W. C. Campbell-Jack and Gavin McGrath, eds. New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics.
Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006. xx + 779 pp., with index of names, subjects,
and articles. $45.00.
New Dictionary is a truly remarkable book. Assembled herein are the contributions of a host of
distinguished British (and also American) scholars. The first part of this volume consists
of six essays dealing with key issues in Christian apologetics, including
the history of attempts to defend the Christian faith. The second part of
this volume consists of very useful entries on a number of issues, topics,
and important contributors to Christian apologetics. Nothing in this volume
manifests the flaws found in the essentially miserable efforts of those on
the fringes of the American version of conservative Protestantism to engage
in apologetics or deal with the many interesting and important issues surrounding
apologetic endeavors. This volume is definitely not something cascading from
the countercult movement.
Examples of competently done essays in the New Dictionary include the entry by D. W. Bebbington
on “History” (pp. 320-22), a useful treatment of the objectivity
question and of postmodernism. In the same vein, the essay on “Modernism/Modernity”
(pp. 437-40) by R. D. Geivett is a fine example of the kind of scholarship
found in this volume. But these are merely samples of the wide range of expertly
crafted, informative, and accurate treatments of topics and individuals found
in the New Dictionary, which can be very highly recommended to Latter-day Saints who wish to
rise above the confusion found in the polemical literature currently flourishing on the margins
of the American evangelical world. The Saints can learn much by consulting
this volume, which can be recommended without restraint or qualification.
Allen J. Fletcher. A Scriptural Discussion of Light. Springville, UT: Cedar Fort, 2007.
263 pp., $14.99.
In this book, Allen J. Fletcher, a Church Educational System employee for thirty-seven years,
shares his understanding of the concept of light and how it might apply in the life of
the reader. The author portrays an extended discussion between two couples
as they investigate the principles involved in understanding light, and this
portrayal allows Fletcher to raise questions that each of us might bring up
if we were participating in a similar dialogue. Fletcher covers, in a very
understandable and persuasive manner, what the concept of light teaches us
of the nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He then relates those lessons
to mankind and speaks of what they teach regarding the nature of man and how
each of us can apply them. The author’s liberal use of scriptural references
and prophetic utterances gives readers the opportunity to make their own determinations
regarding the validity of his conclusions. His discussion of the atonement
and how an understanding of light helps us understand that magnificent event
is particularly noteworthy.
Mark Lilla. The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 2007. x + 334 pp., with bibliography and index. $26.00.
Mark Lilla reminds us that religion is a perennial part of our lives. In spite of our success
in secularizing society, we are still confronted with questions that are beyond
our abilities and call for more assurance than our philosophical traditions
allow. Political theology once dominated political life because its comprehensive
answers provided a rational way of viewing the world. It is still dominant
in many non-Western parts of the world. Political theology is the attempt
to legitimate and control political authority by appealing to divine revelation.
It can be found in philosophers as diverse as Plato, Augustine, al-Farabi,
Moses Maimonides, and Thomas Hobbes. Lilla recounts the transformation in
thinking that broke with political theology and ushered in modern political
philosophy. Thomas Hobbes, writing in response to the religious upheavals
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, argued that the basis of the state
and religion was now to be found in human nature, specifically in the passions.
To understand that nature is to know how to control it. Hobbes initiated the
great separation; he argued that peace and stability within society are possible
only if the foundations of social and political life are not based on divine
accounts of authority. Legitimation of political authority would henceforth
be a human task, a matter of reason and science. Hobbes also thereby set in
motion the liberal tradition in politics and theology.
Lilla then traces the European response to this tradition beginning with Jean-Jacques
Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. These two thinkers saw human beings as marked by an internal struggle between
good and evil. What set their work apart from other political philosophers
was their attempt to set this inner struggle in the public arena. In order
to allow the good within human nature to win out, it was necessary to cultivate
a universal morality. But this required a community of faith. Christianity
(or a civic religion) was considered the basis on which to cultivate this
morality. This liberal temper eventually brought about a new interpretation
of religion. Liberal theology reduced religion, both Christian and Jewish,
to being the vehicle for the promulgation of liberal morality. World War I
marked the end of the confidence in liberal theology and its morality. After
that war, critics such as Karl Barth and Franz Rosenzweig emerged in this
period challenging the claims of liberal theology. They argued that in draining
religion of its particular claims to truth, liberal theology actually weakened
the efficacy of the idea of a universal morality. The irony of this story
is that the truth of their critique of liberal theology was illustrated in
the way that the followers of Barth and Rosenzweig opted for Nazism and Stalinism.
