Fellowship in Judaism: The First Century and Today

Fellowship in Judaism: The First Century and Today

Fellowship in Judaism: The First Century and Today

Fellowship in Judaism: The First Century and Today

Excerpt

I judge there to be at least three ways of appreciating this excellent book. First, and most obviously, it is a study in religious history. What Dr. Neusner has to say about the role of the religious fellowship in first-century Pharisaic Judaism is fruitful and clarifying to those primarily interested in the history of Judaism. Resting on the primary sources and steeped in the scholarship of the subject, Dr. Neusner's book is a valuable addition to the literature of religious history.

But the book is more than religious history. It is a perceptive essay in religious sociology, one that falls in the great tradition of such men as Max Weber and Troeltsch. The detailed analysis we are given of the two varieties of religious fellowship is as instructive to those concerned with the problem of community and association as it is to religious historians. It would be hard to improve upon Dr. Neusner's sociological treatment of the voluntary association--its conditions of rise and survival, and its relation to the surrounding moral and institutional order.

Finally, the book should be regarded as a profound essay in meaning for our own time. To follow Dr. Neusner in his portrayal of first-century Judaism is to note at every turn implicit analogy with our own age. We too find ourselves living in what Dr. Neusner calls a crisis of community. Ours is a crisis compounded of many of the same elements that existed in the earlier age--social dislocation, alienation, and the struggle for identity and meaning. And because the crisis today is analogous to that of the first century, few will doubt, I believe, that the role of fellowship has comparable significance in the two ages. As Dr. Neusner is careful to remind us, fellowship will not save the world, nor even probably make a substantial difference to the Jewish community. But to the . . .

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