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The Postmodern Catholic

College Recommendations Guidelines
Sacred Paths
Homeworks and Outline: Sacred Paths
Reading Guide Questions Taoism 211-218
Reading Guide Questions Taoism
Homeworks: and Outline: Introduction to Catholicism
Unit IV Moses Reluctant Hero
Unit III God's Imperfect Instruments
Unit III God's Chosen Ones
The Mass, Vestements, and Sacred Vessels
Unit III The Sacraments
Iona Prep Interfaith Society
Islam Notes

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The Search for Meaning

Compared to ancient civilizations (Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, etc.), Jewish history seems insignificant

Hebrews were the "Little People" of the Ancient Near East

How did Judaism (smallest world religion…14 million) go from obscurity to global influence?

Is grounded in their "passion for meaning"

A Revolutionary Image of God

This passion for finding meaning in all things is rooted in the Hebrew’s unique understanding of God

God was Other and completely transcendent (meaning?)

Unlike other ANE traditions, natural elements such as the sun, rain, ocean, were personified as deities: Gods were seen as imminent

The ancient Hebrews saw all of these as subservient to Yahweh, the One

Ethical Monotheism

Again, unlike the surrounding ANE cultures, this One, Nameless God, was ultimately good and compassionate

The ancient pagan Gods were amoral, capricious, and cared little for humanity

The Hebrews reversed this: whereas the Olympian gods pursued beautiful women, the Hebrew God looked after orphans and widows

For the ancient Hebrews, God becomes a "Little Jew" who walks with them, protects and comforts, and lifts his people out of slavery, while at the same time, was completely transcendent

History of the Tanakh

T = Torah: the Law (also known as the Pentateuch, or the Five books of Moses)






N = Nevi’im (Prophets)

K = Kethuvim (Writings)

Jewish History: The Patriarchs

Stories of the Patriarchs (the Fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) are linked to the political and religious conflicts of 2nd and 3rd century Jerusalem

The three Hebrew canons are not found until 539 BC among Judean exiles who wanted to exert control over the local inhabitants of Jerusalem.

*Therefore, these stories tend to obscure history

Key themes of obedience and covenant

Plot of Hebrews’ story is simple:

Covenant is made in the Teachings, or Torah

Covenant is broken in Prophets

Covenant is restored in Writings

Throughout, faithlessness is condemned, loyalty (to covenant) is rewarded

Historical Background: Abram "father" > Abraham "father of many"

Left Ur in Mesopotamia (c. 1500 BCE) after Terah, father, passed away

"Called forth to the land of Canaan"

From a polytheistic tribe, dedicated to the moon goddess, Nana Sin

First to establish a covenant with God ("el shaddai" - god of the mountains)

Father of Western religions

Patriarchal Line

Abraham and Hagar, the concubine, had Ishmael

Abraham and Sarah, the wife, had Isaac

Isaac married Rebekah and had Esau and Jacob

Jacob had two wives and two concubines and had 12 sons

Jacob’s name became Isra`el (argues with god)

12 sons became the 12 tribes

Joseph [#11]was first born son of Rachel, Israel’s favorite wife

EGYPT (1200 BCE?)

Moses’ (drawn from water) religious experience on Mt. Horeb

receives the name of God=YHWH "I am who am"

challenges Pharaoh (YHWH v. the Egyptian gods/goddesses)

Exodus event

the LAW is given in the desert

Into Canaan

Time of judges

Monarchy - 1033 – 930 BCE




Split kingdom and fall of the kingdoms
1. 721 BCE- north falls to Assyrians
2. 586 BCE- south
(Judah) falls to Babylonians > Judahites in Exile
3. 536 BCE- Jews return to Judah w/ Zoroastrian influence

The Babylonian Captivity

Viewed primarily as punishment for sins

Would lead to the rise of the Talmud and Rabbinic Judaism

The Rise of the Greeks and Alexander the Great

Judaism would come into contact with Greek culture and philosophy and split into three groups:

