Never Revoked: Nostra Aetate as Ongoing Challenge for Jewish-Christian Dialogue by Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt(Louvain Theological & Pastoral Monographs: Peeters, Eerdmans) The Declaration Nostra Aetate issued by the Second Vatican Council on October 28, 1965, on 'the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions' marks a revolutionary milestone in the history of interreligious relations. With this document the Catholic Church sought to establish a new climate in which encounter and dialogue were understood as part of the Church's role in the world. As such, Nostra Aetate expresses the dialogical spirit of the Second Vatican Council. This book is inspired by the same dialogical spirit of Nostra Aetate, addressing some of the difficult theological challenges that lie ahead of us. It takes Nostra Aetate as an ongoing challenge to develop new theological reflections in the dialogical spirit of Vatican II. The contributors in this volume therefore do not only look to the past, but also critically articulate the challenges and obstacles confronting Jewish-Christian relations today, all the while looking forward to strengthening the dialogue. They not only show the courage of naming the resistances against dialogue, the remnants of substitution theology, the asymmetry in Jewish-Christian dialogue; they set out to develop new perspectives for the theology of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
The Declaration Nostra Aetate issued by the Second Vatican Council on October 28, 1965, on 'the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions' marks a revolutionary "milestone"' in the history of interreligious relations. Indeed, Nostra Aetate expresses a conversion of the Catholic Church towards other religions and Judaism in particular. With this document the Catholic Church sought to establish a new climate in which encounter and dialogue were understood as part of the Church's role in the world. As such, Nostra Aetate expresses the dialogical spirit of the Second Vatican Council, whose "intention it was to rally the highest possible majority on the council floor in favor of a change of attitude of Christians and the Church toward the members of other religions."
In the opening chapter of this book, Mathijs Lamberigts and Leo Declerck remark quite rightly, that "the presentation and approval of a positive text on relations with the Jews was actually far from evident." Not only could the Church expect objections from the Arab world. It soon became clear that within the Catholic world there were also theologians and bishops not altogether that enthusiastic about the conciliar intention to prepare a document on Judaism. That the Second Vatican Council addressed the Church's relations with the Jews at all was due in large measure to two individuals: Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Augustine Bea. They demonstrated boldness and perseverance in setting Jewish-Christian relations on the conciliar agenda. Rabbi David Meyer is likewise struck by the courageous spirit that animated the writers of the document. They not only had the courage "to reflect on the [Church's] share of responsibility" in the Shoah, they also had the resolution to rethink, re-interpret and change some of the Church's teaching regarding Jews and Judaism. Nostra Aetate # 4 acknowledges that for nearly two thousand years the relations between the Church and the Jewish people were marked by ignorance and confrontation, and expresses the hope to change the future for the better. It confirms the strong bond between the Church and the Jewish people and provides an opportunity to further the dialogue between Jews and Christians. Nostra Aetate "encouraged Christians to renounce the old anti-Judaism completely and to grow from apologia to encounter, from considering Jews as objects of contempt to respecting them as subjects of faith."
After the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI (1963-1978), and especially John Paul II showed the same tenacity and dialogical spirit which inspired Nostra Aetate. John Paul II (1978-2005) often devoted his energy to improving relations between Jews and Catholics. During his pontificate the Church condemned anti-Semitism, reflected on the roots of Christian anti-Judaic attitudes and prayed for the forgiveness of sins committed by "some sons and daughters of the Church" during the Holocaust. In many evocative symbolic actions John Paul II expressed his personal commitment to Jewish-Christian dialogue. He affirmed both in words and deeds that the Jewish people is the "chosen and beloved people of God, the people of God's covenant which due to God's faithfulness is never broken and is still alive." In connection with this, we recall his address in Rome on October 31, 1997, where John Paul II discussed God's election of Israel: "This people [of Israel] is assembled and led by Yahweh, creator of heaven and of earth. Its existence is therefore not purely a fact of nature or of culture in the sense that the resourcefulness proper to one's nature is expressed in culture. It is a supernatural fact. This people perseveres despite everything because it is the people of the covenant, and despite human infidelities, Yahweh is faithful to his covenant. To ignore this most basic principle is to adopt a Marcionism against which the church immediately and vigorously reacted, conscious of a vital link with the Old Testament, without which the New Testament itself is emptied of meaning." Time and again, Pope John Paul II expressed that the relation between Church and Israel no longer stands under the sign of divorce, but rather reflects the strong bond between the people of the first and second covenant. Perhaps one of the strongest expressions of this belief are his words that the "covenant" is "never revoked (Rom 11:29)." Israel is and remains God's chosen and beloved people, even if it can not accept Jesus as the promised Messiah.
Through his personal commitment to the improvement of Jewish-Christian relations and the way he 'embodied' the dialogical spirit of Nostra Aetate, John Paul II has made the necessary room for further theological reflection on interreligious dialogue in general, and the precise nature of the relation between Israel and the`Church in particular. The release of the document, Reflections on Covenant and Mission (2002), issued by the Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Council of Synagogues USA, marks a significant step forward in Jewish-Christian dialogue. It was the result of more than two decades of interreligious discussions between leaders of both Jewish and Catholic communities in the United States and contains both Jewish and Catholic reflections on God's call to both peoples. The Catholic reflections describe "the growing respect for the Jewish tradition that has unfolded since the Second Vatican Council. A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely-given mission to Jews to witness to God's faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church." This document deepens theological reflection on the relation between the Church and Israel and takes the dialogue between Judaism and Christianity another step forward. However, other steps are still needed. Now that the pontificate of John Paul II has come to an end, the question is, how is his successor, Benedict XVI relating to the heritage of Nostra Aetate? Will he be prepared to further develop some of the burning theological issues?
The fact that Pope Benedict XVI began his papacy with already some track record in Jewish-Catholic dialogue is promising. As Cardinal Ratzinger, he tried to develop a theology of Jewish-Christian relations. Consider, for instance, the document The Jewish People and the Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible (2001) by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, which was authorized by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. This document stresses the continuing importance of the Torah for Christians. Ratzinger, who penned the document's introduction, expresses his hope "to advance the dialogue between Christians and Jews with clarity and in a spirit of mutual esteem and affection." We should also mention two of his articles, 'The Heritage of Abraham: The Gift of Christmas' and Interreligious Dialogue and Jewish Christian Relations' 1s Both were later published in Ratzinger's book, Many Religions —One Covenant: Israel, the Church and the World, which comments positively on the reconciliation among Jews and Christians, and emphasizes the lasting role of the Jewish people.
Ratzinger has always considered Jewish-Catholic relations as sui generis and this remained obvious even when commencing his pontificate as Pope Benedict XVI. Indeed, shortly after his election, he affirmed the doctrinal legacy of Nostra Aetate and expressed his will to continue fostering good pastoral relations with the Jewish people. He aims to emulate the example of his predecessor with the same intention to reach out to the Jewish people. On June 9, 2005, less than two months into his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI addressed a delegation of the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations, declaring that Vatican II "affirmed the Church's conviction that, in the mystery of the divine election, the beginnings of her faith are already to be found in Abraham, Moses and the Prophets ... At the very beginning of my Pontificate, I wish to assure you that the Church remains firmly committed, in her catechesis and in every aspect of her life, to implementing this decisive teaching." Pope Benedict XVI then continued with emphasis, "In the years following the Council, my predecessors Pope Paul VI and, in a particular way, Pope John Paul II, took significant steps towards improving relations with the Jewish people. It is my intention to continue on this path."
In a letter to Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Holy See's Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews, on October 26, 2005, the day prior to the Vatican's official commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of Vatican II's Nostra Aetate, Benedict XVI affirmed "his determination to walk in the footsteps traced by my beloved predecessor Pope John Paul II." In his address in Cologne on the occasion of his visit to the Synagogue, he refers to Nostra Aetate # 4, recalling the common roots and the immensely rich spiritual heritage that Jews and Christians share.
With Saint Paul, Christians are convinced that "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29, cf. 9:6,11; 11:1ff.). In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity (cf. Rom 11:16-24), my venerable Predecessor, quoting a statement by the German Bishops, affirmed that: "whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism" (Insegnamenti, vol. 1980, 1272).
As former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, Ratzinger focuses on the theological implications of Jewish-Christian dialogue. He is acutely aware of the theological tension between the recognition of the Jewish other and the truth and unicity of the Christian faith. The question is how he would deal with some of the difficult theological questions that have emerged from Jewish-Christian dialogue — questions regarding the relation between the two covenants, the doctrinal understanding of the relationship between the Church as 'People of God' and 'God's People' Israel," the incarnation and Jesus' messiahship, the relation between the Church and the Kingdom of God, etc. These questions require an authentic and coherent theological response, and it seems that in this regard there remains quite some work to be done. What is more, there are reasons to doubt whether the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI will display the same resolution that will allow the theology of Jewish-Christian dialogue to take new steps forward.
Though Benedict XVI time and again expresses his willingness to continue along the line of his predecessor, he does not seem to embody the same dialogical spirit as John Paul II. He maintains what can only be described as a rather ambiguous theological position on the question of supersessionist theology. According to John Pawlikowski, President of the International Council of Christians and Jews (ICCJ), this became clear in an address given by Benedict XVI at St. Peter's Square on March 15, 2006. "Launching a new cycle of catechesis on the theme of the relationship between Christ and the Church, the Pope spoke of the arrival of the definitive eschatological time in Jesus, 'the time for rebuilding God's people of the twelve tribes, which is now converted into a universal people, the Church. The Pope's theological ambiguity on supersessionism is also brought out in the contribution of Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt in this volume. Focusing on the Pope' decision to revise the Good Friday Prayer, they show that Benedict XVI reveals traces of a supersessionist interpretation of the relation between Israel and the Church, which leads to a lack of clarity on the question whether the Church has a mission towards the Jews. This ambiguity has "given way to overt advocacy in some circles: in the pronouncements of certain prominent cardinals ... and in the growth of certain organizations for the `engrafting' of Jews to the Church." That the question of whether the Church has a mission to the Jews is even raised and then does not receive a clear negative answer, only shows that the ecclesial climate surrounding Jewish-Catholic dialogue no longer exhibits the same dialogical openness as that of Nostra Aetate. What this portends for the future of Catholic-Jewish dialogue is perhaps already illustrated by the decision of the Italian Rabbis to pull out of the Italian Catholic Church's annual celebration of Judaism, held on January 17, 2009.24
Given this perspective, it seems important not only to recall the firm belief of Pope John Paul II in the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue. In the same spirit we therefore ask: Can we keep the memory of Nostra Aetate alive? Can we keep faith with one another? Can we find the courage to face one another, to challenge one another? Can our relation be an 'in-between' where God may reveal Himself? This book is inspired by Nostra Aetate, addressing some of the difficult theological challenges that lie ahead of us. It aims to recall John Paul II's conviction that God's covenant with Israel was "never revoked" and asks the burning question what this means for the relation of the Church to the Jewish people. It takes Nostra Aetate as an ongoing challenge to develop new theological reflections in the dialogical spirit of Vatican II. The contributors in this volume therefore do not only look to the past, but also critically articulate the challenges and obstacles confronting Jewish-Christian relations today, all the while looking forward to strengthening the dialogue. They not only show the resolution of naming the resistances against dialogue, the remnants of substitution theology, the asymmetry in Jewish-Christian dialogue; they set out to develop new perspectives for the theology of Jewish-Christian dialogue.
In the introductory chapter, Mathijs Lamberigts and Leo Declerck (Faculty of Theology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) sketch the historical development of the declaration on 'the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions', with special attention to the way Nostra Aetate deals with Judaism. They first draw attention to three individuals, without whom the Second Vatican Council would probably not have addressed the matter of the Church's relations to the Jews: Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Augustine Bea and Jules Isaac. Lamberigts and Declerck then sketch the preparatory phase in which the Secretariatus ad christianorum unitatem fovendam formulated the schema, which would ultimately become Nostra Aetate 4, namely "the establishment of a position on anti-Semitism and a reflection on the part of the Church on its own Jewish roots." Following this, they reconstruct in detail the many conciliar (inter)sessions during the council that led up to promulgation of the document. In doing so, they not only highlight the delicacy of the issue in light of the political situation in the Middle East at that moment, they also show how the declaration on the Jews (Nostra Aetate 4) "made it clear that the Roman Catholic church was ultimately capable of setting aside ancient tradition where sound biblical, historical and cultural arguments insisted upon it."
Moving beyond the historical perspective John Pawlikowski (Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, USA) examines developments in the Church's thinking on the key issues of covenant and mission. He surveys recent trends in biblical scholarship, the ideas of theologians connected to Christian-Jewish dialogue such as Johann Baptist Metz, and Church leaders like Cardinal Walter Kasper and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI). Pawlikowski tries to develop a theological model for the Christian-Jewish relationship that both safeguards Christological newness while at the same time creating authentic theological space for Judaism.
David Meyer (Rabbi of the Brighton and Hove New Synagogue, United Kingdom) praises the courage it took forty years ago for the Church to completely rethink its relationship with other religions and with Judaism in particular. With equal courage he goes on to address some of the real (theological) difficulties for Jewish-Christian dialogue. Reading Nostra Aetate as a Jew, he admits to be shocked at times by the way this dialogical document speaks about the Jewish people in its relation to the Church. If we want to move ahead in the dialogue, he argues, Christians need to learn to listen in earnest to the Jewish other.
Simon Schoon (Theologische Universiteit Kampen, The Netherlands) reflects on the concept, 'People of God'. During Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church re-discovered the Church as 'the People of God on the way'. The question then is: does a renewal of the relationship between Christians and Jews in the 21a' century demand the radical theological step to give up the title 'People of God' for the Church? Schoon chooses to speak of Israel as the 'first-chosen People of God' and of the Church as the 'also-chosen ecumenical People of God from all the nations'. He proposes to view the `rootedness of the Church in (the People of) Israel' as one of the notae ecclesiae. In the Protestant view, the Church is the `People of God' and holy when it is a Church of metanoia, of repentance, because the Church must be semper reformanda, `always reforming'. Thus, he states: "After a long and dreadful history, the church and the Jewish people could perhaps, on their different ways to the kingdom of God join forces in a competition for holiness to work for the restoration of the world, separately and together."
