Believe Jews as well as Christians in sin

Of differences between Judaism and Christianity
by Rabbi Max Dienemann (1875-1939)

There was no real dialogue between Jews and Christians before 1945. A truism. Likewise, before 1945 there was hardly any serious, unprejudiced theological debate with Judaism on the Christian side - and theological analyzes and debates with Christianity are also among the few exceptions on the Jewish side. All the more remarkable is without question a publication from 1919 with the title "Judentum und Christianentum", which was written by Rabbi Dr. Max Dienemann comes from, who can be attributed to a tradition-oriented liberal Judaism.

Dienemann's 70-page book focuses on the differences between the two religions Judaism and Christianity, especially with regard to the concept of mankind. He did this with a skillful blend of apologetics and sophistication. Apologetically because Rabbi Dienemann primarily addressed Jews who dealt with the religion of the majority society. Differentiated because his contemplation of Christianity shows great expertise and fairness. Since Dienemann did not only have Jewish readers in mind, he also describes the essential characteristics of Judaism in such a way that non-Jewish readers can also get a well-founded impression.

Against the background of the successively intensified dialogue between Jews and Christians after 1945, it is regrettable that Dienemann's work has so far been relatively little known and has received little attention. It is thanks to Chajm Guski that he made the text accessible again in 2009, initially via his portal The work has recently been available again as a slightly edited print edition edited by Chajm Guski. Guski said: "Thousands of clicks on the text and numerous inquiries about printed copies confirmed the assumption that the text has lost none of its depth. To do this, you first have to get involved in Rabbi Dienemann's precise language, because then the text has the reader quickly won over and may call for contradiction at one point or another. And if a text appeals to the reader and challenges him, then it has served its purpose perfectly. "



The differences between Judaism and Christianity should be discussed on the following pages.

For what purpose? Not with the intention of attacking.

Far be it from us to criticize Christianity or approach beliefs in which millions of people find comfort and inner peace. The only thing that matters to us is to show which doctrines are peculiar to Judaism, what has kept the Jews from ancient times from entering Christianity and must keep them in the future. As true as it is that the highest and last thing of all religion is to unite people in a brotherly bond through the common possession of God and to lead them to the knowledge that genuine piety can be found in all religious communities, it is also true that one To feel into the special spirit of any religion, to understand it in its unity and to experience it in its individuality, if everyone is to find these ultimate and highest common end goals in their religion. One cannot have the spiritual prerequisites, the roots of a religious one. To put aside view as irrelevant and indifferent and only stick to the welcome fruits; If one wants to reap the fruits of all religion, charity and morality, then one must also cultivate the roots of all religious views.

A renewed longing had already taught modern man the necessity of possessing religious ideals, and our recent experiences have deepened and intensified this longing; but with it begins a new competition of the religions in their striving to fill the world with their thoughts, and not only on the basis of the dogmatic stamp they received in ancient times, but on the basis of the whole outlook peculiar to their believers. And for this very reason it is necessary to show with all determination and clarity the doctrines that Judaism has so far held with tenacity, in which it felt different from the Christian environment, and to which it must continue to adhere if it does wants to preserve. To repeat it in a word, it is a matter of re-establishing and justifying the right to one's own opinion for Judaism. This task would be superfluous if one believed that the differences in religious teachings were well known. But that is by no means the case.

On the contrary, there is a strange and regrettable ignorance about the very points where Judaism and Christianity diverge most decisively. Within Jewish circles, as a result of the numerous attacks directed at Judaism, almost all interest in defense has been exhausted, so that one rarely found the opportunity to positively emphasize the special nature of the Jewish world of ideas. And within non-Jewish circles, one is usually so biased in the view that Judaism is a form of religion that has been overcome and dismissed that one cannot even imagine that the Jews of today should not declare themselves overcome, and even have one clear awareness of their religious peculiarities and the expressed will to preserve them.

