Klein, Rabbi Reuven Chaim. God Versus Gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry. New York: Mosaica Press. 2018.
Rabbi Reuven Chaim has succeeded with his masterpiece on the roots and branches of idolatry as they relate to the development of Judaism under One God. He marshals exemplary scholarly authorities and painstakingly details how the belief in One God formed the basis for the thoughts and behaviors of Jewish kings, prophets, and common everyday people in the Holy Land. This monograph demonstrates the finest quality biblical criticism by explaining how idolatry and monotheism intertwined in peace and conflict despite God’s repeated injunctions against idolatry (XV).
Rabbi Klein delivers a well-thought-out argument in comparative religion which could go even further in succeeding volumes. What is most surprising about this work is how adamantly the author argues for the monotheistic imperative while taking note how often the Jewish People’s tolerance for other People’s gods has been both the reason for the selection of the Jews as the Chosen People and has also failed to prepare the way for the Messiah. In other words, Jews remain committed to the belief faith and devotional rituals for One God and One coming Messiah will set the Jewish People free. But this saving requires conditions that have not yet arrived and the question of Jesus and succeeding mystics in this tradition is not resolved in this volume but may be in Volume II yet to be published.
God Versus Gods is poised to become a celebrated classic in Judaic scholarship. Rabbi Klein explores history, archaeology, anthropology, comparative religion, cosmology, and the natural and applied arts and sciences. I absolutely loved this scholarly yet holistic approach to the study of religious studies and am very eager to read Rabbi Klein’s forthcoming Volume II. Rabbi Klein’s extensive world class research methodologies reveal this impressive volume this product of judicious and comprehensive investigative research into traditional and contemporary resources present for both the scholar and lay person while maintaining the kind of authoritative voice found in leading multi-disciplinary pedagogical commentaries. This volume is easy to read and well-organized in detailed and well annotated scholarly formulation.
What impresses me most about Rabbi Klein in God Versus Gods is his illuminating wisdom concerning the etymology of ancient Hebrew and the other Middle Eastern languages. This volume is highly instructive if the reader is interested in learning a wide variety of terms and definitions from Hebrew and other ancient Middle Eastern langauges including Egyptian and even other languages such as those related to Phoenician and Akkadian. Rabbi Klein’s expert dissection of intricate topics in the oral and written law of the Israelites found in the Torah, Talmud, Midrash, and other rabbinical sources is explained both clearly and insightfully for beginning and advanced Torah students. Yet, the utilization of linguistic archaeology truly sparkled from these pages as much as Rabbi Klein’s uncanny textual deconstruction necessary for critical and cultural analysis. Although Rabbi Klein’s deconstruction of cultural symbols is present and effective, I would like to see even more deep analysis on decoding and comparing cultural symbols and ritual practices. I would also employ even more techniques from Jungian psychoanalysis and social psychology.
Volume II could introduce a deeper decoding of symbolism through post-modern cultural theory mixed into classical insights which could delve more deeply into astrology, witchcraft, demonology, the occult, and the esoteric as they relate to idolatry and Judaism. I look forward to applying ancient mysteries to forthcoming revelations scheduled for Volume II including power of sound meditation on the many colorful names for One God. More information on Kabbalistic meditation techniques would also pique my interest.
Following an authoritatively detailed set of scholarly citations in Unit I, the History of Monotheism, comes Unit 2 of this work which is just as well cited and defined by Rabbi Klein. He calls the second unit of this book his Encyclopedia of Gods in the Bible. This encyclopedia sets the stage for future contemporary studies in biblical archaeology. Rabbi Klein’s Encyclopedia of the Gods would make a wonderful stand-alone coffee table book should colorful graphic illustrations be added to a subsequent independent edition. Nevertheless, both units in one book are deeply researched in primary and secondary sources of scholarship.
I would like to see more on Enoch and the Dead Sea Scrolls regarding the history of angels and the theory of ritual laws as well as in-depth discussion of secret societies utilizing Kabbalistic or idolatrous principles and techniques adapted by or connected to the legacies of the Knights Templar, Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and other mystic and philosophical orders of the ages. The Apocrypha would be highly attractive to those readers seeking to know the roots of mysticism in ancient Israel as it made its way to the Christian Gnostics and medieval scholars.
Rabbi Klein has made it clear the cultures of the ancient Middle East influenced each other and borrowed traditions and stories from each other. I am particularly interested in what makes certain practices sacred and how they are similar or different from those practiced by other religions. Is Judaism really that different from the religions that preceded or surrounded it? Are the prophets of Israel and their sacred texts really that different from those of other religions? Klein answers this question to some extent, but cross-cultural similarities and differences should also be recognized. In other words, even more anthropology and comparative religion would be enlightening.
Rabbi Klein’s God Versus Gods could influence scholars to take a deeper look at the pros and cons of ethnocentrism? Are the Jews alone the Chosen People or are we all God’s children? Although it is irrefutable Judaism established a democratic code of ethics for all people, many questions remain.
This book could mark the beginning of a rebirth of deep sacred spiritual lessons for an age drowning in material greed and corruption. There are unintended consequences that emanate from this publication. There are also valuable principles and stages of evolution and revelation here for us to honor.
Let us not worship the Golden Calf. Such materialism forgot ancient holistic principles that can elevate us. No talisman is needed to directly experience God’s prophecies, but the visualization of sacred geometry offers us some powerful techniques. The path of the meditating mystic trains us all when combined with character education for direct ethical action. Idols need not interfere with the worship and application of mysterious powers by which the Almighty Creator energizes the structures and functions of Nature to which everything is connected. We are all One and all is One. Everything is connected including all people and religions.