Reviewing the relevant Jewish and Christian literature the author demonstrates that though there is no mandate for ascetic practice within early Judaism, there is a deep respect there for an ascetic way of life.
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This essay challenges the contemporary thesis that ascetic virtues and practices are absent from the Jewish religious tradition. Montgomery surveys Jewish and Christian literature in search of themes of fasting, celibacy and the renunciation of familial and societal comforts. Biblical characters such as Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth receive considerable attention as do movements such as the Nazarites and the Essenes. The author concludes that though there is no mandate for ascetic practice within Judaism, there is a deep respect within the Jewish tradition for those who commit themselves to an ascetic way of life.
James Alan Montgomery (1866-1949) was a renowned scholar of the Jewish Scriptures and their languages. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1904. He also received honorary degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University, among others. He wrote eight books and more than one hundred articles. He taught at the University of Pennsylvania (1909-1939) and the Philadelphia Divinity School (1904-1935) concurrently. He also served as journal editor and president for both the Society of Biblical Literature and the American Oriental Society. He also served as the President of the American Schools of Oriental Research.