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Zachary Slawek 12/11/16 Rel-3607 Dr. Allyson Gonzalez Reason and religion came to the fore in medieval Kalam and Jewish scholasticism. The concept of reason and ration sparked a highly fueled debate between medieval Jewish intellectual thinkers. Medieval Jewish philosophy rose as philosophers tried to reason Jewish tradition with that of a larger philosophical importance around them. These intellectuals ignited debates and challenges that Jewish leade
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  Zachary Slawek 12/11/16 Rel-3607 Dr. Allyson Gonzalez Reason and religion came to the fore in medieval Kalam and Jewish scholasticism. The concept of reason and ration sparked a highly fueled debate between medieval Jewish intellectual thinkers. Medieval Jewish philosophy rose as philosophers tried to reason Jewish tradition with that of a larger philosophical importance around them. These intellectuals ignited debates and challenges that Jewish leaders had to struggle to solve. This created an intellectual movement that would shape Islamic and Jewish theology. The medieval philosophy of “kalam”, or speech, started to emerge in Jewish theology. Kalam focuses on the intellectual discussions and debates of religious beliefs using rational criteria. Kalam believes in the co-existence of rationalism and scripture in reasoning with logic. They believed that reason and religion were things that weren’t meant to conflict. These ideas emerged from the “Renaissance of Islam”. The Renaissance of Islam is a period in which Islamic scholars began with hellenic civilization within the faith of Islam. The renaissance was started after Al- ma’mun founded a school of translation in Baghdad. These schools translated Greek hellenistic philosophies. After a short period of time sect schools began to spring up across Islamic countries. With more of these sects emerging, and with the publication of works from Islamic scholars such as al-shahrastani that detailed the ideas and opinions expressed in these sects, Islamic culture began to slowly be affected by these emerging philosophies. Orthodox schools such as Ashariyya still focused on the literal interpretation of the Quran; but it was other  sects such as the Mu'tazilites or, “free thinkers of islam,” who introduced the method of Ta’wil. Ta’wil, or allegorical interpretation, is a mea ns of harmonizing faith and reason. The philosophy of Mu’tazilites began to become popular amongst medieval Jews. The idea that all humans have free will, the centrality of God’s unity and justice opposing the dualist notion of god offered by other religio us communities, and the idea that some of god’s works and words are interpretable through reason and inquiry attracted many medieval Jews at the time. Along with these philosophical ideas, many Islamic scholars such as Saadya Gaon provided an Arabic translation of the Bible called Tafsir. Gaon also produced a Siddur or Jewish prayerbook. “He recognizes the need of supplying communities with a textbook of prayer instead of a a mere halachic rules of prayer” (Gaon 15). These translated works saved Jewry in th e Arabic-speaking world from falling into “decay”. His publication of the Startdate translation of the bible for Arabic-speaking jews turned Saadya into a pioneer for Jewish learning. A different philosophy in Jewish sects also began to gain a considerable following from Jews living in Arabic speaking countries. The opposition to Mu’tazilites were the Karaites. Karaites come from the Hebrew root of “qara”, which means “to read”. This sect developed different viewpoints and ideas to the Halakha or Jewish law. Karaites believe that Halachic mandates can be directly read and interpreted from the TanAkh and bible. Followers of Karaite  believed in a blunt rejection of Talmudic Judaism and tried to establish a tradition less Judaism. Karite figures, such as Anan Ben David “Abandon the rods of the Mishnah and the Talmud , encouraged the rejection of the oral Torah and Rabbinic teaching in favor of the written torah. The Karaites assembled real power in Palestine, developing a more uniform ideology and even developed their own dogmatic methods to reading the Hebrew Bible.  Mu’tazilites and Karites both believed that reason was to be incorporated while interpreting Jewish scripture. The Karaites differed from the Mu'tazilites as the Karaites criticized what they declared, and overly lenient dietary laws and laws of ritual impurity set by the rabbis. Karites also believed that scripture as a whole is to be interpreted literally, except where literal interpretation may involve something objectionable or imply a contradiction. Even though Karaites began to increase in popularity, Sayan and the mu’tazilites still secured the authority of the rabbis over the Karaites. Although the Mu’tazilites still have the authority of the rabbi’s, the Karaite sect began to provide a real t hreat to historic Judaism and traditions. The views undermined the spiritual foundations of Judaism. Saadya Goan spent much of his time trying to combat the ideas of the Karaites. “If he fails to retain it, he will have to start his iniquity afresh. For this reason many people have gone astray and spurned wisdom. Some of them are ignorant of the road that leads to it, others whilst taking the road fail to complete the journey and get lost”(Gaon,Book of Doctrines and Beliefs,pg.32). Saadya believed that peop le were too foolish to complete a task of finding answers to their doubt. To properly study the scripture one would have to go over every section to have full clarity, this is something Saadya believe is too hard for the average follower to do. “The knowle dge of all created beings, however is only  possible through the intermediacy of causes, i.e through inquiry and speculation”(Gaon,Book of Doctrines and Beliefs,pg.33). Saadya believed God saved us from these troubles by sending us a messenger, announcing through him the tradition, allowing us to see with our own eyes proof that can’t be assailed by doubts. Those who were present perceived with their own eyes; they were convinced by what they perceived. These people who perceived with their senses create  jewitt tradition. Gaon believes that we must use sense, perception, and reason to find the solutions to the theological problems. “The wise man, who deserves praise, is the one who fixes  his attention on the realities of things, and adapts his belief to them” (Gaon,Books of doctrines and Beleifs,pg.45). Saadya believes those who who brush aside the prophetic scriptures and rely only on their own personal judgments are foolish. Those who reject the prophetic scripture and speculates over their religion, are without religion; and if he shall never find the truth, he will be without religion. God handed us down these signs as proofs against these doubts. Karaite thinker Jacob al Kirkisani refuted Saadya Gaon claims arguing that scripture addresses man in alikeness that is familiar to him. God establishes the knowledge of justice and power in the mind of everyone. Jacob believed that God made himself familiar with the experience of man. “Scripture as a whole is to be interpreted literally, except where literal inter   pretation may involve something objectionable”(Jacob al Kirkisani,pg.60) Jacob believes that interpretation is only to be used when there is a contradiction . If one were to take a biblical passage out of its literal meaning for no apparent reason then it would lead to the nullification of the accounts in the scripture. Jacob also believes that Scripture was written purposely to be read in Hebrew. “The Hebrew language is the primordial tongue.”(Jacob al -Kirkisani,Pg.61) Jacob disagreed with the Islamic translation arguing that when the language is changed then alphabetical argument is  broken. Reason and religion began to take a later form with the rise of the Haskalah and its opponents the Mitnagdim. Hasidism was founded by Israel Baal Shem Tov in the early 18 th  century. Hasidim made itself unique with its doctrine being mostly guided by their unknown feelings rather than their distinct knowledge. The doctrine was constructed to make ones to journey to holiness easier. Haisims doctrine declared that fasts and vigils, and talmudic study are not only useless but even prejudicial to the cheerfulness of spirit which is essential to genuine piety. The new Hasidism like the Karaites rejected Jewish traditions and oral law, and
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