K.H. Miskotte’s Efforts toward a Renewed Relationship with Judaism
Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer
Protestantse Theologische Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
K.H. Miskotte’s dissertation on The Essence of Judaism (1932) at once involved constructing a phenomenological Wesensschau, preparation for Jewish-Christian encounter, and engagements in intra-Protestant disputes. Around the Second World War, Miskotte’s writings simultaneously showed unconditional solidarity with the persecuted Jewish people and warned against Jewish influences on Protestantism. At the end of his life, Miskotte reflected with distress on the book of Rabbi Ignaz Maybaum, The Face of God after Auschwitz, and he returned to his initial judgment on liberal Judaism.
Jewish-Christian encounter – essence of Judaism – anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism –
theology after Auschwitz
Kornelis Heiko Miskotte, a minister and, after 1945, professor of the Dutch Reformed Church, garnered attention for contemporary Judaism, including beyond the boundaries of his own denomination. This is an unquestionable achievement. Although his dissertation of 1932 belongs to the genre of polemical theology, the rise of National Socialism, which he cautiously observed, gave him increasing occasion to emphasize that its attack on Israel should be conceived as an attack on the foundations of Christianity at the same time. In that context, he tried to think through theology anew on the basis of a new reading of the Torah, while also thereby learning, to some extent, from postbiblical Judaism.
This essay consists of two parts. The first part presents previous research on Miskotte’s conversation with Judaism, addressing both the positive strengths of this conversation as well as its problematic aspects. In the second part, against the backdrop of an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of Miskotte’s engagement, four late articles by Miskotte are discussed here for the first time. In them Miskotte reacts to the volume of essays by Ignaz Maybaum, The Face of God after Auschwitz (1965–1966).
2 Status Quaestionis
2.1 The Essence of Jewish Religion
The dissertation of more than five hundred pages in length that Miskotte wrote as a minister in Haarlem during half a year of manic labor in 1932 (that is,a year before Hitler’s rise to power) dealt with a subject that was extremely unusual for a Christian theologian.2 Miskotte generously acknowledged that Judaism, out of the Talmud, practices its own genuine way of living with the book that Christians (on the basis of the New Testament and the dogma of the early church) call the Old Testament.3 He observed that in recent decades an assertive, missionary form of Judaism had appeared, and that it introduced itself through the voices of several distinguished thinkers. Its main representative for him was Franz Rosenzweig, who was, in Miskotte’s opinion, both a great philosopher and a great theologian.4 Like these new Jewish spokespersons he engaged, and to the satisfaction of his supervisors at the University of Groningen (especially its members W.J. Aalders and G. van der Leeuw),5
Miskotte in his dissertation walked the road of a phenomenological Wesensschau: an intuition of essences and essential structures, achieved through the exercise of Einfühlung, which is something much more than mere sympathy. This procedure leads to a construction that departs from the idea of love as the best way to achieve understanding,6 and, at the same time, exactly as a construction, it evokes a phenomenon that discloses truth. While this Liebeskonstruktion is helpful for the conversation about Judaism, it was also polemical. A cautious listening to the self-articulation of Judaism in the mouths of these contemporary Jewish thinkers brings to light the main subject of intended conversation between Jews and (reformational) Christians. In characterizing its main subject, the category of ‘correlation,’ as introduced by Hermann Cohen, is crucial.7 At the beginning of his research, Miskotte notes in his diary: “I am struck, affected, displeased by the statement in Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 69: ‘Die Bösen bestehen durch Gott, aber die Gerechten: da besteht Gott durch sie’ ” (“The wicked, their existence depends upon God. But the righteous, God’s exixstence depends upon them”).8 For Miskotte, this witness strongly contrasts with that of H.F. Kohlbrugge, the Luther redivivus of the nineteenth century. Familiar to him from his mother’s side of their family,9 Kohlbrugge had initially been the subject of Miskotte’s dissertation before he took this ‘detour.’10 For Kohlbrugge, righteousness can only be a gift of grace by God, a work of the Messiah that has come even and especially as the Old Testament attests, whereas in the rabbinic statement, God seems dependent upon the righteousness of human beings, even structurally dependent.11
The constellation becomes even more complex when we consider Miskotte’s assertion that this Jewish doctrine of correlation approximates the view of mainstream Protestantism after the Enlightenment. Miskotte finishes his enumeration of themes for historical study with the sentence:
Finally, to express it softly and with restraint, we have to make amends with the Jews, for the historical guilt of terribly persecuting the Jews (for which we remain, after so many ages, responsible, in proportion as we fall short in love for the elder people nowadays) must not be pitted against the fatal influence that secularized Judaism has exerted on the life of the Western nations.12
We notice that the perspective set out in the final sentence can be found in Miskotte, too: Judaism presents a way of thinking that has deeply pervaded Protestantism, and therefore research into the essence of Judaism helps to sharpen intra-Christian debate. Whether such an agenda makes encounter with living Judaism more difficult or not hardly seems to be a consideration for Miskotte.
Nevertheless, I would not assert that continuing in the way of ‘polemical theology’ was the only way in which the dissertation could be followed up. In Miskotte’s diary on February 20, 1933, we read:13
Frequently, I taught the following: we are the ones who are atoned for, it is not God who is in need of atonement. Yet there is some one-sidedness in this reasoning. Although I would not literally take over the sentence, ‘God requires that his justice be satisfied,’14 studying Judaism has made my thoughts more dialectical on this point, too. God needs to be atoned; the death of Christ is an act of correlation. He dies for the sake of God, to honor [God] with his death, as his Creator and his Lord. To hypostatize Justice is an Israelite trait. And this is exactly what is happening (apart from its juridical shaping of thought) in the doctrine of satisfaction. It is decisively incorrect to impute it to a Roman-juridical way of thought. On the contrary, if the edge of heresy exists here, then it is the heresy of Jewish correlation, except that here, it is not related to the person as an individual, nor to the person as a member of the people of the covenant, but rather to the ‘human nature’ of Christ […].15
We see here how acquaintance with Jewish voices leads to a new thinking through of one’s own story, oriented to the way of Jesus Christ. That is true dialogical learning. But unfortunately, at times such a spirit of dialogical openness flagged within Miskotte.16
2.1 Decisive Insights before, during, and after the Second World War
In his second large-scale book, Edda and Torah, from 1939, polemics largely withdraw. Miskotte chooses not to set a Christian source against the renewed interest of ultra-reactionary circles in ancient Germanic paganism. In the face of the dark clouds approaching from the east, the Synagogue and Church both must fall back upon the Torah alone. Miskotte defines the Christian as a pagan who has been disturbed in his paganism through acquaintance with Israel.
