Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm, who, in the days of his glory, encouraged the anti-Semitic tendency in German Biblical criticism, now reveals himself as a “theologian” and leader of the new German school to “free Christianity from the influence of Jewish traditions.”
In a series of letters to Dr. Schreiber, the former Kaiser defined his attitude which was hailed by German anti-Semites as stating “the crux of the problem.”
“Current History” for August publishes an article by the ex-Kaiser in which, referring to the late controversy in American Jewish life, the Wise controversy, he gives free expression to his feelings and attacks the Jewish religion.
The article is accompanied by a reply by Rabbi Nathan Krass of New York.
The ex-Kaiser writes:
“Modern Jewish writers, like Rabbi Joseph Klausner of Jerusalem, author of ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ concede the actual historical existence of the Savior. Others are prepared to go even further. They declare their willingness to accept Jesus as a teacher of ethics. No such admissions suffice to bridge the gulf between Judaism and Christianity.
“This must be obvious to anyone who understands the fundamental tenets of the Christian religion. To elucidate the problem is to serve Jew and Gentile alike. In interpreting, without personal animosity of any kind, the simple principles which underlie our faith, I neither invite nor desire controversial discussion.
“To accept Jesus, stripped of His divinity, is to destroy Christianity. A Jewish spokesman quoted in the American press is credited with the statement. ‘The very foundations of morality are contained in the unparalleled code of ethics which comprises the teachings of Jesus.’ To call the Savior Son of God merely a teacher of a code of ethics and of morality is to place Him on the same level with other great human moralists such as, for instance, Plato.
“If any rabbi desires to reconcile his faith and ours he must go further and exclaim: ‘Jesus was on earth as the incarnate Son of His Heavenly Father, the Redeemer of our sins.’ Any rabbi who subscribes to this sentiment would be on the right track. But he would be no longer a rabbi.
“One Jewish authority is quoted in the American press as saying ‘Christendom has renounced Jesus in fact; shall we continue to deny Him now that His brother Jews are free to face His life and teachings anew?’ This is very clever. But it is not true. It certainly is not true in Germany.
“The statement is a covert declaration that Christendom rejects Jesus ‘as the Son of God and Saviour.’ If this were true the Jews could claim Him as a Jewish moral teacher of high standing of whom they are proud and present Him to Jew and Christian alike as their new religious leader. It is a hypocritical attempt to steal the Christian thunder, to impose upon mankind a new Jewish world religion.”
Building his argument on an alleged “difference” between the “pre-exile Israelitism” and “post-exile Judaism,” the ex-Kaiser claims it to be a fact that the “modern Jews and the Jews of the time of Jesus have little in common with the old Israelites.” The conflict between Judaism and Christianity was, in his opinion, that Judaism did not believe in the existence of sin and the necessity of repentance, while Christianity did. “Because the principles taught by Jesus, which they rejected, annihilated their code of ethics and morals as useless, they crucified Him.” He concludes:
“The Old Testament is an Oriental book, written by Orientals for Orientals and full of symbolism which they understood, but it is mostly a mystery to the present generation of Westerners, and especially to their churches and their clergy; it can only be fully grasped by men who have studied Assyriology and who are fully cognizant of the mentality of the ancients in whose time the book was written and the legends and myths in which it took form.”
Dr. Krass’s reply will be quoted in tomorrow’s issue.
Rabbi Samuel J. Wolk, who graduated in June from the Hebrew Union College, has been awarded a Fellowship in Pedagogy by the Department of Synagogue and School Extension.