Rabbi Jacobs starts this lecture by defining the term ‘fundamentalism’, delving into its Christian origins and assessing the problems raised by its application to Judaism. The debates which occurred between liberal and fundamentalist Christian theologians, he explains, had certain Jewish antecedents, in such a figure as Abraham Ibn Ezra for example.
He then goes on to demonstrate that the issue of historicity was first raised by Spinoza, and then evolved into biblical criticism, from the documentary hypothesis in the 18th century to modern historical research. Jews, however, started grappling with issues of historicism much later than Christians, at the dawn of the modern era. From that point onwards, broadly three types of responses developed, embodied with the Reform, Orthodox, and Conservative movement.
Jacobs goes at length to describe the differences between each of these movements, and finally provides some brief insights into how a non-fundamentalist outlook might impact Jewish practice.