Jewish Theology Systematically and Historically Considered (1918) [Chapter 5]

[Articles in the Summed Up series are intended to be summaries of chapters of selected theological books. The author(s) will be quoted verbatim for the purposes of ensuring accurate representation]

Man’s Consciousness of God and Belief
in God

(pp.29-33)

A) About the author of the chapter:

Kaufman Kohler “… was educated at the Universities of Munich, Berlin and Leipzig, (1865-69), and received the degree of Ph.D. from the University of Erlangen in 1868.” [1]

“Feb. 26, 1903, he was elected to the presidency of Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati.” [2]

[1] https://www.jta.org/1926/01/29/archive/dr-kaufmann-kohler-president-emeritus-of-hebrew-union-college-dies

[2] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9419-kohler-kaufmann

B) Chapter Summary:

“Holy Writ employs two terms for religion, both of which lay stress upon its moral and spiritual nature: Yirath Elohim—“fear of God”—and Daath Elohim—“knowledge or consciousness of God.”1

“… in the Biblical and Rabbinical conceptions [fear of God] exercises a wholesome moral effect; it stirs up the conscience and keeps man from wrongdoing.”2

See Exodus 20:20

“God-consciousness, or “knowledge of God,” signifies an inner experience which impels man to practice the right and to shun evil, the recognition of God as the moral power of life”3

See Hosea 4:1, 6; Jeremiah 9:23

“Wherever Scripture speaks of “knowledge of God,” it always means the moral and spiritual recognition of the Deity as life’s inmost power, determining human conduct, and by no means refers to mere intellectual perception of the truth of Jewish monotheism, which is to refute the diverse forms of polytheism. This misconception of the term “knowledge of God,” as used in the Bible, led the leading medieval thinkers of Judaism, especially the school of Maimonides, and even down to Mendelssohn, into the error of confusing religion and philosophy, as if both resulted from pure reason. It is man’s moral nature rather than his intellectual capacity, that leads him “to know God and walk in His ways.”4

“It is mainly through the conscience that man becomes conscious of God. He sees himself, a moral being, guided by motives which lend a purpose to his acts and his omissions, and thus feels that this purpose of his must somehow be in accord with a higher purpose, that of a Power who directs and controls the whole of life.”5

“The object of revelation … is to lead back all mankind to the God whom it had deserted, and to restore to all men their primal consciousness of God, with its power of moral regeneration.”6

“In the same degree as this God-consciousness grows stronger, it crystallizes into belief in God, and culminates in love of God.”7

“The highest triumph of God-consciousness, however, is attained in love of God such as can renounce cheerfully all the boons of life and undergo the bitterest woe without a murmur.”8

See Deuteronomy 6:5

“… throughout all Rabbinical literature love of God is regarded as the highest principle of religion and as the ideal of human perfection, which was exemplified by Job, according to the oldest Haggadah, and, according to the Mishnah, by Abraham”9

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