National Subsets: Israel

Moral Contours

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Historical figures

AMOS
8th century BCE
Israel
RELIGION

 

Life and teaching found in the first of the Prophet books (Nebbiim) of the Jewish scriptures (Tenak) and the Christian Old Testament. The Book of Amos is remarkable for its critique of international foreign policies and social injustice. Justice matters more than religious ritual.

Sources

http://hypertextbible.org/amos/index.htm

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Amos

 

 

DAVID
1037 - 967 BCE
Judah, Israel
RELIGION

King of Israel, renowned in Bible and subsequent Jewish, Christian and Muslim tradition – for prowess variously as shepherd, resistance fighter, military leader, political administrator, musician, poet and prophet. Though his historical existence is not in doubt, its details are and independent historical record is slight. For instance, for Orthodox Jews and some traditionally minded Christians, David is regarded as author of the Book of Psalms, whereas other Christians and Jews, and independent biblical scholarship, contest this. The story of David’s contriving the death of the husband of Bathsheba after seeing her bathing is a model of moral enlightenment as he hears the story of another behaving with comparably unscrupulous menace – he makes the moral judgement of himself. That a murderer is subsequently prized as religious hero is material for debate regarding the relation between religion and ethics, as also about the nature and limits of forgiveness.


Life

Writings

HOSEA
8th century BCE
Israel
RELIGION

Prophetic figure known from book of that title which forms part of the Jewish Tenak/Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament. His marriage and wife’s infidelity is presented as a parable for the constancy of God in relation with the humanity and specifically Israel. Waywardness and sinfulness exemplified by the elevation of other objects/priorities and disregard for moral obligations will receive their come-uppance, but forgiveness remains an open possibility. His appeal is as much for communal as individual response. It raises questions for moral education about conditionality in love and restitution.

Life

Writings

JEREMIAH
7th - 6th Century BCE
Israel Egypt
RELIGION

One of series of prophets who feature within the Hebrew Bible/Tenak and Old Testament, who is also revered in Islam.  He lived through the events of the Babylonian invasion, destruction of the Jerusalem temple and exile to Egypt. He was explicitly critical of contemporary sinfulness, and pointed to the emptiness of religious ritual unless matched by moral integrity of the covenant obligations between man and God. One day this would be recognised in the living conscience of every individual.

Life

Writings

JESUS
c 7/6 BCE - c30 CE
Israel/Palestine
RELIGION

 

Jesus of Nazareth is the name of the person who for Christians becomes the Christ of faith and central inspiration of the Christian churches over almost 2000 years and throughout the world – calendrically, the hinge of history. That he existed, few scholars would now doubt; however, what can be known of him biographically, except through the writings and experience of those enthused and captivated by him, is very limited. That he lived and died a faithful Jew, cannot be contested; but there were different ways of being Jewish. The covenant obligations between God and all living creatures, as with the people of Israel, were mutual and morally demanding. As with prophet predecessors, he was urgent in his criticisms of the status quo: he exposed hypocrisy, relativized the family, championed the poor and cared for the sick. Here were the ingredients for beating death. Various titles were attributed to him, rather than self ascribed; arguably each of these had its limitations, and many of them have by now ceased to resonate. If a new title were to be sought, it may be worth using that of ‘fully evolved human’ or more colloquially 'the Main Man'. This corresponds with the theological claims that are made of him; at the same time it asks questions as to what constitutes true humanity.

Life

Writings

PAUL
c.10 - 65
ISRAEL
RELIGION

By birth and education Jewish (Saul), but converting to a Christian (Paul) version of this faith. He sets this out both episodically and systematically in letters now contained in the New Testament, the earliest of which date from less than 20 years after the death of Jesus. The later biographical account of his life, travels and teaching is contained in the NT Acts of the Apostles. It is difficult to overestimate his significance for the emergence of Christianity as a religious tradition in its own right, wherein the calling, responsibilities and future promise as previously a Jewish preserve, maintained by maternal birthright and circumcision, are held open to non-Jews/Gentiles. Notions of love, conscience and mutual obligation are central to his thinking, and the impending judgement of God exposes injustice and the existing inadequacies of contemporary social order including inequalities and slavery. Paul has continued to be a contentious figure over 2000 years, inspiring to some, dangerously misleading to others. No view is more strange than that of the group which sees Vladimir Putin as his reincarnation.

SOLOMON
c 986 - 930 BCE
Israel
POLITICS, RELIGION

 

Renowned in both Jewish and Muslim traditions for his wisdom. According to biblical accounts he reigned as Israelite king for 40 years, with an impressive record as a builder of cities as well as a new temple in Jerusalem, and adept in forging international links. The strength of his links with Egypt is reflected in  Pharoah’s daughter being listed as one of his many wives, but some scholars claim that there is historical corroboration of the commonalities of wisdom traditions and civil service routines between the two locations. Other scholars are more sceptical and assert that fictional backward projection from over 200 years later is at work. However, there is no doubting the existence and strength of the range of literature comprising ancient near eastern Wisdom tradition of moral guidance and judgement. Subsequent writings in his name abound, but none from his lifetime or by him exist.

Current expertise

Bar-Ilan University, Israel
Contact Information:

Relevant organisations

Joseph Tanenbaum Center for Combating Religious Prejudice
Israel
Yad Vashem
Israel

World Centre for Holocaust research,education,documentation and commemoration ?extensive education and learning materials

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