Contemporary Covenantal Thought: Interpretations of Covenant in the Thought of David Hartman and Eugene Borowitz

Contemporary Covenantal Thought: Interpretations of Covenant in the Thought of David Hartman and Eugene Borowitz

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Simon Cooper

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781936235698 (hardcover)
Pages: 324 pp.
Publication Date: December 2011

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Refusing to accept anything but ever-increasing levels of human responsibility within a religious framework, covenantal thinkers audaciously suggest that the covenant empowers humanity as it binds and inhibits divinity. This is a reformulation of recurrent issues within the Jewish tradition, and one which pays homage to the modern context from which it emerges. Hartman and Borowitz grew up in the same mid-century American academic and social environment, and the product of that upbringing has a significant impact on the subsequent theories which they promote. Both thinkers have attracted a considerable following, but very few scholars have discussed them together. Cooper here for the first time works toward understanding their work in comparison with each other, and with covenant as the central focus and framework.


Simon Cooper (PhD King’s College, London) is a teaching fellow at the London School of Jewish Studies and teaches at the MA program in Jewish Studies at King’s College, London. 


Cooper is probably most illuminating in his probing discussion of the historical and cultural context from which Hartman and Borowitz’s covenantal thought emerged. . . .Cooper’s lucid and accessible analysis of Hartman’s covenantal theology shows how Hartman responds to what he considers the most powerful element of the modern critique of religion: the tendency of religion in general and Judaism in particular to promote feelings of resignation and powerlessness.
— Dr. Ari Ackerman, Jewish Ideas Daily, "The Covenantal Thought of David Hartman," February 21, 2013
Simon Cooper’s valuable study consists of a detailed and sophisticated comparison of the notion of covenant in the thought of two contemporary Jewish theologians, David Hartman and Eugene Borowitz. Other important thinkers who are brought into the discussion in some depth include J. B. Soloveitchik and Irving Greenberg, and, in lesser detail, Maimonides, Hermann Cohen, and Martin Buber. The focus of the comparison is on the relevant weight given to the religious values of authority and of autonomy. Cooper’s work represents a significant contribution to our understanding of two outstanding Jewish theologians. It demonstrates familiarity with the scholarship on its subject and is comprehensible and well-written; the topic may be complex, but the presentation is crystal-clear.
— Menachem Kellner, Professor of Jewish History and Thought, University of Haifa