Christian sources therefore tend very readily toward syncretism in their character.17 Miskotte reads the Torah with little assimilation of rabbinic literature (under the influence of Martin Buber), and Chief Rabbi Itzhak Maarsen in an early review criticizes him for this.18 But solidarity prevails, up to the hymn at the last pages:
The Goyim will become one, also before our eyes, and we see more clearly the oneness of Israel. “He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances.” [Psalm 147:20] Praise Yahweh Bekirbenu! The Church itself must become one, i.e., its Word shall be united “to fear Thy Name [Psalm 86:11] that is One.” These things are far, extremely far…19.
But these witnesses tell us that the schism—as Miskotte himself characterizes the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity20—shall one day have an end. We note here a certain revised chiliasm.
We can read Miskotte’s sermon of May 9, 1945 in the same vein. He preached it four days after the Wehrmacht surrendered the Netherlands, in the New Church on the Dam Square in Amsterdam. The title is “God’s enemies will perish” (Ps 92:10). The preacher evokes the terrible memories of the occupation years and as just as many angry feelings. But repeatedly he remarks: these bad memories and bad feelings do not justify our casting the Nazi villains as ‘enemies of the Lord.’ In the end, the point is that by all its raids, deportations, sterilizations, the Nazi regime intended “in earnest and literally to kill Israel.” “Behind that lies hatred of the God of Israel, who is the God of the Christian Church, too.”21 And in the end that is what compels the Christian congregation to show solidarity.22 Let us not, Miskotte argued, mistakenly fixate on the anti-Semitism in which the hatred has camouflaged itself, trying to make itself acceptable. For anti-Semitism, existing in many forms, is living in us because we are pagans by nature.
Shortly after the Second World War, Miskotte elaborated this latter insight in an examination of the Réflexions sur la question Juive by J.P. Sartre. Sartre, he remarks, has an enviable analytical device by which to gauge the anti-Semite’s inner, psychic condition. But in the end, anti-Semitism according to Sartre does not have an actual subject, because Judaism as an independent entity cannot, in fact, exist. Sartre is forced to “explain away its mystery, which is its calling, because he seems stone-blind to the depth-dimension of God’s governance.”23
About Christian anti-Semitism the following can be said. Judaism embodies a question to the church. It knows of a calling amid the nations, in a world that still has not been redeemed. But now the Christian claims that they are already redeemed, and the Christian calls all other human beings to believe in that state of redemption. A Jew is unable to recognize in Christianity the voice of the prophets and therefore questions a redemption of this kind.24 Miskotte makes such a questioning his own.25 And exactly such questioning provokes an inner resistance within the Christian. This resistance, this defensiveness that is as typically Christian as anti-Semitism, can only be overcome from within, that is, by learning together with Israel to live out of expectation.
2.2 Nevertheless, Also an Internal Delimitation of ‘Our Judaism’
What, then, shall we say about the anti-Judaism26 that, as we noticed, is evident on the last pages of Miskotte’s dissertation?27
It is a known fact that in Miskotte’s texts during the war, and certainly in the first years after the war, delimitation of the ‘Jewish’ element within Christianity increases rather than decreases. And it is strange that Miskotte, with all the dialectical agility of his mind, never seems to give an account of it. Take one example that has been rebuked in the history of Miskotte-reception. The booklet Het waagstuk der prediking (The Wager of Preaching), published in 1941, argues that Christian preaching, arising out of Israel, announces a totally new event. ‘Our paganism’ tries to bend this newness back to what we have long thought we knew about God and gods. But ‘our Judaism,’ Miskotte says here, functions more subtly, for it transforms the newness into our second nature, a new self-evidence.28 In the same way as Judaism conceives of ‘teaching’—as Miskotte says elsewhere, “Judaism considers teaching in its aspect as moral admonition; as the implementation and ramifying of a legal system for a sacred people”29—so Christians come to conceive of their own teaching, now. As a result, we are no longer surprised, no longer launched forward on our way. The semantic connotations of ‘Jewish’/ ‘Judaism,’ and so forth, are thereby linked in a negative way to this regrettable phenomenon within Christianity itself.
But besides this indirect anti-Judaism, can we also identify in Miskotte a more direct form? I mention but one example here: in the same year, 1941, Miskotte and his colleagues J. Koopmans and K.H. Kroon wrote an illegal plan for a confession that was clearly intended to be a counterpart to the Barmen Declaration of 1934 for the context of the occupied Netherlands. The article on the Jewish people which Barmen lacked—much regretted by commentaries—could now be offered.30 In the first paragraph, their confession said: “God entrusted his Word to this people, so that whoever comes to God, has been registered in Israel.31 Therefore, we believe that whoever sets himself against Israel opposes the God of Israel.” And in the last paragraph it states: “Therefore, we hold anti-Semitism to be much worse than merely an inhuman racial ideology. We hold it to be one of the most obstinate and deadliest forms of resistance against the holy and merciful God whose Name we confess.” In between these two bold statements, however, we find a paraphrase of St. Paul: “Indeed, Israel has been disobedient and has despised the mystery of its calling, when it crucified the Lord of Glory.”32 And indeed, God has laid a “hardening upon part of Israel,33 but in this matter between God and his people, no one may interfere with his own hand and pride.” At a later time, these sentences were taken to be lacking in sensitivity: despite taking care that the ‘hardening’ should not become an argument against the present people of Israel, these lines nevertheless evoke the old reproach that occasioned so many pogroms. It is certainly possible that Miskotte remembered here the provocative and self-conscious exclamation in a letter of Franz Rosenzweig: “Daß wir Christus gekreuzigt haben und es, glauben Sie mir, jederzeit wieder tun würden, wir allein auf der weiten Welt” (“That we have crucified Christ and that we—please, believe me—would do it again at every time, we alone in the wide world”).34 Words such as these can be uttered in a face-to-face conversation. The possibility that Miskotte himself remembered this line raises the question: What precisely is meant when the declaration of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands expresses hope that Jewish-Christian relations will blossom into “a deep friendship of two equal partners”?35 Will that friendship succeed also then, when good friends, in mutual trust and vulnerability, struggle for the truth that neither has at their disposal? Miskotte sometimes shows an astonishing lack of sensitivity. But on the other hand, do we ourselves, with our well-schooled sensitivity, lack awareness of the uncomfortable questions that may actually arise from mutual witnessing?
