Selected Topics from: S. Schechter, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology
Use of "Aspects" in the title:
Implies that rabbinic literature is not theological or systmatic, and does not constitute a full theology.
Response to Christian stereotypes of rabbinic Judaism:
Use of Mishnah as paradigm of rabbinic "legalism"
- Mishnah is largely devoted to ethical questions (e.g., civil and criminal law)
- Contains moral and theological compoment (Tractate Avot)
- Aggadah was also produced by the same rabbis who appear in the Mishnah
Importance of Liturgy as expression of rabbinic values and beliefs
Text is controlled by community, "orthodox".
Talmudic discussion are often freer and non-normative.
Methodological problems with using rabbinic sources
Earlier traditions are filtered through later compilations, sometimes altering their original meanings.
Problematic status of Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha
Not part of rabbinic corpus, though often given disproportionate weignt by Christian theologians as evidence of rabbinic belief.
Examples of questions about which the rabbinic attitude is ambivalent:
- Debate over whether it would have been better if humans had or had not been created.
The Talmud cannot be equated with Jewish religion or with Judaism
The rabbis did not consciously formulate a theology.
The importance of the homiletical occasions of their statements.
Examples of Christian-like ideas on theological questions: