The “critique of violence” in the Christology of F.W. Marquardt


Rinse Reeling Brouwer, Amsterdam

The ‘critique of violence’ in the Christology of F.W. Marquardt[1]


The theology of Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt (1928-2002)[2] is passionate, biblical, innovative – everything good theology should be -, and at the same time it is, as he himself again declared in his valedictory lecture, ‘heretical’ in an inevitable way. It walks out of step, it walks away from what must be said in light of tradition, and apparently it cannot do otherwise.[3] That is how it went with me too. I cannot get away from Marquardt. I immediately wanted to read whatever he published and then read it with pleasure – and at the same time he often takes me to a point that he goes on my nerves, where he seems to be taking something away from me, without which I thought I would not have been able to breathe, to exist, as a theologian. Nevertheless I understand he has a good reason for his ‘heresy’.

          ‘I only started to realize later on that the point of departure for my dogmatic deviations is the critique of spiritual violence that I see in the traditional structure of dogmatics; it is a compelling system of truth obtained in a Christian way that contains so much structure that with it something violent is also handed down as truth. My dogmatics are an attempt to deliver a critique of violence with regard to Christian tradition, the Christian heritage, and I have I chosen only those loci for my dogmatics of which I know that they have inflicted the greatest measure of intellectual, spiritual and finally also physical violence on Jews.’[4]

These words hark back to the insights that were developed in his Prolegomena zur Dogmatik of 1988 with their somber tone.[5] Science, it says there, is structure. But is not every order in danger of closing itself off from what does not fit into the system, of boarding up openings that could have given a completely different view? Besides, science lives off the distinction between the right and the wrong, verification and falsification. Thus science consists of continually performing exclusions. And with that it ceaselessly piles guilt upon itself. There is the ethical debate about the complicity of German scientists in the technology that made Auschwitz possible. But perhaps more is necessary, namely a debate to what extent complicity in violence is already present in the structure of science itself, also, and for us, in particular in the science of theology. The ‘critique of violence’ must be a critique of theology and its structure, and above all, its language.[6] Does it not in all its loci speak in such a way de Deo, of God, the God of Israel, and of one’s neighbor, the Jew as one’s neighbor, that it objectifies the other right from the start and thus strips her of being other? Does it not in its methodology already apply an analysis of the object of its speaking that instead of a ‘Gegenstand’ in the sense of ‘Gegenüber’ turns that object into a corpse on the dissecting table that has more in common with the corpses produced by progroms and the Shoah than we care for within our seemingly safe exposition in our theological classrooms? In his entire dogmatic project Marquardt wants to face the consequences of a possible affirmative answer to that question as honestly as possible.

In the quoted phrases he spoke of his choice of treating precisely those loci that caused direct demonstrable violence to the Jews. These are Christology – the classical Christian thesis is, after all, that the people of Israel were rejected after they in their turn rejected the Messiah (two volumes deal with this[7]) – and, closely related to this, Eschatology – the equally classical character of ‘Judaism as a question to the church’ (K.H.Miskotte 1933/34[8]) implies that it is asking, why the world has not been delivered yet, if the Messiah has already come (three volumes deal with this[9]). The discussion in this article will be limited to Christology, though with it Eschatology will sometimes automatically come into view as well.

Christology was always ‘the other side’ of anti-Judaism. When in the late seventies Marquardt becomes acquainted with this thesis by Rosemary Radford Ruether[10], he is startled. Is this thesis, he asks, intended as an observation of a continually re-occurring factuality? Then, unfortunately, it is hard to deny. Or is it intended to have the sense of a historically inevitable law? In that case it cannot, it ought not to be true, for then it goes against everything he had envisioned from the beginning. It is typical of him that he does not set out to refute her at length, but that he is willing above all to let her thoroughly unsettle him.

          His own theological origins lie with the theological giants of the fifties, Rudolf Bultmann and Karl Barth. The story[11] goes that when he, a true  ‘Marburger,’ came to Basle full of doubt whether the great master there had sufficiently mastered the questions of newer hermeneutics, he was convinced by Barth’s response, ‘Do I not render account of my “Vorverständnis” [pre-understanding]?’ Well, ‘Jesus Christus ist mein Vorverständnis [Jesus Christ is my pre-understanding].’ That is where Marquardt came from and that is how it was for him. Jesus Christ determined how he looked, how he read, with an eye to what he looked and read. From the first moment that he visited the Jewish country full of shame as a young German after World War II and sought to study together with Jewish compatriots he saw it like this, that it was Christ that drove him to this first, hesitant, beginning of teshuvah, of ‘Umkehr’ [turn-around]. And when he offered his dissertation in 1967, Die Entdeckung des Judentums für die christliche Theologie, he certainly also intended to explore how it was the very ‘Christological concentration’ in the theology of his teacher Karl Barth that permitted Israel to be brought up clearly in dogmatics and also above that to develop a positive and productive relationship of Christian theology to post-biblical Judaism. With him this has not merely been an initial motive, but rather an abiding distinctive of his project.  Below, in the second part, more about this

But the other is there too, and if I see it correctly, even increasingly so as the years go by. That other, namely, viewing actual Christology in the history – and yet also always in the present– of theology, which can hardly be interpreted in any other way than anti-Jewish in its nature. Thus he said in 1996, after being asked about how he saw his task of carrying out the social responsibility of theology, ‘ich glaube nicht, daß Auschwitz durch politischen Antifaschismus “aufgearbeitet” werden kann, sondern nur durch Tieferes – was mich betrefft: Infragestellung von Grundstrukturen christlicher Theologie; denn ihre Judenfeindschaft war Substanz, nicht Akzidenz’[I don’t believe Auschwitz can be “refurbished” through political Antifascism, but rather through something more profound – as far as I’m concerned, to call in question the fundamental structures of Christian theology; for it’s enmity toward the Jews was a matter of substance, not accidence].[12] There you are, substance, not accidence. If the focus is on Christology, that comes pretty close to Ruether again.

What can Marquardt have been thinking of here? In a first, tentative, exploration I observe that virtually no volume of his dogmatics passes by without there being an argument, in all solidarity, with Luther and/or Lutheran tradition at some place or another. Wherever the relationship between law and gospel can be thought of solely in antithetical terms, an enmity apparently is about to be generated for Marquardt, which is substantial in nature. Sure, the initial hermeneutical reading rule with the Reformers is subtle; the Word of God is a double-edged sword, and therefore across the board Scripture is both acquittal and judgement; each scriptural passage features both liberation and execution. But it is difficult to maintain that tension, and soon the division of roles falls apart. What has been judged in Christ, belongs to the Law, the Old Covenant, the old man, Israel, what has come to light in Christ to salvation belongs to the gospel, the new covenant, the new man, the Ecclesia.14 When what is passing away, the old, is also filled up with images of late medieval works-holiness, which is interpreted as ‘judaizing’, it becomes virtually impossible to still derive any positive meaning from the law, Torah, Teaching. And conversely, if justification is understood as individual enlightenment and no longer with Paul (Paul as Marquardt reads him) as including godless heathens into the people of God, then it can scarcely be made clear any more what the life of a justified person consists in, and the latter is in danger of being left in a ‘Regime der Schwebe’ [a regime of suspension], in which there is never a forceful  turn-around, let alone a turn-around to the actual neighbor, the Jewish neighbor. In addition this dichotomy assigns the history of the Old Testament to the Israel living before Christ, while the future, the promissio is securely attached to the Christ already present in the Word as Redeemer (Luther’s sacramental ‘est’), so that a priori the Jewish query regarding the world not yet redeemed can barely be given any room.

One can be of the opinion – and this is Marquardt’s view as well – that the Reformed tradition does a little better on this point, because its modes of thought are less antithetical, because of its respect for the Law (in a wider sense than merely in the usus elenchticus) and for the Old Testament, and perhaps also (if it is at its best) because of its stronger eschatological orientation. But this edge only applies to an extent. For Reformed theologians like Alexander Schweizer and K.H. Miskotte15 too have thought they could only maintain the correct evangelical ‘middle’ by sealing it off against ‘ethnisizing’ (which the prophets supposedly spoke against) on the one hand, and ‘judaizing’ (which the apostles turned against) on the other hand, in an apparent equilibrium that probably does justice neither to the Jew, nor to the heathen. And the Reformed Karl Barth did include Israel in his – Christologically structured – doctrine of election as well, to be sure, but then solely and one-sidedly as a figure in the mirror of judgment, in the shadow of the cross, as a depiction of what has been judged in Christ.16 Even if Israel had been included in the ‘yes’ of Christ here, within these dogmatic dialectics this could apparently only be done in the form of a negation.

For that reason the first question must now be, whether there is not another way to do this. Whether a revised Christology is not possible, one, which has a more inclusive nature. The section now following is devoted to Marquardt’s attempts to contribute to just such a Christology. But then the question still returns, how has this helped us? Has the ‘Substanz christlicher Theologie’ [substance of Christian theology] really been modified, or does it continue to be a matter of accidentia? And will this modification cause the Jew to whom Jesus, the Lord, leads us, to swallow his ‘no’ to Christian theology or merely have it rendered more clearly?  And how do we deal with that, if Marquardt can help it? Those will be the questions for the concluding section later on. Note: questions. Questions that are continually being sharpened. After all, we’re not ready for answers yet …for the time being … if ever.


