Judaism and Other Religions: An Orthodox perspective

Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill

Rabbi Dr. Alan Brill teaches at Yeshiva University and Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and is also the Founder and Director of Kavvanah: Center for Jewish Thought. He is the author of a forthcoming monograph on Orthodox approaches to other religions. The following is a summary and sample of it. Omitted are chapters on encountering Easter religions, a phenomenology of common techniques, and the implications for this paper of Rabbi Soloveitchik's dialectic position.  This paper was commissioned by the World Jewish Congress for the "World Symposium of Catholic Cardinals and Jewish Leaders," January 19-20, 2004 in New York City.


In this paper, I present a range of traditional sources bearing on the encounter between Judaism and other religions. These have been selected with an aim of highlighting the widest array of opinions, for the purpose of beginning discussion; this is not designed to be either a complete anthology of relevant sources, or a definitive word on the meaning of these texts. These selections will, I believe, clarify the wisdom of Alon Goshen-Gottstein’s recent assertion that the entry of Orthodox Jews to the Jewish-Christian dialogue  "has expanded the boundaries of the conversation and introduced new dimensions."[1]

These traditional opinions highlight a key difference between the conceptualization of encounter in the 20th Century, and the way prior generations viewed the question of Christianity. In particular, while contemporary Jews have seen themselves as members of the Jewish community, and conceptualized their dialogue partners as members of a corresponding Christian community, prior generations took a theological rather than sociological approach, examining the role of Christianity, as a religion, within the theological constructs of Judaism.

One very important piece obvious from the texts is how they disprove the narratives of recent historians, who claimed that the historical shifts from medieval to modern times were matched by a parallel movement from “exclusiveness to tolerance,” to quote the title of a volume by eminent Jewish historian Jacob Katz. In this view, Jews moved from the Ghetto restrictions to enlightenment enfranchisement and emancipation, and, corresponding to changing Gentile attitudes, their own views toward Christians moved from one of polemics to the universal tolerance of a Mendelssohn.[2]

In line with my reading of the texts, I emphatically reject the contention that encounter is only possible as a consequence of our modern existence and that we relate as Jews to non-Jews. The difference between our era of encounter and the medieval period is not essential, but only the passing of time.

I further believe that the conception of encounter held by many other contemporary Jewish thinkers – is much too limited. Discussions between communities are valuable – and a pleasant departure from much of our interactions as peoples over the centuries. But as a believing Jew by commitment, and a theologian by temperament and profession, I believe that the potential encounter in the realm of ideas – that of theology and doctrine – is much more interesting personally, and, in my opinion, potentially of much more profound importance.

My interest in such an encounter flows from understanding that doctrine and religion are not themselves constant and static, but rather reflect human interplay between temporal culture, philosophy and science, on the one hand, and the Divine Eternal, as revealed and experienced, on the other. As is clear from the range of texts translated below (and could similarly be observed from any similar anthology on any other topic), there is no one Jewish “Orthodoxy”; instead, there are orthodoxies; different unfoldings of our religion’s Truths by different thinkers writing within the rubric of orthodox Judaism and seen then and subsequently as part of the continuing chain of tradition.

Just as earlier generations of Orthodox thinkers were influenced by their cultures-- the Jewish encounter with other religions has the potential to influence future Jewish thinking. Not from any process of explicit trading of principles – the committee-work of joint statements has no place in the making of real theologies – but rather from expanding our own awareness of the ways in which the Divine can be experienced and the ineffable aspects of faith can be formulated.

To be specific: I am interested in the questions of how other religions experience God, revelation, ethics, and redemption. I am also interested in the textual questions of doctrine. Many of the challenges facing contemporary theologians are shared between Jews and Christians today. I want doctrine to serve as meeting place of encounter with our globalization.

Having expressed an interest in, and a desire for, mutual understanding, let me make clear that what I am presenting here is not dialogue, but rather a precursor to any encounter between religions that I envision and anticipate. I am laying out the possibilities within Jewish theology for understanding other religions, and for constructing an internal theology of other religion.

Does Judaism have a theology of non-Jews? The answer is emphatically yes. Or perhaps, too emphatically yes, since, absent definitive councils and statements from the magisterium, Judaism hosts theologies, in the plural, rather than any singular doctrine. Accordingly, there is room to remodel or reconstruct theologies, guided by text, community and interpretation. Yet, though authentic Jewish theologies of non-Jews are rooted in the past, they must also make room for what academic scholarship and personal encounter teaches us about the true doctrinal and phenomenological nature of the other.

I am not working with non-rabbinic theologies of Buber, Rosenzweig, and Baeck, but the Talmudic thought of medievals and moderns such as Yehudah Halevi, Yakov Emden, and S. R. Hirsch. To me, an authentic Jewish theological position must meet the criterion of textuality, of being true to the sources. As did the medieval thinkers before me, I insist that a theology fits the rubrics of the Tanakh and the Talmud – the same criteria of the medieval thinkers.

I have selected these texts for the utility in articulating prior Jewish theologies, and their utility in guiding future theologies. Accordingly, I have omitted polemics and statements in passim. Each of these texts represents an entire theological position, a world-view within which the question of other religions is only one aspect. These are real positions that to this day remain live options for Jews seeking a theological direction.

At their core, these texts all reflect the Classical philosophical tradition, which, in Islamic translation, inspired the very first formal Jewish theologies of the Gaonic period. Philosophy distinguishes between the essence and the attribute. Recognition of the essential creates the possibility of tolerance and respect, the acknowledgement that we share a common, universal focus, in which the differences between us are only secondary attributes.

In order to come to terms with the current clash of civilizations and the increasing tensions between forces of globalization and those of tradition, we need to view the conflict as a moral challenge that cannot be considered as resolved through a survival of the fittest or through demonologizing the other sides.[3] Religion offers an essential means of providing dignity, sanctity, and spirituality to meet these new challenges. I reject the solution of meeting as secular people; I want doctrine to serve as meeting place of encounter with our globalization. In the current age, no longer do people shelve their religion in encountering others. Facing others in a post-secular age, therefore, means that we must choose the moderate positions in our own tradition as a basis for discussion.

Traditional texts offer enough resources to make this possible.

Hence, my starting point is not the traditions of liberalism and tolerance based on secular eighteenth century ideas, nor is my goal to hammer tolerance into the tradition for pragmatic reasons. Starting with liberalism is not useful for a traditional orthodox approach because it claims that our lives are really secular, and it ignores textual sources. Hence, I will not emphasize the tolerant position of the thirteenth century author, Rabbi Menachem Meiri, which considers other faith communities as religions worthy of tolerance without a theory of other religions. Instead in this paper, I go back to our own tradition for new resources and present a range of traditional sources which bearing on the conceptualization by Judaism about other religions.

