Monday, November 17, 2014

Erwin Goodenough as a Precursor to "Common Judaism"

In the previous post I suggested that it was apparently Jacob Neusner not E.P. Sanders who first coined the term "common Judaism." Here I consider the influence of Erwin Goodenough on both Sanders and Neusner.

In the final volume of his massive Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, Goodenough referred to a "common Jewish denominator" and "minimal Judaism":
"In discussing the Judaism of hellenistic Jews, therefore, we must assume that if they remained Jews they were loyal to some common Jewish denominator....
"This I may call minimal Judaism, if in that term I paraphrase my 'common denominator.' Jews are still Jews, as they have always been, insofar as they give their best to their fellow Jews, not as one would simply be loyal to one's relatives, but with the sense that the Jewish group is different from all other groups, and that its identity must at any cost be kept alive. For the Jewish People had their importance as bearers of the Covenant with Yahweh, as revealed in the Torah. The mass of Jews find the metaphysical and theistic confirmation of their group explicit in the ritual of synagogue and home, and in the Bible."
- Erwin R. Goodenough, “Chapter One: Literary Sources for Hellenistic Judaism” in Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period Volume Twelve: Summary and Conclusions (Bollingen Series; New York: Pantheon Books, 1965), 12.7-8
Sanders later wondered if this passage had sub-consciously influenced his references to "common Jewish piety", a "common Jewish theme" (239, 293), and "common to Judaism" in Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Fortress, 1977), 239, 293, 422:
"In rereading Erwin Goodenough's Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman the spring of 2004, I discovered that he had written that Jews were loyal to 'some common Jewish denominator'....These pages, which I had read in 1964 or 1965, contained no pencil marks indicating that I had regarded the terms or the proposal as important. I nevertheless wonder whether they lodged in my subconscious mind, to surface ten years later. I wish that I had rememebered these pages, since I would have been delighted to have Goodenough's support on both Philo and Judaism in general." - E.P. Sanders, “Common Judaism Explored” in Common Judaism: Explorations in Second-Temple Judaism (Wayne O. McCready and Adele Reinhartz, eds.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008), 228 n. 8. 
For his part, Neusner edited a volume of essays in Goodenough's memory and much later abbreviated Goodenough's massive project into a single volume. The preface to volume 12 in Goodenough's Jewish Symbols also contains this note: "A new obligations has arisen for the critical aid that a recent acquaintance, a brilliant young scholar, has given during the last two years, Jacob Neusner."

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