The Hebrew Bible Never Speaks of Religion, Belief, or Even Law

July 1, 2020 | Joshua Berman
About the author: Joshua Berman is professor of Bible at Bar-Ilan University and the author most recently of Ani Maamin: Biblical Criticism, Historical Truth, and the Thirteen Principles of Faith (Maggid).

In biblical Hebrew—indeed in any ancient language—there is no word that corresponds to “religion.” Moreover, argues Joshua Berman, the very concepts of religion and belief were foreign to ancient peoples, Israelites included, even though their lives were often filled with ritual, and they saw the hand of the divine all around them. Berman explains that only by reading the Bible on its own terms and free from such anachronisms can one appreciate that Judaism can never be reduced to intellectual abstractions. (Interview by Dru Johnson. Audio, 45 minutes.)

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