"You shall have no other gods besides Me." This injunction, handed down through Moses three thousand years ago, marks one of the most decisive shifts in Western culture: away from polytheism toward monotheism. Despite the momentous implications of such a turn, the role of idolatry in giving it direction and impetus is little understood. This book examines the meaning and n"You shall have no other gods besides Me." This injunction, handed down through Moses three thousand years ago, marks one of the most decisive shifts in Western culture: away from polytheism toward monotheism. Despite the momentous implications of such a turn, the role of idolatry in giving it direction and impetus is little understood. This book examines the meaning and nature of idolatry--and, in doing so, reveals much about the monotheistic tradition that defines itself against this sin. The authors consider Christianity and Islam, but focus primarily on Judaism. They explore competing claims about the concept of idolatry that emerges in the Hebrew Bible as a "whoring after false gods." Does such a description, grounded in an analogy of sexual relations, presuppose the actual existence of other gods with whom someone might sin? Or are false gods the product of "men's hands," simply a matter of misguided belief? The authors show how this debate, over idolatry as practice or error, has taken shape and has in turn shaped the course of Western thought--from the differentiation between Jewish and Christian conceptions of God to the distinctions between true and false belief that inform the tradition of religious enlightenment. Ranging with authority from the Talmud to Maimonides, from Marx to Nietzsche and on to G.E. Moore, this brilliant account of a subject central to our culture also has much to say about metaphor, myth, and the application of philosophical analysis to religious concepts and sensibilities. Its insights into pluralism and intolerance, into the logic and illogic of the arguments religions aim at each other, make Idolatry especially timely and valuable in these days of dark and implacable religious difference....
|Number of Pages||:||312 Pages|
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Ugh, I forgot how impenetrable academic biblical exegesis is. Too brilliant to be readable.EDIT AS OF 2017: But if you need an academic explanation of idolatry through a Judeo-Christian lense for a paper, damn, this is the best book for it.
The book begins by focusing on the most common Biblical version of idolatry: a betrayal of the true God for another god, much like an adulterous wife's betrayal of her husband. This conception of idolatry made sense at a time when paganism dominated the world, and is perfectly consistent with monolatry (the idea that other gods exist but Jews must not worship them).But this conception of idolatry made less sense to medieval rationalist thinkers who conceived of God in more impersonal ways or who had little first-hand experience of polytheism. For example, Maimonides saw idolatry as an intellectual error- people treated God's creations as identical to God, or imagined deities to be like themselves in some respect.The Jewish mystical tradition and its critics have a third conception of idolatry. The mystics, unlike rationalists, found it easy to conceive of supernatural forces below God, or multiple aspects of God. To fight charges of idolatry, the more moderate mystics tried to distinguish between worship of God (not idolatrous) and worship of individual aspects of God (idolatrous).A fourth conception of idolatry was a response to coercion and assimilation: the Talmudic sages focused less on the concept of idolatry than on creating legal rules designed to draw the distinction between permissible behavior, idolatry, and behavior that was not idolatrous but still impermissible (for example, coerced worship which combined seemingly idolatrous acts with the lack of intent to honor Jesus or a pagan deity).At the end, the authors focus on a conception of idolatry with more modern relevance, involving too much obedience to either a political leader or some other force. Here, the authors have more questions than answers. To what extent does honor cross the line into idolatry? This question has been debated for millenia, as the authors show.
Idolatry by Moshe Halbertal (1998)