I stress the potential of tolerance and respect of difference because the question at the core of contemporary Christian theological discussion of the other – the question of salvation -- plays a relatively minor role in the texts that follow. Remember, however, that behind silence on the topic of salvation is the Talmudic, and therefore universally accepted, dictum that “the righteous of all nations have a share in the World to Come.”


How I categorize the sources

The sources we will be examining need to be categorized in multiple dimensions; to divide them simply between “pro-dialogue” and “anti-dialogue” would be to erase their richness.

The most obvious of these dimensions is that which categorizes positions as exclusivist, inclusivist, or universalist/pluralistic.[4]

Let me explain. For the exclusivist, one's own community, tradition, and encounter with God is the one and only exclusive truth; all other claims on encountering God are a priori false. The pluralist takes the opposite tack, accepting that no one tradition can claim to possess the singular truth. In between is the inclusivist who acknowledges that there are many communities with their own traditions and truths, but maintains the importance of his own way of seeing thing as culminating, subsuming, or perfecting all other truths.

For the inclusivist, other religions are explained by his own religion. He acknowledges a world outside his own, but relies on his own worldview to make it comprehensible and give it meaning. He speaks the language of his own theology, and uses its vocabulary to describe outsiders.

In this, he differs from the pluralist, who will address others in their own language. The pluralist can be criticized for trying stepping outside his own religious language rather than pushing its boundaries, but can be admired for naming others in their own terms.

The pluralist accepts that truth is not in the possession of any one tradition, understanding religion as a way of approaching, rather than defining and naming, God. He accepts his limitations in understanding the wider world and believes God is present and active within the world.

For the exclusivist, the other religions are simply false. There is no broader, outside world whose claims need to be harmonized and addressed; there is only the realm of the “other side.” While this position may be at odds with ethical (and therefore universal) sensitivities, it plays a powerful sociological role for groups who feel embattled and threatened by the majority culture.

Each of these three positions has a different root within the origins of Judaism. The exclusivist model is true to certain Rabbinic strands honed on the anvil of exile. The inclusivist model draws from other Rabbinic strands, and is strongly rooted in Biblical sources, particularly messianic texts such as Isaiah. The pluralist view has some Biblical roots, and also emerges from the theological elaboration of the consequences of Creation.

For an example of how each of these positions can play out theologically, let me look at how the Shema can be imagined differently for each of the positions. For the exclusivist, the Shema’s significance can lie in its particularistic call for martyrdom, a reminder of the besieged minority who are sole bearers and proclaimers of the truth of God’s unity. An inclusivist can hear the Shema as a vision of all faiths acknowledging God’s kingship. And for the universalist, it speaks of a Unity of God so profound that all are included.

As religious Jews, we need not always choose one position over the others; each can play a role in our religious lives. There will be days when our recitation of Shema will carry universalistic intentions, and days where we will close our eyes and think exclusively. Among the components from which we build our religious lives and identity are the exclusive martyrdoms of the Maccabees and Crusader victims; the inclusivism of the Psalms, the “Alenu,” and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch; and the universalism of Isaiah and Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook.

I am using models of theological positions. Some figures will have their statements divided between several categories. Others will be subdivided in the same category, since each of the three categories can be further subdivided into historical-mission, metaphysical, and humanist, these subdivisions will be explained in the course of presenting the texts.[5]  


Biblical and Talmudic Premises

Before examining the particular sources at hand, I would like to provide an abbreviated overview of the views toward non-Jews to be found within the Tanakh and the Rabbinic corpus.

The Tanakh demands that Jews have no foreign gods, and points out the foolishness and abomination of heathen practices. Nonetheless, gentiles are generally allowed to worship gods. For example, in the book of Ruth, Orpah is not chastised for returning to her father’s god. Isaiah offers us a universalistic vision of God’s dominion over the world, while envisioning the Jewish people as chosen by God. Zephaniah and Zechariah offer an eschatological vision of all people serving one God.[6]

The Talmud has a tractate entitled Avodah Zarah, literally “foreign worship,” but the focus is more about the “other” – gentiles, pagans and foreigners – than about the cults of antiquity and their religious content or significance. There is a distrust of gentiles as an ethnic other; so much so that one should avoid even receiving a haircut from a gentile.  Greco-Roman religion is the subject of disrespect and disdain from the Talmudic Sages, who suggest obscene variations on the names of the ancient deities.[7]

Yet the Talmud maintains a category of virtuous gentiles who merit the world to come; despite the general anti-gentile opprobrium, the rabbis seems willing to adopt the view that "some of my best friends are pagans." They are offering a tolerance lacking a universal theory of religious salvation; it is the virtuous life, apparently divorced from religion, that gets one into heaven.

As Robert Goldenberg summarized his study of ancient Jewish attitudes toward non-Jews, "Neither Jewish monotheism nor Jewish ‘universalism’ necessarily entailed that the one true God could only be reached through Israel's covenant with Him."[8]

The interpretive tradition

Medieval Jewish philosophy understood the Biblical and rabbinic texts as teaching an articulated doctrine of God's uniqueness. This monotheism allowed them to treat the first cause of philosophy, Christian Trinitarians, and all other people of faith as having one essential unique God, even though they might have an incorrect view of the attributes of God. The question within traditional texts is how to articulate the strengths and defects of the other positions. And how will the correct doctrine be known?

Inclusive Position  #1: Historical-mission

This variation on inclusivism maintains that Judaism has a messianic mission to spread the doctrine of monotheism throughout the world. The monotheistic religions of the other nations both reflect the success of the mission until now, and play a role in the mission’s continued advance toward the messianic age. This approach’s focus on the global, historical mission means that questions of individual salvation are not addressed.

Yehudah Halevi

Yehuda Halevi lived in the twelfth century, heir to Spanish philosophical and poetic traditions. He wrote a defense of Judaism, called the Treatise in Defense of a Despised Tradition, popularly known as The Kuzari. The work has been popular over the centuries and is still read today by students seeking a guide to basics of Jewish theology.

Israel among the nations is like a heart among the organs of the body. It is the healthiest, as well as the one most prone to disease. As the verse [Amos 3:2] states, "Only you have I known from all of the families of the earth; therefore shall I punish you for your iniquities.” (Kuzari II:36)

Similarly, all religions that came after the Torah of Moses are part of the process of bringing humanity closer to the essence of Judaism, even through they appear its opposite. The nations serve to introduce and pave the way for the long-awaited messiah. He is the fruit and they, in turn, will all become his fruit when they acknowledge him. Then all nations will become one tree, recognizing the common root they had previously scorned. (Kuzari IV:23)

For Yehudah Halevi, Israel is a chosen people, who transform the world. Other religions share a common root of Judaism; all religions are of the same tree with Judaism as the trunk.[9] The religions are not needed for Jewish self-understanding, but to fail to recognize the nature of the branch religions is to fail to properly understand the world and, in effect, God’s providential plan.

