Posted by: mattcolvin | July 31, 2015

Ancient Jewish Zwinglianism

I am not myself a Zwinglian, and I am sympathetic to the critique of Zwinglianism, advanced by Charles Taylor and Peter Leithart, among others, that says it is typical of modernity to divorce symbols from efficacy and from the signified, and to reduce their operation to mere indicative signs.

Yet though this desacralizing tendency may be typically modern, the Zwinglianizing impulse also appears to be  very old. We find it even in 2nd Temple Judaism, in a contemporary of the Apostle Paul:

Johanan ben Zaccai explained that neither did a person become really unclean by a corpse nor did he become really clean by the “water of separation,” but that the relevant provisions must be observed because it was the will of God. (Num. Rab. on 19.2; P. de R. K. 40a f.)

Below: Johanan ben Zaccai, from the Knesset Menorah (Wikipedia). 


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