„I am opposed to Judaism on purely theological grounds”

Tak jak obiecałem – oto fragment (autoryzowanego tym razem) wywiadu przeprowadzonego przez Herszela Szanksa (HS) z Johnem Strugnellem (JS) a opublikowanego przez Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), July/August 1994:

JS: At the very beginning of the interview [with Israeli journalist Avi Katzman] I said, I do not want my critical statements to be viewed as anti-Semitic. They’re not. Mr. Katzman straight away went and interpreted them and discussed them as anti-Semitic. I suspected behind Mr. Katzman a worry whether Christian scholarship could deal impartially with the nature of the scrolls, being documents of a Jewish sect. I wanted to say, “Nonsense, there’s no difficulty here. It is in the nature of exegesis to be able to understand impartially documents from groups other than your own.” Actually, Jewish scholars would be even more disqualified to work without bias on the scrolls than Christian scholars. It wasn’t the Christians who were the principal enemies of the Dead Sea Scroll sect. It was the ancestors of Phariseeism. I’m amused when I hear people like [Lawrence] Schiffman [of New York University] saying how sad it is that Jewish scholars have not been working on these texts. In a sense, Jewish scholars would be the ones most likely to express an exegesis that is hostile to the thought of the Qumran sect, more so than Christian scholarship. [The essential thing is that oneshould be aware of one’s own biases, whether Jew or Christian.

HS: But it is true that as a result of that interview, you have been branded an anti-Semite. You said things in that interview, like calling Judaism “a horrible religion” …

JS: Yes.

HS: … like saying that the answer to the Jewish problem is mass conversion to Christianity, like saying that Christianity should have been able to convert the Jews, like saying that Judaism was originally racist. Those things have been interpreted, and understandably so, I think, to characterize you as an anti-Semite. After that was published, about 70 of your former students signed a letter in your support, which we printed in BAR [BAR 17:02], and they were careful to distance themselves from what you said. I believe they characterized what you said as the result of your …

JS: Wasn’t it sickness or something?

HS: Yes, but they made it clear that they didn’t agree with what you said.

JS: Yes, they explained it as sickness.

HS: Is that your explanation, too? Just a moment ago, I didn’t think you were explaining it on the ground of sickness.

JS: Now we’re getting dangerously near the point where I stop answering these things. I’m willing to discuss what I might have been thinking of, but I am not willing to discuss the framework in which I’m thinking of these matters. I agree that these [words] caused great troubles for me. They’ve since pained a lot of my friends and alienated them from me, and this has grieved me greatly. All that is true. But I’m not willing simply to abandon my views, even to the point of just saying all right, I was wrong, what should I substitute for it. [That’s not how we deal with a religious dilemma.]

HS: You characterized yourself in that interview as an anti-Judaist. Do you stick by that?

JS: It is a tricky word. What is an anti-Judaist? Is he a person opposed to Jews, or is he a person opposed to Judaism? I am opposed to Judaism [on purely theological grounds].

HS: Why?

JS: Obviously that is asking me to get into the whole matter of the traditional Christian teaching, and that’s where I took my stand.

HS: And that’s where you stand today, too?

JS: That’s where I basically am today. You know, the Catholic Church is changing. They’re teetering between changing and not changing. But basically I take my stand on the stance of the New Testament on this question.

HS: Which is?

JS: At various places in the New Testament you get varying positions about the total conversion [or future] of all the Jews. A lot of people talk about how my position is supersessionist. I have a much more positive viewpoint. I’m looking for a largeness in Christology, I’m looking for making higher claims for Christ [and the consequences of these for the Jews].

HS: What are those higher claims?

JS: [They vary.] You can look at them in Matthew. You can look in Mark. You can look in Luke. You can look in the beginning of John, especially in the beginning of John. You can find them in Paul, you can find them in some of the earliest pre-Pauline fragments, talking about how every knee should bend and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, and so on. Wherever I look, I find a higher Christology. This becomes for me canonical, the canon of what I should believe. But these are things that I really don’t want to discuss. I’ve gone further than I had intended to, but I wanted to show you that my intention is to find positive and larger, higher Christology. You know, it’s funny that a person is under so much attack for his Christology. I understand that letter [from 70 of my former students], how shall I put it, represented a consensus position. Some of them wanted to say “Never,” some of them wanted to say “Practically never,” [laughs] and some of them …

HS: “Never” and “Practically never” what?

