Fariséer mellan svensk protestantism och Tredje riket. En bakgrundsteckning till Hugo Odebergs «Fariséism och kristendom»
Hugo Odeberg (1898-1973) was professor in Biblical Theology with New Testament Exegesis in Lund, from 1933 to 1964. He was renowned for promoting an understanding of early Christian tradition in the light of Jewish texts. One of his major passions was Jewish mysticism.
Odeberg got high praise from the Swedish audience for his booklet Pharisaism and Christianity, which was published for the first time in 1943. By that time Odeberg was engaged in different pro-German enterprises both in Sweden and in Nazi Germany. After the War Odeberg was stigmatized for his pro-Nazi views and notable editorial work was done in his book; blatant anti-Semitic discourse was reformulated and negative statements about Jewish theologians were altered.
In Pharisaism and Christianity Odeberg argues against what he perceives as common and vulgar Christan misconceptions about the Pharisees. The Pharisees at large were devout and sincere in their religious conduct. They wished for nothing more than to serve the God of Israel with an open heart and honesty, according to Odeberg. Their religious strife, however, was flawed owing to their misconception of man’s free will and the possibility to turn away from sin. Odeberg says that the sever danger of «Pharisaism» is self-deception. Because the Pharisees thought that they were good, they were in fact evil. Although perceived as promoting the Pharisees, Odeberg disqualifies their theology by having Protestant Lutheran anthropology as the land mark. The consequence is that Pharisaism becomes a danger both for Jews and Christians. However, the Jew’s deception is more severe, and the Pharisaic Jew is kept as a negative example. At the same time, when Odeberg annuls the Pharisaic anthropology, he uses Liberal Jewish theologian as Leo Baeck as exponents for the Pharisaic tradition. Odeberg shares a negative appreciation of Reformed and Liberal Judaism with the German Nazi ideology.
The purpose of Odeberg’s writing Pharisaism and Christianity was very likely many-folded. Firstly, he was eager to establish himself as an original and gifted biblical scholar in the Swedish context. Secondly, by disparaging Jewish anthropology, thus confirming the gap between Christianity and Judaism, Odeberg kept a window open towards his pro-Nazi colleagues in the Third Reich in 1943. According to the present author, Odeberg’s relatively positive evaluation of the Pharisaic tradition does not match with his sweeping statements and low appreciation of liberal Judaism. The outcome of Pharisaism and Christianity still shows the superiority of Christianity against Judaism and thus contributes to the Christian anti-Semitic tradition.
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