In her contribution, Mary C. Boys (Union Theological Seminary, New York, USA) confirms that Nostra Aetate intended to overcome supersessionist theology, thereby bringing about a transformation in the relation between Israel and the Church. However, the question remains: what happens after supersessionism? It is one thing to affirm that Israel remains God's beloved people, it is quite another thing to formulate a consistent theology of Jewish-Christian relations. If Jews are still covenanted with God and not, as was taught for centuries, unfaithful and blind, then what, if anything, can or should we say about their salvation? Does their covenanted life with God in any way involves Jesus Christ? Boys rightly points out that these and other questions, mainly concerning soteriology, demand serious theological reflection. Indeed, the dialogue which commenced after Nostra Aetate raises many questions, even unsettling ones. However, Boys remains convinced that it is in and through dialogue with Israel, that theology is enlivened.
Marianne Moyaert and Didier Pollefeyt (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium) focus on the post-conciliar developments within the Catholic theology of Jewish-Christian relations. For them one of the most urgent questions is whether Catholic theology has actually succeeded in overcoming supersessionism. In this perspective they turn to the work of Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, who can be regarded as representative of Catholic teaching on Jewish-Christian relations. Their analysis of Ratzinger's thinking shows that Catholic theology still wrestles with supersessionist ideas and has still not succeeded in developing a coherent and authentic theology of Jewish-Christian relations. Moreover, Moyaert and Pollefeyt highlight the negative consequences of this theological lacuna on the dialogue between Israel and the Church. Forty years after Nostra Aetate there still remains much work to be done.
Paradise in Antiquity: Jewish and Christian Views
by Markus Bockmuehl and Guy G.
Stroumsa (Cambridge University Press) The social and intellectual vitality of Judaism and
Christianity in antiquity was in large part/ a function of
their ability to articulate a viably transcendent hope for
the human condition. Narratives of paradise — based on the
concrete symbol of the Garden of Delights —came to play a
central role for Jews, Christians, and eventually Muslims
These collected essays highlight the multiple hermeneutical perspectives on biblical paradise from Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins to the systematic expositions of Augustine and rabbinic literature, and show that while early Christian and Jewish sources draw on texts from the same Bible, their perceptions of paradise often reflect the highly different structures of the two sister religions. Dealing with a wide variety of texts, these essays explore major themes such as the allegorical and literal interpretations of paradise, the tension between heaven and earth, and paradise's physical location in space and time.
MARKUS BOCKMUEHL is Professor of Biblical and Early Christian Studies and a Fellow of Keble College at the University of Oxford. He is the editor of the The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge University Press, 2001) and the co-editor (with Donald A. Hagner) of The Written Gospel (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
GUY G. STROUMSA is Professor of the Study of the Abrahamic Religions and a Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall at the University of Oxford, and Martin Buber Professor Emeritus of Comparative Religion, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations in Late Antiquity (2009) and A New Science: The Discovery of Religion in the Age of Reason (2010), as well as the co-editor (with Graham N. Stanton) of Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
1. Introduction GUY G. STROUMSA
Part I Paradises of Second Temple Judaism and Christian Origins
2. The Messiah in the Garden JOACHIM SCHAPER
3. Philo's scholarly inquiries into the story of paradise MAREN R. NIEHOFF
4. Paradise in the Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo RICHARD BAUCKHAM
5. Paradise, gardens, and the afterlife in the first century CE MARTIN GOODMAN
6. Paradise in the New Testament GRANT MACASKILL
7. Quis et uncle? Heavenly obstacles in Gos. Thom. 5o and related literature SIMON GATHERCOLE
Part II Contemporizing Paradise in Late Antiquity
8. Tertullian and the law of paradise SABRINA INOWLOCKI
9. The-language of paradise: Hebrew or Syriac? Linguistic speculations and linguistic realities in late antiquity YONATAN MOSS
10. The tree oflife and the turning sword: Jewish biblical interpretation, symbols and theological patterns and their Christian counterparts MENAHEM KISTER
11. Erotic Eden: a rabbinic nostalgia for paradise GALIT HASAN-ROKEM
12. Augustine on Virgil and Scripture GILLIAN CLARK
13. Heaven as a political theme in Augustine's City of God EMILE PERREAU-SAUSSINE
14. Locating paradise MARKUS BOCKMUEHL
Epilogue: a heaven on earth ALESSANDRO SCAFI
Excerpt: In an old New Yorker cartoon, two signs offer to send the newcomer to heaven in two opposite directions. One points to "paradise," the other to "lectures on paradise." To be sure, a collection of scholarly essays on ancient perceptions of paradise, such as this one, falls short of a promise to regain long lost paradise. And yet, from Dante's Paradiso to Baudelaire's Les paradis artificiels, powerful attempts have been made, time and again, to reclaim paradise through writing. The central human experience of paradise, it seems, is double: that of nostalgia for an irretrievable loss, and that of the unquenchable expectation for regaining it; what one could call the tension toward paradise, the epektasis of paradise. Indeed, paradise never disappeared from Western consciousness, and, despite Entmythologisierung, real or imagined, the concept retains in late modernity its force of attraction on earlier generations. "Work on Myth," (Arbeit am Mythos, to use the apt title of the German philosopher Hans Blumenberg's powerful study of Western culture): the history of paradise in Christian culture may be compared to a kaleidoscope, where images, symbols, mythologoumena and concepts play a major part, and can be rearranged in a series of formations, at once similar and different, but always stimulating.
The word "paradise," as is well known, stems from Iran. The concept's career in the cultures issued from the biblical traditions, however, starts with the first chapters of Genesis. Soon, in early Judaism, the paradise from Genesis "blows up," as it were. Paradise moves back and forth along the axis of time: it can be conceived not only as belonging to the Urzeit, but also to the Endzeit, when it is reclaimed, or even to the present, in realized eschatology. Moreover, paradise is also mobile in space: it is not only located in different places upon earth (a pastime with a very long Fortleben), but also seems to circulate freely between earth and heaven. Paradise, then, can be nowhere and everywhere, and can be reached either never — the asymptotic Messianic times, or at any time — the "paradise now!" of the Gnostics. This fundamental polyvalence of paradise, for which propose to borrow the term chronotrope from Bakhtinian poetics, is the essential element of the story of paradise and its transformations not only in Judaism and Christianity, but also in Islam. Although the latter does not share the sacred text of Judaism and Christianity, the conceptions of paradise in the Qur'an and in early Islam reflect the same world of reference as the biblical heritage. "Mapping Paradise," to follow the title of Alessandro Scafi's beautiful book, is not only a matter of latitude and longitude; indeed, it is on the map of European culture and sensitivities that paradise must be drawn.
The social and intellectual vitality of Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity was in large part a function of their ability to articulate a viably transcendent hope for the human condition, the redemptive expectation of a world at once restored and new. Often, as perhaps again today, such hopes came to the fore at times of cultural and religious crisis or transition. Without reducing or trivializing concrete teleologies, they concerned the time, and often the place, in which God's final and original purposes would be at one, and human flourishing and aspiration realized. In late antiquity Jews and Christians, and eventually Muslims too, tended to find the narrative of hope wrapped up in the narrative of origins, and above all in the very concrete symbol of the Garden of Delights in the book of Genesis: paradise.
The present volume fits well into a newly vibrant field of interest in ancient eschatology that has produced several recent volumes on paradise with interesting synergies and analogies.' Its fifteen chapters offer a series of richly diverse glimpses into the religious world of late antiquity, with a particular focus on Jewish and Christian views of paradise. They study, from different perspectives, the luxuriant transformations of paradise in early Judaism and Christianity, from the Hellenistic times to the end of late antiquity. While early Christian and Jewish sources draw on texts from the same Bible, their perceptions of paradise, although seemingly similar, often reflect the highly different structures of the two sister religions. The collection of these essays highlights the multiple hermeneutical perspectives on the biblical paradise among Jews and Christians, as well as the ongoing dialogue between them, often acrimonious, sometimes unacknowledged, but ever present. At the same time, this volume also reflects the major inward turn of religious attitudes in late antiquity, which left a clear impact on conceptions of paradise.
The early ideas of paradise inherited from the Persians soon started to develop in ancient Jewish literature. In Hellenistic times, a series of Jewish texts from Palestine already reflected attempts at "remythologizing" the story of the hexahemeron and human origins. Toward the end of that period, the writings of Philo of Alexandria bear witness to the opposite attitude: allegorical hermeneutics of the Genesis text. That does not mean, of course, that Philo forgets all traditional, concrete conceptions of paradise, with the attempts to locate paradise on earth, or to visit it in heaven. The different conceptions of paradise play a complex game, reflecting and echoing one another.
Comparing means, first of all, emphasizing differences. While the reflection of Christian thinkers on the origins of humankind started, like that of their Jewish counterparts, from the biblical text, it is obvious that Jews and Christians were to highlight different elements in these chapters. Moreover, the Christian conception of Jesus Christ as summing up human history since Adam and offering a radical change from the consequences of Adam's fateful sin, never had a real equivalent among the Rabbis. Hence, realized eschatology, and perceptions of paradise as internalized, always remained more clearly present among the Church Fathers than among the Rabbis. For both Christians and Jews, history was Heilsgeschichte, and what would happen at the end of times had much to do with what had happened back then, in illo tempore. "Back then" (illud tempus) was also "back there" (ille locus), and throughout Christian history, discussions of paradise would to a great extent deal not only with its nature, but also with its location on earth; eutopia, as it were, rather than utopia.
Both the Christian and the Jewish thinkers of the first centuries, the Fathers of the Church and the Rabbis of the Talmud, however, were struggling to develop and establish some kind of orthodoxy which would underline and reinforce the ecclesial structures they were building.2 This drive toward orthodoxy, which also entailed censorship and intellectual control, goes a long way to explain why they regarded with some suspicion those first chapters of Genesis, which had served as the basis for drastic attempts at remythologizing (and sectarianism), both in Jewish apocryphal and in Gnostic literature. In some ways, then, both Rabbis and Fathers sought to play down the mythological elements involved with the paradise story and neutralize them, preferring to put the major emphasis on other figures and events of the early history of humankind.
In the biblical text, the Lord God had expelled Adam from Eden, the "garden of delight" (ek tou paradeisou tès truphès), establishing him in front of that garden, now protected by the Cherubs and the fiery sword (Gen. 3.23-24). One can argue that the rabbinic and early Christian understanding of Adam's exile from paradise both reflect the new conceptions of time and of the person taking shape in late antiquity.
In the first centuries of the Christian era, a number of religious groups offered competing versions of accounts on the same themes. These groups included, at least, the Rabbis, dualists of various shades, such as the Hermetic author of the Poimandres, the different Gnostic thinkers and sects, and the Manicheans. Already, Jewish literature from the Second Temple period had reflected at length on the old myths preserved in the first chapters of Genesis. This literature came both from Palestine (mainly the disparate corpus known as the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, which had offered a radical remythologization of the elliptic first chapters of Genesis), and from the Diaspora. From the long tradition of Hellenistic Jewish literature, on the other hand, we are mainly left with Philo, who offered an essentially Platonist hermeneutics. To oversimplify a highly complex story, one can say that the Gnostics and the Manicheans followed the path opened by Apocryphal literature, while the Church Fathers followed in Philo's footsteps .
The book of Genesis retains various myths pertaining to our topic, from the hexahemeron to Cain's murder of Abel, the tower of Babel, and the Flood. At each point, humanity takes a new start, as it were, and civilization is defined anew. In order to comprehend properly the early Christian understanding of human origins, one should in principle analyze the complete perspective offered by the patristic perception of these myths. This is certainly a study worth undertaking, and which, to the best of my knowledge, is still to be written. Here, however, I shall only focus upon the first stage in this progressive formation of human societies, as reflected in Adam's sin and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise. This expulsion signifies the very beginning of life on earth as we still know it, i.e. a life of toil, suffering, violence, and death.
In the Greco-Roman literary tradition, there was no single authoritative text which offered one formal, binding myth on the Golden Age and the origins of mankind. This fact highlights the great divide between the mainstream of Greco-Roman culture and the biblical tradition. Although the status of Homer (and also, to a certain extent, that of Hesiod) remained foundational in Greek culture through the centuries, the Homeric epics and Hesiod's works never achieved the kind of canonicity pertaining to a single, divine, revealed text. Hence, the various myths of origins and of the Golden Age in the Urzeit, or various references to a "paradise" of sorts did not have in the Greek tradition the power equivalent to that of the first chapters of Genesis in Judaism and in Christianity. We know of some traditions of mythical places: Homer refers to the Elysian Fields (Odyssey Iv) and to the Island of the Phaeacians and the closed garden of Alkinoos (Odyssey vii). The Fortunate Islands are mentioned in Pindar's Second Olympic, while Diodorus of Sicily alludes to a voyage to a southern Island from Ethiopia. In a sense, Plato's references to Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias would reverberate in similar ways in ancient literature. But parallel to those, there are also traditions about a paradisiac period at the dawn of time: so Hesiod refers to the Golden Age in the ancient past, while Plato speaks in the Politicus about the happy period under the rule of Chronos.
It is not to a golden age at the dawn of history that the Greek perceptions of the Fortunate Islands referred, but rather to a blissful state of affairs happy and free of worries, perhaps not common, but to be found upon earth. Such perceptions were certainly rather common in the Greco-Roman world, and must have influenced the Christian perceptions of paradise. Such perceptions would now emphasize the blissful state to be achieved by the Christian believers, or rather the place in which they would live blissfully after death.
The earliest Christians read the Bible in Greek, and their theology emerged and grew within the Greco-Roman cultural milieu. Hence, it comes as no surprise if such Greek representations of the Golden Age or of the Fortunate Islands or the Elysian Fields would soon be perceived as parallels to the Christian conceptions of paradise. Thus, although the Greek conceptions of time and history are fundamentally different from those developed by the Church Fathers, one can observe a certain amalgam of traditions, which eventually became a fixture of collective imagination. In his De Paradiso, for instance, Ambrosius offers a synthesis of the old myth of the Golden Age and Philo's spiritual interpretation of the Genesis story. One can speak of the Christianization of some Greco-Roman myths, and of philosophical reflections on the Golden Age.
There existed in Christian antiquity various attempts to locate paradise, usually in the East, as implied by Genesis 2.8.5 These attempts would survive as late as the seventh century, when Isidore of Seville, in his Etymologies, still felt the need to argue that the Fortunate Islands, known today as the Canaries, were not identical with the Garden of Eden.6 Incidentally, the attempts to locate paradise continued until the modern times. Thus, various authors, in the seventeenth century, look for paradise in various parts of the earth in their ethnological and geographical curiositas and their search for societies governed by the law of nature. From Ezekiel 28.13f f. ("You were in Eden, the garden of God ... You were on the holy mountain of God ..."), paradise could easily be construed as a mountain. It was often conceived to be a holy mountain, in particular in the oriental tradition, still reflected in the name of the monastic "Republic" on Mount Athos, Hagion Horos. On this holy mountain, a perfect cult, holding soteriological power, is celebrated. Thus, for instance, in the Syriac Cave of Treasures, as Serge Ruzer has convincingly argued.
Some Christian intellectuals, however, found in the biblical story of Adam and Eve support for a reflection upon primitive life, as it had been analyzed by some trends in the philosophical tradition. For the Greeks, it was precisely to want, or deficiency, chreia, that humanity owed its progress at the end of the Golden Age. As Marguerite Harl has shown, for some of the Church Fathers, the parallel moment in the biblical story was Adam's discovery of his own nudity. To be sure, a majority of the Church Fathers fostered what she calls a "pessimistic" outlook, and saw in human work a punishment for the original sin, an ascholia which represented an obstacle to the contemplation of spiritual realities. Some, however, and in particular Origen, supported an "optimistic" understanding of the first chapters of Genesis, and considered as a gift to man his need to set his intelligence to work, arguing that this work prepared him to approach God. Man's deficiency encouraged him to invent the sciences, and these are a preparation of sorts for the way to God .
The strong "pessimistic" perception of Adam and of his "primordial" sin in early Christian theology is too well known, too predominant, to require analysis here. For the Church Fathers, who were elaborating upon Paul's thought, Adam's sin had brought death upon all mankind, and it is only through Christ, the last Adam, and his own sacrifice that the consequences of this curse would be erased. In a sense, then, the first chapters of Genesis were not only perceived as a myth of the Urzeit, but given a metaphorical interpretation which emphasized their significance for human nature in general, not only regarding the protoplasts' deeds and fate. In the Christian interpretation, then, the myth of the Urzeit was implicitly transformed, to a great extent, into a myth about human nature. If all men had been implicated in Adam's sin, all could be saved by the coming of the second Adam. Adam's fault, in short, was not an unmitigated tragedy. Indeed it would be called by Augustine (who did not propound an exactly optimistic and light vision of history and of human nature) a felix culpa. Through his sin, Adam had unwittingly permitted the future coming of the Savior. His expulsion from paradise should thus be perceived as only a temporary, rather than a permanent, feature of human life. Paradise, then, is not lost forever: it can indeed be reclaimed, not only in the eschatological time, but also hic et nunc. This amounted to nothing less than a dramatic transformation of the meaning of the biblical myth of the Urzeit.
Notwithstanding their diversity, Greek ideas about time have often been perceived as essentially cyclical in nature, and hence diametrically opposed to the Jewish and Christian linear conceptions of time, which are predicated upon the creation of the universe and the expectation of the end of the world.'° Such a perception of things, according to which Judeo-Christian thought, but not Greek thought, would be fundamentally endowed with a real historical dimension, is of course too simplistic to be heuristically useful. The hermeneutics of Adam's expulsion from paradise reflect the complex, ambivalent attitude of the early Christian thinkers to the Urzeit.
It is mainly through Jewish lenses that the early Christian thinkers learned to reflect about human origins. But they adapted these lenses to the new requirements of their own self-perception and mythology. It is thus only to a certain extent that the Rabbis and the Fathers can be said to reflect on the same text, although both offered an exegesis of Genesis. For the Jews, the beginnings of mankind were the prelude to the birth of Israel and the development of Heilsgeschichte, ending in eschatological messianism. When reflecting on origins, the Jews were inclined to stress the historical roots of their own peoplehood. It is within this frame that eschatology and soteriology, i.e. messianism, found their meaning. Important as it was, the story of Adam and Eve in paradise, as echoed in Genesis Rabbah, for instance, seems to have been less significant for the Rabbis than Israel's exodus from Egypt and its Sinaitic sequel.
Christian intellectuals, on the other hand, perceived themselves to be verus Israel, the true Israel. Yet, their conception of peoplehood was deeply different from that of the Jews: they were, in the language of the Epistle of Diognetus in the second century, and in that of Aphrahat in the fourth, "a nation from among the nations." Moreover, for the Christians, the story of Adam and Eve provided the justification for the coming of Jesus Christ, and was to be understood in the light of His saving mission. Since Paul, who had announced that death, brought in by Adam, had been vanquished by Christ (Roms 5.12), Christian soteriology had insisted on the direct line from the first to the last Adam. Such a perception obviously trivialized the place of Israel in the history of salvation.
This fundamental difference between the Jewish and the Christian approach to the myth of paradise is reflected in the dual structure of the Christian Scriptures, and in the very specific intertextuality that they demand. The Old and the New Testament are to be interpreted in the light of one another. As sacramenta futuri, the tales and figures of the Old Testament are not to be understood in and by themselves, but should rather be seen as alluding, in veiled form, to the perfect, final expression of divine revelation in the figure of Jesus Christ." Quite clearly, then, such a conception entails a certain blurring of the historical dimension of these tales and figures. This blurring is perhaps nowhere as striking as in the interpretation of Adam's fe/ix culpa.
In the New Testament and in the earliest Christian writings, the story of Adam and Eve in paradise plays a very minor role, and this role seems to reflect its place in contemporary Jewish literature. One should insist upon the fact that for Jesus and his disciples, the story of the Garden of Eden is not very significant.' For both Jews and Christians, reflection on the Urzeit was focused upon the story of creation itself, the hexahemeron, since in the Greco-Roman world, creatio ex nihilo was the most dramatic claim to originality of the biblical Weltanschauung. But Gan Eden and paradeisos had also begun to acquire in Jewish and in Christian writings a new, metaphorical meaning, referring to the place of the Just at the Endzeit. In a sense, one can say that for both Christians and Jews, the coming kingdom of God in the millennium would be the new paradise.
For the Christians, however, the power of the paradise story was affected by another aspect of their soteriology. The centrality of Jesus Christ for the new religion weakened the weight of eschatology, since the central messianic expectation had already been fulfilled. This "realized eschatology," to use theological jargon, permitted the progressive disengagement from the eschatological expectation of the Second Coming, from the second to the fourth century. The Christians would then, more and more, think of paradise in terms of the Kingdom of God — and Ephrem, for instance, would identify both concepts. "Paradise" soon became associated with the blissful state of the elect, which would eventually be graphically reconstituted in the monastic cloister: already for Jerome, the monastery was identified with a paradise. Among the early Christian thinkers, then, one can distinguish two main trends. For some Fathers, such as Epiphanius, Chrysostom, or Lactantius, who, as says Augustine (De Gen. ad Lit. 8.1-2, 5), read the Genesis text corporaliter, paradise is a concrete place upon the earth. For others, on the other hand, who read it spiritualiter (mainly Origen) it is a state of bliss. In both cases, however, paradise is certainly not confined to the Urzeit. A third trend, stemming from Philo, and to which Augustine himself belongs, together with Theophilus of Antioch and Ambrosius, thinks that paradise should be understood utroque modo.
The Christian demythologization of paradise grew from a complex background. Its most obvious origin is probably directly related to the transformation, or rather the realization, of the Jewish concept of Messiah. Jesus Christ had offered salvation, and yet history was far from having ended. Hence, the Jewish linear vision of history was profoundly modified. If there was no clear end to Heilsgeschichte, its beginning in time, too, would be blurred. The one real focal point of world history was neither its beginning nor its end, but rather its middle, the coming of Jesus Christ upon the earth, His life, death and resurrection, which must be perceived by the Christian believer as constantly occurring in the present.
From such a perspective, as we have seen, Adam was the first sacramentum salutis, or figura of Christ, in the biblical text — although his sin and punishment only highlighted the discrepancy between him and the recapitulation of history in Jesus Christ: sin, punishment, and salvation. The early Christian traditions about Adam's skull lying at the foot of the cross on Golgotha reflect precisely this direct link between Adam and the Son of Man, the last Adam. One can perhaps say, then, that the Christians overcame Adam through his last avatar, from above, as it were.
The Jews, on their part, seem to have harbored a rather similar ambivalence in their feelings toward the figure of Adam. Yet, it is before Adam (or from below) that they discover another mythological figure, the Primordial Adam, or Adam Kadmon, later to become a protagonist in Kabbalistic literature. Adam Kadmon, however, remains a rather weak figure in midrashic literature. In Genesis Rabbah, for instance, he never achieves a really prominent status.
It is only with the Gnostic trends as reflected in texts dating from the second or third centuries, and later on in Manichaean traditions, that one finds a consistent remythologization of the protoplasts' story in paradise.
This complex and baroque myth-making lies beyond the scope of this paper, but I wish at least to quote from one of the most powerful texts, the so-called Hypostasis of the Archon found at Nag Hammadi:
From that day, the Snake came to be under the curse of
the Authorities, until the All-powerful Man was to come,
that curse fell upon the Snake.
They turned to their Adam and took him and expelled him from the Garden (paradeisos) along with his wife, for they have no blessing, since they too are beneath the curse.
Moreover, they threw Mankind into great distraction (perispasmos) and into a life of toil, so that their Mankind may be occupied by worldly affairs, and might not have the opportunity (scholazein) of being devoted to the Holy Spirit.
In their dramatic struggle against the Gnostic radical
remythologization of cosmogony and anthropogony, second-century Christian
theologians were bound to put less emphasis than their
competitors on the interpretation of the first chapters of Genesis. The best strategy
myth-making was to avoid discussing the same issues at great length, and to move the focus elsewhere." Similar attitudes would be reflected in the anti-Manichaean polemics of the third and fourth century. More precisely, the patristic heresiologists would consistently choose to focus the debate upon ethics rather than upon metaphysics in their interpretation of the paradise story.
It is Philo's interpretation of the expulsion from paradise which lies at the bottom of the Origenian understanding. For Philo, the story of Adam and Eve teaches us on human nature, and their sin and punishment does not stain the beginning of history. Cain's crime, rather, seems to be the primordial disaster of the human race. Philo points out that while God "establishes" Adam in front of paradise after his expulsion (Gen. 3.2.4: katôikisen auton apenanti tou paradeisou tès truphès), the biblical text speaks of Cain as "inhabiting" (Gen. 4.16: kai ôikèsen en gèi Naid katenanti Edem). For Philo, this difference highlights the fact that Adam was expelled, while it was voluntarily that Cain left his previous home (Post. 1o).
For Origen, in the mid third century, the biblical story of paradise reflected a musterion much more interesting than Plato's myths (Contra Celsum 4.4o). For the early Christian thinkers, the status of the first chapters of Genesis was, as already argued above, somewhat similar to that of myths in the Greek world. In Alexandria at the turn of the third century, Origen, educated in a Middle Platonist milieu, follows in Philo's footsteps and applies to the Bible the allegorical methods of interpretation which had been applied for many centuries by Greek grammarians and philosophers on the Homeric texts. For Origen, the expulsion from paradise was more a reference to the history of the soul than to that of humanity.
It is in that sense, mainly, that Origen compares the first chapters of Genesis to Plato's myth of the fall of the soul (Phaidros, 246 b-c). For him, the Bible (a philosophy called "barbarian" as it was written in Hebrew), offered under the popular garb of its stories a teaching of metaphysical truths even deeper than that proposed by the Greek philosophers of the Homeric texts. In that sense, the story of paradise, when interpreted correctly, offered an understanding of the soul and of its fall which went beyond anything Plato had proposed. At least here, then, Origen's position seems to deny any real "historical" significance to the paradise story. For him, for instance, the Hebrew word Eden simply means sweet (hèdus). We do not know much more on Origen's view of Adam's expulsion from paradise, as he actually says very little on the subject. In particular, one should moreover mention the puzzling fact that paradise is totally absent from his Homilies on Genesis. In any case, the proper understanding of paradise played a significant role in the Origenist controversy, as reflected by Epiphanius and Jerome.
The outline of the book falls into two parts:
1. The paradises of Second Temple Judaism and Christian origins
z. Contemporized traditions of paradise: Jews and Christians in late antiquity
Part 1 concerns itself with the Jewish and Christian Bible as well as its reception history during the period of normative self-definition. Joachim Schaper identifies the messianic dimension of hopes for paradise in the oldest, i.e. inner-biblical and versional, reception of the traditions of Genesis 2-3. Other studies in this section explore that reception history in the exegetically attentive yet allegorizing textual scholarship of Philo of Alexandria (Maren R. Niehoff) and in the expanded treatment in the Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo (Richard Bauckham). Martin Goodman asks a poignant and surprisingly related question by drawing attention to the distinctive Jewish view of first-century pleasure gardens or paradeisoi as reflected in writers like Philo or Josephus, who stress the completely plant-free Temple and appear not to share the contemporary Greco-Roman enthusiasm for gardens. The formative texts of the period of Christian origins are also an integral part of the reception history of Genesis 2-3, and familiar themes therefore recur here. Grant Macaskill surveys the New Testament which, despite its seemingly slender explicit evidence for paradise, inevitably exercises enormous influence and fascination on subsequent Christian reflection — especially as the motif is transformed in the Book of Revelation. Simon Gathercole concludes Part i with a study of the theme of paradise in second- and third-century evidence that came to be viewed as heterodox and "Gnostic," noting in it a greatly enhanced interest in the journey to paradise as distinct from the destination itself.
Part 2 traces the question forward from the biblical period to the various ways in which the tradition was interpreted and reappropriated in the period of late antiquity. Following on from Simon Gathercole's chapter, we study Tertullian's linkage of paradise with his affirmation of a general and primordial divine law (Sabrina Inowlocki). Yonatan Moss studies the problem of biblical interpretation in a multilingual society, through the question of the language of creation (Hebrew or Syriac) in Syriac theological literature. Through a thorough analysis of some themes related to paradise in rabbinic literature, Menahem Kister highlights the dialectical relationship between the thought of the Rabbis and that of the Church Fathers. In addition to being the object of future aspiration, however, the desire for paradise may for the Rabbis at the same time take the form of nostalgia for a lost innocence, including sexual innocence (Galit HasanRokem).
On the Christian side, Augustine of Hippo is a towering interpreter of, among other things, the concreteness of these received biblical hopes for paradise. Here this scriptural aggiornamento is examined, first, from the perspective of his engagement in the classical tradition exemplified above all in Virgil (Gillian Clark), and then from the perspective of its seminal contribution to the history of political philosophy (Emile PerreauSaussine). Markus Bockmuehl's concluding chapter examines the surprising persistence, among hermeneutically diverse Jewish and Christian writers, of a conviction that the past and future earthly paradise remains for all its spiritual significance a geographically specific place that must be somehow contiguous with the mappable world in which we live.
These chapters deal with highly different texts, through a long period. It is therefore all the more significant that on various points, they seem to echo one another. Gardens, from Mesopotamia to Rome, are dealt with by both Schaper and Goodman. Bauckham, Perreau-Saussine, and Bockmuehl treat the tension between heaven and earth, while that between allegory and the literal sense is dealt with by Niehoff and Bockmuehl. Bauckham and Gathercole take us to tours of heaven, while Clark, Niehoff, HasanRokem, Perreau-Saussine, and Bockmuehl address the question of body and soul. It is not only the physical locus of paradise that comes back time and again, but also that of its location in time. The question whether paradise belongs to the past, the present or the future recurs in more than half of the chapters. To be sure, the similarities and differences in approaching paradise among Jews and Christians provide the major thread through the book, but the relationship between pagans and Jews, pagans and Christians, and even Christians and Muslims, is also treated in a number of contributions to the volume. The epilogue by Alessandro Scafi offers concluding reflections on the significance of this symposium for the history of paradise. This book finds its origins in a bi-national British-Israeli conference organized on March 3-31, 2008, at the Center for the Study of Christianity of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Leading scholars from both countries took part in the conference, and presented papers ranging from Second Temple Judaism through an important period of Jewish and Christian self-definition to the great systematic expositions of Augustine and rabbinic literature. The editors wish to express their gratitude to John Levy and the British Academic Study Group, without whose help the conference could not have been organized. We are also most grateful to David Satran and other colleagues at the Hebrew University for excellent organizational support and hospitality, and to Aline Guillermet and to Sarah Price for their attentive professionalism in seeing this volume through the publication process. The editors would like to express their thanks to James Austin Taylor Lancaster, who prepared the indices. Abbreviations follow common scholarly practice in Biblical Studies.
Our task of producing this volume suffered two hard blows at the very last minute, when little could be done to alter the outcome; and we beg our readers' indulgence for resulting editorial shortcomings or unevennesses. First, due to a life-threatening illness Alessandro Scafi's Epilogue was delayed until the last possible moment for inclusion. More sadly still, just as the final page proofs were being collated, we received news of the sudden death of Emile Perreau-Saussine, a good colleague and friend to many of the contributors. Emile tragically leaves behind a young family, not to mention a promising career in political philosophy. It is therefore to his memory that this volume is dedicated.
Interaction Between Judaism and Christianity in History, Religion, Art, and Literature edited by Marcel Poorthuis, Joshua Schwartz, Joseph Turner (Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series: Brill) contains a variety of essays that deal with the complex relationships between Judaism and Christianity. From the Jewish side, particularly in Orthodox circles, there is the position maintaining the independence of Judaism from outside influences including Christianity. Traditional Christian theology, on the other hand, held to a supercessionist view in which Judaism was seen merely as a historical preparation for the later revelation of Christianity. Was there no real interaction? When and how did Judaism and Christianity became two distinct religions? When did the 'parting of ways' take place, if indeed there really was such a parting of ways? This present volume takes a bold step forward by assuming that no historical period can be excluded from the interactive process between Judaism and Christianity, conscious or unconscious, as a polemical rejection or as tacit appropriation.
Judaism and Christianity share much of a heritage. There has been a good deal of interest in this phenomenon lately, examining both the common heritage, as well as the elements unique to each religion. There has, however, been no systematic attempt to present findings relative to both Jewish and Christian tradition to a broad audience of scholars. It is the purpose of the Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series to do just that.
Jewish and Christian Perspectives publishes studies that are relevant to both Christianity and Judaism. The series will include works relating to the Hebrew Bible and New Testament, the Second Temple period, the Judaeo-Christian polemic (from Ancient until Modern times), Rabbinical literature relevant to Christianity, Patristics, Medieval Studies and the Modern period. Special interest will be paid to the interaction between the religions throughout the ages. Historical, exegetical, philosophical and theological studies are welcomed as well as studies focusing on sociological and anthropological issues common to both religions including archaeology.
The series is published in co-operation with the Bar-Ilan University and the Schechter Institute in Israel, and the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the Tilburg University in the Netherlands. It includes monographs and congress volumes in the English language, and is intended for international distribution on a scholarly level.
Jewish—Christian dialogue has in some sense existed since the inception of Christianity. Recent historical research has shown that much in both Judaism and Christianity, particularly in the Middle Ages, is really but a result of the interaction between them. This, however, is by no means a conclusion accepted by all. From the Jewish side, particularly in Orthodox circles, there is the position maintaining the independence of Judaism from outside influences including Christianity. Traditional Christian theology, on the other hand, held to a supercessionist view in which Judaism was seen merely as a historical preparation for the later revelation of Christianity. Most contemporary scholars do in fact accept the principle of inter-action. Some, hoping to overcome supercessionist theology, emphasized the continuing debt of Christianity to Judaism well into the second century c.e. Recently, the possibility of early Christian influence upon Jewish traditions gained momentum, assuming that even Jewish Bible interpretation originally developed in the context of a conscious polemic with Church Fathers.
Inquiry into the matter of interaction and influence gives rise to the question as to when and how Judaism and Christianity became two distinct religions. Historically speaking, we know that very early on Christians in Palestine constituted a sect within Judaism. Understandably, scholars have been unable to give a precise date as to when and how the 'parting of the ways' took place. The split between Judaism and Christianity was pushed ahead further and further until recent works claimed that the ways never parted at all.
It may of course be argued that interactions are of two kinds: conscious and unconscious. Quite often a conscious rejection may go hand in hand with unconscious appropriation and transformation. The present volume takes a bold step forward by assuming that no historical period can be excluded from the interactive process between Judaism and Christianity, conscious or unconscious, as a polemical rejection or as tacit appropriation. Each period must be studied on its own merits to assess the exact nature of the interaction. Perhaps there is no need to determine the point when or where the 'parting of the ways' took place, nor is it necessary to assume that 'the ways never parted' at all, as the interactions between the two religions change and vary in each period. Even in the long periods during which both religions were not prepared to accept the possibility that they share aspects of a common heritage, the interactive process is at work both in conscious polemic and unconscious mutual influence.
The significance of there having been an inter-active relationship between Judaism and Christianity throughout the ages has become even more pronounced as the concept of dialogue between religions became popular in the period following World War II. Jewish–Christian dialogue has become in the last half-century an institution of Western civilization. In this spirit, the editors of this volume have sought to bring before the public the following essays considering the complex relationships existing between Judaism and Christianity in a broad spectrum of historical periods and disciplines while making use of a wide variety of methodological orientations.
The volume is divided into six sections. The first is entitled Jews and Christians in the Roman-Byzantine Period. This section and the volume opens with an essay by Alon Goshen-Gottstein entitled, `Jewish–Christian Relations and Rabbinic Literature—Shifting Scholarly and Relational Paradigms: The Case of Two Powers'. It contains a comprehensive and critical analysis of the models of investigation used in the study of Jewish rabbinic and early Christian texts, taking issue with the accepted presupposition that these can best be understood by presuming historical contact and mutual influence. While not denying the historicity of contact and influence, the author expresses his affinity for the 'parallel spiritual model', arguing that it is best suited to bringing about an understanding of how rabbinic and early Christian texts serve the purpose of edifying the communities that produced them.
Tamar Kadari's contribution to this volume is entitled: `Rabbinic and Christian Models of Interaction on the Song of Songs'. She suggests that a comparison between the Church Father Origen's interpretation of the biblical Song of Songs and the rabbinic Song of Songs Rabbah may shed light on aspects of rabbinical exegesis that have heretofore gone unnoticed. Despite the radical difference in literary structure and historical development, particular statements attributed throughout Song of Songs Rabbah to the sage Rabbi Johanan betray a three tiered mode of interpretation very similar to those of Origen's. As a result, Kadari maintains that the analysis of Origen's interpretive endeavor may open the way for new considerations of organization, methods and levels of comprehension in other rabbinic works as well.
Gerard P. Luttikhuizen's contribution to this volume is found in his essay: `Monism and Dualism in Jewish-Mystical and Christian-Gnostic Ascent Texts'. He compares Jewish Hekhalot literature with early Christian Gnostic texts, both of which depict human beings escaping the constraints of their physical existence even before death and ascending to a supernal realm. Through his investigation, Luttikhuizen arrives at the conclusion that while there are many similarities in the mystical descriptions included in each type of text, they noticeably differ with regard to details that reflect their respective biblical and Greek origins.
Gerard Rouwhorst's article, `A Remarkable Case of Religious Interaction: Water Baptisms in Judaism and Christianity', questions the historical relationship between ancient Jewish ritual immersion and early Christian baptismal rites. Through the chronological tracing of ritual developments and comparison of seemingly parallel phenomena the author arrives at the challenging conclusion that aspects of Jewish tradition in the realm of conversion rituals were influenced by early Christianity (rather than the other way around) and served as a response to the Christian alternative.
In an essay entitled: `Learning and Practicing Uses of an Early Jewish Discourse in Matthew (7:24-27) and Rabbinic Literature', Eric Ottenheijm discusses the modes of interaction obtaining between the rabbinic and Christianized Judaism of the first century. He argues that a proper comparison of early rabbinic and Jewish–Christian texts can demonstrate how the two communities shared a common discourse which was then developed in different ways. In this context he compares and contrasts the manner in which the values of `learning and practice' are exhibited in the gospel of Matthew and the Tractate Avoth., finding that they presume a shared religious discourse , but that each applies to it its own distinct hermeneutic in accordance with its ideal model of community.
In his essay entitled: 'On Trees, Waves, and Cytokinesis: Shifting Paradigms in Early (and Modern) Jewish–Christian Relations', Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra offers a critical survey of the various models used in the delineation of relationships between rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity. Its major contribution, however, is the author's own original formulation of what he calls the `cytokinesis model', in which the author draws an analogy between the developing relationship between Judaism and Christianity in the ancient period and the biological process by which a single cell becomes two cells. The advantage of this model is that it acknowledges the split between Judaism and Christianity as a process that occurred over time, without having to determine the definite point at which the two became separate and distinct religions.
Joshua Schwartz discusses the interaction between Judaism and Christianity in a more surprising context. In his study on the 'Deserts of Palestine' he shows that the sanctity of the Sinai Desert for both Jews and Christians resulted in a complex web of interaction between the two groups. Both groups indeed began at the same starting point regarding the Sinai. The Jews, however, only grudgingly developed a desert tradition, while the Christians not only developed such a tradition, but established a strong physical presence in this desert area. The negative Jewish reaction, he says, was apparently a reaction to the positive desert developments in the Christian world.
The second section if the book is entitled Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages, and opens with a contribution by Sandra Debenedetti Stow. Already in a previous work, Debenedetti Stow has proposed that kabbalistic theories can serve as a new interpretative key in the understanding of the Italian poet Dante Alighieri. Her present study, entitled `The Modality of Interaction between Jewish and Christian Thought in the Middle Ages: The Problem of Free Will and Divine Wisdom in Dante Alighieri and Menahem Recanati as a Case Study', compares the work of Dante with those found in the work of Menahem Recanati, a Jewish Kabbalist active in Rome towards the end of the thirteenth century. An examination of a few common points shows that that what appears as a distinctive trait both in Recanati's thought and in Dante's cannot be the result of parallel theories developed in total isolation. On the contrary; through her examination of the work of Recanati, Debenedetti Stow illustrates how one can read the developments in Dante's thought in light of a particular kabbalistic key.
Daniela Mueller's essay, 'Die Pariser Verfahren gegen den Talmud von 1240 und 1248 im Kontext von Papsttum und französischem Königturn' offers a fresh approach to the notorious disputations over the Talmud in Paris, which ended in the burning of many manuscripts. Why were such acts not perpetrated in Spain, where the hostility against the Talmud had also increased? A meticulous analysis of the position of the French royal crown and its attempts at the consolidation of political power sheds new light upon this puzzle. Curiously, this same century witnessed a rise of Christian study of the Talmud.
Syds Wiersma also considers the topic of Christian Jewish disputation in the Middle Ages, but from a different vantage point. His contribution, entitled: 'The Dynamic of Religious Polemics: The Case of Raymond Martin (Ca. 1220—Ca.1285)' considers the manner in which the famous disputation between the Dominican friar Paul Christian and Rabbi Moses ben Nahman in 1263 is reported in two study and teaching manuals that were authored by one Raymond Martin, a member of the royal Aragonese committee for the censorship of Jewish literature. The paper demonstrates, through a comparative analysis of the manner in which the disputation is presented in each manual that what starts out as a polemic intended to weaken a religious opponent acquires in the process a dialogical quality through which the dominant position enriches itself by taking into account its opponent's response.
Lily Glasner's contribution, 'The Jewish Pardes Metaphor as Reflected in the Magical Garden of a Christian Knight', focuses on a reading of the final quest in the medieval romance by Chrétien de Troyes, the Erec et Enide. During the late Middle Ages, just as their Jewish counterparts did, Christian interpreters of the Holy Text identified multiple layers of meaning in the biblical text. In line with this general theoretical tenet, Glasner attempts to prove how the hidden message of Erec of Enide exploits the metaphor of the Jewish Pardes. The reading of a Christian romance in light of Jewish tradition raises a number of questions concerning the modalities of interaction between Jewish and Christian thought and tradition in the late Middle Ages, and may prove to be a useful interpretive tool for the study of both literatures and the interactions between peoples and literature.
The third section of the book deals with The Problems of Modernity. This section opens with the contribution of Gert van Klinken who discusses Jewish Christian relations on the backdrop of their most tragic episode. In his essay on 'Calvinist Resistance and Dutch Jewry: The Pillarized' Background', van Klinken asks how it is that in the final years of World War II, the Reformed Churches in Holland worked closely with the remains of the Jewish community with its members risking their lives in order to hide Jewish children from the Nazi's, and yet subsequently tried to prevent the return of responsibility for raising and educating these children to the Jewish community; preferring to leave their upbringing to the Christian families that hid them. The author shows that in order to understand the motivations of the Reformed Church in both instances, it is necessary to take into account the role assigned to the Jews in traditional Calvinist eschatology and doctrine, and view it on the backdrop of twentieth century events and attitudes.
