Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) combined the notions of rationalism and revelation. This approach underlined the distinctness of Judaism as a religion as well as emphasized the belief that the Jewish population was the people chosen by God. Thus, while the idea of revelation has no supernatural background, it involves a prescription of the way of life, an experience that can be beneficial for all human beings. Within Mendelssohn’s framework, Judaism as a religion does not involve the notion of revelation as necessary for human salvation.
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In his work Jerusalem, Moses Mendelssohn presents a view that Judaism is not a religion of a written word, but rather of a spoken word, a religion that is based on traditions of interpreting and transmitting the divine “legislation.” The dialogue that exists within Mendelssohn’s view balances between the pagan concept of reason and the Christian concept of revelation. Mendelssohn through that the Judaist faith has direct links to the universal truth.
Mendelssohn’s assertion was linked to a premise that Judaism is opposed to Christianity religion which fulfills the basic philosophical criteria of reason. According to him, the primary components of the Christian religion such as the Holy Trinity, the original sin, the suffering of Jesus Christ, the atonement, and others are all opposed to the notion of reason: “I do not find in the Old Testament anything which is equal to these doctrines, which contradict, according to my understanding, good reason.”
Saul Ascher (1767-1822) was widely known for his works on political and literal subjects in relation to the Judaist framework. Ascher rejected the views of Mendelssohn on Judaism being a religion made up of various ceremonial laws. Ascher did not explain the nature of faith with the use of reasonable principles, did not make the differentiation between reason and faith, rather, he held a view that faith held the concept of reason captive.
According to Ascher, the mortal enemies of Judaism were individuals that are “rational or noble-minded… and they believe it.” The nature of this idea can be traced back to the philosophical opinions of Kant, which later were systemized into a Jew-hating philosophy by Fichte.
Ascher saw the doctrines of Judaism as dogmas of religion, and the only way in which the purity of Judaism could be presented and maintained was linked to the neglect of these laws. He strongly advocated against the nationalistic concepts that dominated the Christian views of his modern times. Ascher contradicted the stereotypes about ritual murder and the Jews being a population chosen by the divine deity and proposed an idea that Jews could participate in the development of human rights the same way Christians do. Furthermore, he wanted the Jewish population to speak out about its constitutions and views as a developed group.
Thus, the views of Mendelssohn and Ascher on revelation and reason are similar in some ways and different in others. While Mendelssohn believed that Judaism is a religion that provides fulfillment for the criteria of reason, Ascher rejected the views of Mendelssohn on Judaism being a religion made up of various ceremonial laws, which, in his opinion, diminish the significance of Judaism as the religion of reason, instrumental in reducing the nationalistic ideas that surrounded the philosophical circles of his time.
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