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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Apocalyptic Judaism

(12,234 words)

Author(s): Nickelsburg, George W.E.
An expression of ancient Jewish religion, known to us from pseudonymous writings whose authors, seeking to assert the authority of these writings, make the explicit claim that they transmit the revelation of hidden things granted to distinguished figures of the past. The revelations concern, variously, the structure and progression of history, the nature of the cosmos, and the interpretation of divine law, and they take the form of (symbolic) dreams and visions and their interpretation, journeys…

Aramaic in Judaism, The History of

(7,411 words)

Author(s): Flesher, Paul V.M.
The language of Aramaic first became important to Jews during the Assyrian period. From the eighth century b.c.e., to the fall of the Persian Empire, in the fourth century, Aramaic was the language of three empires that dominated the greater Mesopotamian world, namely, Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. For those four-hundred years, the fortunes of Israel and Judah/Judea were firmly under the control of those empires. Aramaic became so within Judaism during this time that even after Greek became the language of gov…

Art and Material Culture of Judaism—Medieval through Modern Times

(8,520 words)

Author(s): Mann, Vivian B.
1While works of Jewish ceremonial art fulfill functions mandated by Judaism's obligatory ritual practices, their forms and decoration often are drawn from those of the surrounding cultures in which Jewish communities have lived. As a result, although the function of a ceremonial object made in a particular cultural area will be identical to one created within another culture, and while they may share a common vocabulary of symbols, their shape, techniques, and decorative motifs will differ. Ther…

Art and Symbol in Judaism

(6,333 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Most synagogues built from the third to the seventh century c.e., both in the land of Israel and abroad, had decorated floors or walls. Some iconic symbols out of the religious life of Judaism or of Greco-Roman piety occur nearly everywhere. Other symbols, available, for example, from the repertoire of items mentioned in Scripture, or from the Greco-Roman world, never make an appearance at all. We find representations of the following symbols of Judaic origin: shofar (ram's horn, for the New Year), a lula…

Astral Israel

(8,126 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
In the systematic theology of Rabbinic Judaism, the stars do not govern Israel, only God does. Challenging astrology placed sages in opposition to the science of their day, which took for granted that the positions of the stars dictated events on earth. Sages could not dismiss such established science, any more than their contemporary continuators can plausibly reject the laws of gravity or Copernican astronomy. But sages took up a distinctive position on astrology, one consistent with their the…

Astrology and Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought

(5,437 words)

Author(s): Schwartz, Dov
Astral magic was a type of sorcery popular among Jewish intellectuals beginning in the early twelfth century. Its basic idea was that humans are capable of harnessing the celestial bodies for their use and benefit. The stars and the constellations produce a constant stream of influence or emanation, known as spirituality ( ruhaniyyat in the original Arabic), and they are a source of powerful forces. The nature of the emanation and the qualities of the forces depend on the heavenly bodies from which they derive and on their location in the heavens…

Astrology in Ancient Judaism

(4,330 words)

Author(s): Ilan, Meir Bar
Unlike astronomy, the history of astrology was ignored by the early critical study of Judaism, the Wissenschaft des Judentum. In the nineteenth century, when astrology had already been condemned for centuries, the history of Jewish astrology seemed to be irrelevant, if not worse. In a time of enlightenment, there was a place for the history of the Jews as scientists, philosophers, or doctors, but not as people who dealt with the occult (astrology then being considered a branch of that area). In …

Astronomy in Ancient Judaism

(5,707 words)

Author(s): Ilan, Meir Bar
In antiquity, astronomy was not only a kind of applied mathematics but rather a way of knowing God, science, and religion. When God is depicted as counting the stars and giving them names (Ps. 147:4; Is. 40:26), it is apparent that any believer in God who practices astronomy works together with God while imitating him, imitatio Dei, as the ultimate religious practice. Astronomy While the Bible. has a fair amount to say about medicine, astronomy is rarely mentioned. The idea that there were “rules of Heaven” (Jer. 33:25; Job 38:33) does not say much about th…

Augustine and Judaism

(9,208 words)

Author(s): Neusner, Jacob
Augustine of Hippo's life, in North Africa and Italy (354–430) coincided with the period in which, to the east, the Rabbinic sages of the land of Israel produced the Talmud of the Land of Israel in amplification of the Mishnah as well as their Midrash-compilations in extension of Moses's books of Genesis and Leviticus, ca. 400–500. (310) But he comes to mind, for comparison and contrast with Rabbinic Judaism, not merely because of temporal coincidence. Rather, the reason is that, like the sages of Judaism, he confronted a compa…

Australia, Practice of Judaism in

(9,565 words)

Author(s): Crown, Alan D.
The practice of Judaism in Australia is a reflex both of the demography of the Jewish community and the “tyranny of distance;” that is the distance from Europe and the centers of Jewish culture that make for Australia's being Jewishly independent while formerly being under the nominal authority of the Chief Rabbinate of the now defunct British Empire. As an outpost of British civilization, Protestant in religious outlook, the white settlers from the very first tried to recreate a little Britain …