In addition, one sees the Jews - because of their peculiar political position - so completely occupied with the struggle for civil equality that an outsider can indeed come to the opinion that this struggle is their only interest; and they remained loyal to the old religious community at most for reasons of honor or piety, but without the certainty of their own ideals and. whose viability, so far finally goes the ignorance of the true state of affairs that one is at ease. understand the differences between Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity; but that one lets pass the judgment almost without contradiction that there is no inner difference between liberal Judaism and liberal Christianity. Thorough educational work is necessary, which clearly and decisively shows how, in the religious sphere, a closed Jewish view stands against an equally closed Christian view.

If this is to be explained, then it is not necessary to list all the points in which Judaism and Christianity differ in full; To speak again of the Trinity, the cult of Mary, the veneration of saints, is unnecessary. Not because there are also Christians who have moved on to the agenda, and because these teachings could therefore appear to be of subordinate importance; for the confession of the church holds her steadfastly, and this confession is spoken at every worship service, and every transgressor has to commit himself to it. Their significance in the series of differences between Judaism and Christianity is still the same, but they are so well known that they no longer need special mention. We must be concerned here with the one point that is characteristic here and there, which in the old days was the starting point for all differences and is also today, and now more than ever, the essential one, on which everything else depends, as it were. And this point is the doctrine of man, the view of the nature and nature of man. To describe how Judaism and Christianity judge man, his nature and ability, how all the differences between the two religions grow out of it, that and only that is the task of this book.

Reconciliation and redemption
According to Christianity's self-testimony, its significance for humanity culminates in the doctrine of redemption. As the “religion of salvation” it calls itself the highest level of all religion. In order to understand this claim, it is necessary to first grasp the word “salvation” more closely.

Judaism and Christianity both regard salvation as a great hope, an important value, but both think of it as something different.

What is “redemption” for the Jew? The hope of redemption is to him the hope of the collapse of all tyranny and tyranny and therefore at the same time the hope of the end of all the misery that has piled on him because he is and remains a Jew. The living faith of all Israel is that Israel will be redeemed from its need and from the pressure that weighs on it. In this sense the Jew prays to God as his Savior; no public worship service goes by without giving a prominent place to the request for salvation. Faith is engraved deep in the Jew's chest: “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25).

Christianity has now changed the belief in redemption with serious consequences and calls it “redemption”: the liberation of man and humanity from the burden of sin. It claims to have taken the decisive step beyond Judaism, to have brought about the true progress of religion in the most important thing of the human soul: the forgiveness of sins, the elevation of man from his sin to a purer fiefdom. What kind of doctrine of "salvation" is that which Christianity proclaims?

Here, too, everything starts from the already known conception of the essence of man. Since in the Christian consciousness sin is something that is naturally bound up with man, and human power alone cannot free us from sin, man must be freed from this evil, redeemed, by the power of a higher one. According to the Christian view, man's moral helplessness results in his need for redemption. In order to bring redemption to man, God descended to earth, assumed human form in Christ and sacrificed himself for the sin of all mankind, for the sin that was before him and for the sin to come. Now, through Christ, every sinner will gain forgiveness, provided that he believes in the redeeming power of Christ. Without believing in it, all repentance and repentance are only piecemeal, there is no forgiveness, no possibility of actually doing pious deeds, no renewal of the person, because even after repentance, man cannot improve himself on his own. In the Catholic Church, however, in addition to belief in Christ's act of redemption, the good works of man also play a role: they acquire eternal bliss for those who have already been baptized, they mean the cooperation of man himself to make himself worthy of grace. However, only those good works that have grown out of faith in Christ and his redeeming power.

In the Protestant consciousness, only the firm confidence that sin has perished for the sake of Christ's merits is considered effective. If one looks at the Catholic and Protestant views from the standpoint of Judaism, one arrives at the judgment, which deviates from the popular opinion, that at this point the Catholic doctrine is closer to the Jewish one than the Protestant one. For Catholic doctrine recognizes the value of good works and assigns them a place in overcoming the obstacles that oppose moral purification in the human breast. Here it goes a part of the way with the Jewish outlook, but deviates from it again in that under good works it understands and strongly emphasizes not only moral acts but also church acts such as fasting and prayer, while in Judaism according to the will of its teachers ceremonial acts always take a back seat to ethical demands. The Protestant view, on the other hand, denies the value of good works, including moral ones, for reconciliation with God and bases salvation from sin exclusively on faith.