Immediately following on his dissertation Marquardt worked on a sequel study, Die Gegenwart des Auferstandenen bei seinem Volk Israel (1966/67)[The Presence of the Risen One with his People Israel]. At that time, however, he did not proceed with publication. One reason was that he did not want to burden the question posed to Barth, whether further steps should not be taken in light of the Kirchliche Dogmatik than he himself had taken, with an indication of the direction in which he thought to take these steps himself (another reason probably being the – not unjustified – suspicion that these steps of his would not be able to meet with Barth’s approval without further ado). Sixteen years later he did end up publishing, this time with the subtitle Ein dogmatisches Experiment and accompanied by the assurance that in the mean time advancing insight, based on an ongoing dialogue, had taken him to a different phase of experimentation. The two volumes Christologie within dogmatics in many ways document this new phase. Nevertheless the first attempt remains interesting. The later does not cancel out the earlier in every respect. In the earlier work (as mentioned in an interview) ‘I said, there is no Israel without Christ. He is de facto always already present in Israel. In the dogmatics I said the reverse. Without Israel there is no Christ. Those are two sentences. The first sentence in dogmatics is not allowed to cancel out the second. My faith sees Christ wherever there are Jews.’[16]

The last sentence in particular is telling. It shows how close Marquardt still stayed to Barth here, in his own words.[17] ‘Jesus Christus ist mein Vorverständnis’ [Jesus is my pre-understanding]. We see the light in his light. In Him we also understand Israel with the eye of faith. At the same time Marquardt deliberately takes this step a notch further than Barth does in his earlier book. Where Barth saw Israel merely in the mirror of the judgment of sin permanently carried away at the cross, Marquardt now emphatically sees Israel in the mirror of the resurrection, of a new beginning and a way forward. There is another difference, a fundamental difference. Marquardt does not simply move Israel from the shady to the sunny side of election, from the side of judgment to that of grace. He no longer places Israel in any doctrine of election framework at all, not here, and not anywhere else. For he considers doing so, however deeply rooted in tradition, an expression of precisely that detrimental, objectifying speaking about the other that we should finally get out of the habit of doing in theology. In that sense one can thus not find with him what one would particularly expect with him after superficial perusal, to wit a ‘doctrine of Israel’ (a locus ‘de populo hebraeorum’)

In the earlier study the extensive treatment of the history of dogmatics does again stay closer to Barth. Certainly in his earlier work Marquardt does not belong to those who, in trouble on account of the dogma of the old church, try to latch onto Judaism in the void of their Christian identity crisis as a (whether supposed or not) lifebuoy. In later years, when he becomes increasingly aware of the depth of the dumbfoundedness caused by Auschwitz with regard to any speaking and so also for any Christian speaking of a ‘living God’, he will show more understanding for this, is my impression. But before that he says loftily: we must not burden the encounter with the living Jews among us with theology’s ‘adaptation problems’ to modernity, its more or less futile attempt to address the Enlightenment, and so we should not confuse a newly gained liberalism in ourselves with the learning process that we should acquire with Israel. Furthermore, you can only track down the true resistance against Judaism that exists within you, Christian theologian, if you dare take yourself seriously in your  ‘Substanz’, your theological backbone (just like you must allow the Jew, by the way, to speak to you not merely in his ‘liberal’ or ‘secular’ shape but also in his very, however differently articulated, ‘orthodox’ shape).19

And thus in the text of 1967 we find an argument in favor of pre-existence, understood as ‘always being ahead of himself’, of Christ in Old Testament Israel and with that a certain rehabilitation of typology and allegory in exegesis. This is the only way, after all, that Christ can be recognized in the Jewish seed of Abraham.20And we hear of the assumptio carnis by the Son, where ‘flesh’ is emphatically understood as Jewish flesh,[20] just as much as it is Jewish flesh that will rise in the ‘resurrectio carnis’, so that Israel itself can only really be understood as an eschatological category.22 With all this I have the impression, by the way, that we must envision the incarnation with Marquardt here, just like in his book on Socialism,[22] as strongly enhypostatic. The Son took on humanitas as such, here Jewish humanitas, and so where the body of Christ is, there the Jewish human being as such must be thought of concurrently, to the extent that it also must be present in the resurrection body. Abstractly speaking the problem is here, how ‘taking on’ the flesh can then still entail a ‘judgment over’ flesh. On the narrative level this turns out to be much less of a problem within Marquardt’s oeuvre as he goes along, because He, who comes to his people also enters into judicial proceedings with them (open ended proceedings, by the way),[23] so that it is important to remember that the dogma as a reading rule in its nakedness intends to refer to this narrative.

