Tolerance, Real Religious Pluralism And “holy Envy” (prof. Menachem Fisch, Tel Aviv University)

Prof. Menachem Fisch is a Joseph and Ceil Mazer Professor of History and Philosophy of Science at Tel Aviv University and serves as a director of the Center for Religious and Interreligious Studies. I think what he has to say is good for all of us to hear and seriously consider. Those of you interesting in studying at Tel Aviv university, please, click here.

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  1. Snowball

    When we check the Bible we find that people did not know that Jesus(pbuh) would do something to allow people to avoid a punishment for their sins and that people flocked to him to hear what he said, because prophecies said that he would reveal everything.

    Clearly they didn’t flock to him to watch him take a punishment for everyone else. He had to feed people two times because they came to him even when he was some distance outside towns and cities. They even followed him across a lake in boats, just to hear what he would say.

    It is summed up by what the Samaritan woman said. That they had heard that the Law (the Prophets(pbut) were the Law because they spoke for God) said that the Messiah would reveal all at John 4:25.

    She was referring to prophecies that Jesus said that he was fulfilling. These include Psalm 78:1-3, Psalm 49:1-4 and Isaiah 29:18.

    The reason that the Prophets King David(pbuh) and Isaiah(pbuh) referred to revealing things in sayings written in a book is that Job 33:14 says that God says more than one thing at the same time.

    This is why the Prophet Daniel(pbuh) said he noticed words in the book (Bible is a Greek word meaning The Book) and was told to seal the book up again and that the words were for a later time, why Isaiah said that it is as though there is a seal on the book but that it will be opened later, and why the biblical book of Revelation says that the Messiah, the Christ, will open a book that is sealed and be able to read what others could not read. For example, at Daniel 12:9, Isaiah 8:16 and Revelation 5:1.

    It is why, when Jesus approached Jerusalem and wept for the people there because things that made for peace would remain hidden from them for the time being.

    It follows that when he returns, he will complete the task and reveal everything. This explains why he said at Mark 4:22-25 and Luke 8:17-18 that everything will be revealed, and in that latter, that it will happen if you pay attention to HOW you hear words.

  2. David W

    Excellent definition of tolerance and plurality. Unfortunately, most folks today think tolerance means that you must accept other religions and philosophies as equally valid as your own. Prof. Fisch correctly defines this as plurality. All religions have Godly characteristics – most come from the wisdom of Noah and his decedents. We can learn something about God (who would follow an ideology if there wasn’t something good about it). However, as a follower of the Messiah I don’t envy them. I believe other religions are tainted by the forces of this world so that they miss the most crucial element, salvation by faith in Jesus.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      I think what you don’t envy is their “faith as a whole” or another way to put their system of doctrine. But I think I hear you say that you could envy the good things that they have and are not found in your own tradition. (if there is such a thing that is not found in it). Let’s keep thinking together, David. Blessings and peace,

      Dr. Eli

      1. David W

        If you define envy as discontent or resentment aroused by what other faiths have, then no, that envious person must be misled somehow. If you define envy as eagerly desiring truth and the things of God wherever they may be found, then yes, we should envy those things.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          The second of course. This is why I believe Prof. Fisch called “HOLY” envy. I think we have come to an agreement now. Don’t you think?! 🙂

          1. David W

            Yes! Thanks so much. I’ve been stagnant in my Bible study for quite some time until I started reading your challenging blog.

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            David, I take pride (in a good way! You may even say a HOLY pride 🙂 🙂 🙂 ) in a thinking quality of this study group’s participants. Let us keep thinking His thoughts after Him… together.

  3. Therese Saladin-Davies

    Dear Dr Eli
    It is wonderful and great to hear Prof Fisch to widen our perspective.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Therese, thanks for your comment!

  4. Janet Henriksen

    Here in is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear has torment. He that fears is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also. (1John 4:17-21)

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      This is a great from 1 John that should help us define what a Christian tolerance should look like. Tolerance is connected with love, not with fear. Where there is fear, there cannot be tolerance.

