Idolatry: An Interreligous Conversation

Idolatry: A Contemporary Jewish Conversation (Academic Studies Press, 2023)

Source: Elijah Interfaith Institute

Idolatry is the mirror image of God. If we seek to understand God and how to approach him, idolatry serves us as the mirror image of what we seek to avoid. Idolatry has also been the category by means of which religions invalidate other religions, and in this sense has an important history in Jewish usage. Following the publication of Alon Goshen-Gottstein's, Same God, Other god: Judaism, Hinduism and the Question of Idolatry (Palgrave, 2017), the question arose: if other religions are not viewed through the lens of idolatry, what does the category mean to us? To this end, a conversation among Jewish thinkers and theologians was convened. Its fruits are featured in Idolatry: A Contemporary Jewish Conversation (Academic Studies Press, 2023).

Based on these reflections by Jewish thinkers, we convened at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion a conversation with Christian, Muslim and Hindu scholars, raising the question of what significance the category of idolatry has for these thinkers in their respective religions. Participants were asked to review the Idolatry book and to reflect on its relevance for a contemporary understanding of idolatry in their tradition. In this and coming issues of our Wisdom newsletter, we will be sharing with you the individual contributions and the group discussion that ensued.

The present issue features two contributions. Alon Goshen-Gottstein offers an overview of possible understandings of idolatry in a Jewish context. A catalogue of possibilities is introduced, covering both ancient, medieval and contemporary understandings. This lays the ground for ongoing and future conversations across religions, on this topic. The first panelist was Prof. Werner Jeanrond, formerly of Lund university, who reflects on the value of the category "idolatry" for Christian theology and the usefulness of the discussion featured in the book. For Jeanrond, we must give greater attention to the category of idolatry, if we seek to take seriously the very notion of God.

We hope you are enriched by these conversations and look forward to your echoes and thoughts.

Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein and Idolatry: An Interreligious Conversation

At the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, a session was devoted to the question of idolatry. The session featured an interreligious panel of scholars discussing Alon Goshen-Gottstein (ed.) Idolatry: A Contemporary Interreligious Conversation (Academic Studies Press, Boston, 2023). Thinkers of different religions reflected on the challenge of idolatry in religion today, based on similar reflections offered by about 20 thinkers, featured in this book. Participants in the panel were Werner Jeanrond (Lund University), Jawad Qureshi (Zaytuna Institute), Jeffrey Long (Elizabethtown College), Nick Adams (University of Birmingham), Catherine Cornille (Boston College), Kurt Anders Richardson (Institute for Abrahamic Relations) and Alon Goshen-Gottstein (Elijah Interfaith Institute). This is the first video, featuring Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, offering an introduction and overview of the topic and the discussion.

Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein is acknowledged as one of the world’s leading figures in interreligious dialogue. He is founder and director of the Elijah Interfaith Institute since 1997. His work bridges the theological and academic dimension with a variety of practical initiatives, especially involving world religious leadership. A noted scholar of Jewish studies, he has held academic posts at Tel Aviv University and has served as director of the Center for the Study of Rabbinic Thought, Beit Morasha College, Jerusalem.

The Elijah Interfaith Institute is a multinational organization dedicated to fostering peace between the world’s diverse faith communities through interfaith dialogue, education, research and dissemination. Our unique programming generates interfaith dialogue at the highest levels, bringing together world religious leaders and renowned scholars the world over, through research projects, public conferences and community-based initiatives.

Werner Jeanrond and Idolatry: An Interreligious Conversation

This is the second video, featuring Werner Jeanrond, offering a response.

Professor Werner Jeanrond is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Oslo, Norway. He has previously taught systematic theology at Trinity College Dublin and at the Universities of Lund, Glasgow, and Oxford. Prior to his present appointment he was Master of St Benet's Hall in the University of Oxford. His books and articles in theology and hermeneutics have been translated into many languages.