So all Christian creeds have in common the notion that repentance and penance alone are not enough, even if they are always demanded of course. Belief in the redeeming power of Christ's life and death must be added to them. And this redemption is and remains a gift of divine love; it is independent of man's act, also of his future, nor does it establish a new moral attitude of man. It is of course required that the sanctification of man must show itself as the effect of redemption, i.e. H. the better deed, the ascent to the good; In the modern Christian movement in particular, the moral act as the fruit of redemption is still placed above redemption. But this moral act is not thought of as the completely individual work of man struggling for his moral purification, but it is itself again a gift from God. That the redeemed person proceeds to a better deed is not his work, but the work of the grace that has come upon him. The belief in redemption from sin does not change much in those for whom the dogma of the sacrificial death of Christ and his deity is a defeated point of view. It is then precisely the person Christ who teaches overcoming sin through his example; it is then no longer his death, but his whole life, which is grasped as a unique appearance, but the will to develop Christianity as the religion of Salvation from the power of sin.

How does Judaism stand in this regard?

In him there is no room for the need for redemption in the Christian sense of the word, because for him sin is temporary and he does not recognize a kingdom of sin. The Jew feels well that he could not exist without God's grace and mercy, that every sinner needs God's forgiveness, that no person can become so bad that God's love cannot be bestowed on him again and again. The Bible proclaims the message of the boundless mercy of God so often that it is unnecessary to quote verses from the Bible for it. But the Jew also knows: just as man has separated himself from God through his guilt, so he must again approach him through his moral act. And no matter how much the soul is burdened with sin, it retains full freedom and the ability to do better. The moral renewal must grow from one's own strength, the sanctification of man is his own work, he himself must be at peace with himself oneself, to achieve the harmony of soul life, which guarantees peace with God, reconciliation. Guided by this outlook, the Jew celebrates his Day of Atonement, always carried by the thought that the merciful God leans toward every repentant sinner, but that man carries the sources of moral renewal within himself. He does not believe that a Day of Atonement or any other gift of religion can bring him to his full goal even for a moment, but he knows that every Day of Atonement is only there to encourage and admonish him to continue his own pursuit. That is the simple Jewish doctrine of reconciliation. There is nothing about redemption from the power of sin, there is no miracle in the center, God's and man's share in the reconciliation is preserved.

So what, in short, is the difference between “reconciliation” in Judaism and “redemption” in Christianity? Both work in reconciliation; God and man with, because reconciliation demands both parties (as Hermann Cohen put it aptly), but the focus is on the work performed by man, as it is expressed in repentance, new deeds, sanctification. At redemption everything is God's work alone, including the new life of man and his sanctification.

With the Christian doctrine of salvation there are still many ideas connected with which Judaism is in contradiction. First of all, there is the idea of ​​"belief". In Judaism, too, “faith” is the self-evident prerequisite for piety, but never piety itself. In Christianity, however, faith gains an independent value; it is an act which in itself brings about redemption from sin. Even where good works are called for, they take a back seat to the meaning of “faith”. Faith in Christ and his act of redemption is the only decisive factor, without him there is no really pious act; no fellowship with God. In this sense, the word was coined by the only saving faith. "Whoever believes ... will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned," it says in the Evgl. Mark 16:16

Judaism, on the other hand, refuses to see faith as a mark of piety. In addition, because it is not just a question of faith in God, but of faith in all of Christ's work of salvation. What if someone cannot believe in it? Christianity has no consolation for him, it cannot promise him reconciliation, he remains unredeemed from the power of sin.Redemption is God's gift of grace flowing out of love to mankind who succumb to sin; in that they are praised as the highest, in Christian teaching love grows above righteousness. Do not forgive God for man's repentance and penance. sake, which leads to his moral improvement, but only out of love on the basis of belief in redemption through Christ's death, then love must also stand higher than justice and also in social life for the moral life of man and his following of God love be more valuable than justice.
It is different in Judaism.

