Some Thoughts on “Dabru Emet”

Dabru Emet (“Speak the Truth”) is a statement by more than 170 Jewish scholars issued in September 2000. It reflects upon potential points of contact between Jews and Christians. You can read the full document here: First Things Magazine – Dabru Emet


Having now read through Dabru Emet I find myself in general agreement with the overall direction and tone of the document. The tone, at least to me, seems quite irenic. It is trying to develop as many points of contact as possible with Christians from both Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions (although David Bentley Hart points out that it ignores the contribution of the Orthodox, mainly because the Orthodox have not engaged significantly in Jewish-Christian dialogue.) (Jews and Christians: People of God, 179, 186) Many of the claims, e.g. Jews and Christians seek authority from the same book, Jews and Christians accept the moral principles of the Torah, Jews and Christians must work together for justice and peace, are rather uncontroversial. More controversial, I take it, is the statement that “Christians can respect the claims of the Jewish people upon the land of Israel.” Here the word can is functioning in a hypothetical sense. Christians can do this, but whether they do in fact respect the claims of the Jewish people is a different question. An empirical study, or a survey, could settle this matter. Another controversial statement is that “Nazim was not a Christian phenomenon.” Here the authors are stepping into a tricky topic. They try to be very careful with their language, stating that without Christian anti-semitism Nazi ideology could not have been carried out. The authors connect Nazism to Christianity, but not as a necessary and sufficient condition, rather the relationship is of necessity not sufficiency. Finally, the statement that surprised me the most was the claim that “Jews and Christians worship the same God.” Robert Jenson once claimed that,

To the people of Israel, God is ‘whoever rescued us from Egypt.” (ST, 44)

And that the New Testament answer to “Who is God” is,

Whoever raised Jesus from the dead. (ST, 44)

As a Christian I believe that the one who undertook these actions is the same God. But, alongside of Pannenberg, I’m shocked to hear that Jews would agree to such a statement. As Pannenberg says “the implication of this thesis is that the Christian trinitarian doctrine of God is no longer considered a violation of biblical monotheism.” (Jews and Christians: People of God, 183) If Pannenberg is right about the implication of Dabru Emet’s statement about the God Jews and Christians worship then it seems like one major difference between Judaism and Christianity has been erased. Yet, I find this hard to believe.

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