Intersecting Pathways: Modern Jewish Theologians in Conversation with Christianity

By Marc A. Krell | Go to book overview

3
Beyond Borders
Richard Rubenstein's Critique of Judaism in
Relation to Christianity after the Holocaust

Following the Holocaust, Richard Rubenstein did not share Schoeps's optimism in a shared redemptive history for Jews and Christians because he was unable to reconcile the image of God as “the ultimate, omnipotent actor in the historical drama” with the historical reality of the death camps. 1 For Rubenstein, this portrayal of the biblical God of history must ultimately lead to the interpretation of the Holocaust as part of “God's providential way of leading humanity to its final redemption.” 2 As a result, Rubenstein came to the agonizing conclusion that after the Holocaust we are now in the age of the death of the historical God. Moreover, he rejected the Jewish mythical claim of chosenness associated with this transcendent God that has ignited a “two thousand year old sibling rivalry of Jew and Christian over who is the Father's beloved child.” 3 In his landmark book After Auschwitz (1966), Rubenstein criticizes the use of both Jewish and Christian religious myths because they created the historical climate for the Holocaust. He maintains that they should be abandoned to provide an opportunity for genuine dialogue between the two religious communities.

In the tradition of Jules Isaac and James Parkes, Rubenstein perceives a direct link between Christian anti-Judaism in antiquity and the Holocaust. While acknowledging that Nazism was an antiChristian movement, Rubenstein argues that it was dialectically related to Christianity in the sense that the Nazis were able to negate Christianity by using its anti-Jewish myths for their own purposes. Consequently, they transformed a theological conflict “into a biological struggle in which only one conclusion was thinkable—the total

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