Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers

Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers

Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers

Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers

Synopsis

This panoramic survey provides a first point of entry into the fascinating richness and complexity of the Jewish philosophical, theological and Kabbalistic tradition. Beginning in the first century with the Hellenistic philosopher Philo, Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers traces the major intellectual events of the last two thousand years, including the growth of Medieval Jewish philosophy, the early modern mystics, the radicals, the Hasidic leaders, the Enlightenment and secular and religious Zionism. From Maimonides to Martin Buber, and from Baruch Spinoza to Elie Wiesel, this volume carries the standard found in Fifty Key Contemporary Thinkers (Routledge, 1994) and is ideally suited for anyone interested in Jewish thought or history.

Excerpt

For more than twenty years I have taught courses dealing with the history of Jewish thought at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England. During this time I have frequently directed students to such multi-volume encyclopedias of Judaism as the Jewish Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Judaica. These vast repositories of material provide a wealth of information about key thinkers in the history of the Jewish faith. Nonetheless, very often students find these works overwhelming as well as difficult to gain access to if they are much in demand in the library.

Aware of these difficulties, I suggested they look at a number of single-volume encyclopedias and dictionaries as well as specialized monographs dealing with Jewish thought. Many of these works, however, failed to meet their needs: they were either far too brief or overly detailed. Increasingly I came to see that what was needed was a single-volume survey of major Jewish thinkers. Such a handy reference book would not take the place of either multi-volume reference works or studies of individual thinkers; rather, it could serve as a first point of entry into the fascinating world of Jewish thought.

This book, Fifty Key Jewish Thinkers, was thus designed to fill a gap in the types of introductory books available to students as well as to teachers and more general readers. Inevitably such an overview of Jewish thought must be highly selective, and many important figures have been omitted. Yet, the aim of this survey is to introduce readers to some of the most important thinkers in the history of Judaism from post-biblical times to the present day. My intention has been to provide the type of general information most commonly sought by students who wish to explore the richness of Jewish philosophical, theological and mystical reflection as it developed through the centuries.

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