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Common Knowledge 8.2 (2002) 421-422
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Christianity in Jewish Terms
Tikva Frymer-Kensky, David Novak, Peter Ochs, David Fox Sandmel, and Michael A. Signer, eds., Christianity in Jewish Terms (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000), 438 pp.
The Catholic Church has taken significant steps, in recent years, to make room for modern Judaism in contemporary Christian theology. Christianity in Jewish Terms is a brave attempt on the part of predominantly Jewish scholars to return the compliment. The catch is that even the most eminent of Jewish leaders could never claim the kind of authority enjoyed by the Pontifical See. Still less authority adheres to those liberal intellectuals whose contributions to this volume construct sympathetic renditions of Christianity from within the context of rabbinic literature. These scholars must rely upon persuasion alone and have no natural constituency. The strategy of the editors is to avoid "relativism" in the belief that it is disrespectful. Instead, their collection aims to translate Christian doctrine into the Jewish terms of its origin, hoping thereby to promote understanding by the avoidance of difference. But would we not learn more by investigating religious difference in relative terms, within the wider arena of monotheistic faith? A relativist construction of reality would allow us to consider monotheisms on a continuum of perpetual dialogue whose baseline is the humanity in which the monotheistic faiths absolutely believe. Relativism is what is required if what we [End Page 421] want is to observe others whose lives are lived beyond the limits of our own experience—a desire that is presupposed by the very ethics of monotheism. And how else to relate from within the confines of the finite world to the contextfree God above?