Many misread Yehudah Halevi's position as teaching the uniqueness of Judaism and the corollary falseness of other religions; we are true and they are wrong. However, as the above passage shows, the correct reading is that the other religions are only limbs on the trunk of Judaism. Even Halevi's limiting of prophecy to Judaism does not preclude the availability of some form of revelation for all. The book itself opens with a story of a king getting inspiration from God through a true dream and thereby coming to learn of the higher Mosaic revelation.[10]

While I dealt with Yehudah Halevi, some of the same sentiments are found in Maimonides' writings, embedded within a more theologically contradictory halakhic grid.  The complexity of Maimonides' position is beyond the scope of this paper.

Yaakov Emden

Yaakov Emden is an exemplar of a traditionalist pulpit rabbi and talmudist in Hamburg responding to the Eighteenth century Enlightenment and ideals of tolerance all around him. He stretches the traditional inclusivist position into universal directions.

We should consider Christians and Moslems as instruments for the fulfillment of the prophecy that the knowledge of God will one day spread throughout the earth. Whereas the nations before them worshipped idols, denied God's existence, and thus did not recognize God's power or retribution, the rise of Christianity and Islam served to spread among the nations, to the furthest ends of the earth, the knowledge that there is One God who rules the world, who rewards and punishes and reveals Himself to man. Indeed, Christian scholars have not only won acceptance among the nations for the revelation of the Written Torah but have also defended God's Oral Law. For when, in their hostility to the Torah, ruthless persons in their own midst sought to abrogate and uproot the Talmud, others from among them arose to defend it and to repulse the attempts. (Commentary to Pirkey Avot, 4:13)

Emden’s position is less overtly messianic than Halevi’s – and, consequently, apparently more positive about Christians and Muslims in the present world. Other religions share our God (who commands on Sinai and rewards and punishes) and acknowledge our scripture; accordingly, they have become our allies in this world. Emden's abstraction of the concept of Mosaic Torah as the acceptance of Scripture, allows him to view Christians and Moslems as sharing our devotion to Torah even if they do not accept the laws.

Emden presents a model of interreligious cooperation premised on a shared premodern world of dogma and belief in God. In contrast, his younger contemporary Mendelssohn contended that respect can only exist in a realm of secular modernity and tolerance based on universal truths. For Emden, respect is based on our shared commitment to God, His commands, and His providence. Emden can serve as a model of a Rabbinic scholar willing listen and show a deep respect for another faith community and its scripture. 

Emden also offers a unique model of a Rabbinic Jew reading the New Testament as part of the Jewish mission.

S.R. Hirsch

Samson Raphael Hirsch was the Frankfort pulpit Rabbi and ideologue behind the Neo-Orthodox philosophy of remaining Torah-true while accepting the cultural, aesthetic, and intellectual mores of the wider culture.  Our example here of this ideology is his acceptance of Western civil society provided that the Jewish religion serves as a light unto the nations.

And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great; become a blessing. (Genesis 12:2)

The people of Abraham, in private and in public, follow one calling: to become a blessing. They dedicate themselves to the Divine purpose of bringing happiness to the world by serving as model for all nations and to restore mankind to the pure spiritual status that Adam had possessed. God will grant His blessing of the renewal of life and the awakening and enlightenment of the nations, and the name of the People of Abraham shall shine forth. (Commentary on Genesis, ad loc.)

The prophetic call of Jews as “light unto the nation” plays a central role throughout Hirsch’s theology. It is not only a tool by which to interpret non-Jewish religions, but serves as a consistent trope in his interpretations of the mitzvoth. Jews are to be role models, spreading the enlightenment of experienced, non-intellectual knowledge of God to all. Hirsch bases this theology on his direct readings of the words of scripture mediated by the thirteenth-century commentary of Rabbi David Kimkhi, who had already explained the verses as teaching that the goal of Judaism is to be a Light unto the Nations.[11]

It is also worth noting that Hirsch’s approach is practically devoid of metaphysics. There is no talk of roots and branches, but rather of models and influences. These traits make him a useful starting point for contemporary Jewish theologies without metaphysics.

Rav Kook

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook was the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi of the Zionist return to the land of Israel. His writings embrace modernism by offering a vision of the restored land of Israel, at once evolutionary and Hegelian while at the same time mystical and messianic. His influence is widespread and influential as a Zionist dream of renewal of religious Judaism.

As for other religions, in my opinion, it is not the goal of Israel's light to uproot or destroy them, just as we do not aim for the general destruction of the world and all its nations, but rather their correction and elevation, the removal of dross. Then, of themselves, they shall join the Source of Israel, from whence a dew of light will flow over them. "And I will take away the blood from his mouth and his detestable things from between his teeth, and he, too, shall remain for our God." (Zechariah 9:7) This applies even to idolatry -- all the more so to those religions that are partially based upon the light of Israel's Torah. (Iggrot ha-Rayah 112)

It is necessary to study all the wisdoms in the world, all ways of life, all different cultures, along with the ethical systems and religions of all nations and languages, so that, with greatness of soul, one will know how to purify them all. (Arpelei Tohar 33)

Rav Kook acknowledges that other nations have other religions, and that many of them are based on the Torah. He obviously does not mean Torah in the narrow sense, but recognition that religions bring God's presence into the world. Their existence is not an obstacle to messianic times, but rather a challenge: It is part of the Jewish messianic task to “elevate” and “purify” the religions along with the entire world. The precise meaning and method of purifying the other religions is left unanswered, shrouded behind the vision of renewal.

Rav Kook does not seem to assign special historical significance to Christianity and Islam for their status as “branches.” In a move that accepts the already-globalizing situation of the early 20th century, even the non-Abrahamic religions contain gold and holiness, which await elevation and unity with the Source of Israel. One can encounter and empirically study them. Yet, it is a Jewish task to purify these other religions. The actual process, however, of study, purification, and unification is left frustratingly vague. Nevertheless, what is clear, though, is that, personally, Rav Kook was able to look at other religions –and even atheism – and see the Truth of Torah within them.

Concluding thoughts on historical inclusivism

The Historical inclusivist approach enables Judaism to respect and appreciate Islam and Christianity on its own terms, if not on theirs. Like its metaphysical variation, it transforms the millennia of Diaspora into part of the redemptive progress of history, with all that entails for remembering and feeling the pains accumulated along the way.