3 Four Articles about “The Face of God After Auschwitz” (1966)
In a fascinating lecture in 1989,36 Friedrich Wilhelm Marquardt remarked that, as far as he could see, “Auschwitz is not a theme in Miskotte’s works.”37 This is not surprising, for even Marquardt himself did not begin fundamental theological reflection on the Shoah before becoming acquainted during the 1970s with ‘holocaust theology’ in the United States in the person of its representatives R.L. Rubinstein and E.L. Fackenheim.38 Nevertheless, besides some scattered remarks, there was in fact one special occasion on which Miskotte felt obliged to say more about the horrifying reality of the murder of the Jewish people.
That occasion was the appearance of the volume of essays The Face of God after Auschwitz, written by the liberal Rabbi Ignaz Maybaum from London, published in 1965 by Polak & Van Gennep in Amsterdam. In his introduction, Maybaum thanks Miskotte for the help he offered in rereading Rosenzweig, especially through the German edition Wenn die Götter schweigen from 1963.39 Miskotte for his part started to write a series of articles about Maybaum’s volume in the periodical In de Waagschaal, of which he was the chief editor for twenty-five years. Until now, these articles have received little attention. But since the Dr. K.H. Miskotte Foundation has recently made the material accessible on its website,40 this seems to be a good opportunity to offer discussion of them. Our guiding question is whether Miskotte found an opportunity in this encounter with Maybaum’s book to take a further step in his lifelong conversation with Judaism.
3.1 Israel in Europe
The first article, “Israël in Europa,”41 mainly announces the appearance of the book and Miskotte’s intention to engage it. “For Christian faith,” Miskotte says—perhaps referencing Romans 11:25—“Israel is sealed by a mystery.” In the eyes of outsiders, Israel rather was an enigma, difficult to grasp theoretically. It seems that after Auschwitz—“here conceived as the whole of all atrocities that exceed imagination, without a precedent or a parallel in history, which caused a turn for the community of those thinking aright in Europe”—an essential change has taken place. Now, Israel “has been discovered as the nomadic, chased, unwanted Jew, against whom all powers by nature conspire, and who asks for a solidarity of widespread, irrational nonconformity, as an ideal.” Nevertheless, this change moves from enigma to mystery. “For do we not remember ‘Auschwitz’42 because of the acts yhwh did not fulfil there? Isn’t the root of the searching of the Jew for his own identity exactly to find in fact that there he was cut off from the root of the knowledge of his God?” More than natural science and modern technology, is it not Auschwitz, with its enduring trauma, that will tempt them to flee God?43 In this situation, we are struck by the title of a piece of writing by Rabbi Maybaum: The Face of God after Auschwitz. “What does this mean?,” Miskotte asks. “Has the face of God been overshadowed? Or had the beloved image always already been empty? Or has a new face happened, a new revelation?” The next sections will offer further comment about such questions.
3.2 The Face of God
The second article, “Het Godsgelaat,”44 starts with an acknowledgement. Since the appearance of the first article, Miskotte had actually begun to read parts of Maybaum’s book and discovered that the title does not correspond at all with the assumption Miskotte had previously expressed in the first piece: namely, that the book concerned “the concealment of God and the challenge of faith because of this event.” Certainly, in the part of the book that records some sermons, Maybaum speaks to his congregation as people struck by the wholesale Nazi murder of the Jews—indeed, Maybaum himself had learned that his mother was killed in Theresienstadt and his two sisters in Auschwitz.45 But the focus and tenor of the book is reflective rather than existential. The characterization of the disaster of Auschwitz as the third great Churban (destruction), after the destruction of the First and Second Temples, suggests that each of these earlier catastrophes brought the Jewish people further, and that just such a further advance is happening again at the present time. During the Exile in Babylon, Judaism spread amid the nations. The closure of Jerusalem pressed the Jewish people to replace the burnt offering in the temple with the daily cult in family life. And now? Now we know that the Middle Ages definitely have come to an end, that Christianity with the idea of sacrifice at the heart of its doctrine must reform itself, and that Jewish communities, too—Ashkenazi as well as Sephardi—must take leave of their own medieval remnants. A more rational idea of God, more acceptable to Western humanity, must now be pursued, and that gives liberal Judaism new opportunities.46 Miskotte adjures his readers: “I pray you, let us try to understand why a Jew reacts in this way, wrestling for his inner honour, for saving his self-consciousness, for retrieving his identity. Let us, above all, read this book as a pastoral quest, to comfort and to encourage the remnants of European Jewry: as well the omni-present polemics in it (blended with much incomprehension) we must hear in the light of this intention.”
Nowhere does Maybaum’s argument become existential. The complaint, uttered in the face of God as in the book of Job, is missing. And while at the occasion of the first Churban Judah took responsibility for the destruction (as we can read in the books of the great prophets), and at the occasion of the second Churban Israel stuck with this attitude—something Miskotte demonstrates with the help of quotations collected by H.J. Schoeps, such as: “When you, Edom (that is, Rome), sees that your brother (Israel) removes the yoke of the Torah away from himself, let the fate of persecution come upon him and rule over him”47—such a sense of guilt finds no echo in Maybaum. To be sure, Miskotte himself asks whether Auschwitz is not to be located outside of all categories known to us, and whether we are not in such measure thrown outside of history. Outsiders may never accuse Israel of guilt for its own catastrophe—but what to say, when Israel discovers itself as guilty, facing its God? Then we shudder with fear.48 For how can we grasp it, this divine mask?49 Would it not be welcome for us, too, if Israel avoids the confrontation with the face of God?
