Intersecting Pathways: Modern Jewish Theologians in Conversation with Christianity

Article excerpt

Intersecting Pathways: Modern Jewish Theologians in Conversation with Christianity, by Marc A. Krell. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. 200 pp. $39.95.

For the past several decades a number of Christian scholars such as Paul van Buren, A. Roy Eckardt, and Franz Mussner have probed in some depth Christianity's interaction with Judaism. Until very recently (with a few exceptions) Jewish religious scholarship has not shown much interest in Christian thought. But with the emergence of the first major Jewish document on Christianity, Dabru Emet, a number of leading Jewish scholars have begun to turn their attention to the impact that Christianity may have exercised on Jewish thought. Marc Krell has been in the forefront of this new Jewish interest in Christian thinking. He has deepened that interest in this volume, in which he analyzes the writings of four major Jewish scholars-Hans Joachim Schoeps, Franz Rosenzweig, Richard Rubenstein, and Irving Greenberg-in terms of their encounter with the Christian tradition.

Krell's analysis is not confined to a comparison based on theological ideas alone. Rather he also examines Christianity's impact on Jewish theology through the lens of cultural criticism. Krell argues for what he terms a "dialectical symbiosis" in the construction of Jewish and Christian identities over the centuries, whether that symbiosis is made explicit or remains unrecognized. Following the interpretation of Daniel Boyarin regarding Jewish-Christian co-emergence, Krell underlines the ambiguous and often contrdictory nature of the Jewish-Christian relationship throughout the course of history. On various occasions, whether in the era of Sr. Augustine or in the time of Moses Mendelssohn, Jews and Christians have exploited each other's narratives on the path to asserting their distinctive identities.

Krell contends that it is possible to demonstrate a pattern in which Jewish theologies emerge our of a religious and cultural interchange with Christianity. The four scholars he has selected to study reveal an openness to Christian thought that goes beyond the outlook of most of their contemporaries. But, despite their receptivity to Christian perspectives, they also reveal a tendency to revive certain classical polemical positions, even if inadvertently, in the construction of their theological positions.

Krell begins his formal analysis with an outstanding exception to the general Jewish scholarly indifference to Christian thought-Franz Rosenzweig. Yet, he persuasively shows that Rosenzweig, despite his seeming positive outlook on Christianity, in the end opts for a model of Jewish superiority that runs directly counter to Christianity's traditional claims in that regard. …