Judaism’s Ancient Revolution

Nov. 18 2014

In the 2nd century BCE, after centuries of living in a province of one or another empire, Jews won themselves a powerful independent kingdom. In the ensuing period under the Maccabeans, Judaism, too, underwent a major internal change. According to most scholars, this is when such notions as the afterlife, the apocalypse, and martyrdom first appeared in Jewish writings, and also when the major sects of the first century CE—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes—came into existence. Nor was that all, according to Philip Jenkins:

During the Second Temple period [516 BCE – 70 CE], we see a shift from a religion based wholly on the collective (people or family) to the individual. That meant at least some movement from the public sacrificial cult to more individual and even private forms of practice, in which people prayed, studied and meditated. Linked to that were new concepts of divine justice, of theodicy. In the new vision, God rewarded and punished individuals rather than collective groups, and punished individuals according to their own sins, not those of ancestors.

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Read more at Patheos

More about: Afterlife, ancient Judaism, Eschatology, Jewish history, Maccabees, Pharisees

Is the Attempt on Salman Rushdie’s Life Part of a Broader Iranian Strategy?

Aug. 18 2022

While there is not yet any definitive evidence that Hadi Matar, the man who repeatedly stabbed the novelist Salman Rushdie at a public talk last week, was acting on direct orders from Iranian authorities, he has made clear that he was inspired by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s call for Rushdie’s murder, and his social-media accounts express admiration for the Islamic Republic. The attack also follows on the heels of other Iranian attempts on the lives of Americans, including the dissident activist Masih Alinejad, the former national security advisor John Bolton, and the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo. Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was held hostage by the mullahs for over two years, sees a deliberate effort at play:

It is no coincidence this flurry of Iranian activity comes at a crucial moment for the hitherto-moribund [nuclear] negotiations. Iranian hardliners have long opposed reviving the 2015 deal, and the Iranians have made a series of unrealistic and seemingly ever-shifting demands which has led many to conclude that they are not negotiating in good faith. Among these is requiring the U.S. to delist the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in its entirety from the State Department’s list of terror organizations.

The Biden administration and its European partners’ willingness to make concessions are viewed in Tehran as signals of weakness. The lack of a firm response in the shocking attack on Salman Rushdie will similarly indicate to Tehran that there is little to be lost and much to be gained in pursuing dissidents like Alinejad or so-called blasphemers like Sir Salman on U.S. soil.

If we don’t stand up for our values when under attack we can hardly blame our adversaries for assuming that we have none. Likewise, if we don’t erect and maintain firm red lines in negotiations our adversaries will perhaps also assume that we have none.

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Read more at iNews

More about: Iran, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy