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The Volk concept and the jews

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Chapter Summary

The idea of the national spirit of a people is more than anything else the contribution of Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803). This thought would prove both positive and negative to the view on Jews and Judaism. The word Volk (people), which referred to the geographical circumstances as well as inner characteristics of a people, became an ideologically loaded concept. Nevertheless, Herder also has a degeneration hypothesis, arguing that there is no continuity between Old Testament Judaism and the Judaism of Jesus day. Judaism degenerated after the death of Moses; the Jews adopted foreign customs in Canaan, and there was no new legislator after Moses. Herders pathbreaking theory of national identity affected the Jews negatively, adding a powerful argument that delegitimised their emancipation in Europe and Germany, despite Herders criticism of the ill-treatment of Jews.

Keywords: Jews; Johann Gottfried Herder; Old Testament; Romanticism; Volk



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