Lecture given on Sunday 13th November 2016 as part of the Honest Theology project.
Many Jews are proud that their Judaism is not exclusivist in the way that some other religions are: non-Jews are not condemned as such; they too are valued by and bonded to God, if not by the Mosaic then by the Noahide covenant. There is also an idea that the righteous among the nations have a place in the world to come. However, there is another less comfortable strand of Jewish thought, which emphasises the difference between the souls of Jews and non-Jews, and sometimes seems to regard non-Jews as made in the likeness but not in the image of God. Some versions of Judaism, far from marginal, are in fact highly exclusivist.
This lecture confronts this line of thinking honestly and openly, and explores whether it might in fact be more nuanced, with some inclusive and universalist ideas emerging alongside the more challenging ones.
Prof. Franks pays particular attention to the thought of Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), author of the highly influential Shnei Luhot ha-Berit (Two Tables of the Covenant); to Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), philosopher and author of the controversial Pentateuch translation, Netivot ha-Shalom (Paths of Peace); Naftali Herz Weisel (1725-1805), poet and author of the notorious open letter, Divrei Shalom ve-Emet (Words of Peace and Truth); and Pinhas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna (c.1731-1805), author of Sefer ha-Berit (Book of the Covenant), one of the greatest Jewish best-sellers of the last few centuries.