Joseph Krauskopf’s Evolution and Judaism: One Reform Rabbi’s Response to Scepticism and Materialism in Nineteenth-century North America

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Abstract

Popular culture’s fascination with scepticism and science provoked a number of responses from Reform rabbis in late nineteenth-century North America. Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which suggested that purely materialistic mechanisms accounted for the variety of life, and biblical-criticism, which implied that the irrational elements of the Bible made it largely irrelevant to faith of the modern, sceptical Jew, were just two prominent examples of the kind of ideas that challenged the traditional status quo. Several prominent Reform rabbis responded with Jewish theologies that encompassed organic evolutionary theory while espousing biblical creationism of one sort or another. Joseph Krauskopf was one such rabbi whose Evolution and Judaism (1887) adopted a sceptical approach to traditional readings of the bible and yet which, in attempting to justify Jewish religious continuity, taught a Jewish form of panentheism that viewed the universe as an evolving phenomenon and hinted at the reality of life beyond death.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-130
JournalMelilah: Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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