In Jewish philosophy, be it medieval or modern, a comprehensive Jewish theological discourse about Christianity is conspicuously absent. There are, however, two prominent exceptions to this rule in modern Jewish philosophy: The Italian Sephardic Orthodox Rabbi Eliah Benamozegh (1823–1900) and the German-Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig (1886–1929). In both men's thought, Christianity plays a pivotal (and largely positive) role, so much so that their Jewish philosophies would not be the same without Christianity, which has no precedent in Jewish thought. Though Rosenzweig was not aware of his Sephardic predecessor, there are some striking parallels in the two thinker's Jewish theologies of Christianity that have far-reaching interreligious implications. These parallels concern as well the basic paradigm for a positive evaluation of Christianity—the paradigm of the fire (particularist Judaism) and its rays (universal Christianity)—as well as the central flaw both of them attribute to Christianity: a built-in disequilibrium that threatens the success of its legitimate mission. These parallels are all the more striking as two thinkers arrived at their conclusions independently and by different paths: the one (Benamozegh) took recourse to Kabbalah, the other (Rosenzweig) to proto-existentialist philosophy. A comparative study of these two protagonists’ Jewish theologies of Christianity seems thus imperative.
An “interreligious epilogue” at the end of the article exposes the contemporary need for a reassessment of the relationship between Judaism and Christianity from a Jewish perspective—especially in light of the deep theological revision that characterizes the approach of the Catholic Church towards Jews and Judaism following “Nostra Aetate”—but at the same time delineates the theological limits of the current Christian-Jewish interreligious endeavor. In this light, the pioneering theology of Christianity in the works of Rosenzweig and Benamozegh might yield some relevant insights.
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