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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Judaism, Reformed

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also called progressive or modern Judaism, is the Jewish religion as reformed in the 19th century in Germany, Austria, America, and in some congregations of France and England. The places of worship are called temples, distinguished from other Jewish synagogues by choir, organ, regular sermons, and part of the liturgy in the vernacular of the country, and in America also by family pews. The ministers of these temples are rabbis who have attained proficiency in Hebrew lore, and are graduates of colleges or universities; or preachers by the choice of the congregation, who are mostly autodidactic students; and cantors, capable of reading the divine service and leading the choir. In some congregations the offices of preacher and cantor are united in one person. Large congregations are conducted by the ordained rabbi and the cantor: the former is the expounder of the law, and the latter presides over the worship, and is also called Hazan, or Reader (q.v.). Every congregation elects secular officers to conduct the temporal affairs. The ministers are elected by the congregation for a stated period. A school for instruction in religion, Hebrew, and Jewish history is attached to every temple. Like all other Jews, the reformed also are unitarian in theology, and acknowledge the Old Testament Scriptures as the divine source of law and doctrine, but reject the additional authority of the Talmud, in place of which they appeal to reason and conscience as the highest authority in expounding the Scriptures. They believe in the immortality of the soul, future reward and punishment, the perfectibility of human nature, the final and universal triumph of truth and righteousness. They reject the belief in the coming of a Messiah; the gathering of the Hebrew people to Palestine to form a separate government, and to restore the ancient polity of animal sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood; the resurrection of the body and the last judgment day; and the authority of the Talmud above any other collection of commentaries to the Bible. All these doctrines are expressed in their prayer books and catechisms. Their hermeneutics is rationalistic. They reject the evidence of miracles, relying exclusively upon the internal evidence of the Scriptures, and the common consent of all civilized nations to the divinity of the scriptural laws and doctrines. Except in the case of Moses, of whom the Scriptures testify, "Mouth to mouth I speak unto him," the appearance and speaking of angels, as also the appearance and speaking of God, were subjective, in the vision, waking or dreaming, appearing objectively to the prophet, which was not the case in reality. In this respect they follow the guide of Moses Maimonides. (See PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGICAL, OF THE JEWS).

In respect to doctrine, they hold that all religious doctrines must be taken from the Bible, and must be in harmony with the loftiest and purest conceptions of the Deity and humanity suggested by the Scriptures, and confirmed by reason and conscience. In respect to law, they hold that all laws contained in the Decalogue, expressed or implied, are obligatory forever, both in letter or spirit. All laws not contained in the Decalogue, expressed or implied, are local and temporal (although the principle expressed by some may be eternal) and could have been intended for certain times and localities only. These theories of Judaism were developed by various Jewish authors between the years 1000 and 1500; partly they are also in the ancient Rabbinical literature, but were dropped after 1500, and taken up again by the disciples and successors of Moses Mendelssohn toward the close of the last century, and gradually developed to the present system. (I.M.W.) From a few late articles in the Israelite (Nov. 1871), by the distinguished writer of the above article on Reformed Judaism, we learn that he regards as the first reformer in the camp of Judaism the celebrated gaon Saadia (q.v.) ben-Joseph, of Fayum, who flourished in the first half of the 10th century"; as the second, the famous body physician of the caliph of Cairo, Rambam, "the classical Moses Maimonides." Of perhaps minor influence, but also as active in the field of reform, he introduces us next to Bechai ben-Joseph, of Saragossa, and Ibn-Gebirol (q.v.), of Malaga, who flourished in the 11th century. He even counts among the reformers the celebrated French rabbi Isaac, of Troyes, better known under the surname of Rashi (q.v.); and on the side of reform or progressive Judaism are also ranked by Dr. Wise the celebrated Jewish savants Judah ha-Levy (q.v.), Aben-Ezra (q.v.), and Abraham ben-David; the celebrated author of the Emmeah Ramah (Exalted Faith), who fell a victim to fanaticism in A.D. 1180 at Toledo, in Spain, and with whom close up the two centuries that elapsed between the appearance of Saadia and Maimonides, in which days "all [Jewish] philosophy had become peripatetic," the Jewish philosophical writers of this period considering their main object "the self defense of Judaism on the one hand, and the expounding of the Bible and Talmud as rational as possible, in order to reconcile and harmonize faith and reason."

With the 13th century undoubtedly opens a new epoch in Judaism, for it is here that we encounter the great Jewish master mind Moses Maimonides, of whom it has been truly said that "from Moses [the lawgiver] to Moses [Mendelssohn] there was none like Moses [Maimonides]." Since the days of Ezra, no man has exerted so deep, universal, and lasting an influence on Jews and Judaism as this man, and we need not wonder that Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed Jews alike lay claim to this master mind; but it must be confessed that, after all, he really belongs to the Progressive Jews only. It is true the creed drawn up by the second Moses is now the possession of all Jews, and the Orthodox cling to it with even more tenacity than the Conservatives and the Reformed, but his theologico- philosophical works gained authority mainly among the Reformed thinkers of the Judaistic faith. After that date, of course, Jewish literature abounds with names whose productions betray a rationalistic tendency, for "all Jewish thinkers up to date, Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and the writers of the 19th century included, are more or less the disciples of Maimonides, so that no Jewish theologico-philosophical book, from and after 1200, can be picked up in which the ideas of Maimonides do not form a prominent part." In our own days the Reform movement first became very prominent. In Germany, where Judaism has always been strong on account of the high literary attainments of the German Jews, the separation between the Orthodox and Reformed, and the establishment of independent Reformed congregations first originated, and the celebrated Holdheim (q.v.) was among the first as pastor of a temple in 1846. Other Jewish rabbis of note, identified with the Reform movement in Germany, are Stein, of Frankfurt-on-the-Main; Einhorn, now of New York City, Deutsch, now of Baltimore, Md.; and Ritter, the successor of Holdheim, and historian of the Reform agitation. In the U. States those prominently identified with the Reform question are Drs. Adler and Gutheim, of the Fifth Avenue Temple, New York City; Mr. Ellinger, editor of the Jewish Times, New York City; Dr. Lewin, of Brooklyn, editor of the New Era; Dr. Isaac M. Wise, editor of the Israelite, etc. See Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums u. Sekten, 3, 349 sq. Gr tz, Gesch. d. Juden, 10; Ritter, Gesch. d. j d. Reformation (Berlin, 3 vols. 8vo); Geiger, Judaism and its History, Engl. trans. by M. Mayer (N.Y. 1870 8vo); Astruc (the grand rabbi of Belgium), Histoire abrege des Juifs et de leur croyance (Paris, 1869); Raphael, D. C. Lewin, What is Judaism (N.Y. 1871, 12mo); New Era, May, 1871, art. 1; Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. April, 1869; Kitto, Journ. Sac. Literature, 8; Atlantic Monthly, Oct. 1870; and the works cited in the article JEWS. (J.H.W.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Judaism, Reformed'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/judaism-reformed.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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