But this does point to a problem of the study that was kept in portfolio in 1967. The thesis ‘where Christ is, Israel is’ can degenerate into a generality, which in itself does not contain any living Jew and any living Judaism. The content of ‘ 4, ‘Judentum im Zeichen der Gegenwart des Auferstandenen’ [Judaism in the Presence of the Resurrected One] ,25 here does clear away some matters, and the later work will increasingly offer more. I mention:

1. Jewish biblical scholarship. If Jewish existence is enhypostatically and thus inclusively contained in the flesh of Christ, it becomes a matter of impossibility to understand so-called ‘Christian’ scriptural exegesis on the one hand and the haggadic and halachic traditions of the Mishnah and the Talmud on the other in a purely antithetical way. The indexes of the dogmatics volumes prove enough here. Rabbinic passages cheerfully follow scriptural passages and the way they are quoted in no way indicates a lower hierarchical order than the Fathers or the Reformers – on the contrary almost. It has never been seen like this. Without a worry rabbis stroll into Christian dogmatics, receive speaking time and are not only listened to gratefully, but also manage to influence the way thoughts unfold to a large extent. They have something to say, if we want to understand prophets and apostles, and they have to be able to say it in their own idiom, and according to their own order. Whether they have been heard correctly I cannot assess. What is certain is that they are heard for the sake of far more than merely (as unfortunately happens in pulpits quite often) anecdotal candy scattered throughout a Christian-dogmatic oration otherwise proceeding unshaken.

2. The commandments. Marquardt also takes the rabbis seriously in that he acknowledges a priority for the mitsvot. He does not take the decisions of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15) to be a license for followers of Jesus from among the nations to ignore this entire field of practically applied torah. On the contrary. They are taken as a preliminary form of the ‘Noachic commandments’, later developed by the rabbis in order to propose to the goyim as well how they can learn to hope. In Marquardt’s opinion Christianity sorely needs such help (not only in the so-called ’ethical’ sphere but just as much in the ‘cultic’ sphere).26

3. The continued existence of the people.  From Jesus’ answer to the so-called ‘question of the Sadducees’ in the synoptic gospels (Mark 12:18-27 and parallel sections), but especially from Paul’s contemplations in Romans 4 (:18-22) Marquardt concludes that the Israelite context to the question of the resurrection apparently is the question of the toledot, the continuation of the ‘begettings’.27 Paul speaks of Abraham’s faith in ‘the God that brings the dead to life and calls into being what is not’ and immediately fills this in with his steadfast faith in the face both of his own seed production and of Sarah’s womb having died off. What is at issue at every turn is whether things will continue with Israel, not only in the stories of the patriarchs and the matriarchs. And wherever it is at issue, it is the resurrection of the dead that is at stake. So even today, when, after the Shoah, with the current secularization, and with the risky situation in the Middle East, the continuation of this people cannot be taken for granted at all, the resurrection and thus the resurrection of Jesus and faith in that are directly at stake!

4. Zionism. For Marquardt the proclamation of the state of Israel applies at least a counterweight to Auschwitz. The concreteness of the erets again causes the biblical connections to quiver in our ears. Earlier Marquardt had already devoted a smaller study to this.[27] And in order to keep the expectations for the future concrete he finally, against his original plans, added an extra volume to his eschatology with a ‘theological utopia’,[28] which, e.g., talks about Jerusalem as the new city ‘that is closely compacted together’.29 Here too, Jesus, our master, causes the Christian to go out to the Jew and the Jew then teaches the Christian how to have hope and also to bring his own repressed desire back to the surface. Take a man like Luke. Where Judaism had lost land, city and temple, he, according to Marquardt,[30] envisioned a strategy while writing his book Acts, in which the goyim presented themselves as allies to the Jews to give them room to catch their breath, but at the same time the goyim are being fed by this alliance in an expectation that had not ceased in Israel to be an expectation that was ultimately directed at Jerusalem as a perspective for the ends of the earth (Acts 1:6-8). So for both Jew and heathen Jesus was a regaining, a finding, resp., of the way to the city, yes, he was that way. And today the heathen, after centuries of forgetting, must rediscover that with the Jew.

