Ben: Sonship and Jewish Mysticism

Continuum Books  2007

The topic of “sonship” in Jewish mystical literature has fascinated Prof. Idel since 1976. Now, three decades later, he has produced a major work exploring this theme as it ranges across the various genres of Jewish mystical literature from Biblical times through the Talmudic and Rabbinic period, across Ashkenazi esoteric texts, kabalistic tracts, Christological literature, and Hasidic writings. Despite the scope of his exhaustive research and his encyclopedic command of all the texts, Idel offers this as a preliminary work. 

The parallel notions of “sonship” in Christian thought reverberate in many places. The mediating role of the son is explored. The theological fluidity and flexibility found in the medieval period generated multiple streams of thought free of rabbinic strictures. While Judaism rejected the Christian version of “sonship” it left open the possibility of other forms of “sonship.” 

Ben will be of interest to serious scholars of Jewish mysticism, theologians, and perhaps philosophers of religion. The goal of this book was to survey structures of sonship of God in many different layers of Jewish mystical literature. What emerged is that there is no single understanding of this notion in Jewish mysticism or Judaism. The journey to that conclusion is both fascinating and enlightening.

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