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Imitatio and Ethics in Judaism and Christianity

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Chapter Summary

The ethical system, whether of Christianity or Judaism, concerns us here to the extent only that it either has room for, or requires the notion of mimēsis as a generator of ethical energy. This chapter sketches the situation in Christianity, since although this is familiar ground its comparison with Judaism is essential to our purpose. The teachings of Torah are embodied in miṣwah, "commandment": and obedience to a command, be it joyfully responsive or enforced, cannot be identified with emulation of a model. Mimēsis, then, cannot be legitimately claimed to constitute the ideal and the ultimate implementation of Torah, even though Torah is misrepresented if it is simply equated with law. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but flattery is not the same thing as obedience. Nevertheless, it is understandable that, from a Christian point of view, mimēsis should replace responsive implementation of precept as an ethical dynamo.

Keywords: Christianity; ethical system; Judaism; miṣwah; mimēsis; Torah



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