Jewish Identity in Modern Times: Leo Baeck and German Protestantism

By Walter Homolka; Albert H. Friedlander | Go to book overview

VII. Jews, Judaism and the Concept of Peace in Our Time

Cain and Abel stand as symbols and examples of the most powerful drives plunging men into hatred, bloodshed and war, and ultimately toward self-destruction: sexual obsession, material greed, religious fanaticism.1

The first six chapters of the present volume carefully guide the reader to an understanding of the concept of peace in Jewish literature. The development of the idea of peace sketched there is not some steep progression from national particularism to universalism. The old, now outmoded thesis advanced by Wellhausen on Biblical exegesis interpreted almost every universal expression as evidence attesting to the late origin of the text.2

Today we know that thinking about war and peace develops along parallel tracks within one and the same period, and that the existential situation in a given era will tend to nourish one or the other trajectory of thought. Nonetheless, it is true that Judaism is firmly rooted in the foundation of the Hebrew Bible, remaining in constant vital touch with the Torah and particularly the prophets.

As the People of the Book, often powerless within the various countries in which they lived, the Jews lived more within the Biblical vision of peace in which the disenfranchised and weak would receive support. Moreover, the dream of the Messianic Age of Peace, reinforced by the prophetic vision, remained an urgently desired goal. In the Bible, this messianic future was closely related to the land of promise,

____________________
1
Trans. from Elie Wiesel, Adam oder das Geheimnis des Anfangs, Freiburg, 1986, p. 58.
2
Homolka 1992, pp. 62-67.

-73-

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