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Religionswissenschaft And Early Reform Jewish Thought: Samuel Hirsch And David Einhorn

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Chapter Summary

“Protestant theology’s biblical criticism is the best antidote to anti- Semitism.” This, at first glance, rather astonishing formulation stems from Hermann Cohen’s essay on “Religion und Sittlichkeit,” in which the famous German-Jewish philosopher presented the main aspects of his neo-Kantian inspired interpretation of Judaism as a modern, universal prophetical religion of humankind with messianic mission consisting in the moral responsibility for a future of justice and universal peace. With the expulsion and destruction of the German-Jewish Wissenschaft des Judentums during the “Third Reich,” Hermann Cohen’s enthusiastic hope for an “antidote” to anti-Semitism embodied by an enlightened Christian biblical scholarship had proved to be a dream: the grand endeavor to legitimize Judaism’s right of existence in modernity through a counterhistory based on modern scholarship was brutally destroyed by an inhuman society that chose to exorcize the “Jewish spirit,” including the biblical values of humaneness, justice, and freedom, through an unprecedented genocide.

Keywords: anti- Semitism; biblical criticism; biblical scholarship; Hermann Cohen; inhuman society; Judaism; Protestant theology; Wissenschaft des Judentums



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