Simon Dubnow Institute
for Jewish History and Culture at Leipzig University

David Biale:Traditionen der Säkularisierung. Jüdisches Denken von den Anfängen bis in die Moderne

Buchcover, auf dem verschiedene ältere Bücher nebeneinanderstehend zu sehen sind, u.a von Simon Dubnow und Maimonides, darüber gelegt roter Kasten mit weißer bzw. gelber Schrift

Translated from American English by Liliane Meilinger. With a foreword by Dan Diner



266 pp.

Hardcover with dust jacket

Göttingen/Bristol, Conn.: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015

ISBN 978-3-525-37038-4

Price: 60,00 € (D)

ISBN 978-3-647-37038-5 (e-book)

Price: 49,99 € (D)







The study traces the rise of Jewish secularism through the visionary writers and thinkers who led its development. Spanning the rich history of Judaism from the Bible to today, David Biale shows how the secular tradition these visionaries created is a uniquely Jewish one, and how the emergence of Jewish secularism was not merely a response to modernity but arose from forces long at play within Judaism itself.


Biale explores how ancient Hebrew books like Job, Song of Songs, and Esther downplay or even exclude God altogether, and how Spinoza, inspired by medieval Jewish philosophy, recast the biblical God in the role of nature and stripped the Torah of its revelatory status to instead read scripture as a historical and cultural text. Biale examines the influential Jewish thinkers who followed in Spinoza’s secularizing footsteps, such as Salomon Maimon, Heinrich Heine, Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein. He tell the stories of those who also took their cues from medieval Jewish mysticism in their revolts against tradition, including Hayim Nahman Bialik, Gershom Scholem, and Franz Kafka. And he looks at Zionists like David Ben-Gurion and other secular political thinkers who recast Israel and the Bible in modern terms of race, nationalism, and the state.


David Biale's study demonstrates how these many Jewish paths to secularism were dependent, in complex and paradoxical ways, on the very religious traditions they were rejecting, and examines the legacy and meaning of Jewish secularism today.