Inclusive Position #2 - Metaphysical hierarchical

In this second variation of the inclusive approach, non-Jewish religion finds its place not as part of a historical progression, but in the metaphysical realm. Other religions will be seen not as means of bringing individuals or nations to God (the historical approach) but as binding themselves to metaphysical realms just as Israel is bound to God. The drama we see here on Earth is just a manifestation or epiphenomenon of the metaphysical situation.


Rabbi Yosef Gikkitila, one of the foremost Kabbalists of the thirteenth century, was the author of the classic introduction to Jewish theosophy, Gates of Light. The ability to differentiate attributes of God into a vertical hierarchy allows him to differentiate religions.

The heavenly constellation is arrayed around the seventy princes, some of whom are included as knowers of the secrets… They do not, however, each have their own power or light, for it comes from YHVH, who is the source, the wellspring, from whom all draw and are sustained.

When God unites with Israel and one merges with the other, then all the heavenly princes will be made into one group to worship God, may He be Blessed. They will all serve the community of Israel, because it is from her that they will be sustained.

As it is said [in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy], ‘Therefore make all Your Creation aware of Your awe, YHVH our God, and Your creatures will fear You and all of Creation will bow before You as one unity to do Your will with a pure heart.’ God will remove all His appellations in the future in order to receive the community of Israel so that He can unite with Her, then all the nations will serve God; the nations will be outside and the Name YHVH will stand inside with the community of Israel joyful and tranquil.[12]

The notion that each of the nations has a corresponding heavenly power – an angel – goes back at least to Rabbinic sources. In classical contexts, it enables a distinction between direct Divine providence granted to Jews, and the indirect guidance granted through the ministering angels to the other nations. Here, Gikkitila is adding the notion of the Divine names. The apparent implication is that the religions of the gentiles provide access to some of the names of God, even if not as directly as does Judaism, which connects Israel to the greatest and most powerful of names, YHVH.

All the nations are sustained by the single Divine name, only known in the other religions through a glass darkly.  Therefore there is one single God of creation; currently that unified perspective is veiled but eventually God will reveal Himself fully to all.

There are many variants on this approach; all of them accepting metaphysical structures. (See R. Elijah Benamozegh below as an example.)

Concluding thoughts on metaphysical inclusivism

These metaphysical constructs indicate a basis for Jewish-Christian respect and encounter not predicated on any of the non-religious principals of modernity. In this, it might be a particularly useful basis for discussions with metaphysically-inclined churches; I can envision a mutual encounter with the Greek Orthodox Church concerning theories of Divine glory, blessings and energies. However, metaphysical models are limited in their utility in an era where few embrace, or even understand, metaphysical language. Premising our encounter on a theology of angels and the power of Divine names would not be prudent for a Jewish community which put little stock in either.

Inclusive Position #3– Humanist

This position looks neither ahead to the future conclusion of history nor up to the supernal realm. Rather, it understands other religions by looking around in the present and back to the past: We are all children of Adam, created in the image of God and in relation with God. Lacking eschatology and metaphysics, this position proved particularly popular in the latter part of the 20th century.

Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno

R. Ovadiah Seforno was a rabbi, rabbinic scholar, exegete, and philosopher in Renaissance Italy. He is noted for teaching Torah to gentiles, and dedicating his theological work, Light of the Nations, to King Henry of England. He suggests that Christians share with Jews this universal relationship with God and all humanity is the chosen people. However, after the Fall of Adam when humanity turned towards materialism, then Jews and the pious of the other nations are more special. He uniquely proffers only a quantitative difference between Judaism and the other faiths.

And now if you will diligently listen to my voice and observe My covenant, you shall be consecrated (segulah) to Me from all the nations, for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation unto Me.” (Exodus 19:5-6) 

“You shall be consecrated to Me”: Humanity as a whole is more precious to Me than the lower forms of existence, since man is the central figure in creation. As our Sages taught: “Beloved is man who was created in the Divine image.” (Avot 3:14) However, the difference between [Jews and non-Jews] in the hierarchy of the universe is that, although “the entire earth belongs to Me,” and the righteous of the nations are precious to Me without a doubt, [nevertheless] “you shall be a kingdom of priests unto Me.” This is your distinction: You shall be a kingdom of priests to teach all of humanity that they all shall call upon the name of God to serve Him with a common accord (Zephaniah 3:9). It also states, “And you shall be called the priests of God,” (Isaiah 61:6) and “For out of Zion shall the Torah come forth.” (Isaiah 2:3)

“Although You love the nations, all of the holy one's are in your hand; they are subdued beneath Your feet, for he brought Your word.” (Deut. 33:3)

“Although you love the nations.” With this You make known that all of humanity is precious to You. As the Rabbis taught, “Beloved is man, who was created in the Divine image.” Nevertheless, “all holy ones are in your hand.” You declare that all holy ones -- the holy myriads who received the fiery religion are in your hand as silver in [the hand] of the refiner. “They are subdued” - they are broken, like one who has been reproved and prays with a broken spirit. “Beneath Your feet” - that is, at your footstool, Mount Sinai. “He brought Your word.” That is Torah which Moses commanded. They said to God, “Moses brought us your word, the Torah which You commanded us to heed.”

For Seforno, all humanity is beloved by God and chosen from amongst all creation. As Zephaniah has prophecied, the nations will in messianic times all call upon God. The distinction between Israel and the nations is the presence – or absence – of the Sinai revelation. All have the image of God, but the Sinai experience is only for Jews – there are two aspects to our lives. The universal and the particular; The image of God and our commitment to Bible as understood by Rabbinic literature, Torah study, ritual law, and  peoplehood.


Exclusive Position #1 – Mission

As we have seen, for the exclusivist thinkers, Judaism is the sole path to God; those who are not Jews are at best bystanders in the Divine scheme, and at worst antagonists. This view can be found in some Talmudic texts and in many later commentators.


Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak, the great eleventh-century commentator on the Bible and Talmud is a standard in the Jewish curriculum. Because Rashi is seen as the indispensable commentator, it is difficult to overstate his influence on contemporary discourse. In traditional settings, Torah and, later, Talmud are approached first, and often exclusively, through the lens of Rashi’s commentary. He cites many of the polemical and negative rabbinic statements about gentiles or their typological equivalents in Noah, Esau, and Bilaam. Even his very first comment on the Bible contains his own gloss on the Midrash, viewing the gentiles as armed robbers.  His particularism is shown in statements such as: “I ask from You that Your Shekhinah should not rest anymore on the nations of the world and we will be separate from all other nations. (Commentary to Exodus 33:16)

Rashi typified the particularism of many of his successors in Franco-German Jewish culture. I will not delineate these variants, nor will I relate all the negative images of Christianity left in the writings of medieval Ashkenaz Jewry.[13]

Ours is not the first generation of Jews bothered Rashi’s exclusionist, anti-gentile tone. Sifthei Hakhamim, by Rabbi Shabbatai Bass, a sixteenth-century commentary on Rashi, consistently reworks Rashi to impose a more ethical reading. However, the role of these comments of Rashi in the Jewish education system today remains problematic.


