Leo Baeck and Christianity

By Homolka, Walter | European Judaism, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Leo Baeck and Christianity


Homolka, Walter, European Judaism


The July workshop in 2006 aimed at analysing one specific Jewish approach to define its essence and identity as it has been presented by Leo Baeck (1873-1956), generally considered to have been the last great exponent of German Liberal Judaism. Here we focus on the attempt to evaluate the connection of Liberal Jewish Theology and Liberal Christian Theology at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This will serve as background in order to explain Baeck's contribution to the Jewish--Christian dialogue.

In order to understand the specific situation of German Jewish life and thinking before the Second World War, we have to keep in mind that German Jewry underwent a twofold revolution: the encounter with both culture and society of its Christian environment during the emancipation period (1780-1871).

Speaking in political terms, the emancipation of Jews in Germany resulted in the abolishment of civil autonomy for Jewish communities on the one hand and the end of the feudal status of German Jewry on the other. With the creation of the modern German state, Jews became integrated into the legal, economic and social system of a Christian society. Although one must assert that the fruits of Jewish emancipation remained quite incomplete and the social integration of Jews was somewhat partial, the nineteenth century can nevertheless be seen as a period of intense cultural productivity of German Jewry.

Many of the religious movements of modern times--Reform, Conservative and Neo-orthodoxy--were brought into being by German Jewish thought. One of the outstanding results of Jewish intellectual endeavour in the nineteenth century was the establishment of the Science of Judaism (Wissenschaft des Judentums), a school of thought which developed the idea of an evolutionary process of religious thought within Judaism against the static idea of a Jewish faith that is totally based on an unquestionable act of revelation.

Thus, the religious crisis in nineteenth-century German Judaism was a result of both the political as well as social changes and the lack of accessibility of an ancient Jewish faith. It was the great achievement of the Science of Judaism to offer an approach for redefining Jewish identity in a way that contributed to the growth of a new identity. It was no longer the walls of the ghettoes that made the Jew a Jew. Individual reason searched for an illuminated approach to the values of Judaism, the Jewish cultural and religious heritage and a specific Jewish history.

These scholarly developments did not find a home within the normal university system of the time. (1) Jews had to establish their own institutions of higher education dealing with religious thought. So, in 1854, the first Jewish Theological Seminary was established in Breslau, and in 1872, the Hochschule f r die Wissenschaft des Judentums was founded in Berlin. Both of them became central for the Science of Judaism.

Thus one might conclude that Liberal Jewish theology--so dependent on the rational findings of the Science of Judaism in the areas of philosophy, religion and biblical exegesis--was one of Judaism's most influential responses to the uncertain intellectual and religious situation of Jews in nineteenth-century Germany.

Liberal Jewish thought--with its spokesmen Joseph Eschelbacher, Moritz Lazarus, Moritz Gfidemann, Ludwig Geiger and Leo Baeck, to name but a few --and Liberal Protestant Theology--among whose spokesmen were Ernst Troeltsch, Albert Ritschl, Martin Rade and Adolf von Harnack--were both concerned with finding solutions to questions each of them raised in the same way. By searching for solutions they found themselves on common ground.

Both groups stressed the neo-Kantian ideal of a human being enabled by ethics to devote all life to an a priori system of principles. It can be said that liberal Protestantism and liberal Judaism tried in the same way to reinterpret religious traditions on the basis of modern rationality.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Leo Baeck and Christianity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.