Pinchas Lapide on What-Religion and Who-Religion

Pinchas Lapide (1967)
Pinchas Lapide, photo by Ron Koon, from Wikimedia Commons

I’m currently rereading Pinchas Lapide and Moltmann’s dialogue, Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine, originally published in German in 1979. It’s a great example of what Jewish-Christian dialogue can look like, though I’m sure lots of both Jews and Christians would take issue with their representatives’ proposals! Anyway, I just came across this distinction that Lapide makes between Jewish and Christian messianism. In reality, it’s probably not as simple as this but good thing to reflect on nonetheless:

All messianic speculation in Judaism remains “functional” rather than “personal,” for all believing Jews pray daily for the messiah–no one prays to the messiah. This instrumentality of the redeemer king enabled several of the outstanding figures of the medieval rabbinate, when faced with the forced disputations of a triumphal imperial church–which attempted to prove its redeemed character with all the means to power–to give up the faith in the messiah as a foundation of Judaism. Indeed, in the vortex of the militant Christomonism of the Church authorities there even developed a kind of Jewish antimessianism which could say:

“After the enslavements in Egypt there came the redemption through Moses. After the enslavement by Babylon there came the redemption by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. After that came the persecutions by Elam, the Medes, and the Persians, and the redemption by Mordecai and Esther.

“After that there came the enslavement by Greece and the redemption through the Hasmoneans and their sons, and then there came the Roman captivity. Then the Israelites said: We are tired of being redeemed and enslaved, redeemed and again enslaved. We want no more ‘redemption’ by human hands. Redemption comes only from God” (Midrash Tehillim on 36:10).

Thus Christianity step by step became a who-religion, whose fundamental question about the essence of the Godhead was: Who is the Creator of the universe? Who is God’s Son? Who is the true Christ?

Judaism on the other hand was and remains predominantly a what-religion, which forgoes the profoundly probing who-question and pragmatically hopes to determine what God has accomplished on earth, what corresponds to God’s will, and–in the most daring case–what God intends for us.

This who-what debate, which naturally cannot be corralled in any precise schema, often reminds Jewish readers of the New Testament dispute between the two hills, between the hill of the Sermon on the Mount in Galilee and the hill of Golgotha in Jerusalem–between what Jesus proclaimed in his eschatological message and the who of his person as the christologically proclaimed one.

Judaism and Christianity are both stamped with a profound messianism. The former, however, places its emphasis on the what: the redemption. The latter on the who: the redeemer himself.

That the who and the what are not to be separated here, indeed that “both are the words of the living God,” as the Pharisees were careful to say in their disputes, is evidenced both by the second petition of the Our Father, “Your kingdom come!” and also the twelfth truth of faith of Maimonides, which has long since become part of the liturgy of the synagogue: “I believe with complete conviction in the appearance of the messiah, and even if he tarries I will nevertheless await his daily coming.”

Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine (Fortress, 1981), 84-86.

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Follow-up on the Clod-God Split in NZE

This is a follow-up of my earlier post, The Possibility of Rhyming ‘Clod’ and ‘God’, in which I claimed there was a split between the words “clod” and “god” in NZ English, as many other Englishes pronounce them with the same vowel length. Since then I have had replies ranging from “That’s not how I say it,” so that I have learnt of NZE speakers who do not differentiate between vowel length in the two words, to “That’s how I say it too,” so that I have found at least one speaker of Australian English (Adelaide) who makes the same distinction. I’m sure that’s reasonably widespread and would be interested in seeing some hard data.

Moreover, I just met the Otago University linguist, Dr. Simon Overall, in the tearoom and asked him for his opinion. He first of all affirmed that he could hear the distinction in NZE, and second of all informed me of another distinction that he had noticed, that between add and Dad, where add takes the short and Dad the longer vowel in NZE. Other rhyming words I can think of also take the short vowel, such as clad and had, and yet others the longer, such as sadmad, and bad!

This means that the role that the following consonant plays is diminished, whereas in my earlier post I had assumed that words that shared the same consonant endings generally had the same vowel length. Other factors are at work. Dr. Overall suggested that the trend may have something to do with frequency of usage. More frequently used words are more likely to experience an elongated pronunciation. Looking at some of the words on RhymeZone, I’m wondering if in this case it has something to do with word class. Of the words I recognise, I tend to pronounce nouns and adjectives with a longer vowel than verbs. One exception may be ad, though I can’t seem to figure out if I pronounce it with a long or short vowel, or either, context dependent. Some words change in different forms too. I pronounce grad with a long vowel but graduate (noun) and graduate (verb) both with a short vowel in the first syllable, albeit with different final syllables. However, I pronounce mad with a long vowel, as well as its repetition in constructions and words like madman and Mad Hatter.

New Moltmann Article Published

For those interested in Moltmann’s early theology I have just had an article published on his relationship to the historian of religion, Mircea Eliade: Cameron Coombe, “Another Origin of the Theology of Hope? Moltmann’s Dependence on Mircea Eliade,” Pacifica 30:1 (2017): 88-101. Here is the abstract:

The influence of Mircea Eliade on Moltmann’s work has largely been overlooked in scholarship. This article seeks to address this, providing an exposition of the themes of history and historicism in Eliade’s work and demonstrating how Moltmann draws upon these to develop his concept of ‘epiphany religion’, especially in Theology of Hope but also at later stages in his career. Eliade’s scholarship also bolsters Moltmann’s claims regarding the uniqueness of promissory history in its contention that non-Judeo-Christian societies reject history in the same way that ‘Greek’ society does, allowing Moltmann to situate his polemics against Greek philosophy in a universal context, and giving Moltmann’s theological claims an air of respectability insofar as they are supported by secular scholarship. The second part of the article critically evaluates Moltmann’s dependence on Eliade in regard to generalized claims in both of their works.