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Uniqueness: Problem or Paradox in Jewish and Christian Traditions.

Gabriel Moran directs the graduate program of religious education at New York University. "This book is about one word, 'uniqueness" (p.1). "Nearly all arguments in this book are linguistic....The simplest way to state the concern of this book is to say that it is about the meaning of words" (p.9).

The reader may be tempted to conclude that Moran is committed to a school of linguistic analysis discredited a generation ago, but this he denies. "Meanings spread out in all directions . . . . The meaning of a word is constituted by its use, by the particular context in which it is found" (p. 10).

The book seeks to argue that each faith can claim uniqueness, rightly understood, without denying the claims of the other. But we have to say that the argument about the meaning of words is given such prominence that is becomes more of a philosophical excursion on this theme using the Jewish and Christian traditions as illustrative material, rather than making the word elucidate the problems and paradoxes of the two faiths. This defect comes through particularly in the second chapter, "Is the Holocaust Unique?" where the debate about words seems almost to bury the awesome subject matter.

Moran rightly intends to highlight some of the abuses that glib uses of the word "unique" have led to. One cannot but feel that if more emphasis had been given to the subtitle, and the exploration of the meanings of "unique" made to serve rather than dominate this aim, the book would have served a wider readership.
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Author:Fieldsend, John H.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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