Jewish Faith and Modern Science: On the Death and Rebirth of Jewish Philosophy by Norbert Samuelson


I’ve been meaning to get my review done on my professor’s book, Jewish Faith and Modern Science: On the Death and Rebirth of Jewish Philosophy for some time now. I’m afraid I won’t be able to offer much to the discussion that he raises up since I am not a Jew but I think the issues he raises are relevant and should be considered by all. He tackles topics such as how an ancient faith like Judaism can live with the growing number of scientific materialists. What is death? What is human anthropology? What do the traditions of the Jewish faith have to say? Etc.

He brings up roles that we seriously need to reconsider such as how it is typical in our secular world today to treat one’s spouse as a play-mate. Another interesting point he brings up is how poor Biblical scholarship has become when it comes to attempting to explain why the Hebrew Bible is so erroneous historically. He seriously challenges the argument that the Bible is a pious fraud by pointing out how if it is a fraud it can’t be pious and how if it is pious, then it would be idolatry if it was a fraud.

How to understand Genesis 1 and traditional interpretations on Genesis 1 are brought up specifically. You learn about how Jews traditionally understand Adam and Eve as originally being one androgynous human being. Christians and Jews vary in this understanding.

From a perspective that hasn’t had much to do with Jewish mysticism, I must say that I was surprised at how much the book came out favoring a materialistic and reductionistic approach to God while getting Judaism to re-think science. I don’t have much expertise in Jewish mysticism so I can’t state that this is what all Jews agree on but it does seem as if my professor is trying to re-create his own idea of what God is. He favors the process theological thinkers such as Alfred North Whitehead. He argues that God is not entirely omniscient. His arguments would definitely be considered as postulating at the very least a very weak God.

Another problematic point of his book is his critique of the Rabbis. I think if I were a Jew writing this, I would definitely vent hostile criticism toward the way secular scholars think they have much more knowledge than the Rabbis that gave them the Bible in the first place. I think the solution is to focus more on mystical aspects of the faith as opposed to trying to completely sell-out the faith but for the Jew, the traditions seem to support a mystical approach so I can’t take much offense to that.

His criticisms of mdoern day scientists are fair and true. They do usually hold to completely a materialistic faith. But I think getting too caught up on intelligent design and Michael Behe as my professor does is a drastic mistake to any mystical aspects of the faith.

It’s a good read if you’re interested in what the Jewish tradition is all about but there are areas of philosophical improvement. I don’t think too many atheists will take it seriously but Judaism isn’t an evangelical faith in the first place and it’s written for Jews, not for non-Jews.

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About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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