Title: Is there a Judeo-Christian Tradition? A European Perspective
Editors: Nathan, Emmanuel
Topolski, Anya
Series Editors: Liska, Vivian
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: De Gruyter
Series Title: Perspectives on Jewish Texts and Contexts Series vol:4
Abstract: The term ‘Judeo-Christian’ in reference to a tradition, heritage, ethic, civilization, faith etc. has been used in a wide variety of contexts with widely diverging meanings. Contrary to popular belief, the term was not coined in the United States in the middle of the 20th century but in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. This popular misconception is itself significant to this volume as it raises the question of the different theological and historical relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the USA in comparison with Europe. While the former has been the source of several major studies, the European perspective – both past and present – is most often overlooked. This volume seeks to address this lacuna. Coined in 1831 in Germany by Ferdinand Christian Baur, founder of what is now known as the Tübingen School of theology, the term ‘Judeo-Christian’ was used to describe an incomplete stage in a Hegelian synthesis at whose pinnacle was Gentile or Protestant Christianity. Baur’s analysis also highlights the inner conflict Christianity underwent in the early 19th century, between Protestants and Catholics, and how Judaism was used and abused by both denominations. While its meaning was far from fixed, it quickly became common both in broader academic circles, and in popular discourse. How did its popularity play into the anti-Semitism that became rampant by the 1880s? This popularity was to a major extent due to the increased esteem of the new science of comparative philology in European universities that arose as the discipline of theology, along with religion in general, was losing its popular appeal. By the onset of the First World War most traces of the term Judeo-Christian in Europe had disappeared. When the term (re)surfaced in the USA, during WWII, as part of the war-effort, most scholars believed incorrectly it was a neologism. This usage was made controversial by Arthur Cohen in his 1969 seminal essay, The Myth of the Judeo-Christian Tradition, who did identify its original 19th century origin but failed to explore this origin (Silk 1984).

By acknowledging and returning to the term’s original coinage as our starting point, this volume seeks to explore the signifier Judeo-Christian in terms of its rich and turbulent intellectual history. We are interested in four aspects of this signifier: 1) the events leading up to Baur’s 1831 coinage and the historical context of his project and specifically how he viewed Judaism in relation to Catholicism, Protestanism, Islam and Paganism. Also under consideration will be what intellectual role it played when it was coined and what terms took over this role. 2) Pauline theology and its reception represent in many ways a continuation as well as a critical dialogue with Baur’s project. Since in many ways Paul is still seen as a founding father of early Christianity, his theological oeuvre has been understood as articulating the clash between universalism and particularity that is heavily indebted to Baur’s original thesis. How then does this relate to the recent interest in Paul today, both theologically and politically? For example, the recovery of the ‘Jewish Paul’ by Christian, and occasionally Jewish, biblical scholars arguably reflects the theological advances in interreligious dialogue between Jews and Christians in the late 20th century, but also continues to ask to what extent this return to Paul fosters supersessionist views. Similarly, the ‘Pauline’ turn among such recent philosophers like Agamben, Badiou and Žižek displays an interest in Paul for political ends (already begun with Jacob Taubes), certainly as it relates to the issues of universalism and particularism. Yet they somehow reintroduce Judaism as the overly ‘particularist’ other out of which a universalist Christianity (and Western civilization) emerged. 3) Religious interactions with the term Judeo-Christian, including, but not restricted to, Christian theologians sympathetic to Judaism. 4) Its political prominence in Europe today beyond inter-faith theological circles. This will entail a consideration of the interrelated question concerning identity and inclusion. How does this term define and affect those supposedly included by it? How does this term affect those not included in this hyphen?
ISBN: 978-3-11-041647-3
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IBe
Appears in Collections:Centre for Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

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