Covenant and World Religions

BookCovenant and World Religions

Covenant and World Religions

Irving Greenberg and Jonathan Sacks on Orthodox Pluralism

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


January 1st, 2023





A new paradigm for relations between religions, one of acceptance and collaboration, requires not only a willingness to move beyond a tradition of hostility and competition but also significant theological rethinking. Within Jewish Orthodoxy there have been very few voices that have advanced and justified a vision of other faiths in this light: to this day, the reigning paradigm is one of practical collaboration while avoiding theologically based engagement or reflection. Two of the most important Orthodox Jewish voices advocating change have been those of Irving Yitz Greenberg and Jonathan Sacks. This book presents the theological, moral, and social views of these two leading rabbis. It focuses on the significance of covenant for both, and how they adapt this concept to enable the development of a Jewish view of other religions. In considering how they may have influenced each other, it also studies the limitations and internal contradictions that characterize their work as they attempt to point the way forward, in a spirit of dialogue, to continuing theological reflection on Judaism’s approach to world religions.

‘Alon Goshen-Gottstein is unquestionably one of the leading Jewish practitioners and theorists of inter-faith dialogue. If this book is not yet Goshen-Gottstein’s own Jewish theology of world religions, it is nevertheless an important step towards that goal.’ 

Paul Franks, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

‘The time has come to equip contemporary Jews with the tools and analytics for interreligious discourse. This book will help realize this need, developing as it does the dimensions of difference as a major analytic and dialogical feature.’ 

Michael Fishbane, Nathan Cummings Distinguished Service Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Chicago

Author Information

Alon Goshen-Gottstein is the founder and director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute. He is the author of Same God, Other God, Judaism, Hinduism and the Problem of Idolatry (2016), Religious Genius: Appreciating Outstanding Individuals Across Traditions (2017), Luther the Antisemite: A Contemporary Jewish Perspective (2018), and Coronaspection: World Religious Leaders Reflect on Covid-19 (2020), and the editor of Religious Truth: Towards a Jewish Theology of World Religions (Littman Library, 2020).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
Part I,  Introductions
1. Covenant: A Very Brief History
Part II.  Irving Yitz Greenberg: Covenant, Christianity, and World Religions
2. Background, Personal and Collective
3. Greenberg’s Theological Method
4. Judaism and Christianity: Historical and Comparative Evaluations
5. A God’s-Eye View: An Invitation to Pluralism
6. Confronting the Faith of Christians, Engaging Contested Issues
7. Greenberg on Christianity in Light of Jewish Precedents
8. Covenant: A Necessary Cornerstone of Greenberg’s Thought? 
9. Greenberg’s Theology: Reception and Evaluation
10. Greenberg and the Orthodox Statement on Christianity
Part III.  Jonathan Sacks: Covenant, the Dignity of Difference, and Religious Pluralism
11. Introducing Jonathan Sacks
12. Sacks on Judaism and World Religions: Key Ideas and Works
13. Covenant: Structuring Judaism, Structuring Humanity’s Relationships
14. Covenant and Religions: Noah and Abraham
15. The Dignity of Difference: Sacks and a Jewish Theology of Religions
16. The Dignity of Difference: Comparison and Analysis
17. Jonathan Sacks and Religious Pluralism 
18. Does Dignity of Difference Imply Study and Engaging Other Religions?
19. Viewing and Presenting Other Religions
20. Sacks on Interfaith Dialogue
21. The Power of Religious Imagination and the Legacy of Sacks
Part IV  Engaging Greenberg and Sacks 
22. Sacks and Greenberg:  A Comparative Appreciation
23. Conclusion in Dialogue: Revisiting a Jewish Theology of Religions
Appendix I. Interview with Rabbi Irving Yitz Greenberg
Appendix II. Interview with Rowan Williams