5. Finally: ‘die Heimholung Jesu’ [bringing Jesus home] (Schalom Ben-Chorin) by more recent Jewish research. If faith sees Christ where Jews are, then how the Jew sees Jesus cannot be without significance for us. In the earlier book there already was, in an abstract dogmatical manner still, talk of a modus presentiae (‘Weise der Gegenwart’[mode of presence]) of Christ – not in the sacrament, but in Israel.32 It was not always quite clear here how the Jew was conscious of this presence. The statements of Buber, Flusser and others about Jesus as their ‘brother’ has produced new insight here.33 And, is Marquardt’s opinion, priority must given to hearing this. Without a doubt – if one wants to revive old oppositions – the point is not the ‘Christ of dogma’ but the ‘Christ of history’. But does it make sense to speak in this way? Or rather, does it not belong to a responsible dogmatic speaking of Christ as the living Lord that one does not only regard him as the one who is coming and staying, but also as the one, who is going away, who has said after all, ‘it is to your advantage that I go away’ (John 16:7).34 It is also part of the modalities of the being of the Risen one that he has become past, and so we should not be afraid of the historical approach, certainly not coming from the mouth of his fellow Jews. Is it not already very much, if they say that he is a ‘brother’? Why does he have to be their ‘Messiah’ for all of them (more than merely for the ‘Jewish Christians’)? Who are we to force that judgment on them, when it is still open, whether he will prove to be that for them?

I now summarize what has been argued above. There is a double movement. Faith sees Christ where the Jew is. Early on this was the point of departure: starting with Christ as the ‘pre-understanding’ the Jew theologically enters the field of vision. Then, based on this, the opposite movement is possible also: Israel, this other extra nos, teaches us to look at Jesus with a new outlook and a new praxis – haggadic, halachic, Zionist. For not only the biblical Israel is, in Barth’s words, ‘vorbehaltslos vergleichbare Prophetie Jesu Christi’[34] [without reservation comparable prophecy of Jesus Christ] or, in Von Balthasar’s words, ‘formale Christologie’,[35] [formal Christology], in Marquardt’s eyes this is true for post-biblical Judaism together with biblical Israel.    

Only this again poses the question to us, how far this definition can go for the consciousness of the Jew himself. In the interview quoted at the beginning of this section Marquardt recognizes this question. ‘He (Christ) is the mystery of the life of this people. A mystery that can motivate us to act, to think and also teach, but we can and must not utter it as mystery. For then we would create a theology about Israel’s dependence on Christ which would still submit the Jews to Christ.’ [36] And this certainly is not the intention. But what then has been the point of this entire expedition? And to what a curious aporia then does this entire ‘double movement’ outlined above lead?!


So Christ, the teacher of all and of all things,[37]leads us, who want to be his disciples, to the Jews to study with them what can be learned about Him. But the situation that arises after that is completely asynchronous. ‘I have good Jewish friends and my experience is, I have much to ask them and they have much to tell me, but I have never been asked any questions. For the time being the Jewish-Christian dialogue is completely one-sided. Therefore I say, my theology is not a theology of dialogue, but now it is a theology of learning. That is my situation, listening, learning, be interrogated, be criticized, returning a question: why did you ask that. I have nothing to say to the Jews.’[38]

So that is the situation. The Christian has discovered that he finds Christ in the Jew and that he therefore cannot exist without the Jew. But on the other hand the Jew does not need the one who came later, the one considered an illegitimate shoot, the Christian (just as the Jew, all in all, does not think he needs the Muslim). I’m not sure whether we should say nothing all about this, but Marquardt does not do so and does not want to. Therefore Buber’s ideal of the dialogue reaches too high for him. The reproach he has heard so often and that hurts him, ‘why don’t you become a Jew yourself?’ or, more aggressively, ‘do you want us all to become Jews then?’ is completely beside the point. For it assumes that Marquardt would like to burden the Jews with another problem, namely Christians, who have become Jews, which is the last thing they need. But that is not at all what he envisions! ‘I don’t want a Jewish Christianity or Christian Judaism. All I want is a Christianity that Jews no longer have to be afraid of; that also is aware of the fact that up to this day it has frightened the Jews. That is my true goal, and I want to contribute to that with my dogmatics.’[39] Marquardt has found a key text for this program in John 20. On the evening of that first day of the week the disciples are together and the doors are locked for ‘fear of the Jews’. So the evangelist is aware of a certain Judeophobia, knows perhaps that he could contribute to it – and reflects on that. For his Jesus comes through the locked doors and speaks his words of peace (John 20:19). That is the point. Following the risen master, who breaks through our fear of what is foreign, so that they no longer need to fear us.41

