Encyclopaedia of Judaism

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Subject: Jewish Studies

General Editors: Jacob Neusner, Alan J. Avery-Peck and William Scott Green

The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers more than 200 entries comprising more than 1,000,000 words and is a unique reference tool.  The Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online offers an authoritative, comprehensive, and systematic presentation of the current state of scholarship on fundamental issues of Judaism, both past and present. While heavy emphasis is placed on the classical literature of Judaism and its history, the Encyclopaedia of Judaism Online also includes principal entries on circumcision, genetic engineering, homosexuality, intermarriage in American Judaism, and other acutely contemporary issues. Comprehensive and up-to-date, it reflects the highest standards in scholarship. Covering a tradition of nearly four thousand years, some of the most distinguished scholars in the field describe the way of life, history, art, theology, philosophy, and the practices and beliefs of the Jewish people.

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Altruism in Judaism

(5,869 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
A rough and ready definition of altruism permits us to begin with concrete data. That definition is simple: altruism is unselfish, unrewarded behavior that benefits others at a cost to oneself. While we find in the Rabbinic canon of the formative age stories that qualify, in general Judaism does not provide for altruistic behavior, although it makes ample provision for unselfish and sacrificial conduct in behalf of others. First, it is difficult to imagine that a critical position for altruism w…

Ancient Judaisms—Modern Syntheses

(4,485 words)

Author(s): Strange, James Riley
Every scholar of ancient Judaism has to deal with the many “Judaisms” that existed in antiquity. That is because during its formative period, the first seven centuries c.e., no unified monolithic religion called “Judaism” flourished in Palestine, Babylonia, Alexandria, and other places in the Roman Empire. Rather, the texts from these centuries give evidence of many different Judaic religious systems, each of which saw itself and none other as Israel and claimed that it and none other kept Torah in the way that God intend…

Anti-Gnostic Polemics in Rabbinic Literature

(5,834 words)

Author(s): Salkin, Jeffrey K.
In some ways, the world of the early Common Era was very similar to our own. It was an open marketplace of religions and ideas; as author Keith Hopkins playfully put it in his book of the same name, it was “a world full of gods.” During those centuries, rabbinic Judaism was struggling for its own self-definition and fighting for its very survival. The Jewish diversity of that period is legendary; one source surmises that there were twenty-four versions of heresy in Palestine before 70 C.E. (Y. S…