Intersecting Pathways: Modern Jewish Theologians in Conversation with Christianity

By Marc A. Krell | Go to book overview

1
From the Outside Looking In
Franz Rosenzweig's Construction of a
Jewish Theology in Light of His Ambivalent
Encounter with Christianity

Franz Rosenzweig's theology emerged out of the intersection of Judaism, Christianity, and secular philosophy at the beginning of the twentieth century and was a clear reflection of the historical situation of German Jewry at the close of the nineteenth century. At that time, German Jewish scholars of the Wissenschaft des Judentums (Science of Judaism) had attempted to unite Jewish and German Christian cultures through the medium of secular or historical knowledge. A century earlier, the eighteenth centuryJewish philosopher Moses Mendelssohn had also attempted to integrate Judentum and Deutschtum by carving out a neutral zone of universal, natural reason to which Jews could contribute as human beings in the street while preserving their particularity through home ritual observance. However, the Wissenschaft des Judentums shunned that bifurcated identity in favor of a Jewish-German symbiosis based on a self-perceived intellectual and spiritual affinity. In their attempt to identify with their environment, these Jewish thinkers saw themselves as quintessentially German in the sense of committing even more genuinely than any native Saxonian, Prussian, or Bavarian to the idea of a homogeneous culture. As a result, the scholars of the Wissenschaft des Judentums perhaps unwittingly, began to view Judaism as if from the outside looking in, creating a unique German-Jewish subculture that was neither fully German nor Jewish. 1

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