Martin Schreiner and Jewish Theology: An Introduction

in European Journal of Jewish Studies
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Martin Schreiner (1863–1926), a rabbi in Hungary and later a professor at the liberal rabbinical seminary in Berlin, was a disciple of David Kaufmann and Ignaz Goldziher, and a prominent scholar of Medieval Islamic and Jewish thought. The present article deals with his little-known contributions to religious thought in the late nineteenth century, utilizing also his unpublished work on Jewish religious philosophy and his correspondence with Goldziher. Schreiner’s unique quest for a combination of liberal, academic Jewish theological inquiry with conservative loyalty to religious law—a precarious stance, a neo-Maimonidean attitude of sorts—confronted and challenged all the religious platforms which evolved in modern Judaism.

Martin Schreiner and Jewish Theology: An Introduction

in European Journal of Jewish Studies




Tamás Turán“Academic Religion: Goldziher as a Scholar and a Jew,” in Modern Jewish Scholarship in Hungary: The “Science of Judaism” between East and Westeds. Tamás Turán and Carsten Wilke (Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg2016) 223–270here 235–236 239.


Franz Rosenzweig“Zeit ist’s . . . (Ps. 119, 126): Gedanken über das jüdische Bildungsproblem des Augenblicks,” in Kleinere Schriftened. idem (Berlin: Schocken1937) 56–78here 72 (cf. “It is Time: Concerning the Study of Judaism” in On Jewish Learning ed. and trans. Nahum N. Glatzer [New York: Schocken Books 1955] 28–54 here 47–48).


Martin Schreiner“A zsidó vallás uralkodó eszméiről [On the Ruling Ideas of the Jewish Religion],” MZsSz 1 (1884): 545–550here 545–546.




Cf. Turán“Goldziher as a Scholar and a Jew” 261–262.


Ignác Goldziher“A vallásos eszme fejlődése a régi hébereknél [The Development of the Religious Idea among Ancient Hebrews],” Zsidó Évkönyv (1875): 33–52 (= Ignác Goldziher A zsidóság lényege és fejlődése eds. János Kőbányai and József Zsengellér [Budapest: Múlt és Jövő 2000] 345–366).


See Ignác Goldziher“A bibliai tudomány és a modern vallásos élet [Biblical Studies and Modern Religious Life],” MZsSz 1 (1884): 89–97168–176 here esp. 94–95 (= Goldziher A zsidóság lényege és fejlődése eds. Kőbányai and Zsengellér 153–155); and above at n. 10.


Abraham Geiger“Etwas über Glauben und Beten: Zu Schutz und Trutz,” Jüdische Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Leben 7 (1869): 1–59at 7–8 10. As far as I can see Schreiner did not make reference to Geiger in this context in any of his writings.


See Máté Hidvégi“Immánuel Löw’s Reflections on ‘The Essence and Evolution of Judaism’ in his letters to Ignaz Goldziher in 1888,” in Goldziher Memorial Conference June 21–22 2000 Budapest Oriental Collection Library of the Hungarian Academy of Scienceseds. Éva Apor and István Ormos (Budapest: Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences2005) 75–81. Schreiner was informed of these lectures by the resumés published in the Hungarian Jewish press and from friends.


Schreiner“Az ujkori zsidóság” 20–21.


Goldziher“A haladásról [On Progress],” MZsSz 3 (1886): 679–681; 4 (1887): 32–34 at 680–681 33–34.


Schreiner“Theologia és filologia [Theology and Philology],” MZsSz 5 (1888): 628–636at 630.


Michael Creizenach“Grundlehren des israelitischen Glaubens,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für jüdische Theologie 1 (1835): 48–51327–330; 2 (1836): 70–74. Goldziher also accorded much weight to sanctity/holiness in his lectures on the “essence of Judaism” (mentioned also by Schreiner in his letter quoted above): Goldziher A zsidóság lényege és fejlődése 74–76.


SchreinerReligionsphilosophie6–8 276–281.


SchreinerReligionsphilosophie277. For another explicit reference of Schreiner to Völkerpsychologie as a discipline see his “Ueber Entwickelung in der Religion” West-östliche Rundschau 1 (1894): 394.