Rabbi Yehudah ben Betzalel Loewe (c. 1525-1609) was an eclectic Renaissance Jewish thinker who served as rabbi in Posen and Prague. His system, like many others in the early modern era, Jewish and non-Jewish, worked by creating binary pairs: in this case the redeemed world’s sustaining Jews and their opponents the gentiles.  Maharal built his theology more on Midrash with its apocalyptic and typological themes than on Biblical or philosophic universalism. The ancient struggles of Israel with the seven wicked nations and Amalek are ever with us.

Israel and Edom are inverse and opposite–when one is in ascent then the other is in descent (Sanhedrin 21b)

At the beginning, Israel is connected to the nations like a shell around a fruit. At the end, the fruit is separated from the shell completely and Israel is separated from them. (Gevurat Hashem 23)

Maharal embraces separation and particularism. Where Yehudah Halevi used the metaphor of the fruit to refer to the branch religions that sprout with Judaism, Maharal gives the metaphor the opposite valence: Israel is the fruit whose connection with the other nations – the shell – only decreases with time. This opposition between Israel and the world – Edom – is real and absolute, a zero-sum game where cooperation is not conceivable.

Zevi Yehudah Kook

Zevi Yehudah Kook was the son of Rav Kook, he was blessed with a long life and many students. His ideology makes him the father of the settler movement and therefore influential in late twentieth-century Israeli political life.

The fruit of Zevi Yehudah Kook’s exclusivist ideology can be seen in the conflict his students have caused and embraced with the Palestinians. The ideology itself is noteworthy for a staunch anti-Christianity that culls two millennia of sources without acknowledging any of the countervailing traditions. For Zevi Yehudah Kook, the attack on Christianity is motivated by the conflict with the wider Western culture which both threatens the Jewish purity of Israel from within and opposes his messianic settlement drive from without. Until now, none of his writings on Christianity have been translated into English; because I do not want to be his first translator, I am presenting his views in summary only.

Zevi Yehudah Kook resurrects many of the classic anti-Christian polemics with a vigor not seen for centuries. Among them: Christianity should be dismissed as an internal Jewish heresy; God the creator clearly cannot be a man; the Jewish God is alive whereas the Christian’s is dead. Christianity is the refuse of Israel, in line with the ancient Talmudic portrayals of Jesus as boiling in excrement.[14]

If asked: What about the many arguments that, despite the falsity of Christian truth claims, the religion still constitutes a path to God? Like Wahabi Fundamentalism within Islam, Zevi Yehudah denies the continuous relevance of the cosmopolitan ages of synthesis, choosing instead to return to the polemical Midrash and Maharal.

Why was his position formulated at the end of the twentieth century? His theology shows the change that comes about from living in a non-Diaspora context that enables this rejection of western culture. The state of Israel can lead to a secure acceptance of the other, especially other religions, or it can also allow for a complete xenophobic rejection.\


Exclusive Position #2 - demonic dualism

What I am labeling the “dualistic” variety of the exclusivist position is really the counterpart to the “metaphysical” variant of inclusivism described above. Here too the real realm of action is not this world, with individual people and nations, but the metaphysical realm of primal and cosmic forces. In this schema, Israel represents cosmic good; the nations represent the primal evil. And while this trend tends to reject philosophy as universal, it should not be considered in accord with the mainstream Kabbalah of Gikkitila or Cordovero.

The predominant source for these sentiments is the writings of the Kabbalist rabbi Isaac Luria who stated that gentiles do not have souls. Israel is locked into a cosmic battle of Kabbalistic redemption and earthly gentile impurity. Our continuous sins cause us to descend into the shells instead of redeeming ourselves.

For Luria, the historical situation of exile is a manifestation of the cosmic reality of rupture and evil. The gentiles are not merely the Other, or the anti-Israel, as in the less metaphysical approaches of Rashi; they are the same stuff as the evil at the beginning of creation. The internal logic of this myth leads to the radical notion – unsupported by classical Jewish texts – that non-Jews have no souls.  

While the influence of Luria on subsequent Jewish history has been overstated, his notion that non-Jews lack souls was a significant, and dangerous, innovation. It moved the exclusivity of Rashi to a new and potentially dangerous realm.

Dualism has room for rereading

This dualism needs to be reread from our vantage of connection to the classic texts.

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes dealt with these texts by claiming that rabbinic texts were written in a binary black and white, good and evil style for didactic purposes.[15] While this is a fine approach for dealing with rabbinic texts and it should be developed further, the demonic dualism and the dehumanization texts also need to be addressed.

An example of the possibilities of rereading can be seen in the history of the statements in Tanya written by R. Schneur Zalman of Liady, the founder of the Chabad Hasidic dynasty.  He clearly states at the beginning of his work Likkute Amarim (Tanya) that, as presented in Lurianic writings, gentiles do not have souls.[16]

Nevertheless, this dualistic statement was transformed by later generations of Chabad thinkers into a historical inclusivism, in which the gentiles today are part of the messianic progress; or into a hierarchal inclusivism, in which the gentiles have greater needs to purify themselves.[17]

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (1902-1984), the seventh leader of Chabad Hasidism, armed with a messianic sense of current era, wanted to bring Hasidism even to the gentiles of America.  He does not need to rewrite the offensive text because, for him, since times have changed, the text does not apply. All gentiles are now seen as capable of appreciating the Divine light of Torah. He was also in favor of school prayer and acknowledged the Christian and civil religion of America as a necessary moral force. In some of his homilies he even invokes "in God we trust" printed on United States currency as showing that we share one God.

The "spreading of the wellsprings" of Chassidic teachings should not be limited to Jews alone, but should be extended outward to non-Jews as well. As  [Maimonides] states, the purpose of giving the Torah was to bring peace to the world (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Chanukah 4:14). Similarly, he writes that every Jew is obliged to try and influence those who are not Jewish to fulfill the Seven Laws of Noah. Maimonides also states that one of the achievements of the Messiah will be to spiritually refine and elevate the nations of the world until they, too, become aware of God to the point where Godliness will be revealed to every flesh, non-Jews.

