Jewish Thinkers & Thought 101

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Throughout history, Jewish thinkers have developed their theologies in dialogue with the cultures around them. From Philo's integration of Platonism and Judaism in the first century to Martin Buber's twentieth-century Jewish existentialism, Jewish thinkers have been influenced by trends in Christian, Muslim, and secular philosophy.

Doctrine & Dogma

In the Middle Ages, several Jewish thinkers composed lists of Judaism's dogmas, or official beliefs. The most famous such list is Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Faith. According to Maimonides, a major 12th-century Jewish philosopher and legal scholar, belief in these creeds--which includes the existence of God, the reality of prophecy, and the eventual messianic redemption--was necessary in order to be a member of the Jewish community and gain a share in the World to Come.

Some modern scholars believe that dogma is anathema to rabbinic Judaism and that this medieval enterprise of creedal formulation was a corruption of Judaism. These scholars highlight the lack of biblical and rabbinic creeds and the traditional focus on correct action, orthopraxis, as oppose to correct thinking, orthodoxy.

However, many traditional Jews continue to affirm the importance of dogma, and some scholars suggest that it is not, in fact, foreign to Judaism. These scholars point to a selection from the Talmud that denies a share in the World to Come to those who do not believe in resurrection or the divine source of the Torah as an example of rabbinic orthodoxy.

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