Basic Sources of the Judaeo-Christian Tradition

Basic Sources of the Judaeo-Christian Tradition

Basic Sources of the Judaeo-Christian Tradition

Basic Sources of the Judaeo-Christian Tradition

Excerpt

Today in the United States we find a bewildering variety of religious denominations among those calling themselves Christians and several distinguishable movements among the Jews. In view of this situation, can we rightly say that there is "a Judaeo-Christian tradition"? Are not the differences between many of these groups so decisive that it is more accurate to speak of a number of historically related, and perhaps overlapping, traditions?

This is in part a problem of definition, and it is characteristic of such a problem that equally well-informed persons may decide to use their terminology differently. Our purpose in this book is not to settle such questions for the reader but to set forth, within the inevitable limitations of space, some of the most important source materials relevant to an understanding of the religious heritage of the West. In spite of the diversity of religious groups among Christians and Jews, there are certain fundamental reasons for bringing together in one book of readings all of the movements represented in the following pages. There is the fact that all of these groups have, according to their own interpretations, a common origin: the covenant between God (Yahweh) and His people, a record of which is to be found in the Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament). In addition, there is the fact that each of these groups, in greater or lesser measure, has vitally affected the ideas and institutions of Western civilization. Whether their similarities or their differences be emphasized, all of these groups offer for our consideration an understanding of life's meaning and purpose rooted in religious faith, and for all of them it is a faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In this respect they all stand in sharp contrast to the secular ideologies of modern times.

The Problem of Historical Context.

The development of religious institutions and ideas takes place within, and reflects, the history of culture generally. Thus, in an intro-

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