Has the judgment of faith not become a solitary act? I note that a witness like Fackenheim,50 quoted by Marquardt, was no longer able to grasp Auschwitz in traditional terms and for that matter also denies the Jewish guilt even when confronting the second Churban.51 Holding onto the ancient Israelite confession of guilt is not a matter of causal logic concerning guilt and punishment, which Miskotte himself had already disputed in his book on Job.52 But it concerns the way in which Israel alone can appear before the face of God and the unrecognizability of that confrontation for modern consciousness. In our time, I note a great embarrassment with such a dramatic and existential confession of guilt. The Protestant Church in the Netherlands does not call its members to appear in penance and humility before the face of the One; rather, the church holds it necessary to be responsible “before God and human beings” by a public apology offered to the relatives of those who were persecuted and murdered.53 Do we not thereby put the burden of our guilt onto the victims? Are we Protestants fleeing our God, too? Such is our embarrassment.
3.3 Liberal Judaism
“Het liberale Jodendom” is the title of the third article.54 Miskotte does not want to ascribe all of Maybaum’s particularities to his place in this current of modern Judaism.55 The tendency not to accuse oneself but to consider Israel as the servant of the Lord who as a representative bears the suffering of the world—a vision that occurs in Maybaum time and again56—already can be found with Judah Halevi.57 Moreover, we must avoid interpreting the opposition between liberal and Orthodox in Judaism according to the Christian example: after all, there is no dogma in Judaism, and therefore no separation according to religious content. But it is true that the liberal Jew is free with regard to the commandments, as long as they express faithfulness to God in life. Because of this freedom, there arises a space for a genuine Jewish contribution to the surrounding culture.58 Ignaz Maybaum is “a principled liberal, a gifted and open representative of Judaism.” His individuality comes into greater relief when we look at the reaction to his book in the Dutch Orthodox press.59
One review praises Maybaum’s topicality and also his polemics with Christianity: indeed, Maybaum proclaims a loving God who, in contrast to the God of Jesus, does not demand a sacrifice of his Son, and he contrasts the ‘Maccabee’ as a freedom fighter with the ‘crusader’ as an aggressor and successor to the Roman soldier.60 Nevertheless, the reviewer argues, not all of Maybaum’s convictions can be supported. We, the Orthodox, must reproach his distance from the Middle Ages and thereby from mysticism,61 from the spirit of Yeshivah.62 Further, Zionism does not seem to be of much importance for Maybaum.63 It is unacceptable, the reviewer continues, that Auschwitz should provide an opportunity for further assimilation. Rather, the critic warns against overestimating the impact of Auschwitz, however much and for however long its effects will be felt. Miskotte for his part does not want to ascribe too much weight to this Orthodox review. He quotes the historian Fritz Bär, who reports that in some Selichot, Jewish verses of penance, it can be said of non-ancient martyrs: “All banishments end, only mine increases; all questions are answered, but my question always returns to the place of its origin.”64 Such temptations are more recognizable to fresh and young liberal Judaism than to Orthodoxy.
3.4 The Old Face of God
The fourth article is called “Het oude Godsgelaat.”65 As we saw, Maybaum puts to Christians the charge that their God, demanding the sacrifice of his beloved Son, cannot be gracious and merciful. When the crisis of Auschwitz purges such mouldered conceptions, then a breakthrough will occur among Christians in the direction of the ancient insight of a loving God. From Maybaum’s sermons Miskotte quotes examples of how Maybaum introduces these mouldered Christian images to his Jewish congregation. The symbol of the cross (as a symbol of truth) speaks of a tragedy; the suffering of humanity is seen as an inevitable fate.66 Thus the evangelical story of the cross takes on the radiance of a great epic, the poetic beauty of a Greek tragedy,67 although Prometheus on the cross no longer proclaims tragedy but redemption.68 The spirit here is the creative power that conquers in the secular realm,69 and the Christian reading sees the Servant of Isaiah 53 as the Greek forerunner to Western man who brings the freedom of the city and the nobility of civilization to the most distant isles.70 This much Miskotte quotes from Maybaum. It is clear, Miskotte says: not necessarily Rabbi Yeshua,71 but surely the Christ generates a deep aversion that creates distance. Miskotte makes no effort to indicate how he himself reads the evangelists and apostles differently from Maybaum, set against the background of Moses and the prophets—probably because he presupposes that his theological exegesis is well-known to his readers. At the same time, he is surprised that Maybaum presents Christian proclamation in such a spiritualized way, although he appears less surprised when he realizes that within Judaism, too, such a spiritualization is not unknown (as with Moses Mendelssohn, and even with the neo-Orthodox rabbi S.R. Hirsch72), and that Hermann Cohen considered the growth of liberal theology in Protestantism as a forerunner of the messianic age.73 Miskotte quotes another page rather extensively, on which Maybaum reproaches the New Testament for lacking an image of God as Creator, in contrast to Jewish understanding that “theomorphic man, committed to justice and moved by love, is man created in the image of God,” and that both love and moral conscience are rooted in the creation which is “very good.”74
This sounds like the good old ‘early modernist’ from the nineteenth century, Miskotte laments.75 Is precisely this tradition powerful enough to present the new face of God to human beings? Before the catastrophe, Baeck, Buber, and Rosenzweig all expressed themselves on a much deeper and more existential level of agitation. We—here Miskotte speaks for himself about his early years—loved their witness, and we learned enormously from them. But what Maybaum says seems to stand at a great distance not only from the New but even more from the Old Testament.
I conclude (the second part of) my contribution. My leading question was whether with the appearance of Maybaum’s book Miskotte found an opportunity to take a further step in his lifelong conversation with Judaism. We can say only that this book shocked him, disconcerted him, in such a measure that he did not finish his series of articles.76 Miskotte wanted to respect what Marquardt later would mention as Die Inkubationszeit des Entsetzens (“the incubation period of dismay”):77 such a far-reaching disruption to the existence of all survivors, that all words, given the need of pastoral encounter, fall short.
At the same time, he could not help but feel disturbed by Maybaum’s positive religious interpretation of the Churban, namely as a disaster that drove Judaism further on the way for which its liberal current always already had contended: namely, to provide a religious-human foundation for Western culture. At the same time, Miskotte was deeply irritated by Maybaum’s misrepresentation of Christian preaching. Besides, many of his objections against liberal Protestantism (as more intellectual than existential, averse to complaint and penance) he recognized here, in liberal Judaism, albeit in a rather caricatured way. Undergoing the inner fight in these articles (mixed with some inconsistencies) concerns me, too. But for a new thinking through of Christian faith after Auschwitz, and for a reconfiguration of the themes that interwove Miskotte’s writing ever since his dissertation, this confrontation with Maybaum’s thought offers little help.78 Under the circumstances, it probably could not offer help, either.