Lilla’s book ought to be of interest to Latter-day Saints if only for his account of the failures of
modernity to adequately account for the claims of revelation and society in terms of
political philosophy. Religion retains its significance for us because, among
other reasons, it is a reminder of the limits of human understanding. But
it also tells us that our sense of justice appeals to more than the inner
life of the mind. Revelation proves to be the indispensable starting point
for charting the boundaries of our moral life. Human life proves to be a continual
process of returning to religion for direction in our moral and intellectual
struggle to understand the world we live in.
Clay McConkie. A Man Named Peleg: An Exploration into the Days of Peleg. Springville,
UT: Cedar Fort, 2007. 137 pp., with index. $13.99.
This book sets out to provide an explanation for three “great floods” that the author
discerns in scripture: (a) a flooded earth on the first day of creation, (b) the Noachian deluge,
and (c) an extensive but nonglobal flood in the days of Peleg that resulted
in the earth’s “division.” McConkie relies on a literal reading
of Doctrine and Covenants 133:23-24 as the “key” to his interpretation.
His theory is outlined in short, easy-to-read chapters that contain some repetition.
The book claims that its theory will “show . . . a definite advantage
over . . . other[s] . . . especially in regards to chronology and certain
principles of modern-day science” (p. 12). Elsewhere, the author acknowledges
that it “is questionable” whether “geologists or earth scientists
would ever agree” (p. 31) with his theory but does nothing to engage
such concerns. The book mentions alternative theories and explanations on
a variety of points, but these alternatives are not engaged, discussed, or
rebutted. The author merely mentions them and gives his own theory without
explaining why the alternatives are less desirable. McConkie admits to knowing
“very little about . . . the floods themselves” (p. xvii), and he
shows little or no familiarity with the data upon which other points of view—both
scientific and scriptural—are based.
The author does not include references to previous Latter-day Saint discussions of this topic.
Significantly, his discussion of the Tower of Babel would have been richer had he addressed Hugh
Nibley’s conception of the tower as a corrupted temple rather than as simply a high spot to avoid
floods (see Hugh Nibley, The Prophetic Book of Mormon [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and FARMS,
1989], 108). Nibley likewise, in Teachings of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT:
FARMS, 1993, 1:423), points out that the Jaredite tower is not necessarily
the Tower of Babel (contrary to what McConkie says on p. 106).
The style of argument is light and wide ranging, including appeals to scriptural exegesis, supposition,
arguments about what “seems logical” to the author, the Septuagint’s chronological
variations, and Josephus. Unfortunately, many points that are asserted but
not argued must be granted to sustain the author’s point; in these instances,
the book’s brevity and its breezy style work to its disadvantage.
Readers favoring an extremely literal reading of scripture will be interested in the novel addition of
a second, post-Noachian flood from “a strategic water system” “somewhere
in the north” that acts like “a huge hydraulic network” (p.
39). Those who desire textual criticism, a discussion of the impact of ancient
worldviews on scripture, biogeography, or any interaction with scientific
concepts will be disappointed.
Larry A. Nichols, George A. Mather, and Alvin J. Schmidt, with Kurt Van Gorden, consulting editor.
Encyclopedic Dictionary of Cults, Sects, and World Religions. Revised and
updated ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006. 544 pp., with glossary, three
appendixes, bibliography, and index. $35.99.
Encyclopedic Dictionary is divided into two large sections entitled “World Religions”
and “Dictionary Entries.” There are also three appendixes and a bibliography. The entire
package is typical of the literature produced by the countercult movement.
Instead of being a source of accurate information, this book is essentially
polemical sectarian propaganda; it is also grounded on slogans such as “cult”
and much conceptual confusion about what might constitute a “world religion.”
