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Who Are the Real Chosen People?

The Meaning of Chosenness in Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Reuven Firestone, PhD

6 x 9, 176 pp, Hardcover, 978-1-59473-248-5

Also Available in Paperback

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What Does It Mean to Be “Chosen”? Why Did God Have to Choose?
“To be chosen can have a range of meaning from the mundane to the holy, but in all cases it means to be singled out and preferred over others. In a deep sense that permeates much or most of Western culture, having been chosen communicates a sense of something that is extraordinary, is transcendent, and entitles a reward. What is assumed in this sense of the term is that God has done the choosing and the reward is something that is unequaled, for what could possibly equal divinely ordained eternal happiness?”
from the Introduction
Religious people who define themselves as monotheists have often advanced the idea that their relationship with God is unique and superior to all others. Theirs supersedes those who came before, and is superior to those who have followed. This phenomenon tends to be expressed in terms not only of supersessionism, but also “chosenness,” or “election.” Who is most beloved by God? What expression of the divine will is the most perfect? Which relationship reflects God’s ultimate demands or desire?
In this fascinating examination of the religious phenomenon of chosenness, Reuven Firestone explores the idea of covenant, and the expressions of supersessionism as articulated through the scriptures of the three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. He explores how and why the ongoing competition and friction between these religions came about, and offers thoughts about how to overcome it.
“The first careful, fair, and thorough comparison of how the concept functions in the three major Abrahamic religions…. Required reading.”
Harvey Cox, Hollis Professor of Divinity, Harvard University
“Scholars and laypeople, believers and skeptics alike will profit greatly from this informative and thought-provoking book.”
Rabbi David Ellenson, PhD, president, Hebrew Union College–
Jewish Institute of Religion
“Does the reader a favor by not glossing over the hard issues that confront us, rather offering a timely analysis of the concept of chosenness.”
Akbar Ahmed, PhD, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies, American University
Rabbi Reuven Firestone, PhD, is professor of Medieval Jewish and Islamic Studies at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He is the author of Introduction to Islam for Jews and Children of Abraham: An Introduction to Judaism for Muslims, among other books. He is a frequent speaker on the topics of early Islam and its relationship to Judaism and Christianity, scriptural interpretation of the Bible and Qur’an, and the phenomenon of holy war in the Abrahamic religions.
The Center for Religious Inquiry™ Series
This series explores topics of religion and spirituality in an effort to develop new understandings of the various faith traditions. Each book is developed in conjunction with the acclaimed Center for Religious Inquiry™ of St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, a model for religious exploration across traditional religious lines that is being replicated in other cities across the United States.


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978-1-58023-313-2 Modern Jews Engage the New Testament: Enhancing Jewish Well-Being in a Christian Environment
978-1-59473-237-9 Interactive Faith (HC)


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