A. Roy Eckardt, "The Shoah and the Affirmation of the Resurrection of Jesus: A Revisionist Marginal Note," in Alan L. Berger, ed., Bearing Witness to the Holocaust, 1939-1989, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1991, pp. 313-331


Abstract by Jerry Darring


Eckardt analyzes the development of his own thought on Jesus' resurrection. His earliest period he refers to as "pedestrian acknowledgment," in which he admits that he handled the subject in a "rather casual and unthinking way" (315). The second period of his writing he refers to as "critical questioning on moral grounds," during which Eckardt was influenced by theologians such as the Catholic Gregory Baum, the Episcopalian Paul van Buren, and the United Methodist Franklin Littell. He tried to come to grips with this dilemma: "On the one hand, a consummated resurrection of Jesus may be said to constitute a basic theological (Christological) threat to or indictment of Judaism and the Jewish people; on the other hand, any denial of Jesus' resurrection may be said to comprise a life-and-death threat to the Christian faith and the Christian community" (318). His struggles with this dilemma caused him to look more toward the future than the past in discussing Jesus' resurrection, and yet, he writes, shattering questions remain about the proclamation of the resurrection as an act of Christian triumphalism and supersessionism. "In its claim that the resurrection of Jesus concretely means God's triumph over death, is not the church inevitably implying its own triumph over non-Christian faith? (321). In critiquing the work of Wolfhart Pannenberg, Eckardt came to realize that "those who affirm the resurrection of Jesus but who oppose Wolfhart Pannenberg's assimilation of that event to Christian imperialism are challenged to make clear how, if at all, their own affirmation avoids supersession" (322).

Eckardt faced that challenge squarely in his third period of writings, based on his conviction that "a primary Christian challenge in the shadow of the Shoah is ... to wage war upon [the] supersessionist elitism" of the Christian tradition (323). He acknowledges his debt to the Dutch Protestant theologian Jacobus Schoneveld, who wrote that the resurrection represented a vindication of Jesus as a Jew, a person faithful to the Torah, as well as a vindication of the Jewish people as God's beloved people. He also acknowledges his debt to Paul van Buren, for whom the root of the church's anti-Judaism consists not in the resurrection but in "the subtle and not-so-subtle transformation of the original witness to Jesus as a Jew committed to the renewal of his people in their covenant with God, into a witness to an anti-Judaic Jesus in deepest conflict with his people" (325). Eckardt has come to the conclusion that there is a big difference between "triumphalist resurrectionism" and "nontriumphalist or antitriumphalist resurrectionism." It is possible, he writes, to express a resurrection faith that retains the historically discrete aspect of the resurrection while at the same time avoiding literalist-somaticist difficulties.