James A. Diamond
discusses his new book, Jewish Theology Unbound
(Oxford University Press, 2018), with Rachel Adelman. This book challenges the widespread caricature of Judaism as a religion of law as opposed to theology. Broad swaths of rabbinic literature involve not just law but what could be best described as philosophical theology as well. Judaism has never been a dogmatic religion, insisting on a monolithic theology rooted in a uniform metaphysics that would exclude all others. The book engages in close readings of the Bible, classical rabbinic texts, Jewish philosophers, and mystics from the ancient, to the medieval, to the modern period, which communicate a profound Jewish philosophical theology on human nature, God, and the relationship between the two.
It begins with an examination of questioning in the Hebrew Bible, demonstrating that what the Bible encourages is independent philosophical inquiry into how to situate oneself in the world ethically, spiritually, and teleologically. It then explores such themes as the nature of God through the various names by which God is known in the Jewish intellectual tradition, love of others and of God, death, martyrdom, freedom, angels, the philosophical quest, the Holocaust, and the State of Israel, all in light of the Hebrew Bible and the way it is filtered through the rabbinic, philosophical, and mystical traditions. For all intents and purposes the Torah no longer originates in heaven, but flows upstream, so to speak, from the earth, propelled by the interpretive genius of human beings.
Professor James Diamond James A. Diamond holds the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo, Canada. He completed his doctorate in Medieval Jewish Thought ay the University of Toronto and became the international director of the Friedberg Genizah Project He has written extensively on Maimonides (the Rambam).
Rachel Adelman is Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible at Hebrew College in Boston.