Since the rewards of Torah come "measure for measure" it follows that among the efforts to bring the messianic age must be the effort to spread the Seven Laws of Noah, as well as the wellsprings of Chassidic teachings associated with them, outward to non-Jews. Indeed, the Prophets tell us, "Nations shall walk in your light." Although the Torah was given to the people of Israel, it will also serve as a light to the nations.[18]

It was important to take the trouble to present these rereading, even though many modern Jews do not have an interest in Hasidic doctrine, in order to show that even seemingly impossible to reread texts can be reread, even by conservative thinkers.


Universalism Position #1 -Intellectual- outside revelation

Immanuel of Rome

Immanuel of Rome was a philosophically trained poet of thirteenth-century Italy, a student of Zerachia Hen, a confrere to Dante, and an antagonist of the more traditional Rabbi Hillel of Verona. His poetry was chastised as too risqué already in his lifetime, and his imitation of Dante's Divine Comedy, called Tofet veEden was universalistic in orientation. Immanuel’s description is lacking in its engagement with Rabbinical proof texts, similar to modern non-traditional thinkers. Hence, he is not an authoritative text for traditional thought. Nevertheless, he allows us a glimpse of the forces that shaped traditional Jewish thought, in that, his thirteenth-century critic Hillel of Verona formulated an inclusive humanism that was to influence the position of Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno (discussed above). He also shows us that universalist positions are not limited to the modern era or due to post Enlightenment ideas of tolerance, liberalism, and secularism.

The rewarded saints observed by the narrator of the epic have reached their non-Jewish paradise through intellectual reasoning. The righteous of the nations – a category mentioned but not explicated in the Talmud – are here given form in this description of paradise. For Immanuel of Rome, paradise can be reached through a universal path consisting of self-discovery and intellectual discovery. The various forms of traditional religion, each with its own particular ethnicity, theology, and approach to naming God, pale before the universal truth.

     These are the pious among the gentile state

who by their intellect and wisdom have become great…

whist they with their intelligence searched out who formed them, and who was the Creator,

And as they passed the Faiths of all other under examination…

But they chose of all beliefs views such as seemed to them right,

Upon which men versed in conscience had no cause to fight…

And when men boastfully would attach a name to God, our hearts trembled, it shook our frame to think that each and every people should give Him some definite name.

We, however say, Be His name whatsoever, we believe in the First Existence, the True One, whom we never from our life can ever sever. (Immanuel ben Solomon,  Tophet and Eden, trans. Hermann Gollancz [London: University of London Press, 1921].)

Universalism Position #2 -Revelation

As we have seen in the inclusivist position, the Bible has universal, prophetic elements. At times, these elements were emphasized and elaborated by later Jewish thinkers.

For the Rabbis – or at least some of them – Divine prophecy was self-evidently too powerful to be bound by human categories of Jew or non-Jew. While this is not a multi-covenant theology, this strand of Rabbinic thought paves the way for such a possibility.

The prophet Elijah said: I call heaven and earth to bear witness that anyone -- Jew or gentile, man or woman, slave or handmaid -- if his deeds are worthy, the Divine Spirit will rest upon him. (Tanna Debai Eliyahu 9:1)

When the Holy one Blessed be He, revealed himself to give the Torah to Israel, he revealed himself not only to Israel but to all the other nations. (Sifrei Devarim 343)

Nathaniel ibn Fayumi 

An example of a medieval who makes use of these themes is the twelfth-century Yemenite Nathaniel Ibn Fayumi who presents a multi-covenant theory without the need to justify or defend it. "God permitted to every people something he forbade to others... God sends a prophet to every people according to their own language." (Bustan alAql, chap. 6)[19]   He simply bases himself on the Rabbinic and Maimonidean theology that prophecy is available to all.

The current Chief Rabbi of England, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks became embroiled in controversy for stating a similar sentiment in the first edition of his work, The Dignity of Difference, writing, “In the course of history, God has spoken to mankind in many languages: through Judaism to Jews, Christianity to Christians, Islam to Muslims."  He was forced to clarify the statement as, "As Jews we believe that God has made a covenant with a singular people, but that does not exclude the possibility of other peoples, cultures, and faiths finding their own relationship with God within the shared frame of Noahide law.”[20]


While we earlier emphasized Hirsch’s inclusivist vision within his Jewish theology, Hirsch also sees a universal loving God who accepts the upright of all peoples. Their own ethical laws have been their own formulations of revelation, the Noahide laws, and providence.

Judaism does not say, "There is no salvation outside of me." Although disparaged because of its alleged particularism, the Jewish religion actually teaches that the upright of all peoples are headed toward the highest goal.

In particular, they have been at pains to stress that, while in other respects their views and ways of life may differ from those of Judaism, the peoples in whose midst the Jews are now living have accepted the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament as a book of Divine revelation. They profess their belief in the God of heaven and earth as proclaimed in the bible and they acknowledge the sovereignty of Divine Providence in both this life and the next. Their acceptance of the practical duties incumbent upon all men by the Will of God distinguishes these nations from the heathen and idolatrous nations of the Talmudic era. (Principles of Education, "Talmudic Judaism and Society,” 225-7)

The Torah calls Israel a treasured nation. However, this does not imply, as some have mistakenly assumed, that Israel has a monopoly on God's love and favor. On the contrary, Israel's most cherished ideal is that of the universal brotherhood of mankind. (Nineteen Letters of Ben Uzziel, tr. Bernard Drachman [New York, 1942], p. 15.)

For Hirsch, there is one true and loving God over all humanity and we are all part of one brotherhood.  He does not seek to define these terms based on narrow Rabbinic parameters but on the acceptance of the practical duties of mankind.

Universal Position #3 - Historical-Pluralistic

Henry Pereira Mendes

Mendes (1852-1937) served as rabbi of New York’s traditional Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, in which capacity he attended the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He was the first president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and the first professor of homiletics at Rabbi Isaac Elhanan Theological Seminary in New York. He wrote:

There is a legend that, when Adam and Eve were turned out of Eden or earthy paradise, an angel smashed the gates, and the fragments flying all over the earth are the precious stones. We can carry the legend further. The precious stones were picked up by the various religions and philosophers of the world. Each claimed and claims that its own fragment alone reflects the light of heaven, forgetting the setting and incrustations which time has added. Patience my brother. In God's own time we shall, all of us, fit our fragments together and reconstruct the gates of paradise. There will be an era of reconciliation of all living faiths and systems, the era of all being in at-one-ment, or atonement, with God. Through the gates shall all people pass to the foot of God's throne.[21]

Here we have an Orthodox thinker who clearly affirms a common core of all religions, which over time became encrusted and thereby lead to devolution of various faiths. In the modern age we now seek a collective activity of all humanity’s seeking to return to the original core. The Biblical vision of becoming a light unto the nations is as part of a joint effort to worship together. The eventual goal is a messianic restoration to Eden. 