1 A Dutch version of this article appears in the Documentatieblad voor de Nederlandse Kerkgeschiedenis na 1800 (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press Vol XLV no 67, 164-182. I am grateful to Collin Cornell for assisting in the correction of my English.
2 May 18 to November 18. See Herman De Liagre Böhl, Miskotte. Theoloog in de branding (Amsterdam: Prometheus, 2018), 143, and K.H. Miskotte, Uit de dagboeken 1930–1934, Collected Works 5A (Kampen: Kok, 1990), 277 (12-30-1932).
3 K.H. Miskotte, Het Wezen der Joodsche religie, 3rd printing, Collected Works 6 (Kampen: Kok, 1982), 2; German Translation: Kornelis Heiko Miskotte, Das Wesen der jüdischen Religion, Tübinger Judaistische Studien (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2017), 18 f. (with a reference to WilhelmVisscher).
4 For a later reflection on Rosenzweig, see three articles in Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 12 ((1957–1958); now: K.H. Miskotte, Theologische opstellen, Collected Works 9 (Kampen: Kok, 1990), 25–82.
5 Miskotte, Uit de dagboeken 1930–1934, 270 (12–16 en 12-17-1932).
6 Miskotte, Wezen, 56; Wesen, 64.
7 Hermann Cohen, Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums. Eine jüdische Religionsphilosophie (reprint Darmstadt: Joseph Melzer, 1966), 122.
8 Miskotte, Uit de dagboeken 1930–1934, 228 (05-15-1932). According to the index of rabbinical sources and translations included in Wesen, 528, this quotation cannot be found in the dissertation itself. It would have fit well at Miskotte, Wezen, 497–501 (Wesen, 454–457).
9 De Liagre Böhl, Miskotte, 13–16.
10 Miskotte, Wezen, 1, the opening sentence.
11 As with Martin Buber, quoted by Miskotte, Wezen, 474n41 (Wesen 437n1207): “Unsere Lehre ist: Es gilt nicht, daß Er mich erwählt hat, sondern daß ich ihn erwähle” (“Our doctrine is this: it isn’t the case that he has chosen me, but that I am choosing him”).
12 Miskotte, Wezen, 25 f. (Wesen, 38). Speaking of ‘historical guilt’ corresponds with the theme of ‘recognition and responsibility’ of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (declaration of 11-08-2020). Speaking of ‘fatal Jewish influence’ continues the tradition of mainline Protestant reasoning after the Jewish emancipation in the Netherlands, as represented by G. Groen van Prinsterer, J.H. Gunning Jr., A. Kuyper, and others. Cf. both articles of G.C. den Hertog: Gerard C. den Hertog, “Kijken—met open ogen”; G.C. den Hertog and G.W. Neven, Miskotte. Hoofdlijnen van zijn theologie (Kampen: Kok, 1994), 102–126, and Gerard C. den Hertog, “Geding over de vervulling van de wet”; W. Dekker et al., ed., Het tegoed van K.H. Miskotte, De actuele betekenis van zijn denken voor de gereformeerde theologie (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2006), 69–102.
13 Cf. Rinse Reeling Brouwer, “Erzählendes Denken bei K.H. Miskotte,” Zeitschrift für dialektische Theologie 23, no. 1 (2007): 34–56 at 55.
14 Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day v, Answer 12.
15 Miskotte, Uit de dagboeken 1930–1934, 293 (02-20-1933).
16 G.H. (Bert) ter Schegget, “Miskottes biblische Alephbetisierung,” in Hanna Lehmung u.a., Wendung nach Jerusalem. Friedrich Wilhelm Marquardts Theologie im Gespräch (Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser 1999), 87–98, tried to answer Marquardt’s question concerning the criterion for judging why ‘correlation’ should be incorrect, with a proposal for how this theme of correlation could be integrated into a theology of grace.
17 K.H. Miskotte, Edda en Thora. Een vergelijking van Germaanse en Israelitise religie, 3rd printing, in Collected Works 7 (Kampen: Kok, 1983), 44–47; in Czech: Edda en Tóra, Biblioteca Bohemica Batavica (Beneṧov: eman, 2004), 52–54; in German: Edda und Thora, Kulturelle Grundlagen Europas, vol. 2 (Berlin: Lit Verlag, 2015), 27–28.
18 Rabbi I. Maarsen, review of K.H. Miskotte, Edda en Thora, Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad 75, no. 32 (12-08-1939), 2. The K.H. Miskotte Foundation is working on an online publication of all the reviews of Edda en Thora.
19 Miskotte, Edda en Thora, 42 (Czech trans., 326; German trans., 283).
20 Miskotte, Als de goden zwijgen (1956), 4th printing, Collected Works 8 (Kok: Kampen, 1983), 137–141; German ed., Wenn die Götter schweigen. Von Sinn des Alten Testamentes (Munich: Chr. Kaiser 1963); English, When the Gods are Silent, trans. John W. Doberstein (New York: Harper and Row, 1967). Also “Das große Schisma,” syllabus for a conference in Harvard, 1966, in: Miskotte, Theologische opstellen, 98–118. In Miskotte, Wezen, 510 f. it was still called a scheiding (parting). “The appeal of both Church and Synagogue to the Old Testament characterizes the tragic actuality of a parting, that unutterably deeper intervenes the life of all nations than the much-regretted split in the Church of the Middle-Ages [sc. the schism of 1054, rrb] and that was commencing in a much more painful way. This parting never completely can be overcome on the level of the historical exegesis of the Old Testament.” From a Jewish perspective, Klaas Smelik, Anti-Judaïsme en de kerk. Een verkenning (Baarn: Ten Have 1993), 148 objects to the category ‘schism.’ It is my impression that more recent proposals, such as that of Daniel Boyarin about two communities that arose from a mutual competition from outside the broad range of convictions in first-century Judaism, can help us in Jewish-Christian encounter to develop a common formula of the gradual emerging of the ‘schism.’