JS: They never heard me take an anti-Semitic position. So it was a consensus letter— everyone could sign, but some with greater enthusiasm than others. Still I appreciate very much their kindness in coming to my aid at a time when I needed it.

I don’t think that at any time when I was editing the scrolls, or especially at any time when I was the chief editor of the scrolls, I don’t think I thought of these matters. I brought in Jewish scholars. I brought them in before I was chief editor. I never used that as a criterion. I didn’t ask them what sort of Judaism they practiced or anything like that. I brought in [Elisha] Qimron, for instance, because he knew middle Hebrew so well. I brought in Devorah Dimant because she seemed to be the most gifted among the younger Israelis in reconstructing a literary document. I brought in Joe Baumgarten. I can’t claim any particular virtue for choosing the Jewish scholars that I brought in, except that I chose them as the most qualified scholars living around Jerusalem or able to come and help in the work. I discover by surprise that I have become also the great Liberator of women in bringing women into the project. Some day someone will put up a statue in my honor in this regard. But there again, I didn’t go out to find women and to bring them into the project. They were the ones who were available and who were showing competence in this field.

HS: But I take it from what you say, you have nothing to retract or apologize for in the Katzman interview.

JS: No, that’s not so, because I say that I would not have said it in that way, I would not have said it that way if I had not been under manic depression, probably also under alcoholism, at least a certain amount of alcoholism, but probably too much. [But for that] I would have walked far more carefully. [I should have kept to the effects of Judaism or Christianity on each editor’s work.] That’s how I’m trying to do in this interview.

HS: What’s coming through to me as I listen to you is that what you’re saying is that you’re really anti-Semitic, or anti-Judaist, as you call it, but if you had not been manic-depressive and if you had not been alcoholic at the time, you might have expressed yourself more sensitively, more delicately, but still your views are anti-Judaist and what the world calls anti- Semitic. You are regarded as an anti-Semite and you’ve never retracted, you have never apologized, you’ve never been very specific as to what you said that you shouldn’t have said and that you don’t believe. On the contrary, you seem to be affirming it right now.

JS: [If you are unwilling to make the distinction I try to make, between opposition to a viewpoint and a group, etc., etc., you disqualify yourself from discussing my views.] If you notice the question that was asked by Mr. Katzman, he was asking a question about the group of Qumran editors. I was trying not to give an answer about what I was thinking, but to give an answer that would liberate the editorial group from the charge of being incompetent, of showing bias in the editing of the scrolls. To find something that [Frank M.] Cross and I and [J.T.] Milik and [Emile] Puech would agree to is an impossibility. So I tried to sail right through. I took refuge behind the traditional position of Christianity.

HS: What is the traditional position of Christianity?

JS: It’s not essentially what people call supersessionism. It is maximalistic Christology. It is claiming the most for the rights of the Messiah, claiming the most rights for Jesus, to put it in a nice simple framework that your Southern Baptist readers will appreciate.

HS: What does being anti-Judaist mean?

JS: It means, probably, being against the religion of Judaism. It’s not being against individual Jews or the Jewish people. The Cardinal Archbishop of Paris is a Jew and he gets on perfectly well with his archdiocese, which is not Jewish.

HS: What you’re saying is you don’t like the religion of Judaism, but you don’t mind Jews?

JS: Yes, yes, that’s one thing. But I’m not really concerned whether I dislike or like the religion of Judaism. I want more things for the religion of Christians. I want the reign of Christ to be more glorious, which it would be certainly by having 20 million more Jews on board.

HS: As Christians?

JS: Yes, yes. That, to me, is a description of the traditional view of the Christians. There have been attempts to interpret modern synodical doctrines [Vatican II] as meaning something very different from this. There are other people who are trying to interpret the synodical statements in a minimalist way.

