Rethinking Christian and Jewish Exceptionalisms☆

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This article argues that Christianity and Judaism, as they have developed historically, express complementary but opposing exceptionalist perspectives. The article defines “exceptionalism” in terms of the singular mission that Jews and Christians each claim for themselves and the varied Jewish and Christian conceptions of how their missions relate to non-Jews and non-Christians respectively. While Jewish exceptionalism consists in the demand to be left alone to live its God-given mission with not much concern for what God expects from the other nations save that it is different from what God expects from the Jews, Christian exceptionalism demands that all peoples follow its singular vision of redemption through Christ. This article develops these arguments by way of considering competing readings of the Book of Ruth, continuing debates about the Apostle Paul in recent historical scholarship, as well as history’s role in theological reflection. The article argues that Christians and Jews need to reckon with their respective exceptionalisms on their own decidedly singular terms, and not on the terms of each other, since to do otherwise would be to renounce their respective exceptionalisms and to lose the theological singularity that defines each faith tradition. Nevertheless, the article concludes by calling for more intellectual honesty from Christians and Jews regarding what their exceptionalisms do and do not entail as well as for the enduring importance of bringing historical research to bear on theology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-80
Number of pages18
JournalModern Theology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Religious studies


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