There are ninety-nine entries under “World Religions,” among them
“Convince,” “Hanuman Foundation,” “Arica (Arica Foundation),”
and “Freemasonry (Masonic Lodge).” But there are no entries under
the headings “Protestantism,” “Eastern Orthodoxy,” and
“Roman Catholic Church.” Instead there are articles on “Christianity,”
“Hinduism,” “Judaism,” “Islam,” “Mormonism;
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; CJCLDS,” and “Community
of Christ; Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
One of the primary targets of the Encyclopedic Dictionary is the faith of Latter-day Saints.
Evidence of this focus can be found in the bibliography, where there are ninety-three items listed under
“Mormonism.” The only category with more items listed is “General
Books,” with ninety-nine items, including books by critics of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints such as Walter Martin, Dave Hunt, and
Bob Larson. All other “world religions” get less bibliographic attention
than the Church of Jesus Christ. Even though Larry Nichols boasts that “Kurt
van [sic] Gorden . . . read each of the articles and dictionary terms carefully and
edited the entire manuscript” (p. 13), Encyclopedic Dictionary is larded
with mistakes and anomalies. In the bibliography on “Mormonism,”
the names of authors are often garbled. Jan Shipps becomes “Schipps”
(p. 503), James E. Talmage becomes “Talmadge” (p. 503), and Richard
Abanes becomes “Albanes” (p. 501). These and numerous other related
mistakes, both small and large, mar Encyclopedic Dictionary. Though the
authors of this volume cite the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (p. 502),
they seem not to have consulted it. If they had done so, they could easily
have avoided much confusion and a host of errors. A striking but rather typical
example of an erroneous assertion can be found in “Appendix 2: Orthodox
Christology and Heresy” (pp. 469-71), where the “capsule summary”
of the heresy wrongly attributed to “Mormonism” is found in the
bald assertion that Latter-day Saints actually believe that “Jesus’ deity
is no more unique than all of humankind” (p. 470).
Some of the most bizarre portions of Encyclopedic Dictionary are found in the section entitled
“Dictionary Entries” (pp. 355-465). These might be what one could expect to find in
notes taken by one struggling to sort out the vocabulary of others or in a replication of the slogans used
against the faith of others. The word cult is one of these words (p. 381). Striving for a definition
of cult that is presumably not “relativistic and subjective” or “transitory,”
the authors of Encyclopedic Dictionary cultivate an ad hoc definition that simply ignores the term’s
origin and curious history. They provide, instead, “a model that is theological and doctrinal in
nature.” This yields a label with which they can blast away at the beliefs
of those they dislike or do not understand. Sixty-nine of the definitions
provided turn out to be tendentious attacks on the faith of Latter-day Saints.
Many of these are also garbled.
Encyclopedic Dictionary is described on the back cover as an “extensively revised
edition,” with “new topics, updated information, and a brand-new format,” of the
Dictionary of Cults, Sects, Religions, and the Occult, published by Zondervan in 1993. The
authors of Encyclopedic Dictionary thank the following: “Keith MacGregor
and MacGregor Ministries, Kurt van [sic] Gorden, Jill [Martin] Rische [the stridently anti-Mormon
daughter of the notorious “Dr.” Walter Martin], Paul Carden, Arthur Vanick, and Dale
Broadhurst for their reviews and remarks on Mormonism” (p. 9). In addition, the Reverend George
A. Mather, one of the authors of Encyclopedic Dictionary, had earlier provided a flawed foreword
to Wayne L. Cowdrey, Howard A. Davis, and Arthur Vanick’s Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon?
The Spalding Enigma (St. Louis: Concordia, 2005) in an effort to revive the moribund Spalding theory
of the Book of Mormon. Reverend Mather, much like Van Gorden, Cowdrey, Davis, and
Vanick, got his start under the tutelage of “Dr.” Walter Martin.
Christopher Partridge, ed. Dictionary of Contemporary Religion in the Western World: Exploring
Living Faiths in Postmodern Contexts. Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 2002.
x + 390 pp., with indexes of names, subjects, and articles. $25.00.
