are not opposed but complementary biblical ideals.
Since ethics occupies a central position in scriptural theology, theodicy greatly exercised the minds of the prophets and sages of Israel. The thought "shall not the Judge of all the earth do justly?" (Gen. 18:25) is echoed in various forms throughout the Scriptures. It is an essential aspect of the dialogue between man and God. To criticize and challenge God in sincerity is not viewed by Scripture as a sin (witness Abraham, Moses, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Job); only hypocrisy and smugness are iniquitous (Job 42:7). The biblical answers to the problem of suffering are varied: it is accounted for by sin, by the concept of "the suffering servant," by the limitations of human knowledge. Man's view is too short; however long the process, righteousness triumphs in the end (Ps. 92:8). In the final analysis God's purpose is beyond man's understanding (Isa. 55:8; Job 42:3). Until the ultimate reconciliation at "the end of days," the Incomprehensible God can be apprehended only in faith (Hab. 2:4).
The encounter with Greek culture in the Hellenistic period brought the challenge of new concepts and philosophic methodology to Judaism. But the impact was transitory, and *Philo, "the first theologian," was the only one among the Greco-Jewish writers to formulate Jewish dogmas. He enumerates five tenets: (1) God exists and rules the universe; (2) He is one; (3) the world was created; (4) creation is one; (5) Divine Providence cares for the world (Op. 61). Josephus asserts that the antagonism between the Sadducees and Pharisees was based on doctrinal differences, such as the question of providence, the immortality of the soul, and the belief in resurrection with the concomitant idea of the final judgment (Wars, 2:162–5). Modern scholarship, however, is inclined to give a political and national interpretation to these disputes.
Rabbinic theology is marked by an overwhelming diversity of opinion. Since the sages' method of study was essentially based on argumentation and controversy, it is by no means easy to determine at all times its fundamental ideas. Furthermore, while the rabbis sought to give clear definition to the halakhah, the aggadah remained vague, unsystematized, and contradictory. Nevertheless in Talmud and Midrash, as in Scripture, it is possible to discern ground patterns of thought and basic concepts that constitute the foundations of the tannaitic and amoraic ideology. It is axiomatic that rabbinic teaching rests firmly on biblical doctrine and precept. Here, as in the Bible, God is the transcendent Creator; the Torah is the unalterable embodiment of His will; providence is motivated by moral principles; there is an "I–Thou" relationship between man and God; the election of Israel, linked to the immutable covenant of the Torah, is a paramount idea; and the prophetic promise of Israel's ultimate redemption and the establishment of the kingdom of God upon earth is the national-universal denouement of the drama of history. But rabbinic theology is a superstructure founded on scriptural faith, not a copy of it; there are evolutionary differences in talmudic Judaism that distinguish it from biblical norms and give it its distinctive qualities.
Rabbinic Judaism produced no catechism; but external cultural pressures and internal heresies gave rise to certain formulations of a dogmatic character. Sanhedrin 10:1, for example, in defining those who have no share in the world to come, gives to the belief in resurrection and in the divine origin of the Torah credal status. Similarly Hillel's dictum "That which is hateful to thee do not do unto others" (Shab. 31a) constitutes in its context the principal Jewish dogma. In discussing the precepts of the Torah the rabbis spoke of various figures who reduced the number of precepts (from the traditional 613), ending with Habakkuk who subsumed them all under one fundamental principle, "but the righteous shall live by his faith" (Hab. 2:4; cf. Mak. 24a). But in rabbinic, as in scriptural, literature, the root-ideas can be reached only by
A new mysticism, emanating from the doctrines of maʿaseh bereshit ("work of creation") and maʿaseh merkavah ("work of the chariot"), now attaches to the concept of God. Gnostic influence, despite the general opposition of the sages to Gnostic ideas, is discernible. But these esoteric notions were reserved for the few only (Ḥag. 2:1). On the other hand, the broad-based popular approach, found in numerous aggadot, inclines toward an anthropopathic presentation of the Deity. The Holy One of Israel suffers all Israel's tribulations; He too is exiled (Sif. Num. 84; Ber. 9b). Man is conceived as a dualism: his soul, which is immortal, gives him a place among the angels; his body makes him akin to the beasts (Sif. Deut. 309). But the body is not condemned as a source of evil, nor may the material things of this world be left un-enjoyed (TJ, Kid. 4:12, 66d). They are the work of God and inherently good. Indeed, God is to be served with both lower and higher impulses (Sif. Deut. 32; Ber. 54a). Man's freedom of choice, however, is fully recognized: "All is in the power of heaven except the reverence of heaven" (Ber. 33b), though the omniscient God foresees all (Avot 3:15). But this freedom is the basis of responsibility and the justification of retribution. To err is human, but penitence is the great shield that protects man (ibid. 4:13). Hence it was created even before the world (Pes. 54a).
The Torah, as the will of God, is immutable, and the sages regarded it as their supreme task to expound and determine its provisions, giving precedence, where needed, to moral principles over strict legalism (e.g., TJ, BM 2:5, 8c). To be holy and to walk in the Lord's ways implied in particular the practice of lovingkindness (Sifra 19:1; Sif. Deut. 49), which was equal to all the precepts put together (TJ, Pe'ah 1:1, 15b). The purpose of the commandments is to purify man (Gen. R. 44:1), and the true spirit of observance seeks no reward beyond the service of God (Avot 1:3). But there are two Torahs: the Oral Law, which was also revealed at Sinai, supplements and elucidates the Written Law. On the basis of Deuteronomy 17:11 (Ber. 19b), the sages claimed the right to enact laws of their own (mi-de-rabbanan), chiefly with a view to their serving as a "fence" (protection) to the biblical ordinances (mi-de-orayta). The most daring principle of all originated by the rabbis was their right to interpret the Torah in conformity with their understanding and to decide (by majority vote) accordingly. It was they, not the heavenly court (familia), that fixed the calendar (TJ, RH 1:3, 57b). Even if a halakhic ruling ran counter, so to speak, to the view of heaven, the rabbis still maintained that theirs was the right to decide, for the Torah, having been vouchsafed to man, was now subject to human judgment. Nor did this principle displease the Holy One, Blessed Be He, for He smiled indulgently when His children outvoted Him (BM 59b). The sages went so far as to declare "the suppression of the Torah may be the foundation thereof " (Men. 99). Thus the rabbis evolved theological machinery for adapting the halakhah to historical changes and needs without discarding an iota of the scriptural tradition. Theologically they justified this procedure by the theory that all that the rabbis taught was already inherent in the Sinaitic revelation (Lev. R. 22:1; TJ, Pe'ah 2:6, 17a), that the sages did not innovate but discovered already existing truths.
The rabbinic exaltation of Torah study was a natural corollary of their attitude to the Scriptures. The Mishnah lists the things whose fruits a man enjoys in this world, while the capital is laid up for him in the world to come, and declares "the study of the Law is equal to them all" (Pe'ah 1:1). The rabbis (BB 12a) elevate the sage (with his restrained, reflective approach) above the prophet (with his incandescent, intuitive consciousness). Nevertheless the truth that Judaism is life and that learning must lead to deeds was not lost sight of: "Great is the study of the Torah, because it leads to [right] action" (Kid. 40b).
Israel's election is a leading theme in rabbinic thought. It brought comfort and renewed courage to a suffering people. God's ultimate salvation was never doubted. The messianic era, despite the preceding tribulation, would bring redemption to Israel and the land. This belief suffuses the entire aggadic literature and inspires every facet of the liturgy. Great emphasis is placed on the importance of Ereẓ Israel in Talmud and Midrash and the prayer book. The rabbis exhaust the language of praise and indulge in unrestrained fantasy in depicting the future glories of the land. One dictum even avers that "he who dwells outside the Land of Israel is as one who serves idols" (Ket. 110b). This hyperbole was intended not only to encourage Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel, but also to strengthen the hope of national restoration. Jewish nationalism did not, however, exclude universalist ideals. "The pious of all nations have a share in the world to come" (Tosef., Sanh. 13:10). "Who-ever repudiates idolatry is called a Jew" (Meg. 13a); and the greatest Torah principle is enshrined in the verse "This is the book of the generations of Adam" – the brotherhood of man (TJ, Ned. 9:4, 41c).
In the Talmud, as in the Bible, the problem of theodicy is a major theme. The sages range the entire gamut of possible explanations for human suffering. In the ultimate analysis they propound the profoundest conception of all: suffering deriving from divine love (Ber 5a). Human suffering is an essential element in human spiritual advancement. It is an aspect of God's grace. Another cardinal rabbinic belief offered a collective historical solution to the question of divine justice. The concept of resurrection (Sanh. 10:1) was closely linked with the advent of the Messiah and the last judgment (Shab. 152b; Ḥag. 12b; Sanh. 91a–b). Bygone generations would, if worthy, share in the sublime joy of the kingdom of God upon earth. Maimonides, however, interprets the resurrection in a purely spiritual sense (Maʾamar Teḥiyyat ha-Metim). Going beyond biblical theology, the rabbis envisaged yet another world, where the imbalance of earthly justice is rectified. The immortal soul is judged after the death of the body in the hereafter ("world to come") and is requited according to the individual's deeds upon earth (Sif. Deut. 307; Ber. 28b; Shab. 153a; Ber. 17a). In
These norms of rabbinic faith provided the basis of medieval Jewish theology and philosophy. Their lack of definition gave later Jewish thinking flexibility and their emphasis a firm framework.