The love of God is infinitely high to him too, but just as love and justice are wedded to him in his image of God, the righteous God holds man who makes bad use of his freedom of will to account, and this same righteous God is at the same time full Love and mercy for the repentant sinner, so also in man's moral discipleship God's love and justice are demanded equally. Man confesses his God by practicing God's love for creatures; And whoever has destroyed the legal order must contribute from his part to its restoration; his repentance and penance must flow out of him, so that sinful man fulfills the demand of righteousness towards God. In Judaism, love and justice become equal and equally necessary; so much so that in the word “zedakah”, which means justice and act of love at the same time, both are inextricably linked. Judaism is guided by the idea that one should not set up an ideal without worrying about the nature of human community life. Human society cannot be based on love alone; it demands both love and justice in the same way. To an increasing extent, all modern states are also beginning to see social obligations not merely as expressions of love for one's neighbor, but rather as a requirement of justice through the law, and thus in practice profess the connection of love that has always been represented by Judaism and justice. But only if the religious requirement is the same as that which is taken for granted in political and social life, is religion what it ought to be, the ruler over the whole of life.

The Jewish doctrine of equal value and necessity for love and justice ensures religion has its due place in life. “Redemption” means the sole rule of love, “reconciliation” the connection between love and justice.

It is significant that in Christian circles, in which one strives beyond the dogma of salvation through the death of Christ, one nevertheless tries to hold fast to the core of the old doctrine of salvation by raising love to the apex of morality, which is Value should go far beyond justice. The Christian doctrine of redemption culminates in the fact that God is placed in the service of mankind, the Jewish doctrine of atonement in the awareness that it is more important to put people in the service of God. Because Christianity, with its doctrine of redemption, places God at the service of humanity, it has perpetuated the sacrifice.

It is correct that it renounced the actual bloody sacrifice to be carried out, but only because it was replaced by a substitute divine sacrifice that is repeated over and over again. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the sacrifice of Christ is renewed in every high mass, and for both Catholics and Protestants, the Lord's Supper is the never-ending reminder of Christ's self-sacrifice. The victim thus retained its decisive position in religion. It does not have this position in Judaism. Even at the time when the temple was still standing, the awareness was alive that God did not reconcile for the sake of the sacrifice, but solely because of the repentance of man, from this point of view the prophets fought against an overly high estimate of the sacrifice in the Popular consciousness.

It is then expressly stated in a halachic midrash, “Even without sacrifice, God will perform the work of reconciliation on the Day of Atonement” (Sifra Acharej Mot 8).

It must appear to the Jew as the justification of his position, which has always been held, when some circles of Christianity today understand the sacrifice of Christ in a purely moral sense as the surrender to the task set, which is supposed to awaken in man the same surrender in love for fellow human beings. This is the path that Rabban Jochanan ben Sakkai took more than 1800 years ago when he consoled those mourning the temple with the warning that the act of love in the service of the neighbor now takes the place of the sacrifice.

But the most important consequence of believing in redemption from sin through the death of Christ is that this brought a personality to the center of Christianity: the person of Christ.

He stands as the mediator between God and man. Even in Christian circles, in which one has stepped beyond all dogmas, Christ remains unshakably at the center of all religious thought. He is then indirectly considered the Redeemer, because he is said to have stimulated the human race most effectively to improve their morals.

