21st Century COE Program Archive


Date: July 24, 2004
Location: Tokyo Academy, Doshisha University
Title: Criticism of A. Toynbee in Jewish Studies: On the Inclusiveness and Exclusiveness of Civilizations
Speaker: Isaiah Teshima (Faculy of Human Environment, Osaka Sangyo Univ.)
Title: Dialogue with Others in Rabbinical Judaism
Speaker: Etsuko Katsumata (School of Theology, Doshisha University)
  This seminar meeting focused on the Jews and Jewish religion in their relationship with other monotheistic religions. Dr. Teshima from Osaka Sangyo University explained his special interest in A. Toynbee’s work, and Ms. Katsumata from Doshisha University (ph. D. candidate at Hebrew University) spoke about her research on the Jewish prayer 'Birkat Ha-Minim.'
  According to Dr. Teshima, Toynbee’s perspective on civilization, especially his spiritual view toward explaining the rise and fall of civilizations, still has some influence nowadays on scholars like S. Huntington and E. Said, even though it has been criticized for long time. Dr. Teshima mentioned Toynbee’s conceptual binarism in theorizing the cultural influence of Hellenism on Judaism and Jewish identity. He also introduced E. Bickerman’s theory that the conflicts internal to Jewish community had reflected its relationship to the external Hellenistic world. Dr. Teshima concluded that we would gain a clearer basic understanding if we consider Jewish thought as reflecting a balance between several forces.
  Ms. Katsumata explained the historical transformation of the 'Birkat Ha-Minim' prayer, whose original sense involved a curse on the heathens. This prayer changed gradually to become more moderate in expression, and today the meaning of the term minim ('heathens') itself has changed to 'enemy' in the Ashekenazic prayer. Ms. Katsumata further mentioned that in Rabbinic texts, no negative conception of the heathens is to be found. As a consequence, she emphasized that the Jews’ notion of minim had not arisen from their negation of outsiders, but suggested that we can at least estimate that it was introduced through occasions where Jews encountered non-Jews.
Asuka Nakamura (COE Research Instructor, CISMOR, Doshisha University)