    2. Snowball

      When Paul wrote that those who claim to love God but hate their brother, he was referring to something that shows the richness in the language of what God gave to the Prophets

      In Hebrew, the word for Spirit also means Wind. (The same happens in Greek and I am told that in Japanese the word for Spirit also means breath.)

      When God breathed life into the body of Adam and gave it life, Adam became everyone else, with that tiny spark of life from God in each person. Therefore, to hate another person is to hate a tiny little bit of God, and it follows that a person who hates someone else breaks the most important commandment to love God.

      Knowing this, Paul’s statement that those who claim to love God but hate someone else lie, makes more sense. This is an example of how different faiths can learn from each other, fitting well with the theme of this post about being able to find more information in another faith. Or in this case, two faiths.

      (To see where Jesus(pbuh) and Paul made further references to this word play, see the post

  5. Lois Eaton

    All religion is a seeking for God. That, at least, should be respected. The next step is to look at what attitudes lead to what religion and why.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg


  6. gustavo vargas angel

    Clarifying speech by Prof. Fisch. As I think, however, about “holy envy”, I think that something from the “other side” may not be as good as it seems from “this side” and therefore could be spiritually dangerous. Yom tov.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Sure. But much is. At the very least if we reject it before we hear it out. We will never know what is it that the other side is saying. Parents have this with kids that don’t try to taste something new. Parents always say: “Just try it, just one spoon, if you don’t like it…” 🙂

      1. Snowball

        Well said. Proverbs 18:13 contains a basic truth and says that it is foolish to respond to something before we have heard it. Paul said that there is still a veil on what is written in the Prophets(pbut) at 2 Corinthians 12-16 and that we should judge nothing until everything is revealed at 1 Corinthians 4:5.

        These things fit perfectly with Job 33:14, which says that God says more than one thing at the same time. Much of the biblical book of the Prophet Isaiah(pbuh) is about this, and it says that people will one day perceive things in the book (Bible means The Book) that we did not perceive before at Isaiah 29:18 and Isaiah 35:5. The biblical book of Revelation 5:1-5 says that God’s Messiah will open the book and show these things to people.

        This explains why the biblical book of the Prophet Daniel(pbuh) shows that he saw more words in the book and was told by God to close it back up because they were for later at Daniel 12:4 and Daniel 12:8-9 and why Isaiah 8:16 shows that it was as though there was a seal on the book, leaving people deaf and blind to what it says.

        We have yet to see what God gave the Prophets to say and to write, because He says more than one thing at the same time. This works very well with the idea that other holy books have things that we may also wish to see. As it has been put here, Holy Envy.

        These things have started to come to us now and having seen quite a lot of it, I am sure that there is a great deal more to see and that believers will be fascinated. More below.

  7. June Elliott

    Prof. Fisch challenges me to widen my perspective by employing holy envy when considering other faith communities. Thank you.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear June, I agree. What happens when we don’t follow his advice is this: we first demonize “the other” and then we say to ourselves that God’s people (us) should not learn anything from the devil. Isn’t that how it works? We must understand and do the opposite. Dr. Eli

      1. Steve Spotts

        I’ve listened to Prof Fisch’s comments now four times over the last two days but they continue to leave me unsettled and a little troubled. I don’t agree it is inevitable we will “demonize” other’s who don’t share our view if we don’t employ Stendahl’s “holy envy” or Fisch’s advice . I believe I have an even higher calling to “love my enemies” (Lk 6:27), but that seems quite different to me than “celebrating our diversity.” Perhaps I’m reading more into that phrase than is intended but I’m more inclined to grieve our interfaith differences than I am to “celebrate” them.

        At the same time I did appreciate Dr. Fisch’s comments about tolerance and plurality. The former is indeed a thin concept that does not require love, and the second a vital check on our own individual limits and potential arrogance.

