Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism

Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism

Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism

Covenant and Chosenness in Judaism and Mormonism

Synopsis

Covenant and chosenness resonate deeply in both Mormon and Jewish traditions. For both of these communities, covenant and chosenness represent enduring interpretations of scriptural texts and promises, ever-present in themes of divine worship and liturgy. The chapters of this volume written by leading scholars of both communities, debate scriptural foundations, the signs of the covenant, the development of theological ideas about covenant, and issues of inclusivity and exclusivity implied by chosenness.

Excerpt

Covenant and choseness are concepts that resonate deeply in both Mormon and Jewish traditions. For both of these communities, Covenant and Chosenness represent enduring interpretations of scriptural texts and promises, ever present in themes of divine worship and liturgy. Both communities see these themes articulated in commandment and commitment, in the centrality of Sabbath, temple, and land, and in their shared commitments to communal solidarity and social action.

The covenant—Hebrew berit—represents for Jews promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Berit milah—“covenant of circumcision”—is popularly shortened to berit (Ashkenazi Hebrew and Yiddish bris)—simply “covenant”—and taken to refer to the act of circumcision itself and to the celebration of “entering into the covenant of Abraham.” This act celebrates the eternal linkage of a soul with the Jewish people. In addition to the physical mark of the covenant, Jewish tradition celebrates the Hebrew Bible’s description of a temporal “symbol” as well: the Sabbath. For Latter-day Saints, the idea of a covenant people is reflected in the Sabbath day with its sacrament, and marriage—when performed in the temple—which not only links the couple for eternity but also represents an eternal covenant with God.

The idea of the chosen people is a common one in the Hebrew Bible, existing alongside ideas of chosen prophet, land, and city. As Solomon Schechter (1847–1915) observed, “even a cursory perusal of Bible and Talmud leaves no doubt that the notion of election always maintained in Jewish consciousness the character of at least an unformulated dogma.” The covenant of the Patriarchs is eternal, but chosenness results from faithfulness to the divine promise (Deut. 7:6–9) and also carries commitment: the people of Israel are . . .

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