Thursday, August 16, 2018

Levenson on the Bible's idea of history

MOSAIC MAGAZINE: The Contrast Between the Bible's Idea of History and the Modern Idea. In the Bible there is no solid differentiation but rather fluidity among what we moderns call past, present, and future (Jon D. Levenson).
But, as I see it, “collective Jewish memory” and “the sages’ approach” operate on a paradigm that is incommensurable with “scholarly Jewish history” and with secularity in general, Zionist or otherwise. What I would propose instead is an approach that is dialectical rather than integrative.

That is, rather than imagining a reconciliation of these very different paradigms for relating to the past, we should recognize that there are both gains and losses that come from examining any historical phenomenon as either a committed insider or a disinterested outsider (so far as the latter is possible). Neither discourse in the first person nor discourse in the third person tells the whole story. In matters like those Mechoulan discusses, both unqualified identification and unqualified objectification have their limitations. The whole truth is larger than either traditional memory or modern critical historiography can accommodate alone.
This essay is in response to an earlier one by Eric Mechoulan: “What Is the Meaning of Jewish History?" You can find it on the Mosaic website. But be forewarned that Mosaic has changed its access rules. Non-subscribers can now only read three articles per month for free. Choose wisely!

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