21 “God vijanden vergaan” (1945), in: K.H. Miskotte, Preken, Collected Works 13 (Kampen: Kok, 2008), 373–401, at 384, 386.
22 For his solidarity, see also the quotations from the Jewish prayers for Sabbath in the booklet K.H. Miskotte, In ruimte gezet (Amsterdam: Holland n.d. ), 36 (Kiddush), 42 and 123 (Shabbat Shalom); now: Miskotte, Mystiek en bevinding, Collected Works 14 (Kok: Kampen, 2015), 113–193, at 126, 129, 165. Apparently, this text passed the censor.
23 K.H. Miskotte, “Portret van de antisemiet,” Theologische opstellen, 15–24, at 23.
24 K.H. Miskotte, Uit de dagboeken 1938–1940. Collected Works 5C (Kampen: Kok 2018), 707 (08-20-1939): “Letter to the Jewish philosopher [H.J.] Schoeps (about the question whether the New Testament teaches that we are redeemed. No!).” On 541 (04-07-1939) it becomes apparent that Schoeps phoned Miskotte already earlier to meet him.
25 Miskotte published his essay “Het Jodendom als vraag aan de kerk” [“Judaism as a question to the church”] several times; now: Miskotte, Theologische opstellen, 88–97. The said question is the fourth one, Theologische opstellen, 94–95.
26 Smelik, Anti-judaïsme, 97, defines otherwise than Miskotte: anti-Judaism refers to Christian conflict with Judaism and anti-Semitism refers to racist hate of the Jewish people, conceived as ‘semitic.’ On 128 f. Smelik suggests that the use of the ‘Jewish’ element in intra-Christian polemics was an invention of Miskotte; however, it was already current with historians of Christian dogma in the nineteenth century such as Alexander Schweizer.
27 Several voices paid attention to that. We can mention here: Peter J. Tomson, “Miskotte und das jüdisch-christliche Gespräch,” Nederlands Theologisch Tijdschrift 44 (1990): 15–34, and Smelik, Anti-Judaïsme, 125–130. Peter Tomson, “Synagoge en Kerk als leefgemeenschappen,” in: Gerben Westra, ed., Liturgisch Centrum. Taal in Schrift en Eredienst. Opstellen voor Dirk Monshouwer (Hilversum: Uitgeverij nzv 1999), 217–227, at 222 ff., takes a helpful further step in his proposal, to think through the attempt of Rosenzweig (in the third part of the Star of Redemption) to start with liturgical practices in Synagogue and Church, instead of starting with timeless doctrine.
28 K.H. Miskotte, Het waagstuk der prediking (Den Haag: D.A. Daamen, 1941), 23–27; taken over in an extended form in: K.H. Miskotte, Om het levende Woord (’s Gravenhage: D.A. Daamen, 1948), 252–257. Cf. Tomson, “Gespräch,” 27.
29 K.H. Miskotte, Bijbels abc, 8th ed. (Utrecht: Kok, 2016), 27; English trans.: Biblical abc s (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books / Fortress Academic, 2022), 8.
30 H.C. Touw, Het verzet der Hervormde Kerk (’s Gravenhage: Boekencentrum 1947), vol. 2, 227–232 at 228–229. Touw’s contemporary K.H. Kroon believed that the title of this book (the resistance of the Dutch Reformed Church) had been much too ambitious, and, in these general terms, incorrect; astonishment about the paragraph in the middle comes from Willem van der Meiden, Om de kracht van het weerwoord. De aanhoudende actualiteit van K.H. Miskotte (Gorinchem: Narratio, 2006), 42–45. On the ‘rejection’ of Israel as a “temporary act in the course of Revelation,” see Miskotte’s commentary on Article xx, “Heden en toekomst van Israël” (“Present and future of Israel”), of the confessional document “Fundamenten en perspectieven van belijden” (K.H. Miskotte, De Kern van de Zaak ), in: Collected Works 11 (Kampen: Kok, 1989), 246: “The one who does not understand the ‘rejection’ of Israel as a temporary action in the course of divine Revelation, strikes out the sequel in history, underestimates the divine Covenant and arbitrarily calls the remaining validity of God’s promises to his people in question.”
31 Ps. 87:6, citing the Dutch rhymed version.
32 1 Cor. 2:8.
33 Rom. 11:25.
34 Quoted by Miskotte in “Das große Schisma,” Theologische opstellen, 111; in: Miskotte, Götter, 327, referring to Franz Rosenzweig, Briefe. Unter Mitwirkung von Ernst Simon ausgewählt und herausgegeben von Edith Rosenzweig (Berlin, 1935), 670 f.; also: F. Rosenzweig, Briefe und Tagebücher. Gesammelte Schriften i, vol. 1 (Haag: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979), 252 (letter nr. 307, to Eugen Rosenstock, October 1916). Cf. Miskotte’s characterization of these letters in his afterword to the second edition of Het wezen der joodsche religie, 1964, 562 as “A great-human, Jewish document, incomparable, in our view, with any similar collection.”
35 Cf. the last sentence of the document of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, Erkenning en verantwoordelijkheid.
36 F.W. Marquardt, “Barths Forderung einer ‘Biblischen Haltung’ und Miskottes biblische Alephbetisierung der Theologie,” Zeitschrift für dialektische Theologie 2, no. 1 (1989): 21–36, at 28; in Dutch: “ ‘Bijbelse houding’ bij Barth en ‘bijbelse alefbetisering van de theologie’ bij Miskotte,” in: H.W. De Knijff and G.W. Neven, eds., Horen en zien. Opstellen over de theologie van K.H. Miskotte (Kampen: Kok, 1991), 25–42, at 34; in English: “Barth’s Call for a ‘Biblical Attitude’ and Miskotte’s ‘Alphabetization’ (sic!)of Theology,” Journal of Reformed Theology 15, no. 3 (2021): 246–265, at 257.
