Are Jews the Only True Monotheists? Some Critical Reflections in Jewish Thought from the Renaissance to the Present
History of Religion
Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Monotheism, by simple definition, implies a belief in one God for all peoples, not for one particular nation. But as the Shemah prayer recalls, God spoke exclusively to Israel in insisting that God is one. This address came to define the essential nature of the Jewish faith, setting it apart from all other faiths both in the pre-modern and modern worlds. This essay explores the positions of a variety of thinkers on the question of the exclusive status of monotheism in Judaism from the Renaissance until the present day. It first discusses the challenge offered to Judaism by the Renaissance thinker Pico della Mirandola and his notion of ancient theology which claimed a common core of belief among all nations and cultures. It then explores the impact of this universal philosophy of Christianity on a group of early modern Jewish thinkers; considers its repercussions among Jewish thinkers in the nineteenth century both in Western and Eastern Europe; and finally focuses on one contemporary Jewish reflection of the vision of Pico in our own day.