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YU News

Dean Berger Presents at International Conference

Dr. David Berger, dean of the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, presented at “Polemics and Prophethood in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam,” an international conference from May 14–16, 2018, sponsored by the Sigi Feigel Visiting Professorship for Jewish Studies and the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Zurich, Switzerland.

The central question addressed by the conference concerned how each of the three monotheistic religions justifies the authority of its own texts while fashioning “rationales of rejection” that dismiss the authority of the other texts. As Dr. Berger explained, “The conference addressed a wide variety of issues relevant to the validation and rejection of prophets. These included among many others the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the ‘seal of the prophets,’ the arguments for the authenticity of Jewish revelation by R. Saadya Gaon and Judah Halevi, and Quranic responses to declarations that Muhammad was the victim of demonic possession rather than the recipient of genuine prophecy.

“My presentation, ‘Prophecy, Law, and Messianism: Judaism’s Identification and Assessment of Prophets in Its Encounter with Christianity and Islam,’ analyzed three Jewish expressions of the conference theme. The first was the Jewish argument against assertions that the prophet like Moses promised in Deuteronomy was Jesus or Muhammad. The second examined the efforts of Gersonides (Ralbag) to defend the uniqueness of Moses’ Torah prophecy despite the serious problems that this doctrine posed within the context of his naturalistic theory of prophecy and limitation of divine knowledge. The third explored the innovative rabbinic ruling by Lubavitch messianists that the Rebbe met the criteria to be used in identifying a prophet and that his purported self-identification as the Messiah consequently requires belief in his Messiahship as a function of the injunction to obey a prophet.”

More information about the conference can be found here.