Anti-Jewish Interpretations of Psalm 1 in Luther and in Modern German Protestantism

Uwe F. W. Bauer


This article presents a detailed analysis of the different
forms of anti-Jewish interpretations of Psalm 1 by M. Luther and in Modern
German Protestantism (as exemplified by W. M. L de Wette, E. W. Hengstenberg, H.
Hupfeld, B. Duhm, R. Kittel, H. Gunkel, A. Weiser, and H. -J. Kraus). These
commentaries reviewed fall into three models of interpretation. The first model
is marked by positive interpretation and Christian appropriation. In this model
the Jews are deemed incapable of attaining the theological level of the Psalm,
because—and reducing what these interpreters say to its essence—the Jews in
their strict adherence to nomism cut themselves off from the Christian truth.
The second model is that of religio-historical degeneration. The distinguishing
feature of this model is that the Psalm is seen as the product of a “decayed
post-prophetic Judaism.” The third model is that of religio-historical
progression. In contrast with the Hebrew-Jewish level of religious development,
which is characterized as external and superficial, Christian religiousness is
seen as more spiritual, more inward, and thus it is considered higher on the
religious scale. If one were to look for a common basis of the anti-Jewish
statements of these exegetes, a decisive factor, in my opinion, is Christology,
more specifically, the Reformation’s justification-Christology with its
exclusivist, anti-Jewish configuration.

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