Scattered Communities

By 5th and 4th centuries BC, Jewish communities were scattered and diverse throughout the Mediterranean world

Greek philosophy challenged Jewish tradition like nothing ever before

Hellenistic Period – 332 BCE

Influence of Greek Philosophy: causes split within Judaism surrounding how to react to Greek philosophy

Four main sects develop

Sadducees- Temple and strict adherence to the Torah

Pharisees (rabbis)- liberal interpretation of the Torah

Essenes- monastic and apocalyptic group near the Dead Sea

Zealots- militant fanatics

Maccabean Revolt (168 BCE)

Under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes IV, a statue of Zeus was placed in the Temple

Judas Maccabaeus started the revolt against the suppressors.

After defeating them militarily, he entered Jerusalem in triumph and cleansed the Temple, reestablishing traditional Jewish worship there.

Roman Rule (63 BCE)

General Pompey enters Jerusalem

King Herod is appointed ruler by Roman Senate in 43 BCE

Jesus is born during Augustus’ reign (6 BCE)

Rome grants freedom to worship as long as Herod rules with an iron fist

Zealot’s Revolt (66-70 CE)

Temple was destroyed in 70 CE

Only remaining group loyal to Judaism were the Pharisees

Rabbinic (Pharisaic) Judaism of today

Followers of Jesus became predominantly Gentile (non-Jew)

Rabbinic Judaism

The rise of Rabbinic Judaism follows the devastating destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem

The destruction of the Temple posed a unique dilemma:

To maintain the covenant, official sacrifices had to be made at the Temple

Since this was no longer possible, the Torah now came to stand for the entire body of the Jewish religious tradition

Rabbinic Judaism

The covenantal relationship now came to rely on interpreting tradition outside of Scripture

Interpreting Torah fell to the Rabbis who dedicated their lives to its and how to apply it to everyday life

To become a rabbi required long and diligent discipleship to a rabbinic sage

The Mishnah (200-225 CE)

The Mishnah: means "repeated tradition": the earliest example of the rabbinic tradition

Underlying assumption: rabbinic explanation is continually needed on how to implement commandments to one’s everyday life

The Talmud

These teachings were compiled and collected. The most famous collection of these is the Talmud

Talmud roughly means "curriculum", a Latin word that means "the path taken"

From the destruction of the Temple in 70 to the 6th and 7th centuries, Judaism underwent a fundamental transformation under the Rabbis

This transformation would continue through the medieval and modern period

God, Torah, and Israel

For Christians, the primary revelation and mediator between God and humanity (how God communicates to humanity) is through Jesus the Christ

In Judaism, the primary means of communication between God and Israel (His Chosen People) is…..?

Torah, the Law

Vertical Axis










The relationship between the People of Israel and God depends on the people’s loyalty to God as expressed in Torah

Main question continually asked: What has entered to disrupt this relationship?

The Jewish Messiah

A fourth element to the Jewish view is the Messiah

The figure in Judaism is problematic

Roughly translates as "Anointed One", or anointed king

Historically, Isaiah referred to the Persian King Cyrus as Messiah

King David was also given the title

The Messiah is viewed as an earthly king who delivers the Chosen People from religious and political oppression

Messiah continued

Over time, as hopes of a real political deliverer faded, such hopes of deliverance were projected on a cosmic scale

The concept of the End of Days developed where a cosmic figure would preside over the Fate of all

All this contributed to the Jews inability to have a crucified figure as a meaningful symbol

Mitzvot and the Messiah

According to the Talmud, the Torah possesses 613 mitzvot, (laws of covenant)

The Ten Commandments are the foundational mitzvot

The 613 involve every aspect of Jewish life

It is believed that the better they as a people, (Israel) obey these mitzvot, the more they will hasten the coming of the Messiah