This volume is essentially a collection
of essays on various religious topics by British scholars. The first part
contains a host of essays on topics such as “Mysticism,” “Religion
(Definitions),” “Religion and Philosophy,” “Religion and
Psychology,” “The Study of Religion,” and twenty-nine other
related general topics. These essays are generally both insightful and competently done.
The second part of Dictionary of Contemporary Religion consists of numerous entries on
specific “contemporary religions.” For example, G. W. Trompf, who teaches history at the
University of Sydney, provides a reasonably accurate account of Aboriginal and Maori religiosity
in “Aboriginal Religion in Australia and New Zealand” (pp. 155-58).
There is also, as might be expected, an article on the “Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints, the (Mormons),” by A. H. Anderson (pp. 210-13),
who is the director of a research unit in the Department of Theology at Birmingham
University. This essay, even with the mistake in the name of the Church of
Jesus Christ in its title, is moderately accurate, though a bit tendentious.
Christopher Partridge would have done better to have invited Douglas Davies,
who has a Mormon studies program at Durham University, to write an essay on
the faith of Latter-day Saints.
This volume should be of interest to Latter-day Saints genuinely interested in religion in all its
varieties and manifestations, as seen from an academic perspective.
Ben Witherington III. The Problem with Evangelical Theology: Testing the Exegetical Foundations
of Calvinism, Dispensationalism and Wesleyanism. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2005. xi + 294 pp.,
with bibliography and index. $29.95.
In this book Ben Witherington, a Methodist New Testament scholar, laments that all of the theology
that makes the various evangelical denominations distinctive is in fact unbiblical
and based on egregious misreadings of biblical texts. According to Witherington,
“Evangelicalism is a many-splintered thing with more denominational expressions
than one can count, and like much of the rest of the church is to a large
extent biblically illiterate or semiliterate” (p. ix). “We need
to stop creating churches that essentially serve ourselves and nurture our
own way and style of living” (p. 248). “The world is laughing at
us [Evangelicals] because our witness is so divided and we speak with forked
tongues” (p. 247). “It is time to recognize that denominations are
a result of Protestant differing and bickering. They are children of the Protestant
Reformation. They are also the result of profoundly weak ecclesiology on our
part, and they reflect and are based upon the biblically weakest aspects of
our theology—namely our distinctives” (p. 247).
First Witherington goes after the Reformed theology commonly expressed as “TULIP,”
which stands for Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement,
Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints. “If one believes
that God has predetermined from before the foundation of the world people
to be saved, then of course election is unconditional, grace is irresistible,
and perseverance is inevitable. These three linked ideas do not necessarily
require the notion of total depravity or limited atonement” (p. 5). Witherington
traces this theology back historically to misreading of biblical texts by
Calvin, Luther, and Augustine: “For example, the idea of ‘once saved
always saved,’ or the idea that it is impossible for a ‘saved person,’ a true
Christian, to commit apostasy, is simply not an idea to be found in the N[ew]
T[estament]. More to the point, much in the NT flatly contradicts such an
idea” (p. 4). “The especially crucial notions of the influence of
Adam on all humanity in terms of total depravity, the bondage of sin, the
necessary predetermining of some of the lost for rescue, the imputation of
righteousness come from Luther’s reading (and sometimes misreading) of Augustine
and his indebtedness to Erasmus” (p. 9). “It must be stressed that
Augustine’s interpretation of Romans, and especially Romans 7, seems to be
in various regards an overreaction to Pelagius who argued that sin comes from
human beings’ free imitation of Adam, and can be overcome by imitating Christ.
Pelagius also suggested that justification, at least final justification,
is through determined moral action” (p. 7). This forces Witherington
to ask: “Should our teachers be Augustine and Luther?” (p. 6). “The
tulip begins to wilt when one reads Romans in light of the Pastorals rather
than through the much later lens of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin” (p.
16). Unable to find any of the elements of TULIP supported by the Bible, Witherington
concludes that “it is time to stop reading Romans 7:14-25 through
the lens of Augustine and Luther” (p. 31).