Staf Hellemans turns his attention to the connection between religious groups and the society that surrounds them in the modern period, focusing on the changes in strategies used by Catholicism. In his essay `Religious Insulation as a Mode of Interdependence: Relating Catholicism and Modernity', Hellemans traces four stages in Catholicism's changing relationship with modernity. Only the first, he says, is characterized by outright rejection. The others involve deep involvement with modern society in which attempts at 'insular self-interpretation' are but part of a web of relations maintained with modernity, some of which are positive.
Attitudes toward Christians and Christianity in Jewish thought in the modern period constitute the topic discussed in Judith Frishman's 'Good Enough for the Goyim? Samuel Hirsch and Samuel Holdheim on Christianity'. Hirsch and Holdheim were two of the most important theologians of nineteenth century Jewish reform. Frishman demonstrates that while they both founded their perceptions of Judaism on the universal humanism of such monumental figures as Kant, Hegel, Bauer and Marx, they differed from them by proposing that the essence of religion rather than the essence of the human being is the ultimate source of human ethics. As a result the two developed a concept of the Jewish religion that no longer views Christianity as an imperfect form of Judaism suitable to the gentiles, but rather approaches the non-Jew with a sense of love and belonging aimed at establishing a common messianic society.
Gershon Greenberg asks to what extent parallels that have been noted in the past between rabbinic and patristic concepts of sacred death allude to a common spiritual universe that could inform discussions on martyrdom during the Holocaust. This study focuses on the problem of `Sacred Death for Orthodox Jewish Thought during the Holocaust: With a Preliminary Inquiry into Christian Parallels.' Greenberg concludes that while secondary characteristics such as suffering-love and abnegation of the will do exist for both Jewish and Christian thinkers, the central reality of the atoning passion of Christ precludes substantive identification.
The fourth section of the book is Ritual and Theology in the Modern, Post-Modern and New Ages. In his essay, 'From Monologue to Possible Dialogue: Judaism's Attitude towards Christianity According to the Philosophy of R. Yéhouda Leon Askénazi (Manitou)', Yossef Charvit explores the attitude expressed toward Christianity in the Jewish thought of R. Yéhouda Leon Askénazi, a renowned twentieth century Algerian rabbi who combined Kabbalistic tendencies and a sense for group typologies with a modern historiosophic approach. He applied this method as a means for making sense of the radical changes that the relations between Judaism, Islam and Christianity underwent following the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Charvit shows that R. Askénazi attributed a redemptive quality to Christianity, provided that it take seriously Judaism's return to history and re-interpret its traditions and beliefs in light of Judaism, as a mother religion returning to its ancient homeland, in a way that parallels its own earlier interpretations of exile Judaism in light of Christian dogma.
Alexander Even-Chen's paper is entitled: 'Faith and the Courage to Be: Heschel and Tillich'. Focusing upon a question of 'greatest concern', Even Chen compares Paul Tillich's Christian existentialism with Abraham Joshua Heschel's Jewish one. He shows that there is a strong common denominator and probably even a mutual influence in the work of these two twentieth century giants, but that there are also significant differences between their religious outlooks. Heschel sees religious language as the means through which the human being can experience the transcendent God as present and thinks religion should be dedicated to God's greatest concern which is the fate of humanity. Tillich understands the notion of God to be symbolic of man's greatest concern without regard to His actual existence.
In Paul Post's contribution, "A Symbolic Bridge Between Faiths': Holy Ground for Liquid Ritual', the question of inter and multi-religiosity is discussed in the context of a dispute on Church architecture. The church in question is the Tor Tre Teste Jubilee Church in Rome, designed by the Jewish-American architect Richard Meier. The design of the Church was criticized by many for ignoring traditional modes of Church structure; apparently intended to serve more as 'general sacred place' than a specifically Catholic house of worship. In practice the Tor Tre Teste Church has indeed come to be such a place, attracting not only traditional Catholic worshipers but a wide variety of guests and visitors who come to enjoy its unique architecture and the unique aesthetic and cultural experience it offers. The author shows that the unique qualities of this church reflect the fluid character of religiosity and ritual that is prevalent in the post-modern era.
In an essay entitled `Kabbalah on the Internet: Transcending Denominational Boundaries in Conflicting Ideologies', Frank Bosman and Marcel Poorthuis set out to determine how Jewish, fundamentalist Protestant and esoteric/New Age sites depict various images of Kabbalah. They find the political impact on Jewish Christian interaction on the internet to be considerable. Many Jewish sites, while claiming to offer a pure unadulterated Kabbalah, often engage in polemics against other Jewish and Christian perspectives. Fundamentalist tendencies are strongest on American Protestant sites that condemn involvement in Kabbalah together with 'related occult currents' that may be associated with such diverse phenomena as Catholicism, New Age religion and hard rock.
Simon Schoon's essay, "An Indissoluble Bond between the Church and the People of Israel'. Historical Fact or Theological Conviction?' returns to the question of Jewish Christian relations in light of the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Schoon notes that following these events Christian theology has changed its rhetoric in regard to the Jews and Judaism and began to view them as partners in religious endeavor. But he also notes that in the final decades of the twentieth century there has been a noticeable decline in the popularity of this stance. He subsequently asks whether support for Jewish and Christian cooperation will continue in the future, and goes on to suggest an agenda for study and scholarship that may encourage its growth.
In his essay, 'The Anomaly of Jewish Ethnicity as a Consideration in Contemporary Inter-Religious Dialogue', Yossi Turner criticizes the prevailing presupposition that there can be any sort of symmetry in discussions comparing Christian and Jewish literature, noting that the religious sources of Judaism serve not only as religious texts but as an expression of Jewish ethnicity as well. After focusing on the tension between the various visions of the Jewish people as a religious and ethnic group in the modern era, he concludes that in order for Jewish Christian dialogue to be fruitful it must take into account the aspect of ethnicity as a factor which historically distinguishes Judaism from Christianity.
The fifth section is entitled Art. Artistic creation provides yet another realm for the investigation of interaction between ancient Judaism and early Christianity. In an extremely well researched paper entitled 'Jewish and Christian Imaging of the 'House of God' as an Expression of Religious and Historical Polemics', Shulamit Laderman and Yair Furstenberg discuss the use of symbols referring to the 'House of God' in fourth century Jewish and Christian works of art. They show that in Jewish art these symbols stress the importance of preserving the memory of the Temple after its destruction and reflect the eschatological hope for the restoration of the Temple in the future, while in the Christian art of the same period they served as a pictorial expression of the Christian victory over both paganism and Judaism.
In a similar vein, Ilia Rodov discusses artistic allusions to kingship and majesty in the design of European synagogues and in Christian allegoric imagery at the end of the Middle Ages and the early Modern Period. The issue at stake in his paper on 'The King of the King of Kings: Images of Rulership in Late Medieval and Early Modern Christian Art and Synagogue Design' is the claim of divine majesty attributed to Christ by Christian theology on the one hand, and Judaism's rejection of that claim while having to acknowledge the sovereignty of contemporary Christian monarchs on the other. Whereas both Christianity and Judaism emphasized kingship as God-given, Ilia Rodov argues that Jewish symbolism of crowns did not emphasize existing power as Christian art did, but rather pointed to a messianic future when God would be King.
In her contribution entitled: 'The Sun Rays on Top of the Torah Ark. A Dialogue with the Aureole, the Christian Symbol of the Divinity on Top of the Altarpiece', Bracha Yaniv shows us how inter-religious dialogue is manifest in the architecture of church and synagogue. The earliest depiction of the sun ray motif in Jewish synagogues was in the east European synagogues of the eighteenth century. But these sun rays remind us of the aureole, the Christian symbol of divinity on the top of the altarpiece. Yaniv traces what she believes to be a process of inter-religious dialogue in order to discover its early manifestations and to understand how such a Christian was accepted by halakhic authorities for use in the synagogue. Did this dialogue and interaction result in the sunrays on top of the ark? While the answers are not conclusive, they give new direction to the possibility of dialogue between the two religions in the realm of esthetics.
Mirjam Rajner comments on the subject of the Holy Family in the drawings and paintings of Marc Chagall. In 'The Iconography of the Holy Family in Chagall's 1909-1910 Works', Rajner shows that by the second half of the nineteenth century, a number of Jewish artists had already studied in European art academies, from Rome and Munich to Krakow and St. Petersburg. Increasingly aware of their own Jewish identity, these artists had to focus during their studies on classical and Christian models of European fine art through the centuries. As a result, when they came to create a different iconography reflecting their Jewish identity, they used such known models but gave them new interpretations.
The final section of the work is devoted to Literature. Hillel Weiss's paper, 'Notes on Christians and Christianity in Agnon's Writings', delves into the complex fabric of Agnon's story-telling taking up the question as to how it depicts Christianity. This winner of the Nobel prize in literature demonstrates a fascination for Christianity, though often veiled and subdued. In this case, one can hardly speak of overt polemics nor of conscious adaptation of Christian elements. Still the work of Agnon is replete with interaction between Jewish and Christian elements, especially from the vanished world of Eastern Europe.
Yaffa Wolfman shows us that not all Jewish Christian interaction was direct. In her article on 'Gide and Sartre on Jews and Judaism' she shows that this is certainly the case with these two thinkers. Both felt the need to address 'the Jewish question', since the Jews, in their opinion, were an important component of Western culture, society, and history. But their interaction was less with people and more with a concept. Gide argued that a solution to the Jewish question a question which he considered deep-rooted and serious must be found urgently. Sartre believed that a change in the attitude towards the Jews in France would improve the lot of the French people as well.
Iconoclasm and Iconoclash edited by Willem Van Asselt, Paul Van Geest, Daniela Muller, Theo Salemink (Jewish and Christian Perspectives Series: Brill) A first difference introduced and explored in this volume that between (1) iconoclash and (2) iconoclasm. While it is clear that they are integrally and these studies aim at covering both themes, it is useful to distinguish carefully between them.
Iconoclash refers to a clash between and about (the use of) images. In our view this does not just concern the artistic status of iconic language, but conjures up the full spectrum of physical and mental imagination. Whether the clash of icons takes place inside a single individual or is spread across various collective wholes, ranging from religion to art and from advertising to politics, is secondary to its reality, as it involves a real collision of different (worlds of) images. The congress in Utrecht located the clash of icons and images specifically within the religious sphere, concentrating on Judaism and Christianity, while trying to cover a historical time-span of nearly three millennia.
Iconoclasm, as our second term of reference, has a more technical meaning, pertaining to the destruction of and/or suspicion against physical representations of the divine, the sacred, the transcendent. An important question in this context is whether God can be accurately represented by human images, or whether any representation does by definition detract from the divine original? Does the making of human images not force us into idolatry, or are some images more suitable to depict the sacred than others? While Russian icons are generally seen to be especially suitable in portraying the divine, avant-garde art was by contrast nearly always considered blasphemous. Here the question becomes relevant whether words are more suitable as containers of divine presence than images. As for its theological roots, iconoclasm goes back to the prohibition in Ex. 20: 4-5: 'You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them'. Extrapolating from the specific Exodus-text, we can find iconoclasm in a wider sense in those situations where new groups or periods present us with a total makeover of earlier group or period identity.
Five Types of Iconoclash
Can different types of iconoclash, including iconoclasm, actually be ranked or classified? Obviously, taxonomies are always difficult, if not arbitrary. Still, it may be of help to try and situate one's own object and approach by integrating them as components in a larger matrix. In this regard we have tried to follow Bruno Latour, philosopher and sociologist of science by training, and co-author of the Iconoclash Anthology with Peter Weibel (Latour, 2002). Although Latour's classification is not used extensively in the contributions to the present book, as a heuristic tool it was very helpful to articulate the concept of the conference. In his introduction Latour sums up five types of iconoclash for us, seeing iconoclasm as a mere subcategory. Dividing up humanity into different types of people, he distinguishes between their different degree of appreciation of and receptivity towards the value and validity of images.
Bruno Latour himself seems to favour position B, as he fiercely criticizes the freezing of images. Summarizing his position he states the following:
Thus, the crucial distinction we wish to draw in this show is not between a world of images and a world of no-images—as the image warriors would have us believe—but between the interrupted flow of pictures and a cascade of them. (Latour, 2002, 32)
Two Kinds of Images
Latour's classification of different types of iconoclash has its limitations to the extent that it applies exclusively to material images and statues, especially in the world of art and culture. With regard to iconoclash in the religious sphere, mental images play an important role as well. For this reason we have decided to distinguish between two kinds of images which feature alternatively in the different contributions to the conference. Hoping to heighten the effect of Latour's typology, we want to zoom in especially on the theological context in which the different icons and icon-clashes come to life. Based on these considerations, we suggest a distinction between the use and function of:
1. Material images. Here we think specifically of the portrayal of God and human beings in the visual arts (sculptures and paintings);
2. Mental images. Iconoclash may be directed against mental depictions of God and human beings, as they can become locked up in theologi- cal or philosophical models of thought. As an example we may point to the dogmatic 'wars' about the Trinity. In this context iconoclash refers specifically to the question whether the divine can at all be thought with the help of secular rationality (philosophy) and, if so, how to legitimate this rational approach. It seems that we are dealing here with a clash involving divergent models of thought. Controversy about mental imagery can be widened further to include the realm of metaphors as well, as these may or may not derive from human language or literature. The use of metaphors like 'father', 'shepherd', and 'fire' for God, or the metaphor 'bride' to indicate either the Jewish people or the Christian church provides ample grounds for such verbal iconoclashes (Cf. Van Geest, 2007, 21-67). Iconoclash here almost acts as a synonym for rivalling poetic applications of metaphors, as they are either deemed correct or incorrect.