‘But’, you may object, ‘is there not a real conflict behind this already in John that, in spite of the completely shifted power relations, still plays a part in the relationship between Jews and Christians?’ Simply stated, ‘is there not the matter of the Jewish “no” against Christ as we proclaim him, and one cannot get around that, can one?’ At least since 1977 Marquardt developed a lucid response to this objection. He believes that we must not resist the Jewish “no”, but rather recognize it in its positive theological significance and accept it as ‘enmity for our sake’. Just like Paul in his day already read the stumbling of the Jew in a positive sense as an opportunity for the Greek to now participate in the promises of Israel (Rom. 11:25), we must now in our days seize this ‘no’ as an opportunity to allow ourselves to be exposed, judged and disarmed in the violence of our Christian dogmas.42

One reason why the six plus one volumes of the dogmatic project make for such suspenseful reading is that time and again Marquardt submits to this ‘being contradicted’. He proves himself willing to allow the well-chosen construction of his own argument to be interrupted again and again by the objections coming at him from the other side. However firm his own inclination may be to start off Christologically  – the Jewish objections to the figure of an eternal sonship do affect him and give his doctrine of the Trinity, as it unfolds at several often unexpected  locations, a controversial and incomplete quality. E.g., if the rabbis condemn Jesus’ close connection with God as ‘shittuf’ – rendered ‘Assoziation oder Vergesellschaftung Gottes’ by Hermann Cohen, that is, connecting the one Name with something else in an unacceptable and idolatrous way – he takes that seriously and lets it stand.43 Perhaps it is impossible to show that the Christological-trinitarian dogma is compatible with the first commandment…!

Probably this is inevitably the most fundamental and most awkward issue among, in any case, the gentile Christian and the Jew. We goyim are not in the father’s house by nature. We seek the proximity of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the Jew Jesus, whom we confess as the fellow being most intimate with God, a proximity is granted to us that we do not know in and of ourselves. But the very act of positing that proximity, which for us is essential to living, is an unacceptable expression of blasphemy to the Jew. Another double bind, with virtually no escape. According to my observation it affected Marquardt as follows: he became increasingly aware of this knotty issue that he got himself entangled with, perhaps had to get entangled with. The gentile Christian seeks intimate knowledge of the covenant with the Jew where the Jew wants to maintain distance – to the Christian partner in the dialogue, but also to the God whose otherness he respects.

In retrospect the big surprise Marquardt prepares for his readers in the second part of his seventh, his encore-volume doesn’t appear quite so strange.44 There he has two exceptional Jewish voices speak, who each in their own way argue for the transcendence of God. Jeshayahu Leibowitz, the great dissident in Israel, who believes the commandment must be carried out because it must be carried out, but that no person in the national community must be so self-seeking to expect that the Eternal One, who is enough unto himself, would still do something ‘for him’. And Emmanuel Levinas, who argues for the total priority of the other, without this other having the purpose of coming to the aid of the ‘ich’ [I] as ‘du’ [you] by his being other, but to whom the priority is due solely because of the total transcendence of his countenance. Both witnesses, each in themselves so very different, point away from the covenant, from fitting the alien into the familiar. And Marquardt does not forgo the questions in connection with these voices that are at odds with his own project in so many respects. The question, e.g., is it possible for me as a Christian theologian to speak of the Trinity in such a way that even within it the otherness of God is kept as open as possible? But also the question, is it possible for me to learn from the Jew without subtly making him, this stranger, subservient to my own project yet again, pulling him into my own totality yet again?

Marquardt has been asked critical questions on the part of the Jews, ‘Are you not projecting your need for incarnation on us, Jews, and then even on us as a (barely actually existing) collectivity, as a result of which we must meet the standard of  “being truly human”, which we in fact scarcely can meet?’45 Marquardt allowed this to be asked of him. He has not hidden his desire for proximity, for a concretion of God in a people, in a country, but he has again allowed himself to be contradicted in this desire too, because it could bring about new violence.