Next Witherington goes after dispensationalism,
which for Evangelicals means beliefs about the rapture, an unbiblical doctrine
that says that Christ’s return will come in two stages (first to receive the
faithful before seven years of tribulation on earth and then, after that period,
to usher in the Millennium). Witherington traces the doctrine historically:
“In 1830 in Glasgow, Scotland, a young girl named Margaret MacDonald
attended a healing service. She was said to have received a vision on the
occasion of a two-stage return of Christ. . . . The matter might have fallen
into obscurity except that a British Evangelical preacher named John Nelson
Darby heard the story and spread it far and wide. . . . Darby made numerous
evangelistic trips to America between 1859 and 1877 and won many American
converts to the rapture theology” (p. 94). “Dwight L. Moody became
enamored with this theology and began promulgating it on both sides of the
Atlantic, furthered by the founding of the Moody Bible Institute, and eventually
by Moody Press and by a radio network. But by far the single most enduring
tool for spreading this theology was a reference Bible, put together by one
Cyrus I. Scofield and first published in 1909. . . . What few know about him
[Scofield] today is that he was an embezzler and forger who abandoned his
wife and children and did time in jail even after his conversion to Christianity.
Never mind all this; his Bible had a life of its own, due in large part to
the promotion of the Moody Bible Institute and a very wealthy Chicago businessman
named William E. Blackstone, who himself had already cashed in on the rapture
theology” (p. 95).
Continuing this history, Witherington notes that since Lewis Chafer founded Dallas Theological Seminary
in 1924 to promote dispensational theology, the school “has produced the likes
of John Walvoord . . . , Charles Ryrie, Hal Lindsey, and many names familiar
to Evangelicals who have been readers of popular Evangelical theology. These
leaders and their writings have impacted Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Timothy
and Beverley LaHaye, and a host of Dispensational televangelists who will
remain nameless” (p. 96). (“In Evangelical theology today, it is
hard to tell who the players are without a program,” p. 3.) Witherington
also tries to link Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon with dispensationalist
theology (see p. 255 n. 1), although besides a hint-and-run footnote he does
not pursue this dead end. Despite how influential dispensationalism has been,
“there is no theology of the rapture to be found in the New Testament
anywhere, never mind the term itself. But if this is so, what then are the
implications? Well, if there is no rapture, much of the Dispensational system
falls down like a house of cards” (p. 130).
Witherington also attacks his Wesleyanism.
The root of these problems is found in the evangelical approach to the Bible,
which (like any other scriptures for that matter) is not a handbook on theology.
“What we do not have is Jesus’ Institutes, or Paul’s
Institutes, or John’s Institutes. Their material
is not arranged according to modern ways of framing theological discussions,
nor do they address all the topics we might find helpful or interesting”
(p. 245). Far from accepting sola scriptura and pretending
merely to let the text speak for itself, we need to “realize that we
are active readers of these texts, that we bring our own training and education
and biases with us when we read them, and frequently we are guilty of anachronism,
of reading things into the text, especially when we start trying to systematize
and order the theological content we find in these documents” (p. 245).
Witherington lays out rules that he feels are necessary for those dealing with the sacred text,
among which are the following:
You need to be able to read the text in its original language, since
every translation is already an interpretation. (p. 246)
You need to have studied the text in its original contexts (literary, historical, archaeological,
theological, rhetorical). (p. 246)
If you are an Evangelical, then it is imperative that you interact
with non-Evangelical treatments of the text, and also listen to what was said
about the text by church fathers, who studied it in the original Greek before
the time of Augustine and the Latinizing of the church. (p. 246)
The text needs to not be watered down or dumbed down. Rather, one
needs to ratchet up one’s attention level and degree of devotion to the text,
not to mention one’s attention to detail. (p. 246)
But the biggest problem may be simply in the desire to do theology itself:
We need to get beyond both ancient and modern ways of handling the
text that strip away the story, leaving a mass of quivering ideas and concepts
that we then are free to rearrange in any order that pleases us. That may
be an intellectually satisfying exercise for some, but in fact it turns out
to be a way of neutralizing the story, and not allowing it to have its effect
on us. It is in fact a power trip, an attempt to take control over these stories
before they fully take hold of us. If that is what thinking theologically
and doing theology amounts to, we need a moratorium on thinking and doing
theology. (p. 239)
Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory, with a preface and
postscript by the author and a foreword by Harold Bloom. Seattle: University of Washington
Press, 2005. xix + 154 pp., with index. $14.95.
Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory is the most
recent version of a remarkable volume that was first published in 1982. This
book is recognized as a classic of modern Jewish scholarship. Yerushalmi’s
theme is the communal, shared memory that for ages obsessed Jews and founded
their identity. He calls attention to the challenges posed by the millennial
tension between the age-old Jewish commandment—and tradition—of
remembrance and the tragic tale of the disobedience of the covenant people
and by the new Jewish passion for history. Yerushalmi builds on the widely
recognized imperative given to Israel in her sacred texts to remember God’s
mighty acts and on a recognition that God is always faithful in remembering
his covenant people, even when they have turned against him by not remembering
(and hence not keeping) his commandments. Remembering (or forgetting) the
covenant with God grounds the controlling metanarrative found in Jewish sacred
texts. This includes the story of the creation, at first unspoiled, and then
the fall, which is followed by God calling his people and making a covenant
with them that includes promised blessings and also the demand that they always
remember him and keep his commandments or suffer cursings—the dire consequences
for disobedience (or forgetting).
The imperative to remember makes Israel,
more than any other people, intensely conscious of the past, since the sacred
texts are primarily historical texts filled with accounts of the sins of rebellious
Israel. These stories are blunt and also highly selective. They do not conform
to modern fashions in historiography. Yerushalmi provides a brilliant analysis
of the selectivity and meaning of memory in Jewish religious tradition. Moving
directly from the imperative to remember, which grounds the faith of Israel,
he argues that recent secularization has radically transformed memory and
identity for Jews by moving away from the traditional account of the covenant
people of God. With the rise of modern Jewish historiography in the nineteenth
century, “for the first time it is not history that must prove its utility
to Judaism, but Judaism that must prove its validity to history, by revealing
and justifying itself historically” (p. 84).
Put another way, essentially secular
notions of the past have replaced the earlier memories of covenants made with
God, the often halting efforts of the covenant people to keep the commandments,
and the profoundly tragic consequences of disobedience to divine mandates.
Yerushalmi describes the biblical roots
for recording and remembering the covenant with God, as well as the forgetfulness
of his people and God’s steadfast covenant love. At first remembering was
directly connected with participation in God’s mighty acts and also in recording
them. But during the Second Temple period, direct participation in this story
ended, and subsequently Jewish memory was preserved through ritual and religious
practices not linked to ordinary historical events. From the end of the Second
Temple period onward and especially during the Middle Ages, Jewish identity
no longer depended on historical events—that is, Jewish identity no
longer involved, as it once had, recording the tragic history of the covenant
people. The writing of history was even dismissed as a low form of intellectual
endeavor. Remembrance was, after all, subsequently achieved through holidays
that sustain Jewish memory and hence identity.
Yerushalmi shows that, with the Enlightenment,
Jews again began to take an interest in their own postbiblical past. This
new interest in the wide range of the Jewish past is driven by profoundly
secular assumptions. And it appears to be a large element in the collapse
of Jewish identity as a distinct community of faith. Yerushalmi does not examine
in detail the current crop of conflicting narratives of the Jewish past. Instead
he provides the setting in which this can and has been done.
In a brilliant introduction, Harold
Bloom sketches some of the consequences of the entry into Jewish historiography
of an essentially Epicurean critique of religion that Yerushalmi argues has
had a devastating impact on Jewish memory and identity (pp. xii-xi).
Among other things, Bloom argues that even a pleasure-seeking Epicurean atheism
ignores the past, recalling it only if and when it is pleasurable. “Nothing
could be more un-Jewish, and one sees again why the great rabbis used ‘Epicurean’
as a term of the greatest abuse. An Epicurean attitude toward memory is antithetical
to Judaism” (p. xiv).
Yerushalmi argues that Jews today construct
different kinds of narratives of Jewish history as a whole. The result is
that they no longer share a common memory or identity. A new Jewish history
now challenges and replaces the traditional memory. The problem is not amnesia.
Instead it is the variety and the diversity of assumptions upon which contemporary
Jewish history is grounded.