The Prohibition of Images and the Anthropological Turn
As said, we consider iconoclasm as a subcategory of the wider term iconoclash. We would like to focus more closely on the idea of a prohibition of images and explore its possible motives, as listed in Exodus 20. Was it necessary to protect the purity of God? (Boespflug, 1998, 44-6-468). Was it a struggle against demons and hence, from a more sociological perspective, ultimately a struggle to prevent apostasy and defeat paganism? Or does the history of the three monotheistic religions revolve around the protection of human dignity and freedom over and against the threat of idolatry, that is, the divinizing of what must ultimately be seen as human products? In other words: can we perhaps see the Exodus-quotation as a form of religious criticism? Such an interpretation harbours the suggestion that the prohibition of images does not just come about as an attempt to protect God against wrongful devotion, but aims in the end at rejecting all images of all gods. If despite such caveats Jews and Christians still cling to images, then they are in fact seen to commit a form of adultery. For when strange gods are revered, it seems that the own identity, to the extent that it is rooted in worship, is severely at risk. Seen as a struggle against idolatry in the above sense, the prohibition of images has repeatedly given rise to iconoclastic outbursts against other religions and to violent wars against the adherents of other religions. At the same time it should be stated that the biblical prohibition of images does not need to have such implications.
Building on the above arguments, one could perhaps speak of an anthropological turn in the interpretation of the prohibition of images in Judaism and Christianity. Guiding thought of this turn is the notion that both religions reject idolatry not because God stipulates it but rather because idols insult and defame human beings. The power and influence that idols exercise over human beings ultimately derive from those human beings themselves. Seen in this way idols function as a kind of 'externalization' of human capacities and activities, of power, desire, and sexual appetite. They are 'frozen' human properties or acts, radiating a divine glance. This interpretation from the perspective of ideological and religious criticism connects nicely with the Exodus prohibition, as it brings out the anxiety and trepidation lurking in the desire to capture the divine in human and material form. Marcel Poorthuis has summarized this anthropological interpretation of the prohibition of images as follows:
Seen as the image of God, the human person is the revelation of absolute truth and a bearer of those properties that are specifically linked to the sacred: imperviousness, inviolability... Rather than teaching us the disappearance of metaphysics, the anthropocentric interpretation of the prohibition of images teaches us the elevation of the human body to where it represents the glory of the living God. (Poorthuis, 2002, 70-71)
This anthropological concern is also expressed by a chassidic anecdote from the beginning of the nineteenth century. In 1808, during the times of Napoleon, rabbi Nahman of Bratslav, a chassidic scholar, burnt a book containing 'holy thoughts' on which he had intensively worked during a long period. What remained of this holy book was only its title. Marc-Alain Quaknin, writing on this anecdote in 1986, compared Nahman's book burning with Moses' smashing the two tables on mount Sinai after the sin of the Golden Calf (Quaknin, 1995). Rabbi Nahman, Quaknin argued, burning his own idol (the book) exemplified a strange paradox: by burning the book he resisted the temptation of making an idol of his own written word. Rabbi Nahman concluded, therefore, that 'every image must include its own destruction, and every answer must include in its essence a question that may not be destroyed by the answer.'
The Image of 'Others'
In Judaism, Christianity (and Islam) the theme of iconoclash does not just refer to a struggle about how to portray God accurately or how to destroy images that are considered blasphemous, but also how to imagine the individual and collective other. Here the issue is demarcation rather than purification. The way in which religious communities effectively typecast 'others' reveals much about their underlying self-image. The need to judge and condemn dissenters appears to be essential if drawing up a group's boundaries and protecting its internal cohesion (Ferziger, 2001). The three major religions of the Book have indeed created strong images about rivalling communities. Thus we have Christian stereotypes of Judaism (substitution theology, the killing of God, ritual murder, conspiracy theories, racial bias etc.) and of Islam, which is seen often as a pagan, sensual religion. Within Judaism and Islam comparable stereotypes developed about Christianity Often this religious stereotyping reflects broader cultural bias and prejudice. Here we may also make reference to the debates about orientalism (Edward Said) and occidentalism (Buruma, Margalit, 2004).
Limiting ourselves to Christianity for a moment, we soon notice how dissident movements are often typecast as 'heretical', their members called apostates or servants of Satan. We further see 'images' of various kinds featuring in a polemical context, with the help God and the sacred often invoked for a very earthly struggle. The emergence of heresy is not necessarily indicative of a process of religious fragmentation, however, or of unbridled religious pluriformity. The reverse may also be true, as heresy may well emerge in a time of growing uniformity. Times may be such that orthodox church leaders introduce new criteria and concomitant measures, leaving older and more traditional ones behind and thereby provoking dissent. This calls for a new investigation of what `orthodoxy' actually means as a church historical concept.
When we speak about the images of 'the others', a rather broad spectrum is laid out. In addition to being called idolatrous, the so-called others may be considered amoral, power-hungry unstable and volatile, fraudulent, uncivilized etc. Adding emphasis to more general terms of disapproval and condemnation, the charge of idolatry can play an important role, referring both to physical statues and images and to mental images. The 'others' are not just portrayed as 'different', but as unholy, sacrilegious, diabolical, and inhuman. In some cases the war of images resulted in the destruction of images and of those symbols considered typical of other religions or cherished by internal dissidents. Far worse, however, the clash of icons could also lead to the physical persecution and elimination of others as the ultimate attempt to suppress dissent.
For this reason, this volume also calls for a more general discussion of the typecasting of other religions and confessions by religious adherents. In doing so, our focus will naturally be on the transformation of otherness from difference to dissent as a tool to strengthen one's own position, but we will also reach further. In his study of hostile images about Islam in modern history, the political scientist Christoph Weller has made the following pertinent comment:
Gerade in Konflikten ist die Parteinahme, die Zugehörigkeit zur Ingroup besonders wichtig fur das Selbstbild des/der einzelnen, Konfliktsituationen schaffen also `gute' Voraussetzungen fir eine iibereinstimmende Kategorisierung and damit fur die Entstehung von Feindbilder. (Weller, 2002, 56)
Weller evidently holds that by seeing themselves within the safe context of an in-group people are better able to structure and organize their social landscape, strengthening their personal and social identity in one sweep. Apparently, so he argues, this process of categorization leads people to see the adherents of the 'out-group' as more negative than those of the 'in-group'. In and of itself this functioning of what is largely a psychological mechanism does not need to be considered dangerous, as long as it is open to correction through experience. Also, since people generally belong to different 'in-groups', they mostly have the experience of being placed in 'out-groups' by others as well, giving them sufficient tools to negotiate a stable identity Thus they can be man or woman, church-going theist or atheist, Dutch citizen or immigrant, employer or employee, teacher or student. In the absence of any self-correction, however, negative forms of typecasting can become fixated, as when they are spread far and wide through the media or take institutional shape in ecclesiastical or administrative structures. In a further move, demonic images can become so enlarged that they lead to superhuman scenarios involving a cosmic dualism of good versus evil. As a result they become deadly in a multiple sense, as they literally unleash war. Such typecasting can easily become part of a propaganda machine to mobilize as many people as possible in the struggle against otherness. With dehumanization quickly followed by demonization, the enemy is stigmatized as the adversary of humanity at large. This stigmatization process validates in turn the struggle against the enemy, while reinforcing the correctness of the chosen image at the same time.
This congress focused on the transformation of the image of others into more negative stereotypes as a tool to strengthen the in-group's internal cohesion. But we did not only pay attention to the resulting struggles and wars. The opposite scenario may also hold, displaying the remarkable complexity of the matter. First, alternation between the dominant and the deviant group in the typecasting process does not just imply that the deviant group rejects the assigned images or labels, for it may well decide to embrace them. Inside Christianity this has led to new patterns of identity formation, in which being the victim of deviant groups or individuals became a central concern, and in which new cultural values appreciating guilt and suffering were brought to the fore. As a second point, there is always the chance that people criticize the standard images based on their different experiences in life, thereby putting into perspective the sharp dichotomy of friend versus enemy.
These observations also put in perspective the problem area of what is commonly labelled as orthodoxy and heterodoxy. The history of iconoclasm shows the remarkable phenomenon that in later times, opinions that were previously seen as a form of heterodoxy became standard for new forms of orthodoxy. This much broader problem area, however, is outside the scope of this book and should be incorporated in future research.
New Images of God in a Secular World
Finally, this conference called attention to the 'war of images' in secular modern times. While the historical struggle concerning the image of God and the fight against idolatry clearly had religious overtones, in (post)modern times a new and secular dimension has been added. Secular movements such as liberalism, feminism, nationalism, National Socialism or socialism/communism struggled against the old monotheistic religions. These old religions were seen as forms of superstition or ideology. The old religions on their turn often charged the new movements with neo-paganism, regarding some of their symbols as modern idols (Reason, Money, Market, Führer or Leader, Race, Class, feminism etc.), thus becoming heavily involved in the struggle against secular idolatry. The question then comes to the fore to what extent these new secular movements developed or may still develop new secular images of God or Transcendence. With regard to our chosen conference theme, some secular movements will be questioned both on their image-politics and on their recycling of the trodden images of old.
An example: the French Revolution destroyed Christian images and replaced them by images derived from the religion of Reason and Liberty. Annie Jourdan describes this 'substitution process' as 'a cleaning and purification of the public domain' and as a substitution of the old sacred symbols by new ones: temples, theatres and statues symbolizing the principles of the new constitution (Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood). It included the introduction of a republican calendar, new rituals, the tricolour, and mirabile dictu—a festival devoted to the Supreme Godhead. From this Jourdain concluded that, apparently, a modern state like the French Republic, in its search for a new identity, was not able to give up the sacred dimensions. At the same time, she wonders why humanity in general, even in the process of secularization, remains so forcefully attached to the transcendental dimension. She even suggests that the introduction of a religious dimension might be a requisite for a successful transition from the existing order to a new one ( Jourdan, 2003).
`Image Wars' are also exemplified by new 'political religions' such as the socialist and, especially, the communist movements in Eastern Europe, China and Asia which were characterized by the flourishing of new rituals and images, as well as the veneration of 'saints' (Marx, Engels, Stalin, Mao). Most of the time this process was accompanied by a 'war' against the images and symbols of the 'old' religions: Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism. In this respect, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the removal of the images of the 'new saints' (Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin) symbolized the changing of powers.
Within this context, mention must also be made of the political religion of the Nazi regime. After the tactical strategy of promoting a `positive Christianity' (1933-34), it introduced a new religion of race in which religious elements deriving from the old German tradition, Asiatic symbols, gnostic and apocalyptic ideas, were mixed with modern militaristic and nationalistic symbols and rituals (Ley, Schoeps, 1997). Recent scholarship has pointed out that National Socialism can be seen as a 'secular religion', a 'surrogate religion' or even a religious `Gesamtkunstwerk' (Wagner). An example of this new approach can be seen in the proceedings of the 1995 conference in Vienna organized by Michael Ley en Julius H. Schoeps under the title Der Nationalsozialismus als politische Religion (Ley, Schoeps, 1997; cf. Ley, 1993). In 2002 Michael Ley published his Holocaust als Menschenopfer. Vom Christentum zur politischen Religion des Nationalsozialismus, in which he defended the thesis that the Shoa was seen by the Nazi's as a necessary human sacrifice for the sake of an apocalyptic rescue operation for mankind. Ley also showed that National Socialism was a product of different strains in European history: a combination of an age old religious anti-Semitism with medieval chiliastic expectations, and influenced by secularization, romanticism and utopianism, it resulted in one of the most dangerous forms of 'political' religion.' In the eyes of the Nazi's the murder of the European Jews was a sacred rite, an expiation that was needed for the recreation of the world (Ley, 2002). The religious character of National Socialism had two faces: on the one hand it glorified the achievements of modernity, on the other hand it revived old religious traditions (Salemink, 2003, 160, 291-311).
A special role in the modern 'image wars' should be assigned to the Avant-garde in modern art. This movement aimed at a revolution in the creation of images. It was closely connected with a spiritual, and sometimes, a political revolution. During the First World War artists such as Kandinsky, Marc, Malevitch, Picasso, and movements like 'Der Blaue Reiter', Dadaism, and, later on, 'Bauhaus' and surrealism, declared traditional art bankrupt and inaugurated an iconoclastic outbreak sui generis. In contrast to earlier iconoclastic movements in Byzantine and Protestant Christianity, it aimed at the liberation of 'images and their language' from the nineteenth-century bourgeois culture as well as a liberation of images deriving from Christian metaphysics. Artistic images were not any more seen as a representation of reality or as a service to the Church or religious revelation, but as an secular attempt to discover the order of a new symbolic universe in oneself by developing a new `language of images' with its own form, colour and texture as pathway to a spiritual reality which the churches and political movements had neglected or lost.
In the 1912 almanac of Der Blaue Reiter, Kandinsky published his brochure Uber die Formfrage, and in the same year he wrote his famous essay Uber das Geistige in der Kunst, in which he discussed the 'prophetic function' of modern art. In his opinion modern art should not be viewed as an echo or mirror of reality, but as prophetic call to developing a new spiritual life. He concluded his essay by saying that 'it was now the time to see the appearance of a new area in which the work of the painter is closely related to the intentional creation of a new spiritual domain: now it is time for a new epoch in which the great spiritual dimension of art will be revealed' (Kandinsky, 1982, 131-132, 219). Although the Avant-garde was a pluriform movement, perhaps abstract art presented the most radical form of iconoclasm, because it rejected all empirical references to reality outside the work of art but without destroying the image as such. Instead it used new media in order to transfer the spiritual dimension. A good example of this new form of secular iconoclasm is the 'Black Square' (1915) of Malevitch, one of the great icons of the Avant-garde that presents an image of the face of God in 'the essence of his perfection' in a secular world. Although his 'Black Square' was certainly inspired by the tradition and theology of the Russian icons, it freed itself from the supervision of the old churches: it created a new form of modern religion (Drutt, 2003, 89-95). In several contributions of this volume the iconoclastic motives of the Avant-garde artists and, consequently, the disapproval of churchly authorities will be addressed.
As in visual art, these iconoclastic phenomena can also be observed in music. A good example is the (unfinished) opera Moses and Aron composed by Arnold Schonberg (1874-1951): it extrapolates the traditional prohibition of graven images including the story of the Golden Calf to a new secular context.' In this opera, Moses is presented as a radical puritan who fights against all human natural inclination to venerate images of the invisible: he addresses God as the 'Unique, Eternal, Omnipresent, Invisible and Unthinkable God'. For Schonberg, the human voice is equivalent to word, music to image; music has, therefore, the potency to become an idol trying to imagine the invisible. Thus in this opera, Moses does not sing, but only speaks.
