Spinoza's Challenge to Jewish Thought: Writings on His Life, Philosophy, and Legacy

Daniel B. Schwartz, ed.

Cover of "Spinoza's Challenge to Jewish Thought: Writings on His Life, Philosophy, and Legacy"Key works about Spinoza’s critical role in the formation of modern Jewish identity

Arguably, no historical thinker has had as varied and fractious a reception within modern Judaism as Baruch (Benedict) Spinoza (1632-1677), the 17th-century philosopher, pioneering biblical critic and Jewish heretic from Amsterdam. Revered in many circles as the patron saint of secular Jewishness, he has also been branded as the worst traitor to the Jewish people in modern times.

Jewish philosophy has cast Spinoza as a turning point between the old and the new, a radicalizer of the medieval tradition and table-setter for the modern. He has served as a perennial landmark and point of reference in the construction of modern Jewish identity. His Jewish reception is a sensitive register of the culture wars and changes in Jewish historical consciousness of the past 350 years.

This volume brings together excerpts from central works in the Jewish response to Spinoza. True to the diversity of Spinoza’s Jewish reception, it features a mix of genres, from philosophical criticism to historical fiction, tributes to diary entries and even visual representations. Organized both chronologically and thematically, it provides the reader with a sense of the overall historical development of Spinoza’s posthumous legacy, while at the same time revealing nuances in his vindication, appropriate and reputation.