Vertical and Horizontal Axis





Israel Mitzvot Messiah



A. Meaning In God (YHWH)

Judaism says that man’s philosophy must come to be based in God because...

man will always realize that he is not self created, but other created

man will always find his power limited and, therefore, needs an almighty

this Other, of whom the Jewish speak, must not only be almighty, but meaningful

meaning comes in the characteristics of the divine

Adonai / Hashem cannot be…

a meaningful God cannot be prosaic (shallow)

Jews say He is poetic by personifying Him

Jews say He is ultimate by calling his might incomprehensible

a meaningful God cannot be chaotic

Jews say God is single, supreme and nature-transcending

Jews say God is unified, not multiple or multi-personified

a meaningful God cannot be amoral

Jews say God is all-chaste and the protector of all

a meaningful God cannot be hostile

Jews say God centers in love for his prime creation: man

since there is meaning in God, the Jews can follow Him wholeheartedly

B. Meaning in Creation

There is often great difficulty in finding meaning in the universe due to its chaotic nature

Judaism addresses this concern immediately in Genesis...

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."

superficially, this explains how the world was created and why it exists

philosophically, it says that since God is good, and he created the world and existence, then as His creations, they, too, are good

But, if creation is good, then why do things go wrong?

Either man is helpless and life is inherently tragic and meaningless

Or man is imperfect and responsible, but can mend his life

Judaism follows the second answer and furthers it...

God created the universe

creation is inherently good

life in harmony with God is good

Judaism goes on to assert that the natural world is good and that man has dominion here

Contrary to most Eastern religions, then, Judaism centers both in spirit and matter

From this position on matter, three premises follow...

the material aspects of life are important

matter figures into salvation

the natural world can be host to, or make manifest, the divine

C. Meaning in Human Existence

Humans are limited, frail, and mortal

Humans are created in the image of God

Crux of creation

Free will and responsibility

Children of God

Humans are not evil, they are good, but inherently errant (man "misses the mark" )

D. Meaning in History

The context in which a life is lived (actions) affects that life

If single acts affect one life, then social acts change the context of all life

God acts purposefully, so history is a field of opportunity

Humans must be attentive to see God’s will

Because of this concept of history, Judaism asserts...

God has direct intervention in history (Exodus)

Humans wouldn’t have been created if they couldn’t affect history/matter

Because the social order is out of line with God’s Will there is the possibility of social revolution to change

E. Meaning in Morality

Because humans are social, moral laws are necessary to prevent disorder

Jewish moral codes come in two forms

Ritual and ethical prescriptions

Cornerstone of the laws (mitzvot) lie in the Decalogue

of the 10, 4 are the essential ethical considerations that lead to a moral life

the Decalogue prescribes the minimum by which man can endure

their genius is not in an exhaustive finality, but in the foundation they lay


Four laws set the groundwork for brotherly love


You can argue and quarrel, but there is a boundary

Thou shalt not kill


You can flirt, but there is a boundary

Thou shalt not commit adultery


You can accumulate wealth, but there is a boundary

Thou shalt not steal


You can speak your mind, but there is a boundary

Thou shalt not bear false witness

Context of the Decalogue

1st and 2nd mitzvot imply that YHWH was to be the primary god of the Hebrews (henotheism) and that idolatry was dangerous because the object became more important than one’s faith and morals.

3rd mitzvot implies that YHWH’s name was never to be used for malicious intentions.

The sabbath (shabbat) was reserved for YHWH. Constantine, a Pagan Roman sun-worshiper, moved the day of rest to Sunday in 364 CE, ordered that religious observances be moved from Saturday to Sunday.


The 5th mitzvot exemplifies how honoring one’s parents was integral to the Hebrew society. The family was a microcosm of the society.

The 6th mitzvot uses the term, "ratsach", and it is commonly believed to describe the premeditated killing of a human being.

The 7th mitzvot refers to a man engaging in sexual intercourse with a woman who was either married or betrothed to another man.