What then remains, particularly vis-à-vis the Jewish discussion partner? This remains: remembering Luther’s mature insight ‘wir sind Bettler’ [we are beggars]. ‘Wir sind unserer Sache nicht mächtig. Das ist gerade im Verhältnis von Ursprung und Wirkung christlicher Theologie wahr’ [We are not in control of our issues. Precisely that is true in the relationship between origin and effect of Christian theology] (so it is not our job to go distinguish the so-called good intention from the evil effect). ‘Also haben wir gegenüber dem jüdischen Nein zu Jesus Christus keine überlegene Möglichkeit, kein besseres Wissen, kein fortgeschrittenes historisches Niveau. Im Gegenteil: Das jüdische Nein schüttelt uns nur noch heftiger in unserer Bettelarmut und – ohnmacht durch.’[45] [Thus we do not have a superior possibility, a better knowledge, a progressed historical level over against the Jewish ‘no’ to Jesus Christ. On the contrary, the Jewish ‘no’ only more thoroughly shakes us in our beggary and – powerlessness]. And there remains: unilateral disarmament, allowing your weapons of Christian doctrine with their violent effect and perhaps even substance to simply be taken away. ‘Wir sehen also die Aufgabe vorerst darin, unsere Betroffenheiten vom jüdischen Nein auszudrücken und Irritierungen, die von daher kommen, anzunehmen, die Panzer gefügter Selbstverständlichkeiten und Selbstverständnisse abzulegen’[46] [ So we see the task primarily in expressing our perplexities regarding the Jewish ‘no’ and to receive the irritations that emanate therefrom, to lay aside the armor of connected foregone conclusions and self-insights]. I thought that Christ was a truth outside of myself, which as a Christian theologian I had to defend. But it was only my own armor. Here it is. I lay it at your feet. There you are.

[1] This article has appeared before in the journal Kerk en Theologie 53(2002) 4, 316-329 (October 2002). Translation by A.F. den Exter Blokland, Ph.D., Chicago, USA.

[2]Marquardt died on May 25th, 2002. Thus this article has also taken on the character of a first attempt at exploring the blessing contained in his remembrance.

[3]F.W. Marquardt, ‘Abirren. Zu Erscheinungsformen des Häretischen in meiner Theologie’ (Abschiedsvorlesung an der Freien Universität Berlin, 7. Februar 1997), in: Susanne Hennecke und Michael Weinrich (Eds.), ‘Abirren. Niederländische und deutsche Beiträge von und für Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Wittingen 1998, 151-174.

[4]‘En dan val ik stil..’. An interview with F.W. Marquardt on September 25th, 1996, in Wessel H. ten Boom, Alleen GOD kan spreken. Een inleiding op het werk van Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt, Kampen 1997, (164-187) 168.

[5]F.W. Marquardt, Von Elend und Heimsuchung der Theologie. Prolegomena zur Dogmatik, Munich 1988, e.g., 80 ff. ‘Wissenschaft und Schuld’ and 99 ff. ‘Denkform und Opfer’.

[6]The term ‘critique of violence’ in the interview seems to be an allusion to the essay ‘Zur Kritik der Gewalt’ by Walter Benjamin, 1921 (Gesammelte Schriften vol. II.1, 179-203). This essay has re-entered the discussion after a probing review by Jacques Derrida in his book ‘Force de loi. Le ‘fondement mystique de l’autorité’, Paris 1994 (published in German earlier with the title Gesetzeskraft, Frankfurt/M 1991). A hidden like-mindedness seems to exist between Marquardt and Derrida, which to my knowledge has not yet been explored.

[7]F.W. Marquardt, Das christliche Bekenntnis zu Jesus, dem Juden. Eine Christologie, vol. 1 1990, vol. 2 1991.

[8]Now also in K.H. Miskotte, Theologische Opstellen, Verzameld Werk 9, Kampen 1990, 89-97.

[9]F.W. Marquardt, Was dürfen wir hoffen, wenn wir hoffen dürften? Eine Eschatologie, vol. 1 1993, vol. 2 1994, vol. 3 1996.

[10]R. Ruether, Faith and Fatricide: The Theological Roots of Anti-Semitism, New York 1974, 246. About this, Marquardt,  Eine Christologie vol. 1, op.cit., 105, and Die Gegenwart des Auferstandenen bei seinem Volk Israel. Ein dogmatisches Experiment, Munich 1983, (190-208) 190 (Nachtrag 1982).

[11]Recounted by Marquardt himself.

[12]F.W. Marquardt, Amsterdamer Werkstattbericht (27/9/1996), in Susanna Hennecke, Michael Weinrich (eds.), ‘Abirren’, op.cit. 86 (italics mine).

[13]E.g., Melanchthon, Loci communes 1521, ‘De evangelio’: ‘omne tempus, quod ad mentes nostras attinet, est legis atque evangelii tempus, sicut omnibus temporibus eodem modo homines iustificati sunt, peccatum per legem ostensum est, gratia per promissionem seu evangelium’.

[14]E.g., in K.H. Miskotte, Om het levende Woord. Opstellen over de praktijk van de exegese, The Hague 1948, 246: ‘ons heidendom’, 252: ‘ons jodendom’. Marquardt rejects the thesis of an ‘anti-Jewish witness of the apostles’ and believes, by the way, that Christian theology seeking a new entry to Judaism sooner or later must also lead to a new appreciation of paganism.