We are in the early stage of the interpretation of Vatican II. Varying groups are pushing or pulling one way and the other. It’s not yet clear how it’s going to go.

HS: How do you prefer it to go?

JS: Really, I am a humble little editor of Dead Sea Scrolls living in my corner. Not for me these great battles.

HS: In the Katzman interview, you defined anti-Semitic as being against Semites, not against Jews. I think that’s a bit disingenuous. Anti-Semitic really means anti-Jewish. When someone says to you, “Professor Strugnell, are you an anti-Semite?” what is your response?

JS: First of all, I say that I don’t like that word because it’s not precise. If it were to mean against all Semites …

HS: No, it means against all Jews. That’s what it means in the dictionary.

JS: If you want to say, “Are you against Jews?” of course I am not. That is why I say I am an anti-Judaist, but not one who is against individual Jews. [As a matter of fact, the monstrousness of Hitler’s anti-Semitism was the first abomination I became keenly aware of.]

HS: Do you think there is any relationship between being anti-Judaist, that is, being opposed to Judaism as a religion on the one hand, and anti-Semitism?

JS: You see, there clearly have been huge amounts of persecution of Jews, so you have to ask yourself, “Are these persecutions related to the fact that most parts of Europe are also in large measure Christian?” I ask myself, “Is there any relationship?” Yes and no. Take Hitler’s Germany, for instance. The Christians were a principal opposition to Hitler’s Germany. But a lot of so-called Christians got caught up in Hitler’s Germany.

HS: In many people’s minds, the views you hold about the Jewish religion have led to anti- Semitic acts and to anti-Semitism. Do you want to comment on that?

JS: I don’t know anyone who has gone and read my interview in BAR [“Chief Dead Sea Scroll Editor Denounces Judaism, Israel; Claims He’s Seen Four More Scrolls Found by Bedouin,” BAR 17:01] and has then gone out to defile a synagogue just because they read my interview. You can’t say that the interview produced anti-Semitic revulsion and the burning of synagogues and the like.

HS: Is that all you have to say?

JS: [My answer was perhaps flippant, but no answer can be given until you are willing to make the distinction I ask for.] My positive statements about a high Christology have nothing to do with individual Jews whom I may happen to like or dislike.

HS: You are aware, are you not, that you are regarded as an anti-Semite?
JS: Well, I am not regarded as an anti-Semite by those who sat through my lectures. I mean, some of them regard me as a little fuddy-duddy in the form of my Christology.

HS: Would it be fair to say that you’re an intellectual anti-Semite?

JS: [Of course not, if you persist in using the term “anti-Semite,” which I have specifically abjured.] I was wondering, yesterday I think it was, what’s wrong with desiring to convert another group of people to your own religion, [of course without force, ] to your own style of life? In philosophy [and in politics] we do this all the time.

HS: Is this philosophy of yours affected at all by the fact that for the last 1,500 or 2,000 years the views that you have been espousing have resulted in the oppression and even murder of millions of Jews? Does that have any effect on your thinking?

JS: Whew! [sighs]

Does the fact that Judaism has been, as it were, the lower person on the totem pole for the last 1,500 years have any influence on my view? I don’t think so. [In any case, the role played by Christian theology, as compared with other causes, requires precise analyses and distinctions that you are not letting me make.]

HS: Do your Jewish students find offensive the views that you hold?

JS: No. [laughs] You must remember that I hardly ever discuss this in class, so they wouldn’t have had much chance.

HS: How do you think that the [Dead Sea Scrolls editorial] project is being run today?

JS: I really don’t want to criticize it. When I have things to criticize, I talk to [Emanuel] Tov [the new editor-in-chief].


ª The bracketed additions in italics were made by Professor Strugnell when he reviewed the manuscript of this interview.—Ed.


Obawiam się, że profesor Strugnell poniekąd padł także ofiarą Soboru Watykańskiego II…


4 myśli na temat “„I am opposed to Judaism on purely theological grounds””

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