R. Joseph Albo (1380–1444) lived at the beginning of the 15th century, at a time when the Jewish community in Spain was under extraordinary pressure from Christianity and suffered from internal religious controversies and widespread conversions. This article argues that in writing the Book of Principles (1425) Albo attempted to unite the Jewish community by strengthening the traditional values of observing Torah and mitzvot. First, it explains that the key to understanding Albo’s principles lies in the concept of Divine Religion. This criterion guides Albo in determining three categories: “principles,” “roots,” and “branches.” Second, it lays forth Albo’s complex position regarding the issue of inadvertent heresy. According to Albo, inadvertent heresy can be contained only with regard to the “roots” and “branches,” but not the “principles.” Albo distinguishes between general heresy against Divine Religion, which is considered heresy, and heresy against a specific dogma, which is considered “only” a sin. Third, it explains how this conception of heresy is related to Albo’s concept of the remnant of the soul, which depends on observance of mitzvot along with the religious intention of doing God’s will. This clarifies the inherent innovation of Albo’s doctrine, according to which the concepts of faith and heresy should be assessed only in accordance with their implications for the observance of the Divine Religion. Albo ultimately rejects Christianity, while passing over internal theological controversies that were damaging Judaism from within. In this way, Albo stands out as a creative thinker who formulated a rabbinical response to the challenges of his generation, using philosophical concepts and Christian methods while emptying them of their original meaning.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Religion of Faith vs. Faith of Religion: Rabbi Yosef Albo's Practical Approach for Determining Dogmas of Faith
|Number of pages
|Published - 2022