Aviva Directory » Faith & Spirituality » World Religions » Abrahamic Religions » Judaism » Apologetics

Apologetics in Judaism refers to the theological endeavor to defend Jews, their religion, and their culture against adverse criticism.

The history of Jewish apologetics is closely related to the relationships between the Jewish people and the Gentiles throughout history, employed in response to the pagans around them, and later to the challenges presented them by the rise of Christianity and Islam.

In theological terms, Jewish apologetics offers an accounting of the foundational elements of Judaism, and provides a systematic way for that doctrine to be understood by the outside world. It is the methodical and theoretical exposition of Judaism.

Apologetics in Judaism is the discipline of defending Jewish religious doctrines using systematic argumentation and discourse. Jewish apologetics literature, in print or online, endeavors to defend against criticism and direct attacks from those outside of Judaism. Jewish apologetic literature is constructed so as to prove to the Gentiles the virtues of Judaism and influencing their attitudes toward the religion of the Jewish people.

There is a long history of Jewish apologetics after the destruction of the Second Temple (Beit HaMikdash HaSheni) and the expulsion of the Jews from Israel (Eretz Yisrael). Jewish-Hellenistic literature produced during this period largely interpreted Judaism allegorically, demonstrating that it incorporates the best of the systems of the Greek philosophers and that the Jewish people pioneered the "intellectual and material basis of universal civilization."

Writing during this time, Josephus gave a defense of the Jews who refused to participate in the local cults of the regions in which they lived, and emphasized the humane character of the Torah toward proselytes and Gentiles., which was a refutation of charges that these injunctions illustrated pride, scorn, and hatred of mankind.

The rise and spread of Christianity brought about another set of issues to Judaism. Maintaining their positions in understanding the Tanakh, Jewish scholars insisted that there were answers to Christian interpretations. Wherever a passage from Scripture is given a Christological interpretation by Christian scholars, the Talmud provides an anti-Christological exegesis of the continuation of the text.

Another function of Jewish apologetics, in respect to Christianity, is designed to help Jewish people know what to do when confronted by a Christian missionary.

Islam has received far less attention from Jewish apologists. In large part, this may be due to the fact that Muslims asset that the Tanakh is corrupted, leaving the less common ground on which apologetics could be based. Thus, Jewish literature regarding Islam tends to focus on derogatory allusions to Muhammad and his actions, as well as the attitudes toward Judaism in the Quran, rather than on persuading Muslims to accept the precepts of Judaism.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, they have had to deal with individual, religious, and state-sponsored antisemitism. With the weakening of religious powers in the West during the 18th century, religious grounds for antisemitism were replaced by economic, social, and national arguments against the Jewish people. Jewish apologists were tasked with proving that the Jews were a positive element from an economic standpoint, that any social faults were the result of the economic positions into which they were forced by medieval laws, and that the Jewish people were loyal to their host countries. There were others who defended Judaism and the Jews, largely within the Christian community.

The 19th and 20th centuries brought a renewal of antisemitism, particularly in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe, with prominent Christian scholars arguing that Jews would have to be converted to Christianity in order to become good citizens. In Germany, as we know, anti-Jewish sentiment reached a crescendo with the Holocaust. Jewish apologists were not silent during the period leading up to the Nazi era, but the German leadership and its people were unreceptive.

Following World War II, apologists were left to deal with the result of a concerted and vile propaganda campaign against the Jewish people that had been propagated by Nazi Germany, some of which had found its way into the language even of people who fought against the Germans in World War II.

A turning point in Jewish apologetics was Zionism, the rise of Jewish nationalism, which led to conflicts within Judaism, between Jewish nationalists and conventional apologists, who continued the struggle for civil rights.

The focus of this category is on Jewish apologetics. Sites publishing apologetic literature or resources for Jewish apologetics are appropriate for this category. General Jewish information sites should be submitted to the Introduction to Judaism category, however.



Recommended Resources

Search for Apologetics on Google or Bing