[15]K. Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik II/2, § 34 (1942).

[16]‘Zo God wil en Hij leeft’. Interview with F.W. Marquardt by Coen Wessel, in Geloof en vertrouwen na Auschwitz, A. van Harskamp, B. Siertsema, and B. Voorsluis (eds.), Zoetermeer 1995, (87-94) 93.

[17]By itself the sentence ‘my faith sees Christ wherever there are Jews’ can also be read in a different sense, a sense standing in a relationship of greater tension to Barth, namely as follows: ’in this reality devoid of messianity I only recognize something of Christ in the Jew any more’.

[18]E.g., in F.W.  Marquardt, ‘Nachtrag 1982′, op.cit.  (see above, note 10), 198-204.

[19]F.W. Marquardt, Gegenwart, op.cit. 57 ff.

[20]F.W. Marquardt,  Gegenwart, op.cit. 89 ff.

[21]FW. Marquardt, Gegenwart, op.cit. 133 ff.

[22]F.W. Marquardt, Theologie und Sozialismus. Das Beispiel Karl Barths, Munich 1972, 265 ff.: ‘Die assumptio carnis und die “Gattung Mensch”’.

[23] F.W. Marquardt, Eschatologie, vol. 3, op. cit. 164 ff.

[24]F.W. Marquardt, Gegenwart, op.cit. 147 ff.

[25]F.W. Marquardt, Prolegomena, op.cit. 205 ff. (‘evangelische Halacha’), Eschatologie vol. 1, op.cit. 200 ff. (‘eine jüdische Tora für Gojim’).

[26]F.W. Marquardt, Christologie, vol. 1, op.cit. 208 ff.

[27]F.W. Marquardt, Die Juden und ihr Land, Hamburg 1975.

[28]F.W. Marquardt, Eia, wärn wir da – eine theologische Utopie, Gütersloh 1997.

[29]F.W. Marquardt, Utopie, op.cit. 159 ff. Critical remarks on this Jerusalem passage, R.H. Reeling Brouwer, ‘Siehe, wir ziehen hinauf nach Jerusalem’, in Hanna Lehming and others (eds.), Wendung nach Jerusalem. Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardts Theologie im Gespräch, Gütersloh 1999, 422-435.

[30]F.W. Marquardt, Eschatologie, vol. 2, op.cit. 286 ff.

[31]F.W. Marquardt, Gegenwart, op.cit. 113 ff.

[32]F.W. Marquardt, Christologie, vol. 1, op.cit. 11-13, 120 ff.

[33]F.W. Marquardt, Christologie, vol. 2, op.cit. 391 ff.

[34]K. Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik IV/3 (1959), 71.

[35]Quoted according to Nachtrag, op.cit. 205; Christologie, vol. 2, op.cit. 56

[36]Interview with C. Wessel, see above, note 17, loc.cit.

[37] ‘Christus omnium magister’; this interpretation of Math. 23:10 by Bonaventure supplies the motto to the first volume of the Prolegomena (11, 36), the very volume that reflects so extremely critically on any kind of ‘doctrine’.

[38]Interview with C. Wessel, op.cit. 91.

[39]Interview with W. H. ten Boom, op.cit. 186 (italics mine).

[40]F.W. Marquardt, Eschatologie, vol. 1, op.cit.  420.

[41]See the important essay ‘Feinde um unsretwillen. Das jüdische Nein und die christliche Theologie’ (1977), in F.W. Marquardt, Verwegenheiten. Theologische Stücke aus Berlin, Munich 1981, 311-336.

[42]F.W. Marquardt, Eschatologie, vol. 1, op.cit. (265-272) 271 (where the Noachic prohibition of idol worship is dealt with). See also Utopie, op.cit. 394.

[43]F.W. Marquardt, Utopie, op.cit. 356 ff.: ‘Wem ent-spricht Gott?’

[44]Micha Brumlik, professor of pedagogy in Heidelberg and Jewish member of the ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft Juden und Christen beim Deutschen Evangelischen Kirchentag’ in Abirren, op.cit. (183-188) 186: ‘Gelegentlich drängte sich mir der Eindruck auf, daß Marquardts christliche Theologie des Judentums die herkömmliche christliche Inkarnationstheologie noch um einiges überbieten wollte.’

[45]F.W.Marquardt, ‘Feinde um unsertwillen’, op.cit. 324.

[46]F.W. Marquardt, ‘Feinde um unsertwillen’, op.cit. 326.

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R.H. Reeling Brouwer

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