Tradition, Authority and Change: The Interrelations Among Traditional, Charismatic, and Legal Types of Authority in Max Weber’s Ancient Judaism.

Monday, 16 July 2018: 17:30
Oral Presentation
Michael ROSENBERG, Concordia University, Canada
In Ancient Judaism Weber identified three forms of traditional authority – the hierocratic authority of the priests, the patrimonial authority of the Kings, and the patriarchal authority of the clan leadership – in conflict with one another and with yet a fourth, the authoritative moral law of the Torah as understood by the peasants and other plebeian strata. This conflict was the wellspring out of which charismatic prophecy emerged, which was itself subordinated to the authority of the Torah. Later, with the destruction of Judea as a semi-independent state and of the Temple in Jerusalem, a new form of authority developed, the substantively legal authority of the rabbinate. But this latter authority, too, was understood to be an extension of the traditional law found in the Torah. We see, then, multiple forms of authority – traditional, charismatic and legal – all intertwined and in some ways each serving to underpin the other. Combined with historical contingencies imposed by outside forces, tradition in Israel was transformed into a processual force facilitating societal change. Contemporary scholars assert that Weber did not succeed in getting all of the historical and theological details he provided in Ancient Judaism correct. Regardless, his comparative historical study serves as an illustration of how ideal types are applied to concrete historical circumstances. As Weber demonstrated, ideal types such as “charisma” and “tradition” only become useful for explanatory purposes when they are modified and extended to incorporate empirical societal variations and transformations.