Principles of the Jewish Faith: An Analytical Study. By Louis Jacobs. Vallentine Mitchell. 1964. xii + 475 pp. 63s.
Rabbi Jacobs has been compared by the journalists to the Bishop of Woolwich and he has certainly become a controversial figure in orthodox Jewish circles; but such a comparison is doubtfully valid, for the Rabbi in this impressive book seems rather to be doing for Jewish orthodoxy what Charles Gore did for Anglican Catholicism. What Dr Liddon deplored in the one case the Rabbi’s critics condemn for much the same reason. Actually the Rabbi quotes Gore on the prophets and many other Christian scholars with appreciation. He is fully aware of the course of O.T. study from Wellhausen to the school of Upsala; he may quote from the Rabbis or the Qabbalists but also from Tillich or Temple or even Percy Dearmer! His arguments against fundamentalism are impressive and he demonstrates that modern critical scholarship does not mean the denial of the positive assertions of orthodoxy.
One would hardly expect a Rabbi under fire for alleged heresy to display sympathy for any Christian interpretation of the O.T. evidence, but references to the Trinity and the Incarnation are not only negative but lacking in the subtlety elsewhere delicately displayed. But having said this one must say at once that this learned and extraordinarily comprehensive book is important—it could greatly facilitate an increase of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
While insisting that facts cannot be denied and accusing such a respectable figure as the late Chief Rabbi Dr Hertz of adopting as impossible a position as did Dean Burgon in his famous sermon (which he quotes), Dr Jacobs concludes as a Christian scholar would wish to conclude that a critical approach to the Bible need not destroy orthodoxy but free it of many difficulties.
The great debate between protestants and catholics has its Jewish counterpart and Dr Jacobs takes the middle way in a rather Anglican fashion. He cannot accept the view of men like Hertz that God dictated the whole law with all its developments to Moses, nor will he go with the liberals or the reformed in denying the validity of the halakha and assuming a purely prophetic interpretation. Based on an analysis of the 13 Principles of Maimonides the book covers an immense range of themes from Theism to the Messiah. The section on worship is particularly impressive and gives an insight into devout Judaism all too little known by Christians. The book is pleasantly free of footnotes but greatly enriched by excursi interspersed in the text with very full bibliographical references and some fascinating digressions. Despite its considerable length one reader found it hard to put the book down and it is hoped that it will be widely read.
Leonard M. Schiff