JBuzz Review February 10, 2012: Joshua Golding: ‘The Conversation’ professor’s novel focuses on Judaism & Philosophy

JBUZZ: ISRAEL/JEWISH CULTURAL BUZZ

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Book Review | ‘The Conversation’ by Joshua Golding

This ‘Conversation’ is worth listening to

Source: Courier-Journal, 2-10-12

Reviewed by Frederick Smock

The Conversation
By Joshua Golding
Urim Publications
527 pp.; $28.95

David Goldstein, the central character in Bellarmine University philosophy professor Joshua Golding’s new novel, is a fairly typical American Jewish college student, in that he is expected to marry a Jewish girl, and he knows that the state of Israel is important and, beyond that, he does not know very much about his heritage.

As a college freshman, David begins to encounter the big questions: Is there a God? If so, why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? And what does it mean to be Jewish?

“The Conversation” is neatly divided into four sections — freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years — and follows David as he learns about Judaism and philosophy.

The reader, of course, learns along with him.

The novel is, by and large, conversational, hence the title. We see David in dialogue with rabbis, professors, fellow students and friends, as he seeks a personal understanding of deep questions that are only now beginning to make themselves real to him.

The story is likewise multi-textual, told in conversations, letters, journal entries, emails, lectures and essays for class (complete with the professor’s markings and marginalia in red ink!). Differing typefaces are used for each genre.

Published in Israel by Urim Publications, the book has been beautifully produced.

The book is an interesting hybrid — a novel that is also intended to instruct.

The philosophical content is quite accessible for the lay reader. In some quarters, this book might find itself compared to Jostein Gaarder’s 1991 novel “Sophie’s World,” but it should not be….READ MORE

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Joshua S. Parens: Scholar explores Talmudic law, Jewish tradition

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Joshua S. Parens: Scholar explores Talmudic law, Jewish tradition

Joshua S. ParensDr. Joshua S. Parens, professor at the University of Dallas presented “ and Philosophy: ’ Revolution” on Wednesday in the Memorial Drawing Room.
Ambika Kashi Singh | Lariat Photographer

The brought a Jewish scholar to campus Wednesday to give a lecture on how the 12th-century philosopher Maimonides helped incorporate philosophy into the Jewish theological tradition.

The speaker, Dr. , professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, highlighted how Maimonides codified an enormous body of Talmudic law and introduced 13 principles of Jewish faith that were controversial at the time but have become foundational for the Jewish tradition in the centuries since.

Among the most significant of these principles, Maimonides wrote that God was a spiritual being, rather than one with a body, a belief that was not universally accepted before his time.

“This, in the end, is the moment where we start to see what is truly revolutionary about Maimonides: that he affirmed the Jews must believe that God is incorporeal,” Parens said. “Now, this will strike most of you, as Christians, as a little bit strange. After all, you have been raised with the notion that there is another life, and that other life is wholly incorporeal and spiritual.”

Before Maimonides, Parens said, the Jewish community had little interest in engaging in religious philosophy.

Maimonides, however, changed that by introducing the 13 principles and stressing the incorporeality of God and his existence as an eternal being, which Parens argued opened the door for philosophy in the Jewish life.

“In short, then, in Maimonides’ time, theology was nothing but defense of the faith against philosophy,” Parens said. “Consequently, what Maimonides then does by making a kind of home for philosophy within Judaism is incredibly radical and shocking.”

Parens also contrasted Maimonides’ contribution to Jewish theology with that of the 17th century Dutch philosopher , whose religious philosophy was far less particular to the Jewish scriptures than that of Maimonides and the orthodox Jewish community.

Dr. , professor of philosophy and faculty master of the Honors Residential College, said he thought the event was well-attended and the subject discussed was relevant for Christians, as well as the Jewish community.

“The importance that a talk like this has for Christianity,” Buras said, “is to be able to compare the way [the Jewish community] put it all together — philosophy and the Bible — with the way other traditions have.”

Several Jewish Baylor faculty members and other members of the Waco Jewish community were in attendance for the lecture including Stanley Hersh, president of the of Waco, and Rabbi of the in Waco.

They said they were pleased that Baylor, as a Christian institution, offered this forum and were also pleased at the turnout, which was standing-room-only by the time the lecture began in Memorial Hall Drawing Room and consisted mostly of students.