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December 30, 2021 2:22 pm

London Seminary Applauded for Addressing Theologians’ Antisemitism, Role in Nazi Germany

avatar by Dion J. Pierre

Berlin, Germany in 1937. Photo Credit: Thomas Neumann/Pixabay.

A British charity that fights antisemitism commended a London theological college on Monday for appending a note to its volumes of The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament — a famous reference book known as “Kittel” — that acknowledges the antisemitism and Nazi Party membership of its editor, Gerhard Kittel, and early contributor, K.G. Kuhn.

“Mr. Kittel and Mr. Kuhn were particularly engaged with the ‘Jewish Question’ and actively developed and encouraged antisemitic ideology and conduct,” the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) said Monday. “The former claimed that Christianity should ‘not act as a protector of the Jew but as an effective anti-Jewish force,’ while the latter, who supported Hitler’s SS, was a member of the Committee for Jewish Atrocity Propaganda, which arranged the 1933 boycott of Jews. There is no shortage of evidence of their worldview.”

The evangelical Oak Hill College also said that it actively encourages students to utilize a newer text, the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis by Moisés Silva. The first volume of “Kittel” was published in Germany in 1932.

The evangelical Moorlands College in Sopley, England, which adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism this year, became the first seminary to take a similar step in August, saying that “readers are encouraged approach [Kittel] with this background in mind, and with their critical faculties suitably sharpened.”

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CAA on Monday urged “other seminaries to follow the example set by Moorlands College and Oak Hill College and add similar explanatory notes to their editions of Kittel,” and said it shared this request in letters to seminaries across the United Kingdom.

“We are delighted that Oak Hill College has taken this step, which is a testament to the importance of working towards positive relations between faith communities,” said CAA Program Manager Binyomin Gilbert. “At Campaign Against Antisemitism, we try to act by the same principles, and I am indebted to our Christian colleagues for leading on this project.”

Writing about “Kittel” in his 1999 essay “Some Antisemitic Assumptions in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Christian scholar Maurice Casey urged seminaries to apprise students of how antisemitism and the Third Reich shaped Kittel and Kuhn’s theology.

“The frames of reference never lie on the surface of the articles: they are buried in apparently historical statements,” Casey wrote. “It follows that this dictionary should be used only with the utmost care. Students should be warned of this hidden menace, and all readers should consult it only with their critical wits sharpened to the highest degree.”

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