The Pattern for Jewish Reformation: The Impact of Lessing on Nineteenth-Century German Jewish Religious Thought

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Abstract

The widespread Jewish sympathies for Lessing's pre-Hegelian, pro-Jewish, progressive Deism from the Education of the Human Race spurred some Jewish authors to return to and discuss Lessing's religious thought within the theological endeavors of the Wissenschaft des Judentums in nineteenth-century Germany. To be able to rely on Lessing, even retroactively, was welcome proof for Jewish Reformers that the humanistic approach to religious problems that stood at the very center of their project was at once Jewish and universal. It was the spirit of Lessing's Education that was appropriated here for Judaism rather than Lessing's letter. With Lessing in the camp of Reform Judaism the intended modernization of Judaism was safeguarded against the accusation of political and social egoism on the part of the Jews. It was the universal idea of religious progress that they shared with Lessing, not just the sloughing off of the yoke of outdated talmudic law.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-284
Number of pages22
JournalHarvard Theological Review
Volume113
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Keywords

  • Enlightenment
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
  • Jewish theology
  • Talmudic exegesis
  • religious truth

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