Israel Lipschutz

Rabbi Israel Lipschutz (1782-1860) from the port city of Danzig, offers a surprising universalistic sentiment in his Mishnah commentary.

R. Elazar ben Azaryah said, "If there is no Torah there is no civilization [derech eretz: lit. way of the land.]." The word "Torah" here cannot be meant literally, since there are many ignorant people who have not learned it, and many pious among the gentiles who do not keep the Torah and yet are ethical and follow the “way of the land.” Rather, the correct interpretation seems to me to be that every people has its own Divine religion, which comprises three foundational principles, (1) belief in a revealed Torah, (2) belief in reward and punishment, and (3) belief in an afterlife. They only disagree on the interpretation of these principles. These three principles are what are called here "Torah."[22]

Lipschutz's offers a vision of tolerance based on a generic sense of revelation, reward, and afterlife found in all religions.  Rather than approaching religions as an other, he senses a common core based on morality. If one wanted to develop an approach to non-Abrahamic faiths, then his general definitions offer a useful starting point. For him, enlightenment, karma, and reincarnation could be considered valued forms of Torah for gentiles.

Elijah Benamozegh

Our next thinker did actually embrace the reading of works of other faiths. Rabbi Elijah Benamozegh (1823-1900) was a preacher and essayist in nineteenth-century Italy, who incorporated the new finding of comparative religion in his Biblical commentaries and who wanted to bring Gentiles, even his Christian contemporaries, back to a true universal Monotheism based on the seven Noahide laws.

In many ways he continues the inclusive-hierarchy model of valuing Jewish monotheism over the trinity and the inclusive-mission model by placing Judaism as the heart of the nations, with the nations following the Noahide laws and the Jews following the commandments. He is most original when he acknowledges the cultural embeddedness of religion and that there is truth in every religion even if their conceptions of monotheism and revelation are deficient. He has theological statements on why Judaism rejects the Trinity, why the New Testament cannot supersede the Sinai revelation, and why Jews accept a progressive revelation in the oral law.

The idea of the personality of God necessarily implies that of the unity of substance. …Christianity which possesses a trinity of persons while maintaining the unity of God's substance…might best be called tritheism.[23]

As for those who tell us that Christianity embodies a new revelation, do they not see that if the Christian mysteries were truly a radical innovation, then the entire system of Divine revelation would be overturned?… It could no longer be a question of a unique and perfect Revelation coming, like the material creation, from the sovereign intelligence of God….From the moment that one abandons the notion of a unique revelation -- with the intention of combating Judaism -- there remains only the hypothesis of multiple religions.

A glance at the pagan mysteries will enable us to understand very clearly the influence of paganism upon the educated class in Israel.[24]

Through dispersion among gentiles, [Judaism] gathers and incorporates the fragments of truth wherever it finds them scattered.[25]

He finds Christianity wanting on monotheism because it has a trinity, and on revelation because revelation is to be eternal and unique, incapable of being superseded by later revelations. Yet, in his writings, he openly compares and contrasts to Judaism, Christianity, pagan mysteries, Taoism, and Hinduism. He creates a vision of a single world religion with Judaism at the pinnacle and that all religions were needed for the progress of mankind.

I am not formulating a Noahide theory of other religions, as Benamozegh would want, because, like most of the other cited theologians, I do not expect the non-Jew to accept or convert to the Jewish perspective. The theologies of other religions cited in this essay are solely for Jewish self-definition as an internal perspective to aid in encounter other religions.

Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?

Most sources would say that we do. Certainly, universalists like Rabbi Lipschutz, and inclusivists like Halevi, Kook, Hirsch, Gikkitila, Seforno and Emden, would say yes. But even an exclusivist like Maharal would give a qualified yes because we share God as the first cause of philosophy, even if we differ over revelation and redemption. It is quite possible, though, that Rashi and Luria would argue that we do not, while exclusivist dualists like Zevi Yehudah would explicitly say that we do not.

It is worth restating one of the underlying assumptions of all the sources quoted above, a principle that is crucial to reaching the conclusion of commonality: God is real! All Jewish theological positions assume we pray to a living God. Conversely, God is not just a concept, so different languages or conceptions applied to God are not creating different deities. They are at most disputing aspects of God; more likely, they are pointing to different perceptions of a Unity that is too great to be contained by any one observer. This theological premise differs from the academic premise, where one can distinguish between the God of the Zohar and the God of Maimonides – a distinction that in real life both the philosopher and the kabbalist would reject.

Part of the task of encounter is to examine where and how our perceptions of God differ, a task part theological, part academic, and part phenomenological. Just as the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions have been enriched by centuries of theologians, philosophers and mystics, each adding to their tradition’s perception of the Divine, encounter opens the possibilities of further enriching our access to Holiness.

Since, many of the medieval Jewish sources quoted above recognize that Jews, Christians, and Muslims are in agreement about the essential nature of God, it allowed the “first Alexandria declaration of the religious Leaders of the Holy Land: 2001,” to be signed by Christian and Muslim religious leaders as well as Sefardic chief rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Rabbi Michael Melchior. The declaration states:  "In the Name of God who is Almighty, Merciful and Compassionate, we who have gathered as religious leaders from the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities… According to our faith traditions, killing innocents in the name of God is a desecration of his Holy Name."[26]

In this statement, three faith communities have united in acknowledging God and what Jewish traditions declare to be the most important Divine attributes: The Omnipotent Creator, the Compassionate Commander of morals, the Holy One whose name can be praised or desecrated.

That we agree upon the essence of God does not mean that we accept mutual formulations of God’s attributes and actions, or that they are all compatible. From a Jewish perspective, the Catholic formulation of God is theologically problematic and halakhicly forbidden to Orthodox Jews in such areas as incarnation, iconic images, the personhood of God, and the multiple essences of God. From a Catholic perspective, our Jewish formulations and our denial of the essential of Christian faith and revelation are doubtless equally problematic. Nevertheless, our disagreements concern the same, singular, one God of creation, compassion and commandment.

The declaration does not assume a perennialist common core but rather the same objective reality known through revelation even if we disagree with the description given by others. Since we need God in our lives – so do other people. But God remains an unknown essence, which the Jewish position mandates that He is existent, volitional, and knowing, yet incorporeal, and unified.


