Originally published in the International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, 8:1 (1977), p. 72.
Your People, My People: The Meeting of Jews and Christians. A. Roy Eckhardt: Quadangle Books, 1974. pp. xiv. $8.95.
Professor Eckhardt’s thesis, that there has been in Christianity from its inception a degree of theological antisemitism (he prefers the German word Judenfeindschaft as less subject to semantic gameplaying), should not be read as an indictment of Christianity. Eckhardt, himself a Christian thinker, is rather at pains to point out to his fellow-Christians that they are less than honest with themselves when they neglect the precept of love and, indeed, of justice, by condemning ‘the Jews’, the people as a whole, for the sins, real or imagined, of a few, or for that matter, of many individual Jews. In clear and forthright language, pulling no punches, Eckhardt retells the sorry tale of how, from the New Testament itself to contemporary Christian denials, or, at least, implicit denials, of the right to existence of the State of Israel, the attitudes towards Jews have been clouded by an irrationalism according to which the Jewish people is peculiar in a negative sense, chosen by God to fail miserably and so be a permanent witness to Jesus whom it rejects.
A Jewish reader is amazed, and at the same time encouraged to apply similarly critical scholarship to his own religious traditions, at the courage with which Eckhardt is ready to affirm categorically that the Gospel writers were mistaken in holding the Jews responsible for the crucifixion. It is perhaps a pity that too heavy a burden is placed on judge Haim Cohn’s The Trial and Death of Jesus, an admirable and very erudite work by a distinguished jurist but hardly acceptable in many of its conclusions to the historians of the period.
Eckhardt further believes that behind it all is a war against Jesus the Jew, an attempt to ‘get Jesus off our backs’, an idea put forward many years ago by Freud. This powerful book concludes with a note of hope. Despite disclaimers by both Jews and Christians a significant dialogue is possible between the adherents of the two faiths.
Leo Baeck College