Christianity in Jewish Terms

By Tikva Frymer-Kensky; David Novak et al. | Go to book overview

day]" ( 1 Kgs. 8:27-28). He thus explained the purpose of his intention in the building of the temple, which was that He might heed the prayer and supplication. For this reason he said, "O Lord my God." . . . Therefore, regarding he who has knowledge to intend in his prayer . . . so that God, blessed be He, will turn to listen to the prayer and supplication, it is as if the temple were built in his day. 61

The mystical secret of the sanctuary (sod ha-mikdash) is connected to the secret of knowledge (sod ha-de'ah), for he who has the proper knowledge of the divine names can have the correct intention so that his prayers will be heard. Since the ultimate purpose of the temple was that God might heed the prayers of Israel, it follows that, in the absence of the temple, the one who has the proper intention fulfills the task of building the temple in his time.


Conclusion

In the history of Judaism, unlike Christianity, belief in incarnation never attained the status of dogma. On the contrary, in rabbinic texts there are clear polemical statements rejecting the Christological doctrine, and in medieval philosophical literature one of the recurring tenets viewed as basic to Judaism was the claim that God is not a body. However, in rabbinic Judaism of the formative and medieval periods, based on biblical precedent, an anthropomorphic conception of God is affirmed. These anthropomorphic characterizations are not to be taken simply as figurative or metaphorical. Underlying the rhetoric of representation is the eidetic presumption that God can be experienced in a tangible and concrete manner. Prayer and study, according to the rabbis, are key ways that God is so experienced. Proper intentionality in these two acts of piety is predicated on the iconic visualization of the divine within the imagination. In the physical space circumscribed by words of prayer and study, the imaginal body of God assumes incarnate form. This is the intent of the statement attributed to R. Abbahu, "'Seek the Lord while He can be found' ( Is. 55:6). Where is He found? In the houses of worship and the houses of study." 62 The rabbinic notion of incarnation embraces the paradox that God's body is real only to the extent that it is imagined, but it is imagined only to the extent that it is real.

The conception of God's imaginal body evident in different phases of Jewish thought can contribute significantly to Christian reflection on

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