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Judaism must not be suppressed
in the Christian-Muslim dialogue


From: Herder Korrespondenz, 12/2013, P. 600
webmaster's own, not authorized translation


There are definitely voices in the dialogue of the three Abrahamic religions according to which Judaism and Islam "get along better with one another" than each with Christianity. This might be due to the greater emphasis on monotheism or the much lower institutionalization of the respective community, including the organization of the spiritual authority. On the other hand, it is not least the Middle East conflict which in not a few Muslims brings about a hostile attitude towards Jews.

It is therefore all the more important that from a Christian perspective all monotheistic religions admittedly believe not only in One but also in the same God - but there are also gradations here. What after the terrible experiences with National Socialism already suggests itself applies theologically anyway: Christianity is in a special way committed to Judaism. For while the Christian identity has been formed in the centuries before Islam, Judaism plays a constitutive role, which was reinforced by the canonization of the Jewish Bible as the "Old Testament."

But in view of this diverging initial situation, how is it possible theologically to locate Islam? For instance, as another sprout in the "root of the olive tree" (Rom 11:24), because the biblical narratives from Noah to Jesus play a respectable role in the Koran? At the second "CIBEDO Workshop" in mid-October in Fulda, these questions were expressly put in the focus of attention. Together with the Islam consultants of the German dioceses, theologians, and other experts, the department of the German Bishops' Conference under its new head Timo Aytac Güzelmansur wants by this new series of events to promote the Catholic reflection on the Christian-Islamic dialogue.

So now Judaism as a thorn in the already difficult Christian-Islamic dialogue. It was not least the Bamberg Islamic scholar Rotraud Wielandt who illustrated the panorama within the Islamic world with partly decidedly "anti-Jewish diatribes in the pious garb of Koranic exegesis," from which today some Muslim theologians also distance themselves.

A problem in this context is that for those Muslims the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" of 1903, which already in 1921 were unmasked as anti-Semitic propaganda forgery, have a quasi-canonical character; in similarity to the Old Testament, they are used as an authentic testimony of Jewish thought. In view of the historical struggles of the Prophet Muhammad with Jewish tribes, they have obviously still plausibility - even beyond the contexts at that time; although the motivation here is often rather political than religious.

In the dialogue between Christians and Muslims, it is therefore mandatory to demand more sensitivity to the Judeo-Christian relations. After all, the Catholic Church recognizes in the meantime even that God's promises to Israel are also from a Christian perspective not obsolete. According to the Berlin theologian Anja Middelbeck-Varwick, in the dialogue with Islam a Christology which is "sensitive to Israel and less self-confident" is therefore necessary for the sole reason that many Muslims regard Jesus of Nazareth and his mother Mary as Christians and not as Jews (cf. also Herder Korrespondenz Spezial 2-2011, Streitfall Gott. Zugänge und Perspektiven, 43 ff.)

Moreover, against the background of the "fundamental dogma" of the Second Vatican Council that God wants the salvation of all people, the Bonner theologian Joseph Wohlmuth, who as specialist is committed to the dialogue with Judaism, wanted to prove to what extent a place can be assigned also to Islam in this common area of salvation, and that Islam must by no means be classed with "paganism."

Especially the Second Vatican Council's statements in the Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions "Nostra Aetate" with regard to Judaism showed a "gap" which would facilitate the dialogue with Islam. After all, it says there that the church "awaits that day, known to God alone, on which all peoples will address the Lord in a single voice and "serve him shoulder to shoulder" (No. 4). Would not Jesus be amazed at some forms of piety which he would find in contemporary Islam, in the same way as he had marveled at the faith outside of Israel?

And would it not be possible, in view of such considerations, even to regard the Koran like the New Testament as a commentary on the Old Testament - comparable to the Jewish Mishnah? However, the crucial problem here is that Islam, in contrast to Christianity, describes the Jewish Bible not as Holy Scripture but like the New Testament ultimately as a distortion of the original revelation of God - in defiance of all alleged similarities due to the descent from Abraham (see e.g. the headword "Judaism [isl.]" in the new Lexikon des Dialogs. Grundbegriffe aus Christentum und Islam, Volume 1, Freiburg 2013).

The Jesuit Christian Troll, nestor of the Catholic-Muslim dialogue, concluded from it that it was all the more important for Christians to speak more intensely in concrete terms with Muslims also about the Old Testament. In view of the still large sources of friction between all Abrahamic religions, it is obvious that the in Fulda initiated discussions are of great importance for the foreseeable future.


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