Essay on the Plurality of Time in Judaism
Sylvie Anne Goldberg


Contents and Abstracts
Introduction. Questions of Time. Evaluating time.
chapter abstract

This chapter presents first an overview of the multiple landmarks used in Jewish ways to date an event. It then presents the idea of a "space-time" constructed by Jewish temporality. To do so the chapter draws on the approaches to time built for history, and poses its own dialectic to grasp the present between "this world" and "the coming world".

I - 1 Ad Tempus Universale – A time for every one? - A time for Jews. -Awareness, sense of History.
chapter abstract

This chapter introduces to the major debates about time which are orienting the book. It discusses the idea of the existence of an universal time, by presenting an overview of the common knowledge about time, using the Ancients (Aristotle, Platon, Plotinius, St Augustine) to better apprehend their impact upon the historians (Gurevitch, Pomian, Ariès, Le Goff, Braudel), anthropologists or sociologists (Durkheim, Mauss, Eliade), and Christian theologians (Cullman). The chapter proceeds then to a presentation of the debate about the relationship of Jews to history and memory ( Y. H. Yerushalmi, A. Funkenstein).

I - 2 Where does time come from? –Times of the Bible –Bible and History- Creation and the origin of time.
chapter abstract

The chapter starts with an overview of the common knowledge constructed by the first generation of Christian biblical scholars about the "Jewish" sense of time taken from their own approach to the Hebrew Bible, while it shows that the Jews shared the common views of their contemporaries at their time, the chapter discusses the components of time in the Bible with the tools of the narrative discourse elaborated by Ricœur and the circular time conceived of by Eliade. Using these tools allow the reading of the arrangement of the books in the Hebrew Bible as benchmarks for temporality, putting at their center the Creation of the universe.

I - 3 Where is time going? -Between Eternity and mortality- What is temporality?- The eschatological word in time- Where is Time?
chapter abstract

This chapter discusses the cliché arguing that the Jews were only concerned by the future and the world to come. Thus, it presents an inquiry into the thought of Jewish philosophers (Maimonides, Crescas, Gersonides, Albo) who dealt with the notion of time during the middles ages. The chapter questions what is temporality with the contemporary approaches (Levinas) taking into account the fact that almost all the western thinking about time is mainly based on Heidegger and Augustine. The chapter ends on a questioning about where should be grasped the notion of "temporality", between the sacred and the profane.

I - 4 Time of God Time of mankind – The movement of History- By the Rivers of Babylon, there history silently pursues its course.
chapter abstract

This chapter pursues the questioning about the sacred and the profane times through the distinction made by Biblical scholars about "Hebrew time" they found it in the Hebrew Bible. A. J. Heschel saw Judaism as an "architecture of time" when von Rad saw mostly in the Bible a "religion of history" to better asses his dismissal after the Biblical period.

I - 5 The time to come- Telling Time- Waiting but how? –Writing the history of God /The history of Nations- Time (or history) suspended.
chapter abstract

This chapter deals with the representations and narrative about the other world. It presents an overview of the linguistic meanings accorded to the different words which are expressing a conceptualization of time (zman, olam, mo'ed, et). It then describes the different approaches available in the Mishnah and the Talmud after the Destruction of the Second Temple.

II - 1 Temporal scansions- what day is today?- In what year?- For How long? – Until when? -Between the exodus from Egypt and Solomon's Temple.
chapter abstract

This part leaves aside the general approaches to time to deal precisely with the concrete ways of "making" time. This chapter describes the scansions of time, the rhythm of its landmarks: days, weeks, months, years, festivals, fallow fields. It follows the changes introduced along the time into the naming and the counting of the years, from the Bible to the Talmud and the calendar, putting together a form of chronology of elapsed time.

II - 2 Eschatological Scansions -Jubilees and Apocalypses
chapter abstract

This chapter develops the idea that aside the concrete signs of the scansions of temporality, are others markers, expressed in the apocryphal literature, which penetrates the making of time.

II - 3 Historiographical scansions. Between Adam and the present time.- Between biblical history and exegesis, creating a chronology- the world order: chronology in the service of exegesis- What source for the stories?
chapter abstract

This chapter follows the emergence of the Greeks chronographies built on biblical sources to shape a coherent narrative of Jewish history. It then describes the first rabbinical account of elapsed time, from the Creation of the world until the Great Revolt of Bar Kokhba. The chapter focuses on the link existing between that chronography and the Jewish exegesis, that one can find as well in Josephus accounts.

II - 4 Mathematical Scansions: in what era? A. The Seleucid Era. B. The era of Destruction.
chapter abstract

This chapter penetrates into the mathematical evaluation of elapsed time. It describes the two main eras in use in the Jewish World of late Antiquity and Early Middle Ages. Also it presents the way these eras are understood and explained by rabbis, astronomers, and non-Jews witnesses.

II - 5 Directed Time. A. Expectancy –Expecting the Messiah tomorrow or the day after. B. The reckoning – The Sabbath of God.
chapter abstract

This chapter analyses how arithmetic of counted time down meets with exegesis to fit into the scheme sketched by prophecies about the probable date of the coming of the Messiah. It presents a Talmudic view constructed with all the components inherent to the beliefs and conjectures on his coming. It ends with an interrogation on a possible Jewish millenarianism, which vanished or was eclipsed by the Christian one.

II - 6 Exercises in rabbinic calculation. Placing oneself in time- From (the era ) destruction to (that of) creation- Epitaphs and colophons –Arranging temporality- The coming of the era of the world.
chapter abstract

This chapter follows the emergence of dating the era: on tombstones displaying the era of the world, counted from the date of the destruction of the Second Temple, on divorce and marriages acts, displaying the Seleucid era, and the first attempting to make the dating fit together, combining all the systems in use in Jewish world, with the start of the almost unified use of the era of the world on colophons and other texts, and on Italian tombstones.

II - 7 Exercises of Rabbinic thought. A. The event: between history and prophecy. 1. The book of the Maccabees. 2. Daniel. Prophecy: conjugating the past at all times- The calendar and the sects: between time and history.- 1,2,3 Sun! –The sun has a date with the moon- calendrical history- The Hebrew month and their order – The perpetual calendar- The Last (calendrical) war.
chapter abstract

This chapter starts with a questioning about the notion of "event". Its aim is to grasp the way Jewish chronology might understand an important event as a time marker. To do it, it tracks history through a comparison between the narratives in the Books of the Maccabees and the Book of Daniel. Then it tries to figure out what may have produce the variations between the solar calendar and the lunisolar one, whom traces are standing out from the analyses of the Bible, some Apocrypha, and from the documents discovered at Qumran. It ends with the controversy on the calendar held between Palestinian and Babylonian Jewries during the 10th century.

II - 8 Fleeting Conclusion. The threefold "times" of Judaism- Awareness of time, sense of history (continued).
chapter abstract

The last chapter is an opening for further research. It first combines the elements discussed in the book into a threefold system of time references, markers of the multiplicity of register of time, posing "Jewish" time as a combination of registers of "universal" and "specific", which together are at the making of it. Then it goes back to the debate presented in the first chapter about the awareness of history among the Jews, to conclude by taking the case of Dei Rossi and David Gans who discovered, in the 16th century, the problematic of the biblical arithmetic made from the ages indicated in the Bible.