37 As an exception, Marquardt cites K.H. Miskotte, Der Weg des Gebets, 2nd ed. (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1968), 23 f.: after remarking that the objections against the deistic doctrine of Providence in the name of natural sciences are only marginal in the general obsession with a providential deity, he asserts: “Ach, ganz am Rande: denn in der Mitte, im Herzen steht bei der Zwangsvorstellung von der Vorsehung—Auschwitz. Die Unheimlichkeit ist zu grausam, die Verborgenheit zu tief geworden. Kann man an eine solche Vorsehung noch glauben? Und wer das noch über sich bringt, kann der noch zu ihr sprechen? Wenn die Überlebenden von Auschwitz noch beten, dann muss ihr Gebet einem anderen, ganz anderen Gott gelten, dann muss ihr Gebet wohl einem ganz anderen Weg nehmen. Und wir alle sind aufgerufen, unser Bitten, unsre fragende Existenz anders zu verstehen, anders zu betätigen” (“Only marginal, for in the center, in the heart the obsession is dominated by—Auschwitz. The horror became too awful, the concealment became too deep. Is it still possible to believe in such a Providence? When the survivors of Auschwitz continue to pray, their prayer should refer to another, a totally other God, and their prayer should follow a totally other way. We all are called, to understand and to practice our prayer, our asking existence in a fully other way”). See also the sermon “Leven zonder oplossing! (Isa 38:16)” in the collection of sermons Feest in de voorhof (1951); now Miskotte, Preken, 575: “Shall I speak, albeit by indication, of the hell of the concentration camps? Preferably, we will keep silence because thinking of it scorches and words on it are breaking.” In the inventory of the library of K.H. Miskotte one can find survivor’s witness to the concentration camps in Abel Herzberg, Amor fati (in the edition of 1960); Améry, Levi, or Presser’s description of the persecution and extinction of the Dutch Jews under the title Ondergang are not on the list.
38 Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, “Feinde um unsertwillen. Das jüdische Nein und die christliche Theologie,” 1977, in: F-W Marquardt, Verwegenheiten Theologische Stücke aus Berlin (Munich: Chr. Kaiser 1981), 311–336; F.W. Marquardt, Von Elend und Heimsuchung der Theologie. Prolegomena zur Dogmatik (Munich: Chr. Kaiser, 1988), e.g., 78, 99, 119, 131–137. See also Rinse Reeling Brouwer, “Een christelijke geloofsleer na Auschwitz,” in: A. van Harskamp et al., Geloof en vertrouwen na Auschwitz (Zoetermeer: De Horstink, 1995), 75–86, at 75–78.
39 Maybaum, Face of God after Auschwitz (Amsterdam: Polak & Van Gennep, 1965), 17. Until 1939 Maybaum was rabbi in Berlin (and stayed 1935 in a concentration camp). He therefore read the German edition of When the Gods Are Silent that Miskotte prepared in cooperation with Hinrich Stoevesandt. The English translation did not appear before 1967.
40 K.H. Miskotte, four articles in In de Waagschaal 21 (1965/66): “Israël in Europa,” no. 11, 208–209; “Het Godsgelaat,” no. 12, 228–230; “Het liberale Jodendom,” no. 13, 248–249; “Het oude Godsgelaat,” no. 15, 289–290.
Now: https://www.miskottestichting.nl/media/content/gods _aangezicht_na_auschwitz_miskotte_idw_1966.pdf
41 Miskotte, “Israël in Europa.”
42 Miskotte writes ‘Auschwitz’ with quotation marks. I am following Marquardt in leaving those.
43 As remarked above (footnote 34), this reasoning parallels that of Der Weg des Gebets, 1964. In section 5 of the sub-heading i–iv “Der Zwangsvorstellung” (“The obsession”), Miskotte and Stoevesandt add two sections to the Dutch text of 1962. Strangely, in the second, sometimes extended edition of the Dutch draft of 1965, Miskotte admittedly adds new sections 5, 6, and 7 about the philosopher of Enlightenment who disregards the ‘naïve’ praying human being, with the result that the old section 5 becomes section 8 now (see: Miskotte, Mystiek en bevinding, 235–240), but he does not take over the newly written sections for the German edition about Auschwitz. I can’t explain this state of affairs.
44 Miskotte, “Het Godsgelaat.”
45 Maybaum, The Face of God, 198.
46 Ignaz Maybaum, The Face of God, titles Part 6 of his book (145–201) “Farewell to the Middle Ages,” but this theme characterizes the whole of his study.
47 Bereishit Rabbah section 67; quoted by Hans Joachim Schoeps, Jüdisch-christliches Religionsgespräch aus 19 Jahrhunderten, 2nd ed., 1950. In the inventory of the Library K.H. Miskotte no. 451 the edition of 1937 is mentioned. Here has been consulted: Israel und Christenheit. Jüdisch-christliches Religionsgespräch aus neunzehn Jahrhunderten, 3rd ed. (Munich und Frankfurt/M: Ner-Tamid Verlag, 1961), 48–56, at 52 ff. The sentence is attributed to rabbi Jose bar Halafta, from the fourth generation of tannaim, around 160 CE.
48 Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive (New York: Zone, 2022) resists, in faithfulness to Primo Levi, any reasoning as if Auschwitz can be approached only in an irrational way. I do not think such an irrationality can be Miskotte’s intention. He is of the opinion that the truth of Auschwitz in the end cannot be expressed in analytic-historical terms, but only in confrontation with the Face of God.
49 Cf. the larva Dei in Luther.
50 Marquardt, Elend und Heimsuchung, 128, quotation from Emil L. Fackenheim, God’s Presence in History. Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections (New York: New York University Press, 1970), 26–27.
51 Marquardt, loc.cit..: “Schon damals konnte es keinem Rabbi mehr einfallen, den römischen Feldherrn Titus als Gottes Geißel gegen Israel zu beschreiben und die Paganisierung Jerusalems durch die Römer als Willen Gottes” (“Even at that time, it could not occur to any rabbi to describe the Roman commanding officer Titus as the scourge of God against Israel and the paganization of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans as the will of God”). The tension between this thesis of Fackenheim and the witnesses as collected by Schoeps is obvious.
52 K.H. Miskotte, Antwoord uit het onweer. Een verhandeling over het boek Job (1936); now: Collected Works 10 (Kok: Kampen, 1984), 135.
53 Cf. Wessel H. ten Boom, “De Sjoa voor Gods aangezicht,” Israël en de Kerk 20, no. 4 (2021): 18–25 (posthumously published).
54 Miskotte, “Het liberale Jodendom.”
55 Miskotte also refers to the very old tendency to rank the Law above the Prophets and, within the Law, the commandments above the theophanies. These are traditional elements of Christian polemic. I don’t see why they should be thought preparatory to the position of Maybaum, for they do not appear again in his book.
