Judaism was a civilization: toward a reconstruction of ancient Jewish peoplehood
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Citation (published version)Jonathan Klawans. 2018. "Judaism was a Civilization: Toward a Reconstruction of ancient Jewish Peoplehood." Religion Compass, Volume 12, Issue 10, e12286. https://doi.org/10.1111/rec3.12286
Contemporary scholars of ancient Judaism struggle to describe Jewishness, recognizing that ancient Jewish concepts of social collectivity do not fully correspond with modern understandings of ethnicity, nationality, race, or even religion. But despite current efforts, categorical anachronism may be inherently inescapable. Scholars should therefore evaluate modern descriptive terms based on their analytic utility. By this standard, scholars would do well to consider embracing an obviously anachronistic—but nevertheless utilitarian—term to understand ancient Jewishness: “peoplehood.” Mordecai Kaplan's conceptions of “civilization” and “peoplehood” were developed as conscious rejections of more limited (and Protestant) understandings of religion. Kaplan proposed a more nuanced understanding of Jewishness, straddling the same divides (between ethnicity, nationality, and religion) that confound scholars of ancient Judaism today. Kaplan's understanding of the Jewish civilization—land, language, folkways, sanctions, institutions, and arts—presents a striking (if inexact) articulation of the way scholars of ancient Judaism discern Jewishness in our ancient evidence. This in turn justifies utilizing “peoplehood” as an analytic category for the understanding of ancient Jewishness.
The pre-publication version of this article is indefinitely embargoed in OpenBU. Please visit the journal website to access the published version of record: https://doi.org/10.1111/rec3.12286