The Jews, while maintaining their separateness, were open to the spiritual currents and movements of the times. They drew into their own civilization what appealed to them among the ideas and institutions of the world around them, striving for a synthesis between the indigenous and the extraneous in religious thought – both in theology and in philosophy – and, to some extent, in social organization. This was effected by interpretation. For this reason, it is important to see this activity clearly. Its task was two-fold. Its principal object was to explain the tenets of biblical religious culture to each generation in order to give the life of the community and the individual member guidance and direction, and to strengthen their faith in the existence and absolute, simple unity of God, his revelation in history through the Torah, his promise of the kingdom of God on earth and the final redemption at the end of days through the Messiah, son of David. The second objective was the defence of these concepts against Muslims and Christians in so far as these two daughter-religions claimed to have superseded Judaism.

Erwin I. J. Rosenthal, “The Study of the Bible in Medieval Judaism,” in The Cambridge History of the Bible, Vol. 2, ed. G.W.H. Lampe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1969), 254.

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