If a man seduced a virgin, he was required to pay her father an amount of money, and perhaps to marry the woman. Women had no say in the matter; some were forced to marry a rapist who they loathed



The 8th mitzvot prohibits stealing from Israelites and has been interpreted to refer to someone who kidnaps a person, forces him or her to work for him, and then sells him or her into slavery.

The 9th mitzvot forbids perjury and a person who lies in court receives the penalty that would be due a person guilty of the crime at question.

The 10th mitzvot uses the word covet (hamad) meaning "to wish for enviously."

F. Meaning in Justice

Meaning in Justice

The vehicle in determining God’s justice was the prophet

Prophet... from the Greek ‘prophetes: pro (for) phetes (to speak): "to speak for God"

Two western convictions are owed to the prophets:

A society’s future depends on the justice of that social order

individuals are responsible for the well being of the society and the self

The prophetic movement has gone through three distinct phases...

Prophetic guilds

prophesy was performed only in frenzied groups

Individual pre-writing prophets

prophets prophesied individually (Judges, Eli, Nathan)

Writing prophets

specific call for social justice in the midst of a corrupt society (Amos, Hosea, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Jeremiah)

The Prophetic Principle

political stability cannot exist w/o social justice

asserts that God’s standards are High and He won’t stand for corruption

Jews saw their social justice as a means to avoid destruction by larger, unjust peoples

G. Meaning in Suffering

The prophets saw the threat of the destruction of their country (8th-6th Cen. BCE) as a call for righteousness

threat of being destroyed means that you have something worth destroying

721 BCE... Northern territories destroyed by Assyria

586 BCE... Judah, in the south, conquered which leads to Babylonian captivity

At the point of greatest despair prophets give hope

Prophets interpreted Babylonian Captivity as a learning experience...

punishment for past ways

teaching for true worth of freedom

teaches passion for freedom and justice

teaches value of vicarious suffering

accept our present pain to spare future others

I. Ritual

Judaism places a high emphasis on ritual and has no creeds, except for Shema:

"Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. "

Judaism (not Kabbalah) focuses on the concrete rather than the abstract

The purpose of ritual:

Eases the uncertainty of tense situations

Gives form to what would be chaos

Directs life in ‘positive’ direction and channels emotions

Softens tragedy by removing thought

Intensifies appreciation for events

Makes life holy

Piety (holiness) is seeing the entire world as God’s and as his glory manifest

The manual for the hallowing of life through piety, tradition and ritual is the Torah

Holidays and Life Events

Pesach, or Pasch (Passover)

commemorates the Exodus from Egypt (Seder meal)

Rosh Hoshanah: Jewish New Year

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement



Festival of lights; commemorates the Maccabean Revolt


commemorates the wandering in the Sinai desert

Purim: Jewish Mardi Gras, more or less

Brit Milah: Circumcision

Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah: Coming of Age


Kiddushin and Nisuin

Betrothal and marriage

The groom smashes a glass (or a small symbolic piece of glass) with his right foot, to symbolize the destruction of the Temple

Death and mourning

Jewish mourning practices can be broken into several periods of decreasing intensity.

Clothes are torn

Judaism requires prompt burial

Shiva begins on the day of burial and continues until the morning of the seventh day after burial

Kaddish: prayer of mourning


Certain animals may not be eaten at all.

Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.

All blood must be drained from the meat or broiled out of it before it is eaten.

Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.

Meat cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.

Utensils that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils must be boiled.

Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

J. Preserving the Tradition

Judaism insists that it has a unique cultural and ethnic identity to preserve, based on:

Faithas we have discussed it and its emphasis on meaningObservance

the path to making life holy through ritual, piety, and traditionCulture

a distinct language (Hebrew)

a distinct lore


Talmud: interpretation of Torah

Midrashim: stories expanding on incidents in the Tanakh to derive principles of Jewish law or to teach moral lessons


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D. “The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone” Thomas Merton