Medieval Jewish Philosophy
In medieval philosophy belief is a general philosophical category belonging to the theory of knowledge, of which religious belief is one specific kind. The medieval philosophers distinguished between two activities of the mind: the formulation of propositions, and the affirmation that propositions in the mind correspond to a reality outside the mind, and identified belief with the latter activity. In line with this account *Maimonides defines belief as "… the notion that is represented in the soul when it has been averred of it that it is in fact just as it has been represented" (Guide of the Perplexed, 1:50). In somewhat less technical language *Saadiah defines belief as "… a notion that arises in the soul in regard to the actual character of anything that is apprehended. When the cream of investigation emerges, and is embraced and enfolded by the minds and, through them acquired and digested by the souls, then the person becomes convinced of the truth of the notion he has acquired" (Book of Beliefs and Opinions, introd.). Belief defined in this manner may still be true or false, and hence it is necessary to add criteria by means of which true beliefs may be distinguished from false ones. Saadiah, discussing this issue, lists four criteria which enable one to establish that a belief is true: sense perception, self-evident propositions, inference, and reliable tradition (ibid., introd.; cf. Maimonides, "Letter On Astrology," in: R. Lerner and M. Mahdi (eds.), Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook (1963), 228). This conception of belief as the affirmation or conviction that propositions within the mind correspond to reality outside the mind can be traced to Greek philosophy, particularly to the Stoics.
Belief for medieval Christian, Muslim, and Jewish thinkers meant, in the first instance, religious belief, that is, the conviction that the teachings of Scriptures are true and that their truth is guaranteed by the authority of their respective traditions. At the same time they noted that philosophers also investigated some of the same issues that interested them, e.g., the existence of God, the creation of the world, principles of human morality, and they further noted that there was a similarity between the teachings of religion and human reason. Hence the question arose how the teachings of religion, that is, religious beliefs, are related to the teachings of philosophy, that is, philosophical beliefs. There were essentially three views concerning this interrelation. There were those who, denying that the term belief applies to philosophic teachings, affirmed that this term in its strict sense refers only to propositions accepted on the basis of religious authority; there were those who permitted the application of the term only to propositions known by way of demonstration; and there were still others, who were prepared to use the term belief for describing both. In line with these distinctions H.A. *Wolfson classifies the attitudes toward religious belief in a threefold fashion: the double faith theory, according to which the acceptance of propositions based both on religious authority and rational demonstration constitutes belief; the single faith theory of the authoritarian type, according to which the acceptance of propositions based on authority alone constitutes belief; and the single faith theory of the rational type, according to which the acceptance of propositions based on demonstration alone constitutes belief (JQR, 33 (1942), 213–64).
Saadiah, a proponent of the double faith theory, accepts the notion of belief as applying to things known both by way of authority and by way of demonstration. He maintains that the doctrines of Scripture coincide with those of philosophy, and that an affirmation of these doctrines, whether based on revelation or on rational demonstration, constitutes belief. While Saadiah advocates speculation about the truths of religion, he, nevertheless, maintains that it is forbidden to ignore Scripture entirely and to rely solely on one's reason, for the reason is not infallible, and may lead to erroneous conclusions.
*Judah Halevi, a representative of the single faith theory of the authoritarian type, maintains that belief applies only to things known by means of authority. According to him, belief is an acceptance of the doctrines of Scripture based on authority, i.e., on the fact that these doctrines of Scripture were divinely revealed. For example, in connection with sacrifices Halevi states categorically that "… he who accepts [sacrifices], without examination or reasoning is better off than he who resorts to research and analysis" (Kuzari, 2:26; see also 1:64–65, and 3:7).
Maimonides, on the other hand, is a representative of the single faith theory of the rationalist type. He maintains that belief applies only to things known by way of demonstration. While he does not state categorically that an acceptance of the doctrines of Scripture based on authority is not belief, he definitely considers an acceptance based on demonstration to be a more perfect form of belief. Belief is more than verbal acceptance; it requires understanding and a rational basis. Providing an example, Maimonides writes that someone who utters with his lips that he believes in the unity and incorporeality of God, while at the same time maintaining that God has positive attributes, cannot be said to believe truly in God's unity. That he can maintain that God has attributes indicates that he does not understand the principle of God's unity, and there is no belief without understanding (Guide, 1:50). According to Maimonides the precept "You shall love the Lord, your God," cannot properly be fulfilled without an understanding of metaphysics. Love of God, according to Maimonides, is "proportionate to apprehension" (Guide, 3:51; cf. Yad, Yesodei ha-Torah, 4:12).
