Recent developments in the Christian world (especially in the Catholic Church) regarding Christian-Jewish relations—initiated by the papal Nostra Aetate declaration of 1965—have led to the questioning of some classical Christian attitudes vis à vis “the Jews.” They have culminated in “the most important development in Christian teaching on the Jewish people since the second and third centuries” (R. Kendall Soulen): the abandonment of supersessionism. On the Christian side, unsurprisingly, this step has triggered considerable backlashes. These stem from the fear that the theological difficulties accompanying the new Christian non-supersessionism could jeopardize the very raison d’être of Christianity. On the Jewish side, the unprecedented Christian overture has elicited increasing efforts to provide a positive theological answer. Most of these efforts, however, are based on a political model of “conflict resolution or diplomatic negotiations” (Jon D. Levenson) rather than on sound theological reasoning and thus bear the stamp of theological light-mindedness. In this context, the pioneering efforts of two Jewish thinkers, Eliahu Benamozegh (1823–1900) and Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929), in laying the ground for a Jewish theology of Christianity are relevant again. These two major Jewish attempts at a largely positive reevaluation of Christianity that preceded the present Christian overture might deliver, albeit in a rather rudimentary form, some non-apologetic and authentic tools necessary for a Jewish reassessment of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Even according to Benamozegh and Rosenzweig, whose theological benevolence toward Christianity is unique, however, a theological harmony that would somehow make both sides happy seems a mission impossible. These two thinkers could, nevertheless, help in establishing a modest model of a possible collaboration as well as a dialogue between these two religions, while delimiting honestly the theological limits of such an interreligious endeavor.

Read Meir Seidler’s “Eliah Benamozegh, Franz Rosenzweig and Their Blueprint of a Jewish Theology of Christianity” in Harvard Theological Review for free until June 14, 2018.

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