He is considered the unsurpassable example of complete selfless devotion to humanity, for which no one can deny this place in history. Even where on the outermost wing of ecclesiastical liberalism everything that reminds of the old Christian dogma has disappeared, everything is built again on Christ, just like with the most orthodox Christian. Indeed, the more Christ is de-divinized in these circles and viewed only as an exemplary man, the more his personality is emphasized as the only one effective in the whole of human history. So says z. B. Bousset, after expressing the idea that the necessary further development of the Christian religion pulls all dogmas into its stream: “What is left for us? The fearful might think a heap of rubble ... What we have left is the simple gospel of Jesus. Even there; where we break away from Luther and Paul here and there, we chain ourselves all the more tightly to the person and the gospel of Jesus. ”And, elsewhere:“ We say that his figure is the highest and most perfect that mankind has on theirs long ways from bottom to top, the crown of our existence, the guide of our life, to whom no other guide stands by ... Everything comes together and crystallizes in perfect clarity in the person of our Lord, Jesus, and we say to him: You are our guide! There have been an infinite number of leaders of human life in this and that area. Be our leader, whom no one else is like, the leader in the, Most High, the leader of our soul to God, the way, the truth and the life. ”So even with the freest Christian, even with him, the moral about him Faith is what remains, the will to recognize Christ as the ultimate religious personality, as the only possible guide on the path to piety. There, too, the words of Christ in the Gospel remain fully valid:

“Whoever confesses me before men, I will confess before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before men, I will also deny him before my heavenly Father ”(Matthew 10, 32-33).

It is the profound difference between the Christian idea of ​​redemption and the Jewish idea of ​​reconciliation: In reconciliation, only God and man stand opposite one another, but redemption must come through someone's work. A personality who is unrivaled and unique must become the model of all piety. That is just a thought that Judaism rejects. According to his view, the height of the religious class can be achieved in any gender.

“There is no generation in which men do not grow up like Abraham, like Isak and Jacob, like Moses, like Samuel” (Bereshit rabbah 56: 7).

Protestantism claims that it helped the consciousness that everyone must be their own priest to victory by declaring the priest to be superfluous for the mediation of salvation. But what remained in Protestantism was Christ as the mediator between man and God, and what remained in the freest Christianity was the bond with the personality of Christ. No matter how much church liberalism approaches the Jewish doctrine of reconciliation, it must stop at one point in order to manifest itself as Christianity: it must relate all pious and moral acts of man to Christ, must testify that for Christians this Salvation lies only in his personal relationship with Christ. At this point there is again a closed Jewish consciousness against a closed Christian consciousness. Christianity only believes in a moral hero in Christ and has chosen him to be the mediator between man and God for all eternity.

Judaism believes that new greatnesses arise for mankind who are able to bring them closer to God, and that everyone who strives up to God has the strength within himself to rise to God through himself.

Rabbi Dr. Max Dienemann was born on September 27, 1875 in Krotoschin, in the province of Posen, studied in Breslau, received his doctorate in 1898 and was one of the representatives of a tradition-oriented liberal Judaism, especially against the background of assimilation, even before his appointment as community rabbi in Offenbach.

In 1919, the year he was called to Offenbach, his book "Judentum und Christianentum" appeared, which not only highlights the differences between the religions, but also gives an insight into his conception of Judaism.

In 1933 he was deported to the Osthofen concentration camp, and in November 1938 to Buchenwald. He was released from Buchenwald, but had to leave the country and so he traveled to Palestine via London. Rabbi Dienemann reached Tel Aviv in March 1939 and died there on April 10th.

Chaim Guski (born 1978) is a German publicist, author and blogger. As a child of the Ruhr area, he studied linguistics there and works full-time in marketing.
As a freelancer, he writes and publishes on a wide variety of Jewish topics for the Jewish media in Germany (including articles in the Jüdische Allgemeine) and is a. Operator of (since 1998) and co-organizer of the Minchah-Schiurs in the Ruhr area, an initiative that aims to promote Jewish knowledge in the Ruhr area. Chajm Guski lives in Gelsenkirchen.

Rabbi Dr. Max Dienemann, Judaism and Christianity, first edition: Frankfurt 1914; This edition is based on the 1919 edition
Edited and edited by Chajm Guski
BoD - Books on Demand Norderstedt 2014 76 pp. * Euro 5.90
ISBN 978-3-7357-1873-0
available from Amazon

Also published online as Online extra no.203 at

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