Academics and pluralism

I distinguish the faith statements from pluralistic phenomenology, which allows one to speak about universals as an academic. As a committed Orthodox Jew, attempting to be true to the texts of my faith, I am inclusivist, but in the classroom I understand pluralist perspectives.

As academics, we have no trouble presenting, in a cognitive way, Maimonides in the context of Farabi and Aquinas, or to compare Rav Nahman of Bratzlav to Ramakrishna and St. Francis of Assisi, or even to cognitively compare teshuvah to reconciliation. These comparisons and contextualizations are not a discussion of faith, belief, or commitment but a public presentation of topics in academic settings.

We also need to acknowledge that those inclined to spirituality, prayer and mysticism do not have trouble comparing notes on the human elements in their experiences. They recognize the common phenomenology of spiritual techniques. Two examples will suffice. On one of my visits to a kabbalistic Yeshivah in Israel, I met an ultra-orthodox kabbalistic mediator who told me that we could learn techniques from all faiths especially Hinduism and Buddhism. According to this ultra-Orthodox Jewish mystic, everyone has partial knowledge of the technology of meditation. Or when I spoke to a group of Cardinal Lustiger’s disciples about the Kabbalah, we were able to see each other’s theological narratives about the inter-divine structures of sefirot and trinity. Even as I told them a particularist story, about how we reject incarnation and cannot know the infinite aspects of God, we recognized each other’s theologies as theologies about God. The Trinity is not a pluralistic symbol for Jews, nor will it, or should it, ever be. Nevertheless, I explained to them why it is not pluralistic for us. Instead of invoking prior ages of violence and mistrust, our socially responsible activity was to compare sefirot to the trinity.



Everyone has now encountered other faiths. Globalization hastened these trends.  A Jewish theory of other religions is not about who is saved or if their God is idolatrous but understanding and working with diversity. To treat everyone as secular is totalizing and not respectful of other people. I can recognize the pious of the nations and acknowledge that non-Jews have devotion and give witness to their faiths. If we acknowledge that they are not secular acts then we can hear others through mutual testimony, narrative and questioning. There is a need not just for diversity but also to offer, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks advises, dignity to our differences.

For us, the non-Jew will perforce remain an other; Jews and Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, do not constitute one religion. We are not envisioning an irenic rapprochement. We respect that for the other religions to return under the emblem of Israel would require a renunciation of its deepest, most cherished beliefs – something we neither seek nor encourage.

As Jonah on his voyage confronted each religion calling out to its own god, we need to have an understanding of our daily encounters in an age of globalization. And as Jonah needed to learn that he could not dwell alone or refrain from speaking to the gentile of Nineveh, we need to learn that we have to encounter the broader world and we cannot refrain from engaging other religions in an age of globalization. Hence, we need our own theology of other religions.

[1] Alon Goshen-Gottstein, "Jewish-Christian Relations: From Historical Past to Theological Future" Ecumenism No. 146 (2002). http://www.jcrelations.net/en/displayItem.php?id=1754.

[2] Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (New York: Schocken, 1969.

[3] When we mention the clash of civilizations we think of either the Spengler battle, see Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York : Simon & Schuster, c1996); or a  more benign interplay in individual lives, see Thomas L. Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree (New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999).

[4] This terminology of exclusivist, inclusivist, and pluralist owes their popularity to John Hick, God has Many Names (London: Macmillian,1980).

[5] In recent years, the inclusivist position has been further subdivided into pluralist inclusivist that acknowledges that the other faiths could be true, into the avoidance of a-priori monism of truth by restricting oneself to one’s own texts, and the witnessing one’s own faith without making judgments about others. This essay has been influenced by all of these approaches. For these approaches, respectively, see Schubert M. Ogden, Is There Only One True Religion or Are There Many? (Dallas: Southern Methodist University, 1992); Paul J. Griffiths, “Modalizing the Theology of Religions,” in The Journal of Religion 73 (1993): 382-389; Kateryn Tanner, “Respect for Other Religions: A Christian Antidote to Colonialist Discourse” Modern Theology 9:1 (January:1993):1-18.

[6] Ruth chapter 1, Zephaniah 3:9, Zechariah 14:9.

[7] Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 46a, Megillah 25b.

[8]  Robert Goldenberg, The Nations That Know Thee Not (New York: NYU Press, 1998), p.108.

[9] Yehudah Halevi's finding of a common root and common endpoint is reminiscent of the thinking of Nostra Aetate

[10] Halevi grants gentiles the ability of gentiles to receive revelation provided a distinction is made between prophets and ordinary  revelation, see Robert Eisen, “The Problem of the King's Dream and Non-Jewish Prophecy in Judah Halevi's ‘Kuzari’" JJTP 3,2 (1994): 231-247.

[11] The verses that Hirsch used, that have comments of Radak, include: Isaiah 2:2-4, 11:6-9 42:5-7, 55:3-5- 60:3, Psalm 67, Zechariah 9:1, 14:9.

[12] Joseph Gikkitila, Gate of Lights, translated with an introduction by Avi Weinstein (San Francisco: HarperCollins, c1994). All quotes are from Gate 5.

[13] Israel Jacob Yuval, Shene Goyim be-Vitnekh (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2000).

[14] Zevi Yehudah Kook, Judaism and Christianity [Hebrew] (Beit El: 2001).

[15] Z. H. Chajes, The Student's Guide through the Talmud  (New York : P. Feldheim, c1960).

[16] See Tanya, chapter 1;  Iggeret haKodesh 25.

[17] Yitzhak Nahmani,Sefer Torat Ha-gilgul, Nefesh, Ruah U-neshamah. (Netanyah : Y. Nahmani, 755 [1995]). In this volume Nahmani tries to downplay the dualism by rejecting the theory that gentile souls come from the evil side. Using sources from elsewhere, Nahamni argues that all souls originate in Adam, and even Esau and Ishmael have Divine lights.

[18] Likkute Sikhot 19 Kislev 5743 -1982.

[19] The Garden of Wisdom, translated D. Levene, (Columbia Univ. Press, 1907).

[20] The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations (London, New York: Continuum, 2002), p. 55. World Wide Religious News 2/15/03.

[21] Henry Pereira Mendes, "Orthodox or Historical Judaism" The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World's Parliament of Religions, 1893, edited with introductions Richard Hughes Seager (La Salle IL, Open Court, 1993), 328-330, reprinted from Walter R. Houghton ed. Neely's History of the Parliament of Religions  (Chicago:1894), 217-8.

[22] Tiferet Yisrael,  Avot 3:17.

[23] Elijah Benamozegh, Israel and Humanity, translated by Maxwell Luria (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1995), 68.

[24] Ibid, 77.

[25] Ibid, 75.

[26] The First Alexandria Declaration.