Campaign Against Antisemitism applauds Moorlands Collegefor adding a ground-breaking explanatory note to its editions of Kittel.
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited in part by Gerhard Kittel and known colloquially as “Kittel”, is a reference book openly available in Christian seminaries. While we recognise that it is a useful resource, we are also acutely aware that its editor and some early contributors, for example K.G. Kuhn, were supporters and propagators of Nazi ideology. Mr Kittel and Mr Kuhn were particularly engaged with the “Jewish Question” and actively developed and encouraged antisemitic ideology and conduct. The former claimed that Christianity should act “not 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 particular issue with Kittel is not merely the views of its editors and contributors, but that their views subtly but significantly impact its content, and therefore it behoves educational institutions to make their students aware of this influence when they consult the resource.
As Prof. Maurice Casey warns in his article, Some Antisemitic Assumptions in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1999): “The frames of reference never lie on the surface of the articles: they are buried in apparently historical statements. 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.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has accordingly written to numerous seminaries to inquire as to whether they make Kittel available to their students and, if so, urge them to include an explanatory note, which will assist both their students’ wider awareness of the historical influences on the resources that they use and also contribute to positive communal relations between Christians and Jews in the next generation.
Moorlands College, which has adopted the International Definition of Antisemitism, is the first institution holding Kittel to respond positively to our inquiry and request for an explanatory note. Moorlands College has willingly agreed to add the following ground-breaking explanatory note to its editions of Kittel:
“Readers of this multi-volume Dictionary should be aware that its first and main editor, Gerhard Kittel (1888-1948) was a member of the Nazi Party in Germany from 1933-1945. During this time, he wrote and lectured publicly on the so-called Judenfrage or ‘Jewish Problem’, repeating Nazi-fuelled antisemitic tropes and supporting the Nuremberg Racial Laws, which stripped Jews of German citizenship and various other rights. There is some debate about the precise degree to which Kittel’s Nazism affected his own exegetical work, but his associate and fellow Nazi K.G. Kuhn contributed this Dictionary’s entry on ‘Israel, Judah and Hebrews’ in Vol. 3. That entry was critiqued by Maurice Casey in a 1999 Novum Testamentum article (41:3, 280-91) for falsely suggesting that in the Intertestamental and NT era ‘Jew’ was used by some Jewish sources in a self-hating manner – a notion used by the Nazis to bolster their antisemitic propaganda. Casey also highlights the comments on Persistence in Prayer by W. Grundmann in Vol. 3 (kartereo etc) as suggesting that Jesus consistently rejected Jewish models of prayer, when this was not the case; Grundmann was a member not only of the Nazi Party, but of the SS.
“While many other entries in the Dictionary bear no obvious trace of antisemitism, and while later volumes were produced after Kittel’s death, readers are encouraged to approach it with this background in mind, and with their critical faculties suitably sharpened. Moorlands College has fully adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and utterly repudiates antisemitism as contradicting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the College’s Basis of Faith.”
Binyomin Gilbert, Programme Manager at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “We are incredibly proud of Moorlands College for acting as a model to other seminaries and educational institutions of all kinds for honouring its commitment to its students by giving them the fullest background of the resources they use and by instilling in them the importance of positive relations between faith communities. 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. We now call on other seminaries to follow Moorlands’ example and add similar explanatory notes to their editions of Kittel.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism works to raise awareness of antisemitism among all faith and minority communities.