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Performing Israel's Faith
Narrative and Law in Rabbinic Theology
If law alone yields legalism, then religious belief, by itself, fails to create justice. In Performing Israel's Faith, Jacob Neusner shows how Jewish Halakhah (law) and Aggadah (narrative) fit together to form a robust and coherent covenant theology—one directly concerned about this world. Neusner's careful and thorough examination of several key issues within rabbinic Judaism—the nations, idolatry, sin, repentance, and atonement—demonstrates that neither Halakhah nor Aggadah can be fully and rightly understood when the two are isolated from each other. Performing Israel's Faith thus effectively reveals that rabbinic Judaism's true pattern of religion was constituted by a covenant theology comprised by both law and story—a covenant theology whose aim was to restore the sanctification of God's original creation.
1 The Aggadic Theology of the Nations
2 The Halakhic Theology of Idolatry
3 The Aggadic Theology of Sin, Repentance, and Atonement
4 The Halakhic Theology of Atonement
5 Law and Theology, Halakhah and Aggadah
Covenantal Conduct: The Outcome of Performing Israel's Faith
Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Subjects
Neusner brings together into a coherent picture the diverse legal and theological worlds of Halakhah and Aggadah, demonstrating how each in its own way was an integral component of rabbinic covenantal religion. Especially instructive is the manner in which he is able to extrapolate from the law's specific aspects of the realia of everyday life to which the Halakhah spoke. As a bonus, students of early Jewish literature and the New Testament will find fresh points of continuity and discontinuity with the traditions of rabbinic Judaism.
—George W. E. Nickelsburg, Professor Emeritus, University of Iowa
Building on Ed Sanders' understanding of "covenantal nomism," Neusner provides a synthetic overview of rabbinic theology and concludes with a discussion of the relationship between law and lore, Halakhah and Aggadah. This book will be especially useful as an introduction to rabbinic theology for those who are not specialists in that literature. It is one of the most accessible of Neusner's voluminous writings on rabbinic Judaism.
—John J. Collins, Holmes Professor of Old Testament, Yale University
In Performing Israel's Faith, Neusner demonstrates the centrality of Halakhah-Jewish practice-in any consideration of the theology of Judaism. Eschewing the flawed paradigm which looks only to the narrative compilations of the rabbis to discern their theological stance, Neusner pursues the oft-neglected insight of students of ritual: we don't merely espouse our faith, we perform it. By so doing, Neusner offers a fresh and original reading of Jewish theology as enacted, a reading that is both challenging and persuasive.
—David Kraemer, Joseph J. and Dora Abbell Librarian and Professor of Talmud and Rabbinics, Jewish Theological Seminary
Jacob Neusner was Research Professor of Theology and Senior Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Theology at Bard College.