56 E.g., Maybaum, Face of God, 46.
57 Miskotte does not offer a reference. However, cf. Miskotte, Wezen, 419n17 and Miskotte, Götter, 314; also, Miskotte, Theologische opstellen, 104.
58 After this, Miskotte argues that it should be easier for liberal Judaism to open itself to deviant currents such as the messianism and the chiliasm of Luria, the speculations of the Kabbalah, the narrative atmosphere of Hasidism, or the act of life in Zionism. That may be true—see some influences of Kabbalah in Rosenzweig (but is he to be considered as liberal?), Hasidism and Zionism in Buber, and, with greater distance, messianism in Bloch —but in Maybaum’s book none of these influences can be shown. As such, this paragraph in Miskotte’s article is rather confusing.
59 M.M.P., probably: Mozes Meijer (Mau) Poppers, review of I. Maybaum, The Face of God after Auschwitz, Nieuw Israëlitisch Weekblad 100, no. 48 (July 30, 1965), 3. Miskotte mistakenly writes “Nieuw Israëlitisch Maandblad.”
60 E.g., Maybaum, Face of God, 28, 175.
61 Maybaum, Face of God, 36; Maybaum strongly reproaches Gershom Scholem for his sympathy with Jewish mysticism.
62 Maybaum, Face of God, 249–251. “To call an American High School ‘Yeshivah’ is childish” (249).
63 Maybaum, Face of God, 50, 236, 253–265: “The Star of David is the Star of Redemption for all nations” (261) and “the world language of the Jewish people is today … English” (264)!
64 Miskotte refers to an edition of Fritz Bär’s Galut in the Schocken-Almanak of 1937 (inventory of the Library K.H. Miskotte 4759). See in the postwar English edition, Yizhak F. Baer, Galut (New York: Schocken Books 1947), 25–26. Baer (professor Jewish History of the Middle-Ages in Jerusalem) locates the origin of the Selichot amid the persecuted during the first crusade in northwest Europe.
65 Miskotte, “Het oude Godsgelaat.”
66 Maybaum, Face of God, 47.
67 Maybaum, Face of God, 47.
68 Maybaum, Face of God, 78.
69 Maybaum, Face of God, 55.
70 Maybaum, Face of God, 79 above.
71 The biography of Jesus by David Flusser would not appear until 1968, but in German, the book about Jesus by Joseph Klausner appeared already in 1924 and that of Leo Baeck in 1938; Schalom Ben-Chorin wrote in 1962 about “Das Jesusbild im modernen Judentum” (“The Image of Jesus in Modern Judaism”).
72 About Samson Raphael Hirsch, see Miskotte, Wezen (423–)427; Wesen, 387–390.
73 F. Rosenzweig, Jehuda Halevi. 92 Hymnen und Gedichte deutsch. Mit einem Nachwort und mit Anmerkungen (Berlin: Lambert Schneider ), 239: “Hermann Cohen sagte einmal zu mir—er war schon über siebzig—: ‘Ich hoffe doch noch, den Anbruch der messianischen Zeit zu erleben.’ Damit meinte er, ein Gläubiger des falschen Messias des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, die Bekehrung der Christen zum ‘reinen Monotheismus’ seines Judentums, die er in der liberalen protestantischen Theologie sich vorbereiten zu sehen meinte.” (“Once, Hermann Cohen said to me [he was already seventy years or over]: ‘I hope, I live to see the coming of the Messianic age.’ Therewith he meant, as a believer in the nineteenth-century false Messiah, the conversion of the Christians to ‘pure monotheism’ of his Judaism, the preparation of which he thought to recognize in liberal Protestant theology”). As an example of Jewish missionary self-conciousness, Miskotte continues by telling a story about Rosenzweig, who, during a stay as a soldier in the field, asks a Jewish child about his idea of the Messiah and receives the answer: “dann alle Menschen werden Juden” (“then all people will become Jews”), as an example of the “vollkommene Unschlafmützigkeit,” that is, the wakeful messianic self-conscience of the “Ost-Judentum.” This characterization ‘Absolute Unschlafmützigkeit’ (Rosenzweig, Briefe und Tagebücher, 564, no. 530; from Rembertow, now Warschau, “An die Mutter (to his mother),” 05-23-1918) illustrates that Rosenzweig (different from Maybaum) stands up for Eastern European Judaism, while he considers Western Judaism as assimilated to the bourgeois mind.
74 Gen. 1:31. Miskotte, “Het oude Godsgelaat,” 290 offers four quotations of Maybaum, Face of God. 209. On 158, Maybaum refers to 1 Cor. 15:14 as a “blatant unbelief in regard to God the Creator.
75 K.H. Roessingh who self-identified as rechts-modern (right-wing modern) characterizes this old-school modernism in his dissertation of 1914 as intellectualistic, fixated on natural science, anti-supranaturalistic (fixated on the phenomenon of miracles), optimistic, and searching for an image of Jesus while avoiding the dogma of Athanasius or Luther. See K.H. Roessingh, “De moderne theologie in Nederland. Hare voorbereiding en eerste periode,” in: Collected Works 1 (Arnhem: Van Lochum Slaterus, 1926), 162–169.
76 The third and the fourth articles announce at the end that a next issue will discuss Maybaum’s conversation with Rosenzweig—for, as we saw, the remark about Rosenzweig in the Introduction had been the occasion for Miskotte to read Maybaum. But this issue has not been written. Apparently Miskotte’s courage to continue this conversation failed him.
77 Marquardt, Elend und Heimsuchung, 127.
78 Maybaum, Face of God, Part 3, has the subheading “Leo Back in Terezin—Religious Humanism tested” (111–128). It discusses the lectures, held by Baeck in the concentration camp, about the book of Daniel. The tendency of these lectures is the following: we always have largely seen the Jewish expectation of the kingdom of God on a horizontal line. But Daniel, at the margin of the Tanakh, surely enough shows such a phenomenon as a ‘vertical messianism’ that expresses itself in the resurrection of murdered martyrs. According to Baeck, both forms of messianism can live “side by side.” It seems to me that Miskotte could have found an entry here to a conversation that does not seek controversy. But he missed this opportunity.