Cultures in Collision and Conversation: Essays in the Intellectual History of the Jews

Cultures in Collision and Conversation: Essays in the Intellectual History of the Jews


David Berger

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781936235247 (hardcover)
Pages: 384 pp.
Publication Date: April 2011

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In Cultures in Collision and Conversation, David Berger addresses three broad themes in Jewish intellectual history: Jewish approaches to cultures external to Judaism and the controversies triggered by this issue in medieval and modern times; the impact of Christian challenges and differing philosophical orientations on Jewish interpretation of the Bible; and Messianic visions, movements, and debates from antiquity to the present. These essays include a monograph-length study of Jewish attitudes toward general culture in medieval and early modern times, analyses of the thought of Maimonides and Nahmanides, an assessment of the reactions to the most recent messianic movement in Jewish history, and reflections on the value of the academic study of Judaism.

David Berger (PhD Columbia University, 1970) is a former President of the Association for Jewish Studies and Ruth and I. Lewis Professor and Dean at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University.

A fine conspectus of David Berger’s variegated contributions to Jewish intellectual history. . . . Full of references to primary sources and informed by an enviable mastery of the voluminous secondary literature on a very broad topic [the chapter on Judaism and general culture] abounds in the sort of thought-provoking insights and limpid formulations that Berger’s deft pen routinely generates. . . . Besides its impressive substance, Berger’s tome merits appreciation in terms of style and tone. . . . His writing brims with crisp formulations and a nice increment of witty (at times rabinically inflected) turns of phrase.
— Eric Lawee, Bar-Ilan University, in Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, December 2013 (Vol. 12, Issue 3)
The essays contained in this volume represent a crowning achievement in a life of scholarship that primarily has been devoted to exploring polemical interaction of Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages. . . . Cultures in Collision and Conversation will find a proud place alongside Berger’s other scholarly publications.
— Robbie Harris, H-Judaic, April 15, 2012
Berger’s wise and witty essays are at once learned and effervescent, balanced and engaged essential reading for anyone interested in the Jewish past and its (mis)uses, and a pleasure to read.
— Bernard Septimus, Jacob E. Safra Professor of Jewish History and Sephardic Civilization, Harvard University
For decades, David Berger has been profoundly enriching our knowledge of the Jewish past and present. This new collection of essays exhibits Berger at his best. The essays are wide-ranging in time and space, are rich in knowledge and citation of the sources, are meticulous and convincing in their argumentation, and show a historian with deep warmth and empathy for the people—past and present—about whom he writes.
— Robert Chazan, S. H. and Helen R. Scheuer Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University

Table of Contents


The Cultural Environment: Challenge and Response
Identity, Ideology, and Faith: Some Personal Reflections on the Social,
Cultural and Spiritual Value of the Academic Study of Judaism
Judaism and General Culture in Medieval and Early Modern Times
How Did Nahmanides Propose to Resolve the Maimonidean Controversy?
Miracles and the Natural Order in Nahmanides.
Polemic, Exegesis, Philosophy, and Science:
Reflections on the Tenacity of Ashkenazic Modes of Thought
Malbim’s Secular Knowledge and His Relationship to the Spirit of the Haskalah
The Uses of Maimonides by Twentieth-Century Jewry
The Institute for Jewish Studies on its Eightieth Anniversary
Interpreting the Bible
‘The Wisest of All Men’: Solomon’s Wisdom in Medieval Jewish Commentaries on the Book of Kings
On the Morality of the Patriarchs in Jewish Polemic and Exegesis
Yearning for Redemption
Three Typological Themes in Early Jewish Messianism: Messiah son of Joseph, Rabbinic Calculations, and the Figure of Armilus
Some Ironic Consequences of Maimonides’
Rationalist Approach to the Messianic Age
Sephardic and Ashkenazic Messianism in the Middle Ages:
An Examination of the Historiographical Controversy
Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus: The Impact of Zionism on
Joseph Klausner’s History of the Second Temple
The Fragility of Religious Doctrine: Accounting for Orthodox Acquiescence in the Belief in a Second Coming
The Image of his Father: On the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Death of Hadoar Author Isaiah Berger