        I think it’s fair to say that no one has a “lock” on truth but I don’t think that means truth doesn’t exist or can’t be known. It’s also fair to say that we can all learn (something) from one another but divergent tracks actually do lead somewhere and unless it is toward truth I’m uncomfortable going very far down that track. Paul presented his message in Athens before the men of the Areopagus at Mars Hill, but he also minced no words in warning the Galatians regarding those that preached a “different Gospel” to them. This is a difficult balance to be sure, but one that ought not to be glossed over.

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          Shalom, Dr. Spotts.

          Someone said that religion exists to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable :-).

          I am not sure that “grieving” over our interfaith differences is the appropriate response of the faith in all cases rather than celebrating them. I think we would agree that it would very much depend upon the difference itself.

          Now… I think what is important to see here is that Prof. Fisch adopts, and naturally so, a traditionally Jewish approach to variety of voices and faces of interpretation (Talmudic logic) vs. your adoption of traditional Christian (creedal/systematization-centered logic). That is not to say that Christians never appreciate the difference of opinion and Jews don’t have creeds of course. But I think the difference in approaches is noticeable and undeniable. So, I think it is not Liberalism vs. Conservationism, but rather Talmudic Logic vs. Creedal one. Well… at least this is how I see it! I think the method is part of the disagreement here.

          You are right that that in the context of inner-Christian discussion there is really such a thing as “different Gospel” as per Galatians, however, it is possible that when we talk about Jewish-Christian discussions in the post-everything 🙂 world a different approach may be justified. Let’s keep thinking together. Thank you very much for your comment and participation.

          Dr. Eli

          1. Steve Spotts

            As a clinical psychologist I suppose I am “comfortable with the disturbed” even if the disturbed is me! 😉

            My thought about grieving our interfaith differences arises from Paul’s comments in Romans 9. Much could be said about that passage but we are probably of the same mind that the “differences” are the key issue. Celebrating and even participating in our cultural and stylistic approaches to faith is a welcomed and gratifying part of the pluralistic benefits Dr. Fisch mentioned. You are correct that it is the credal/doctrinal or truth issues of which I am most concerned.

            If we can agree truth matters, then how we come to know and understand the truth matters. I believe whether one uses Talmudic logic or a creedal centered logic as an interpretative basis we are open to error so I am not suggesting I have all the answers. But Paul, as a Pharisee and a Jew (presumably using a Jewish way of thinking) saw clear differences in outcome for children of the flesh vs children of the promise. According to I Corinthians 15 he also apparently believed that if he was wrong about the resurrection he (and we) are to be pitied.

            If the outcome of our faith differs meaningfully and eternally because of the content of our faith, then it would seem to me that grief is very much the appropriate response of faith, and one that genuine love demands.

            Actually, I doubt we differ much in practice or theory but I felt compelled to speak to that unsettled (disturbed) sense that interfaith dialogue is complicated, even if we agree that it is desirable.

            By the way, I have very much appreciated and valued what I have read of your commentary on John. I look forward to more of your good work!

          2. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

            Thank you so much, Dr. Spotts for your comments about my work and thank you for your other feedback as well. I agree we do agree on the differences:-). Although I must disagree with you Paul 🙂 First, because I am Jewish and I have to have something to disagree about! 🙂 Just kidding. On a serious note… I do not think Paul’s thinking was Talmudic :-). The way of thinking that is Talmudic was truly developed only much later and yes Paul was Jewish, but because Talmudic does not equal Jewish, we can’t make that jump. At least I don’t think we can.

            Talmudic logic came about in the period of great uncertainty 3rd century and onward with the Temple gone and Judaisms of various kinds abounding in often the same local. So while Talmudic logic and variety of Judaic approaches to scripture interpretation is not the same thing, they are nevertheless connected. One was developed out of necessity to survive and often in the opposition to the creedal/systematic approach that New (self-claimed) Israel chose. :-). I hope this keeps us thinking in the right direction. Dr. Eli