Finally, we may refer to the Jewish museum in Berlin designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in 1999 (Schneider, 1999). In this museum Libeskind created six empty shafts symbolizing emptiness (`voids', like the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant) and articulating the fact that there are no images available to describe the sufferings of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, the 'voids' are images. The building can be seen as a 'reversed cathedral' and as an iconoclastic philosophy carved in stone. For his project, Libeskind entered into conversation with the twentieth century Avant-garde, the philosopher Walter Benjamin, the poet Paul Celan, and the composer Arnold Schonberg, the creator of Moses und Aaron. As heirs of modern criticism Libeskind, Benjamin and Schonberg have deeply gauged the new order and disorder of modernity and the potential force of secular idols, as well as the temptation of producing new images. But, at the same time, in reversing the old images they created new anti-images which enabled them to criticize the old ones, as is impressively illustrated in the famous painting Angelus novus of Paul Klee.
Word and Image: Fundamental questions
The various contributions to this volume are divided into four main parts. In the first part we have six essays which set up a general discussion of the field. In the opening piece Willemien Otten explores the complex relationship between World, Word and Image in Christianity. She discusses the general effect of the Word, especially as it relates to the Christian notions of creation and incarnation and shows how these notions due to the interrelated development of exegesis and doctrine—resulted in an ever expanding web of meaning. Whereas the world was seen as the product of divine creation and as such a reflected divine activity, the human person was seen as the image par excellence, with the iconic character of humanity being both heightened and redeemed in Christ's incarnation. After discussing the different approaches to images in the early-modern Catholic and Protestant traditions, she turns to the tradition of pre-modernity and, following Jean-Luc Marion's analysis in his book God Without Being, she points to the fact that being (esse) in classical Thomism could easily develop into an idol rather than an icon of the divine. She summarizes her view with a set of reflections derived from Augustine's On Christian Doctrine, revealing how Augustine locates the tension between word and images inside a larger integrative vision by means of a distinction between res and signa (See Pollmann, 1996). She concludes with a plea for the use of and need for images in communicating the word.
Likewise, Anton Houtepen's contribution deals with the constructive and de-constructive role image controversies have played in the formation and transformation of religious identity, in the past as well as in the present. In a broad overview he analyses the referential character of religious imagination in pre-modern times. In modern and post-modern times, however, we are witness to an epistemological revolt. Secularization has reduced every form of religious imagination to a function of human need and desire without reference to any extra-mental reality. In addition, he argues that, after the collapse of conceptual systems of thought in post-modern times, Christian theology might be helped to rediscover and ground anew its referential character and its legitimate place in the world of thought by developing an iconic hermeneutic. Such a hermeneutics differs from aesthetics in that it does not interpret the icon in a representational mode, looking for the indexical meaning of the image, but concentrates on its 'deictic' function, either as 'logo' (Naomi Klein) or as 'scenery'. In other words: the icon invites its spectators to participate in its scenery and to be taken up in the life-goals and the divine communion with Christ. This hermeneutical function, he concludes, makes real participation in the life of the divine referent of the icon (or liturgy) possible and, as any other hermeneutical process, it implies the transformation or re-figuration (P Ricoeur) of the participants.
Gerard Rouwhorst elaborates further the function of word and image in Christian liturgical rituals. Like all other rituals, Christian liturgical celebrations are composed of both verbal and non-verbal elements. He shows how in the course of liturgical history, the proportion of both the verbal and non-verbal elements to each other have considerably varied. Whereas the liturgy of the Early Church shared with the synagogue and, later on the churches of the Reformation, a strong focus on the reading and the explanation of the Bible, after the victory over the Iconoclasts the Byzantine traditions have been characterized by a strong emphasis on the visual dimension. Within this context Rouwhorst observes that in early medieval Western Christianity, the use of visual symbols dramatically increased since the introduction of the liturgical traditions of Rome in the regions north and west of the Alps. He claims that this radical shift from word to image relates to the increasing emphasis on the sacredness of liturgy as well as on the role of the priests. There is all the more reason for the plausibility of this claim since, in the liturgical reform movements, criticism of these aspects of medieval liturgy, sometimes designated as 'magical' and `clerical', and the separation between the sacramental and the profane realm, tend to go hand in hand with an opposition against the visual elements in the liturgy such as the ordination rites and the vestments of the priests.
Alexander Even-Chen's contribution focuses on the Jewish tradition and the 'holy controversy' in this tradition regarding the possibility of seeing the divine. By means of an analysis of the theology of Abraham Josua Heschel (1907-1972), he explores Heschel's conception of divine revelation and its corresponding anthropology which influenced his reading of Rabbinic sources. Within the Jewish tradition Heschel observed different schools of thought in answering the question 'whether it is possible to see God'.
Heschel presented Rabbi Ishmael's school as the one who taught that mortals can neither see nor comprehend the nature of the divine glory.
Rabbi Akiva and his school, however, based their view on the assumption that man, created by God and resembling his image, is able, in principle, to behold the divine glory and presence. Within this context Even-Chen further explores Heschel's position and concludes that the controversy is reflected in Heschsel's own soul and theology.
Daniela Muller's contribution deals with another important aspect of the iconoclash-theme of the conference. It presents a careful analysis of the mechanism developed within the medieval christianitas concept of the Western Latin Church to label opposition parties and their ideas with recurring stereotypes and rhetoric thereby creating an image of the 'others' resulting in an exclusion of deviant groups and the reinforcement of the correctness of one's own religion. She illustrates the operation of this mechanism as present not only in visual representations but also in literary motives. It was especially pope Gregory VII who used the creation of images as a means of propaganda to mobilize the fight against 'the others', such as seductive women, heretics, Jews and Muslims. For propaganda reasons they all were accused of most evil deeds. Additionally, she explores the great variety of motives that was developed, all of which aimed at proving the dangers of the 'others' and legitimizing the fight against 'the others'. Muller also notes that through the depiction of debauchery of 'the others' fantasy was offered a means of compensation for the repression of sensuality which went hand in hand with the increasing moralization of medieval Christian society. She concludes her essay by pointing to the relatedness and interaction between the religious and social levels in producing an image of 'others' and, consequently, the reinforcement of one's own identity.
In his essay, inspired by Emmanuel Levinas, Marcel Poorthuis embarks on some fundamental philosophical reflections regarding the conference theme. Philosophy, he argues, may be regarded as the plea for the integrity of the subject, combating irrational myths that try to overwhelm the subject with numinous experience and robbing the subject of its freedom and autonomy. In this respect philosophy may be considered an ally of monotheism in the shared rejection of idolatry. At the same time, however, this train of rational thought eliminates the primary experience of the other being as 'radically' other. By denying the difference between me and the other, the experience of the other is robbed from its dimensions of majesty and of transcendence. The other is reduced to the phenomenological realm to which I belong myself as well, and is seen as a re-definition or mirror-image of myself. Should this be considered to be a form of idolatry? Exploring the biblical prohibition of idolatry, Poorthuis argues that it primarily refers to the attitude of man rather than to something intrinsic in the object. Following Levinas, he assumes that the transcendent experience of the face of the other constitutes as it were the antipode of idolatry, whereas denying that transcendence might bring us close to idolatry. The experience of the transcendent breaking through the phenomenological appearance of the other is, according to Poorthuis, the philosophical expression of iconoclasm. His conclusion is that iconoclasm interpreted in radically human terms, constitutes the way to transcendence, to asymmetrical responsibility and to an ethics of donation to the other. A child looking in the mirror and recognizing the face of the other before its own face appears seems to have preserved the fundamental experience of the 'otherness' of the other.
Jewish and Christian Debates on Images Until the Reformation
In the second part of this volume a cluster of themes is presented exploring the developments within Jewish rabbinical thought on images, controversies on images in the Early Church of Western Europe (Augustine), and developments in Medieval traditions such as in medieval hagiography, apocryphal and liturgical apostle traditions, and the 'image war' of the iconoclastic Cathars versus the Catholic tradition.
It opens with an essay of Shulamith Laderman that focuses on the tension between the concept of the transcendent God that, according to Exodus 20, is not be represented by any visual form and the instructions to create images of the Cherubim in the Holy of Holies of God's Tabernacle, as explained in Exodus 25. Laderman describes extensively the attempts in Jewish tradition to resolve the contradiction involved in these two 'divinely inspired messages' by pointing to the fact that the Cherubim covering the Ark were not meant to be iconic images, but rather designed as a metaphor for God's transcendence. In Jewish understanding, she argues, the symbolic schema of the empty space between the Cherubim's wings (`void') represented the invisible presence of God the Creator. Remarkably, she notes that in the Christian art tradition the empty space between the Cherubim's wings was interpreted as pointing to the parousia of Jesus, as described in the Gospel of Matthew 25: 31-34. After discussing the long and complex history of the visual representation of the Cherubim in Jewish and Christian art (see the illustrations in her article), she concludes by saying that in both the Jewish and Christian traditions the visual image and the word—biblical, exegetical, theological, or typological were bound together in approaching the sacred.
In addition, Shamma Friedman continues the discussions on images in the Jewish traditions by focusing on the Talmudic-Midrashic debates. The first part of his contribution deals with Maimonides' struggle against traditional anthropomorphic concept in comparison with Augustine's work in the same area; in the second part Friedman discusses a passage from the mystical work Shiur Qomah, already attested in the sixth or early seventh century that insisted on perfect proportionalism of divine anatomy based upon the Greek tradition of ideal relative measurements of the human body. In this rabbinic source the patriarch Jacob is the outstanding representative of this paradigm, while, at the same, it explains the original meaning of the legend that Jacob's icon was engraved upon the divine throne. According to Friedman, this is a remarkable example in the Jewish tradition of a unrecognized presentation of the divine image with human likeness, indistinguishable in both physique and physiognomy. Friedman's article allows for comparisons with the next contribution on Augustine's thought on images.
In this essay Paul van Geest defends the thesis that on the one hand, Augustine may be seen as the precursor of apophatic theology (Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite), in which it was argued that God 's being and activity cannot be defined in terms that mirror or refer to earthly conditions. Analysis of Augustine's first commentary on Genesis, his sermons, and De Trinitate, reveals Augustine's fear to perceive God as having corporeal qualities. At the other hand, however, Van Geest points to the fact that in the Confessions Augustine 'negates the negation' by looking for human experiences by which he tries to make God perceptible in his imperceptibility. Within this context Augustine, following the hermeneutics of Ambrose, did not hesitate to evoke an awareness or experience of God by appealing to man's sensory faculties and using tangible metaphors and anthropomorphisms. In a similar way, Augustine presented the memory of sensory and affective experiences as parallel to the experience of God. At the same time, however, he opposes those metaphors and anthropomorphisms as inadequate for representing God. In this way Augustine avoided the dualism between God and world, the finite and infinite, into which between several apologists ( Justin, Minucius Felix, and Tertullian) in their debate with Greek philosophy had become embroiled.
In her contribution, Nienke Vos explores how in early medieval hagiography, biblical images functioned in the formation of the saint as icon. She focuses on three Latin hagiographical sources which followed in the wake of the Greek Life of Antony in the middle of the fourth century: the Life of Martin by Sulpicius Severus (ca. 400 CE), the Life of Benedict by Gregory the Great (ca. 600 CE) and the Life of Willibrord by Alcuinus (ca. 800 CE). These vitae recount the lives of their respective saints in order to entertain and motivate the reader. On a fairly literary level, she discusses the way in which the different saints operated as missionaries in a pagan context. In this context she analyses the central notion of `miracle' in these narratives and the many violent scenes which can easily be defined as instances of iconoclash. Subsequently, she presents a more metaphorical sense in which iconoclash, or rather `icono-change' occurs. Further analysis brings Vos to the conclusion that in all three vitae, the saint encapsulates religious and political interests and that he—in a sense becomes the icon of the entire situation. Finally, she points to the importance of biblical material in the styling of the saints and shows how the biblical imagery in these vitae is transformed, due to the interests of the authors.
Additionally, Else Rose's essay deals with apocryphal traditions on the apostolic missionary activities after Pentecost and draws some lines of comparison between the narrative apocryphal traditions on the one hand and liturgical sources on the other hand. In considering these sources she concentrates on the clash between the apostle as representative of the new, Christian religion, and representations of the existing, `other religion' which are depicted as 'idols', 'demons' and 'magicians.' She shows how in the Latin rendition of the apocryphal acts of the apostles both iconoclash and iconoclasm are occurring themes which reflect the foundation of a new religious identity which played a crucial role in the development of a liturgical cult of the apostles. Especially, the imagination of a struggle between 'apostle' and 'demon' is shown to be an important example of the reception of apocryphal traditions in medieval liturgy. This development makes also clear that the clash between different religious world views with their own religious imagination and their own gods becomes a clash between sin and salvation within one Christian community, even within the soul of the individual Christian.
Babette Hellemans focuses on the problem of incarnation as a `creative act', especially in gothic art and texts. The selected examples turn around awareness of being and not-being by ocular proof and, analogous to the notion of the Eucharist's hoc est corpus meum, to seeing and not-seeing. The thirteenth century Bibles Moralisées, consisting of and enveloping the totality of the Christian faith, serve as a case study. It will be argued that 'reading' these Bibles is an entirely performative act, and should therefore be 'three-dimensional' in the same way one sight-sees a gothic cathedral. In the last two sections the topic thus indicated is illustrated by giving some examples taken from sources in modern literature and philosophy.
The following contribution of Anne Brenon relates the theme of the conference with Catharism, which the Roman Church denounced and rejected as heresy. The Cathars established their own religious course by identifying themselves with the true and authentic Christian Church over and against the 'false Roman Church' as the church of wealth and persecution. They rejected and often mocked practices they found superstitious, in particular the cult of saints and relics, transubstantiation, and all forms of miraculous intervention. Brenon points to the fact that the fundamental Christian dualism of Cathar theology seems to imply that no room was left for anthropomorphic representations of divinity and that among the Cathars there was no possibility for artistic expression. She shows that this idea is refuted by the fact that while these heretics Christians of the Book neither built nor sang nor sculpted, they did copy Bibles, and probably very productively. One of these bibles escaped from the Inquisition (present in the Municipal Library of Lyon as ms PA 36) and contains a complete New Testament translated into Occitan. It can be dated to the thirteenth century and includes lovely illuminated initials, painted in red and blue, but no representation of human or animal figures, except the fish, an early Christian symbol for Christ. This kind of `Cathar art' in the thirteenth century, Brenon argues, should be linked to the heretical brothers of the Cathars, the Waldensian Bibles.
