James F. Moore, "The Holocaust and Christian Theology: A Spectrum of Views on the Crucifixion and the Resurrection in the Light of the Holocaust," in Remembering for the Future, vol. 1, 1989, pp. 844-857

Abstract by Jerry Darring


Christology is the central issue not only because biblical teachings have formed the basis for Christian anti-Judaism but also because "the Holocaust challenges the very notions that Christians have for long associated with christology -- messianic hope, transformation of life, intervention of God in history, the fundamental value of human life, the primacy of forgiveness, the truth of the revelation of God in Christ" (845). Theologians have tackled the issue of christology in four ways: by using traditional language and theological categories; by adjusting the Christian tradition to make room for Judaism in the theological arena; by criticizing traditional language without suggesting new theologies or a new theological language; or by offering radical changes in the tradition.

Moltmann, in The Crucified God, maintained the traditional theological language, and in the process disregarded the role that traditional Christian theology played in producing antisemitism. "Most of those who attempt a christology woven together with traditional language fall prey to the same difficulty, that traditional christological language places the Jews outside of the theological circle of redemption with only the possibility of being once again included if Christians can give them a place" (847).

Paul van Buren challenges some of the language that excludes the Jews. Christianity is Judaism for the gentiles: the Christ event did not end the era of Judaism in favor of a new age, but continued that era in the way that Judaism continued to hope through the centuries. This approach ignores the fact that the gentile world, with Christian assistance, has been throughly anti-Judaic.

A. Roy Eckardt adopts a position of ambiguity and irony. The resurrection is anticipatory and unfulfilled, and the Jew Jesus sleeps with his brothers and sisters awaiting the future resurrection.

Rosemary Radford Ruether offers a radical restructuring of the tradition. She sees the crucifixion as a paradigm for salvation and she rejects the universal claim for the crucifixion as the saving event. Likewise, the resurrection did not usher in the new age of the kingdom, and it speaks of prolepic hope rather than accomplished fulfillment. Her approach may seem to easy, and we may be too close to the Holocaust to move so quickly in eradicating its causes.

In his discussion of the crucifixion, Moore focuses on Matthew 27:24-25. Christian tradition has read this narrative as tragedy, the tragic story of Jewish condemnation. Actually, says Moore, it is farce, the acting out of Pilate's responsibility and the innocence of the people, based on Jesus' choice to be crucified. This means that Jesus, claimed to be the oppressed servant, cannot be identified with the oppressed at Auschwitz because they had no choice.

In his discussion of the resurrection, Moore uses the final verses of Matthew, and he concludes that "The resurrection is not the consummation of history. There is no full kingdom of God, no ultimate victory over evil. If our response must be faithful obedience regardless, then our attention is naturally directed away from the risen Jesus to God, to the end of time" (852). This means that the language of resurrection must change. "What possible hope is there in one man's resurrection even if ordained by God over against the lives of all those children whose names are even forgotten by most, some not even known" (852).