*Levi b. Gershom shares the view of the Maimonidean school that there is no opposition between reason and belief. He holds that priority should be given to reason where its demands are unambiguous, for the meaning of Scripture
See also *Allegory, *Revelation, *Philosophy.
Maimonides' aforementioned definition of belief (Arab.: i'tiqâd; Hebrew: emunah) may be called the "cognitive" sense of emunah, i.e., opinion or position held. The positive evaluation of emunah in its cognitive sense dominates Jewish philosophy until the late 14th century, when the influence of scholastic philosophy is felt, especially in Spain. There one can distinguish three new approaches: emunah as non-volitional and of little religious significance; as non-volitional yet superior to rational knowledge; as volitional and hence of supreme religious significance. The view of emunah as non-volitional is adopted by Hasdai *Crescas, who still adheres to the cognitive sense. Because emunah is non-volitional, its religious significance is of little value according to Crescas; God does not reward and punish humans solely on the basis of their belief-states. Crescas responds here to the Jewish Aristotelians who considered the possession of rationally justified emunot to be a necessary (and perhaps sufficient) condition for the immortality of the soul. Crescas' student Joseph *Albo defines emunah as "a firm conception of the thing in the mind, so that the latter cannot in any way imagine its opposite, even though it may not be able to prove it" (Ikkarim 1.19, trans. Husik). According to Simeon *Duran, emunot are proved by miracles or by a reliable tradition concerning them, whereas according to Isaac *Abrabanel, emunot are distinct from both knowledge and opinion. Isaac *Arama views emunot not only as superior but as often contrary to reason. True wisdom is attained only when one assents to the Torah's commands that are opposed to speculation. The language of emunah that dominates these discussions is most probably influenced by Christian treatments of fides, "faith."
The most telling example of this influence is found in Abraham *Bibago's Derekh Emunah, which should be translated, The Way of Faith. Bibago distinguishes between attaining knowledge via rational inquiry and via faith. In the case of Judaism the latter method is superior to the former because it is guaranteed by a reliable tradition that stretches back to Moses, whereas many philosophical doctrines are debatable. The point is as old as Halevi, but the language is that of emunah. Since rational knowledge is not as certain as knowledge acquired through faith, the mind of the faithful is superior to that of the philosopher. Moreover, Bibago implies that emunah is fundamentally different from rational knowledge, for emunah is the "assent to unseen things" (a similar definition is found in *Aquinas) whereas rational knowledge is of revealed things. Divine science, i.e., theology and metaphysics, can be attained only through emunah (Derekh Emunah 2:7).
[Charles Manekin (2nd ed.)]
Modern Jewish Philosophy
While in medieval philosophy the description of faith formed an integral part of the theory of knowledge, the rise of modern science and the concomitant decline of the belief in the divine revelation of Scriptures have made faith a matter of trusting in God rather than of the affirmation of certain propositions. Characteristic of this attitude in recent Jewish thought are the views of Franz *Rosenzweig, according to whom religious belief arises from the experience of personal revelation, for which man must always strive and be prepared. This view was anticipated by Hermann *Cohen in his theory of correlation. Similarly, Martin *Buber and Abraham *Heschel see faith as a relationship of trust between man and God, which arises from, and manifests itself in, personal encounters between man and God, and man and man, which Buber calls I–Thou relationships.
Another tendency among modern thinkers, which reflects the influence of psychology, is to view belief as a psychological state which is valuable insofar as it motivates man to act in an ethical manner. Mordecai *Kaplan, a representative of this naturalistic view, implies that faith is a kind of "self-fulfilling prophecy" insofar as it leads to the redemption of human society. According to the others embracing a naturalistic view, faith is good in that it infuses meaning and purpose into an otherwise meaningless and cruel existence. This point is taken up strongly by Richard *Rubenstein, who has been concerned with the challenge to Jewish faith posed by the Holocaust.
S. Schechter, Studies in Judaism, 1 (1911), 147–81; I. Efros, in: JQR, 33 (1942/43), 133–70; A. Heschel, ibid., 265–313; G.F. Moore, Judaism, 2 (1946), 237–8; H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 1 (1948), 155–6; M. Buber, Two Types of Faith (1951); W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 (1967), 277–90; E.E. Urbach, Ḥazal (1969), 15–28; S.H. Bergman, Jewish Philosophy in Modern Times (1968), 177–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Rosenberg, "The Concept of Emunah in Post-Maimonidean Jewish Philosophy," in: I. Twersky (ed.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (1984); M. Kellner, Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought (1986); idem, Must a Jew Believe Anything? (1999); C.H. Manekin, "Jewish Philosophy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries," in: D. Frank and O. Leaman (eds.), Routledge History of Jewish Philosophy (1997), 350–59; M. Shapiro, The Limits of Orthodox Theology: Maimonides' Thirteen Principles Reappraised (2004).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.