Beverly Kienzle addresses the conference theme by focusing on the theory and praxis related to the cross and its veneration in the Middle Ages. It involved a wide array of practices, from liturgical veneration and processions to meditations and visions, from gestures of signing to wearing crosses for protection, healing and punishments. Moreover, those whose lives or ideas did not conform to the theology and practices of the cross were called its enemies (inimici crucis). For medieval authors, the phrase designated sinners, heretics, Jews and Muslims. This theology and practice was set forth in the crusades in order to preserve the land of the cross for the Christians and to pursue the so-called enemies of the cross in the Holy Land and various areas of Europe. Dissident Christians objected to the theology of the cross, the everyday practices involving it, and the development of crusading ideology. In her essay she focuses on three thirteenth and fourteenth-century texts related to preaching that exemplify representative views from both sides.
Finally, Gerard Pieter Freeman provides a contribution related to medieval spirituality and practice. He discusses the mental image of the 'poor Christ' that determined the identity of the first Friars Minor. This image was not an abstract idea that needed to be exemplified, nor was it an ideal that ought to put into practice. It was the result of a choice to 'leave the world', that is, to leave the city of Assisi and to give up the values of its citizens. After discussing the way in which they formed their identity, Freeman concludes that the Friars cannot be seen as a iconoclastic movement, although the situation changed during the conflict of the spiritual Franciscans with pope John XXII. Paradoxically, the image of the poor Christ was very successful in medieval Christianity and, in his essay, Freeman traces the consequences of the mental image of the poor Christ for the material images the first Friars produced. He does so by investigating the oldest versions of their general constitutions in which some restrictive regulations are found on Church building and Church design. A recurring theme of these prescriptions is that art may not threaten charity, as well as the theme of credibility. According to the author, this implied a complex paradox between poverty and alms-giving. Receiving alms implied a loss of poverty and refusal of alms was not seen as an option, because such a refusal might offend the benevolent benefactor. During the thirteenth century this paradox was exemplified in important churches like the Church of San Francesco in Assisi.
Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reformation
In the third part of this volume ample attention is paid to the renowned iconoclastic movement during the Reformation, its theological backgrounds, and, specifically its impact on sixteenth-century Dutch Calvinism, especially in the city of Utrecht where the conference was held. Moreover, it discusses the different views of the three main Reformers (Luther; Zwingli and Calvin) on the prohibition of images and their impact on Protestant identity, including also the production of polemical cartoons by which the Public Reformed Church in the Dutch Republic provided an ideological justification for its existence. Although
the Council of Trent defended the practice of the Catholic Church as regards the veneration of images, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries witnessed two important papal prohibitions of depicting the Holy Trinity in a particular way. These debates show that the image controversy was not a prerogative of the Reformation.
In the first essay on the relationship between the prohibition of images and Protestant identity Willem Jan van Asselt argues that although the image question was not a central theme of the Reformation, and that the controversy broke out when the Reformation movement had already found strong popular support, the rejection of the medieval cult implied by the rejection of images, altered in a drastic way the life of a large part of the European population. It divided the continent into several types of religious societies, each visibly different from its other. The prohibition of images did not only divide Catholics and Protestants, but also the Reformed and Lutheran Churches. At the same time, Van Asselt shows that Protestantism did not imply a complete break with the Roman Catholic world of images, symbols and rituals. In early modern times the Lutheran and Reformed too developed a religious tradition (exemplum tradition) in which they created their own visual culture in which 'living saints' were celebrated: the prophetic reformer, the protestant martyr, the godly preacher etc. His conclusion is that despite its impressive theological enterprise and its iconoclastic attempts to reform medieval piety, the Reformation was not so radical and successful as suggested in traditional historiography.
Additionally, Caspar Staal offers a sketch of the iconoclastic movement in the Low Countries, especially in the city of Utrecht. He shows how in Utrecht the iconoclasm movement with its defacement of cultic objects of previous generations that were burned or reduced to rubble, tested and strained the political system of the local authorities, since it challenged civic as well as ecclesiastical authorities.
Jo Spaans relates the conference theme to an analysis of a seventeenth-century cartoon which is alternatively designated as Fraticide near Alphen village in South-Holland or Pig-war. It shows two men wearing city clothes and hats that are fighting off a troop of pigs, which have overrun a third man. The attendant rhymed dialogue points to the fact that the picture does not refer to some innocent rural activity but is meant as a cartoon, in which an incident is satirized, probably a local theologico-political conflict that fits the wider context of the rivalry between two opposing factions of Voetians and Cocceians. After a sharp analysis of the historical events lying behind the satirical print, she points out that the print on the Alphen Pig War should be classified as satirical-moralistic emblem rather than as a cartoon in the modern sense. It was not designed for a popular audience, for its meaning was skilfully hidden, so that only insiders would get the mes- sage. It was meant as an indictment of 'fanaticism' referring to the way religion had been abused to embarrass and upset political authority. Being an interesting link in the development from allegory to cartoon, the picture confronts the viewer with conflicting images of peace and conflict, of order and disorder, of clerical fanaticism and the duties of an enlightened sovereign. Published at the end of the seventeenth century, it endorsed the 1694 resolution by of States of Holland 'towards the peace in the Church'. For the Dutch Republic this was a crucial moment, because at that time new theological controversies seemed to trigger again a political crisis, like the Arminian one at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Thus, the print of the Alphen Pig War is an intriguing example of the image war that proclaimed and defended the then current religious regime.
A complete new field of research is uncovered by Jan Hallebeek who investigates seventeenth- and eighteenth century papal prohibitions against a particular way of depicting the Holy Trinity. After dealing with the historical developments prior to these papal prohibitions, he discusses the decree De invocatione (1563) of the Council of Trent which did not touch upon the image of the Holy Trinity. Especially, he focuses on the brief of Pope Benedict XIV, Sollicitudini Nostrae (1745). In order to put to a stop to certain monstrous excrescences in popular devotion, and to formulate an authoritative guideline, Benedict drew a distinction between three categories of the Trinity: those prohibited (monsters, figures with one body and three heads etc.), those tolerated (three more or less identical human figures) and those approved (the Trinity depicted in a vertical or horizontal way with God the Father as 'ancient of days', Christ as a human being and the Holy Spirit as dove or as tongues of fire). Subsequently, Hallebeek discusses the implications of Benedict's brief for ecclesiastical life and shows how in religious art in spite of Benedict's guidelines, the critical approach of images of the Trinity in circles of the Louvain Augustinism of Port Royal, including the decree of Council of Pistoia (1786-1787) to remove all images of the Trinity from the churches the Holy Spirit continued to be depicted in a human form, while in popular art three-faced Trinities were still produced. Apparently, there was within the Catholic Church no longer room for the view that the Holy Trinity should not be depicted at all, although this opinion was based on undisputed theological premises, on authoritative writers.
Finally, this volume is completed by an examination of how iconoclasm has been debated in the modern period. It comprises a variety of modern iconoclastic phenomena, such as the 'image wars' of secularized political movements (nationalism), conflicts between the traditional Roman Catholic Church and the Avant-garde in modern art as religiously inspired form of iconoclasm, and finally, the 'written' (iconoclastic) images of the divine in modern Dutch poetry.
The first essay by Angela Berlis compares two forms of the politics of representation in the nineteenth century: a secular and an ecclesiastical form. Using Willem Frijhoff's distinction between idols, icons, and saints, in combination with Jan Assmann's consideration of 'cultural memory', she explores the development of the cults and myths surrounding the protestant queen Luise of Prussia (1776-1810) on the one hand and the canonization in 1867 of the Ruthenian catholic archbishop Josaphat Kuncevycz (Kuncewycz, ca. 1580-1623) and the Spanish inquisitor Pedro de Arbués on the other hand. She analyses this development in terms of a social process, carried and supported by a particular group. Considering this process in terms of role models and in terms of the politics of representation, she comes to the surprising conclusion that the Prussian politics of representation of Luisa did not differ essentially from the politics of canonization regarding Kuncevycz under Pius IX. Both were intended to reinforce identity both internally and externally by offering a transcendental justification. She concludes her essay with a brief investigation played by the mass media in the shaping of such politics of representation.
Christopher König discusses several paintings of Jesus produced for an 1896 Berlin art exhibition. They were created by well-known German artists for this occasion, among whom Franz von Stuck and Hans Thoma. Koenig traces the reception of these paintings in German Protestant periodicals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He concentrates on the religious debate on a 'modern' image of Jesus in the period between secularization and religious renewal. At the same time, he investigates the role of nationalistic patterns that contributed to the debate on National Protestant attitudes in Wilhelmian Germany exemplified by an analysis of a 'German Christ.' From
his analysis it becomes clear that a modernized image of Jesus was experienced to have a paradigmatic impact not only on the diverse and cultural and religious visions of liberal Protestantism, on various reform movements in Germany, but also on the radical nationalists of the völkische Bewegung'. All these groups were linked by and contributed to, the formation of national identity in contrast to Judaism and the Catholics.
Jaap Goedegebuure presents an essay on the written icon images of God in modern Dutch literature. He uses the notorious image of `God as donkey' introduced by Gerard Reve as an example of the way heterodox images of the divine can clash with religious beliefs, dogmas, rules and conventions. Although iconoclashes may be of all times and places, he argues, nowhere is their manifestation as vehement as in the art and literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From the days of romanticism onwards artists and writers have been choosing images that closely connect to their deepest personal identity, thereby evoking a complete inversion of the qualities and values of conventional images of the divine and the sacred. He observes that in the field of aesthetics this inversion manifests itself as a violating renewal of artistic norms and devices. At the same time, these new representations of the divine can be interpreted as projections, resembling the inner self. In the last part of his contribution Goedegebuure deals with two Dutch poets who looked upon all images of the divine as projections, without cherishing hope of being set free from these 'Annoying Gods' (Hans Faverey). These poets express the need for a definite and resolving iconoclasm, but in the end the reader observes once more a clash of endlessly re-emerging images. The author concludes by saying that this rapid change of position and the inversion of the usual hierarchy underline the inescapable and highly ambivalent character of religious projections. God is dealt with in an aggressive but still positive way. God is absent, but in his absence he still represents a one too many clashing icon.
Theo Salemink addresses the conference theme by focusing on a conflict between ultramontane Catholic Church leaders and the Avant-garde in the first part of the twentieth century. According to Salemink, the Avant-garde movement presented itself as 'a new iconoclasm' and `a secular spirituality'. Initially, the Catholic Church condemned the movement as being a form of modern heresy and neo-paganism. After 1960, however, the Catholic Church changed its attitude and considered the spirituality of the Avant-garde as compatible. The author illustrates this international conflict with a special case from Dutch history. In 1949 the Vatican ordered the bishop of Roermond, Mgr. G. Lemmens, to remove from the old chapel of Wahlwiller, in the south of the Netherlands, the Stations of the Cross painted by the young artist Aad de Haas in modern style. A Catholic fascist from pre-war time started a campaign in some Dutch Catholic media against De Haas, classifying his work as a form of `entartete Kunst' and as a violation of the papal vision on art exposed in the encyclical letter Mediator Dei et Hominum (1947). More than thirty years later, in 1980, the Stations of the Cross were replaced in the chapel, but now with approval of the conservative bishop Mgr. Jo Gijsen. The bishop of Roermond called this work of art 'a dream of the Resurrection'. From this, Salemink concludes that the 1949 intervention of the Vatican was an opportunistic move that had nothing to do with the biblical prohibition of images, but was inspired by the fear of ultramontane catholicism for the Avant-garde in art and for modern lifestyle.
The final contribution to this volume is written by Alexander Demandt in which he approaches the conference theme by an historical analysis of the phenomenon of vandalism—sacred and profane—as a form of `Kulturzerstörung'. He defines vandalism as the conspicious defacement and destruction of a structure or symbol against the will of the owner or the governing body. It can be done both as an expression of contempt or creativity, or both. Vandalism, he argues, only makes sense in a culture that recognizes history and archeology. Although originally an ethnic slur referring to Vandals, who sacked Rome in 455, the term was coined in 1794 during the French Revolution by Henri Baptiste Gregoire, bishop of Blois, in his report directed to the Republican Convention, where he used the word vandalism to describe the behaviour of the republican army. Gustave Courbets's attempt, during the 1871 Paris Commune, to dismantle the Vendôme column, a symbol of the past Napoleon III authoritarian Empire, was one of the most celebrated events of vandalism. Perhaps, Demandt has borrowed the title of his contribution from Nietzsche, who meditated after the Commune on the 'fight against culture', taking as example the intentional burning of the Tuileries Palace on May 23, 1871. Throughout history the (ritual) destruction of monuments of a previous government or power has been one of the largest symbols, showing the attempt at transition of power. The author shows how the criminal fight against culture is only the reverse side of a criminal culture. For example, vandalism of Jewish properties and Jewish owned businesses was part of the criminal Nazi program, surfacing in the widespread coordinated vandalism of the Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938). Recent cases of vandalism in this vein include the toppling and deconstruction of Soviet monuments, the Taliban destruction of Buddhist statuary in Afghanistan, and the well-known toppling of a Saddam Hussein statue in Iraq.
We want to end this introduction by stating that all the essays in this volume articulate the importance of iconoclastic controversies and their impact on the process of creating religious identity. It includes a discussion of images in society and politics, philosophy and theology, rituals and liturgy, yesterday and today. We have little doubt that the debate on religious identity will continue and, therefore, this volume does not offer final solutions. But at the same time we want to express our hope that the research done in this volume will contribute to a better understanding of the struggle for religious identity in past, present and (even) future.
A Day of Gladness: The Sabbath Among Jews and Christians in Antiquity by
Herold Weiss (
To explore Jewish perspectives, Weiss looks to the Rabbinic and Qumranic texts, Samaritan texts, and the writings of Philo and of Josephus. To illumine early Christian attitudes, he offers analyses of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospels of John and Thomas, and the letters to the Galatians, the Romans, the Hebrews, and the Colossians. Weiss uses each text as a window upon the sociological constructs and theological perspectives figuring in early Jewish and Christian thought about worship and rest. He suggests that such perspectives reflect larger theological postures because, as an element of the creation story, the Sabbath became an important cosmological fixed point and a source of eschatological speculation.
With insights gained from his examination of the texts, Weiss identifies the
concerns animating Sabbath disputes. He marks out in the beliefs of Jews and
early Christians overarching similarities between the two faiths as well as
variations within each. Weiss manages to
ameliorate some of the more divisive views of some recent scholarship on the
origins of the Sabbath while at the same time providing a carefully construct
evaluation of the historical record and the cannon.
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