The wide range of philosophical and theological writings that analyze Judaism from a conceptual point of view account for what we call Jewish thought. As such, Jewish thought is not a single continuous tradition, but rather a varied mix of works, which reflect the specific ideological and historical positions of those who wrote them.
As scholars have often noted, the systematic analysis of ideas is foreign to biblical and rabbinic Judaism. Theological ideas can be deduced from the Bible, but they are rarely stated explicitly and unambiguously. Even monotheism, perhaps the most significant of all Jewish theological claims, is not clear-cut in the Bible. Many scholars believe that the biblical worldview reflects, in many places, a perspective that is fundamentally monolatrous (that is, it endorses allegiance to one specific God among many) rather than monotheistic.
Some later biblical books--Job, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs--which are categorized as Wisdom Literature, because of the advice and insight they give about daily living, do deal more explicitly with intellectual and conceptual themes. But even in these books, the ideas are--more often than not--imparted in an anecdotal or aphoristic way, not through reason and argumentation.
The Middle Ages was the golden era of Jewish philosophy. In Spain, Jewish thinkers embraced the rational thought of the classical Greek philosophers and began to systematically analyze the Jewish religion. Thinkers such as Saadiah Gaon and Maimonides tried to reconcile the claims of reason and revelation.
Did you like this article? MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.