Dissertation on Louis Jacobs

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Anyone who has spent time on MyJewishLearning.com knows that we have a lot of articles by the late Rabbi Louis Jacobs.

Jacobs.jpg And in 2006, when Rabbi Jacobs died, Matt Plen wrote an article for us about this great figure of British Jewry.

Rabbi Jacobs, who was originally the leader of an Orthodox congregation, is perhaps best remembered for his public acceptance of the findings of modern biblical scholarship — and the theological ramifications of these findings.

Jacobs re-interpreted the idea of Torah min hashamayim–“Torah from Heaven”–using the analogy of recorded music. Despite the distortion inevitably imparted by the medium, when listening to a record, we can still clearly hear the voice of the artist. So too, “we hear the authentic voice of God speaking to us through the pages of the Bible…and its truth is in no way affected in that we can only hear that voice through the medium of human beings who, hearing it for the first time, endeavoured to record it for us.”

To Jacobs, this approach–which he later termed “halachic non-fundamentalism”–made it possible for modern Jews to remain committed to the tradition and to religious observance without sacrificing their intellectually honesty. (MORE)

Thanks to the Michtavim blog for highlighting new scholarship on Rabbi Jacobs.

Elliot Cosgrove, “Teyku: The Insoluble Contradictions in the Life and Thought of Louis Jacobs,” (PhD dissertation, University of Chicago, 2008) is the first complete intellectual biography of Rabbi Louis Jacobs of London — who passed away in 2006, and whose yahrzeit is this evening/tomorrow, 5 Tammuz — and the author extensively interviewed Jacobs, mined all of Jacobs’ published/unpublished writings, private journals and correspondences (along with those of the other protagonists mentioned in the dissertation), and contextualized his life within many of the celebrated twentieth century Anglo-Jewish controversies. (MORE)

Posted on July 8, 2008

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