Communicating through Contradiction

Daniel H. Weiss

in Paradox and the Prophets

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199895908
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949854 | DOI:
Communicating through Contradiction

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This chapter examines Cohen’s performative presentation of three key concepts of religion: the love of God; commandedness; and the relation between repentance and forgiveness. For each, Cohen seems to display two contradictory modes of thought: at times, he speaks as though guided by the strict method of philosophy, thereby arriving at a human-centered perspective. At other times, he draws upon scriptural citations in order to describe a personal correlative engagement between the human being and God. The chapter argues that the proper response to such inconsistencies is not to seek a theoretical mediation between them, but rather to view each of the religious concepts in question as corresponding to a practice. Cohen’s multiplicity can thus be viewed as the natural result of theoretical reflection on the practices that can be described as “loving God,” “being commanded,” and “turning in repentance.” For all of these, an attempt to force one’s thought into a fully consistent description will necessarily distort and flatten the subject matter under consideration. As such, Cohen’s use of multiple perspectives and voices serves to protect the reader from the temptation to theoretize that which is ultimately paradoxical and requires a personal and practical form of appropriation.

Keywords: paradoxical; love; God; forgiveness; repentance; theoretical; scriptural; practice; personal; contradiction

Chapter.  19888 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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