By Oliver Leaman

The tale of Judaism is a narrative of paradox. it's the tale of the way a small cluster of wilderness tribes gave start to a monotheistic doctrine that profoundly formed the historical past of human civilization. it's the tale of ways that at the beginning imprecise wilderness doctrine got here to be codified into the Hebrew Bible, one of many world's maximum works of literature. it's the tale of ways a small minority got here to be seen by way of the bulk as disproportionately robust and, following pogrom and Holocaust, have been pushed to the sting of extinction. And it's the tale of ways a displaced humans, globally dispersed all through different international locations for two-and-a-half millennia, got here to forge a latest, secular Israeli country which many Jews think to were granted an explicitly divine mandate. Oliver Leaman conscientiously and creatively explores the character of those obvious contradictions. He discusses the origins of the Jewish Bible; recounts the heritage of the Jewish humans from the period of Patriarchs and Prophets throughout the center a long time as much as the modern period; outlines the Jewish liturgical calendar and its significant rites and modes of worship; and considers the good number of Jewish literatures (including smooth post-Holocaust writers like Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel), artwork, nutrition and tradition. extra chapters study such themes as mysticism and kabbalah; glossy Hebrew; interfaith relatives; and the hugely contested query, "Who is a Jew?".

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The accusations against the Jews were legion. A strong distinction was often made between the Bible, which, as the Old Testament, was also valued by Christians, and the commentaries that had led the Jews astray, especially the Talmud. A campaign to convert the Jews through force and disputation was waged for centuries in medieval Europe, with varying levels of success. There were many converts who were ready and able to read Hebrew and Aramaic texts, which they then sought to refute and also to censor.

The Hasmoneans were generally successful in establishing the independence of the country, and even expanding it, and no doubt took a grim satisfaction in destroying the Samaritans and their rival temple on Mount Gerizim, but their opposition to Hellenism could not be taken too far. They had Greek names and the leading culture of the day was Greek, and they certainly could not prevent people from participating in that culture. But the main institutions of the State remained thoroughly Jewish, albeit often imbued with Greek ideas and language, without returning to the priests the leading role they had previously had.

A strong distinction was often made between the Bible, which, as the Old Testament, was also valued by Christians, and the commentaries that had led the Jews astray, especially the Talmud. A campaign to convert the Jews through force and disputation was waged for centuries in medieval Europe, with varying levels of success. There were many converts who were ready and able to read Hebrew and Aramaic texts, which they then sought to refute and also to censor. Some of these converts were themselves former rabbis or at least from rabbinic families, and they turned with ferocity against their former religion and its adherents.

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