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The Call of Abraham

Essays on the Election of Israel in Honor of Jon D. Levenson

Gary A. Anderson

Publication Year: 2013

The topic of the election of Israel is one of the most controversial and difficult subjects in the entire Bible. Modern readers wonder why God would favor one specific people and why Israel in particular was chosen. One of the most important and theologically incisive voices on this topic has been that of Jon D. Levenson. His careful, wide-ranging scholarship on the Hebrew Bible and its theological reuse in later Judaic and Christian sources has influenced a generation of Jewish and Christian thinkers. This focused volume seeks to bring to a wide audience the ongoing rich theological dialogue on the election of Israel. Writing from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, the authors—Jews, Catholics, and Protestants—contribute thought-provoking essays spanning fields including the Hebrew Bible, apocryphal and pseudepigraphic literature, New Testament, rabbinics, the history of Christian exegesis, and modern theology. The resulting book not only engages the lifelong work of Jon D. Levenson but also sheds new light on a topic of great import to Judaism and Christianity and to the ongoing dialogue between these faith traditions.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii


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pp. ix-xvi

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pp. 1-4

This volume of essays is a Festschrift for Professor Jon D. Levenson, the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard Divinity School in honor of his sixty-fifth birthday. Unlike similar volumes, which tend to be collections of loosely related essays, we have opted to focus on one theme that we believe animates much of Jon...

Part I: The Hebrew Bible

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Chapter 1: Election in Genesis 1

Richard J. Clifford, S.J.

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pp. 7-22

Genesis 1:1–2:4 (hereafter Gen 1) is a composition of the Priestly source (P), a source that has among its interests Israel’s distinctive public worship and the chronology of events in the story of the human race and of Israel. The P preamble to the Pentateuch, Gen 1, narrates the coming into being of heaven and earth (the Hebrew idiom...

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Chapter 2: Abraham’s Election in Faith

W. Randall Garr

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pp. 23-43

Drawing on earlier material, the prayer recorded in Neh 9 explicitly confers elected status on Abraham....

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Chapter 3: Can Election Be Forfeited?

Joel S. Kaminsky

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pp. 44-66

Of late, the biblical theme of chosenness has begun to receive increasing attention after a long period in which this important theological idea was rarely discussed. Aside from Jon Levenson’s seminal monograph The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son, several other...

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Chapter 4: Election and the Transformation of Ḥērem

R. W. L. Moberly

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pp. 67-89

In his book The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: The Transformation of Child Sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity,1 Jon Levenson memorably and persuasively sets the biblical concept of election in a fresh light. The presenting issue is child sacrifice. Contrary to thenpredominant...

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Chapter 5: Job as Prototype of Dying and Rising Israel

Kathryn Schifferdecker

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pp. 90-112

The election of Israel is a theme that pervades the Hebrew Bible, occasioning consternation on the part of many a modern reader. In the Pentateuch course that I teach nearly every semester (a required course for all first-year students at my seminary), we encounter the scandal of...

Part II: Reception of the Hebrew Bible

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Chapter 6: Does Tobit Fear God for Nought?

Gary A. Anderson

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pp. 115-143

I am delighted to offer this essay about the figure of Tobit in honor of Jon Levenson. For one, it is a piece of work that could not have been written had I not read and reread several times his marvelous book The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son.1 In that work, he...

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Chapter 7: Divine Sovereignty and the Election of Israel in the Wisdom of Ben Sira

Greg Schmidt Goering

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pp. 144-169

In the Second Temple period, the notion of election as divine favor toward Israel became combined increasingly with notions of dualism and predestination. We can observe such a merger especially in those texts which combine wisdom and apocalypticism. While outside forces such as Zoroastrianism likely influenced dualistic notions within...

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Chapter 8: The Chosenness of Israel in the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha

Matthias Henze

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pp. 170-198

The chosenness of Israel, God’s inscrutable and mysterious election of Israel as the chosen people with whom God entered into a covenant, is a recurring theme in the work of Jon D. Levenson. In a number of publications Levenson has probed this central and seemingly...

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Chapter 9: “A House of Prayer for All Peoples” (Isaiah 56:7) in Rabbinic Thought

Marc Hirshman

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pp. 199-209

In Isa 56:6–7 we hear the prophet calling out to the foreigner and saying: “As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the Lord . . . I will bring them to My sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices shall be welcome...

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Chapter 10: The Descent of the Wicked Angels and the Persistence of Evil

James Kugel

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pp. 210-235

I am pleased to offer the following brief study of ancient biblical interpretation in honor of my longtime friend Jon Levenson. From the time of our first meeting—by my count, some forty-two years ago—I have regularly, and gratefully, benefited from his wit and insight. His scholarship has always been a model of integrity and intellectual...

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Chapter 11: The Election of Israel Imperilled

Kevin Madigan

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pp. 236-255

As Jon Levenson has perceived, the figure of Isaac and the narrative of the Akedah echo repeatedly and profoundly through what is now the canonical literature of Christianity. Already in Mark 1:11, where a heavenly voice declares, “You are my beloved son; with you...

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Chapter 12: The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9–11

Mark Reasoner

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pp. 256-279

In 1985 Jon Levenson published two works that have been of great benefit to me. His Sinai and Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible has been very useful as a text for an undergraduate course on the covenants of the Bible. From this book, my students and I learned that the scope of the Mosaic covenant is this-worldly, concerned with justice ...

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Chapter 13: Populus Dei

Brooks Schramm

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pp. 280-306

In a trenchant discussion of the significance of the Jacob cycle in Genesis for a theological understanding of the Hebrew Bible, Jon Levenson has stated:...

Part III: Theological Essays

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Chapter 14: Election and Affection

Leora Batnitzky

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pp. 309-329

In his reading of the Apostle Paul, John Calvin accuses Jews and Judaism of putting both too much and too little stock in their status as God’s elect:...

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Chapter 15: Christ and Israel

Bruce D. Marshall

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pp. 330-350

In the first weeks of 2010, Pope Benedict XVI made a public visit to the Great Synagogue of Rome, and was there officially welcomed by the leaders of the synagogue and the Italian Jewish community. It was not the pope’s first visit to a synagogue or with Jewish leaders, but on this occasion his presence in midst of the Jewish community ...

Publications by Jon D. Levenson

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pp. 351-356

Doctoral Dissertations Supervised by Jon D. Levenson

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pp. 357-358


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pp. 359-360

Index of Sources

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pp. 361-387

Index of Modern Authors

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pp. 388-391

E-ISBN-13: 9780268074760
E-ISBN-10: 0268074763
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268020439
Print-ISBN-10: 0268020434

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 3 halftones
Publication Year: 2013