Béla Vajda“Vallásoktatás,” MZsSz 8 (1891): 754–764; 9 (1892): 45–58 125–146. (The latter two parts of the article responds to articles by Schreiner and Munkácsi in defense of the curriculum which appeared in Egyenlőség.) An important element of Vajda’s criticism is that he pinpoints inner contradictions in Schreiner’s overarching aim to develop through education a “harmonious worldview” a reign of “one truth” in the modern ‘educated’ Jew (ibid. 48–51 127–129). He also draws attention to the fact that the second main part of Schreiner’s curriculum (systematic Jewish ethics) relies heavily on Heymann Steinthal’s book (Allgemeine Ethik) without acknowledging it. Hesed zedakah and kedushah play a central part in that book. Not only Schreiner but Goldziher as well (see the letter in Appendix i) was influenced in this respect by Steinthal’s ethics.


SchreinerDie jüngsten Urteile68–69; idem Religionsphilosophie 260–262.


Martin Schreiner“Izraelita és zsidó [Israelite and Jew],” MZsSz 6 (1889): 514; idem “Über Entwicklung in der Religion” West-östliche Rundschau 1 (1894): 390. A seemingly less explicit in fact more radical formulation: “[. . .] the torah is the most perfect summary under his [Moses’] name of everything that Judaism created in religious and ethical ideas and institutions in the biblical period.” (Martin Schreiner “A zsidó istenitiszteletről [On Jewish Liturgy]” MZsSz 6 [1889]: 220–238 344–351 at 348).


Adolf HarnackDas Wesen des Christentums (Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs1900).


Martin Schreiner“A győri rabbiértekezlet [The Rabbinic Meeting in Győr],” MZsSz 6 (1889): 530–531.


Martin Schreiner“Az országos rabbiképző intézet [The National Rabbinical Seminary],” MZsSz 4 (1887): 37–41at 38; idem “Az ujkori zsidóság” 17; idem “A zsidó istenitiszteletről” 234 236–238. For a poignant criticism of Schreiner’s ideal (and slogan) of “harmonious worldview” (which is called above the theory of ‘one truth’) as it is expressed in his pedagogical work cf. the reference in n. 48 above.


Schreiner“Az ujkori zsidóság” 23–26.


Ibid. 21–23; Schreiner“Was ist uns die Wissenschaft des Judentums?” 176–177; idem “Die Überreifen” 11; and see his letter quoted in Appendix ii. Cf. Steinthal Allgemeine Ethik 169 174 418–423.


Schreiner“Az ujkori zsidóság” 89.


Schreiner“A zsidó istenitiszteletről” 351. Cf. above at n. 23.


Martin Schreiner“Die jüdische Gemeinde Berlin,” in Mitteilungen des Liberalen Vereins für die Angelegenheiten der jüdischen Gemeinde zu Berlin 5–6 (1898): 9–24 at 9–10 12–15; idem “Az ujkori zsidóság” 17 24. In his essay on Jewish scholarship however he strikes another note stressing another function or vocation of Wissenschaft des Judentums (see n. 99 below).


Schreiner“Die Überreifen” 17–18. Also see his letter to Goldziher dated July 12 1894 gil/38/01/147 Library of the has reporting his experiences in Berlin: “On the burial of Mrs. Cassel I noticed that the Jewish community operates a very profitable florist shop at the entrance of the cemetery. I admit that I prefer even Ibn Taymiyyah with his تشبيه over this aping Jewish ġahiliyya.”


Schreiner“Die jüdische Gemeinde Berlin” 19–20; on Hebrew as the language of prayer see also idem Die jüngsten Urteile 183–184.


Martin Schreiner“Zu den Repräsentantenwahlen,” Israelitische Wochenschrift 10 (1901): 612–13 24 according to the offprint. (In the journal the article was printed in no. 46: 724–727; no. 47: 740–745.) For his emphasis on “historical continuity” cf. also: idem “Az országos rabbiképző intézet” 39; idem “Az ujkori zsidóság” 89. However Schreiner does not seem to be entirely consistent in dismissing all liturgical reforms as experiments. Concerning the deletion of references to the sacrificial cult and some messianic references in the prayerbook he opines that “these were relatively less objectionable had these [changes] elevated religious life where they were introduced [. . .]” (Schreiner “Az ujkori zsidóság” 23); see also idem “A zsidó istenitiszteletről” 351.


Schreiner“Die jüdische Gemeinde Berlin” 13–14 19; on the liturgical issues see idem “Az ujkori zsidóság” 23–24 (see however the previous note) criticizing Reform without naming Geiger. On Geiger’s program of reforming Judaism into a world religion see Schreiner’s “A zsidó istenitiszteletről” 351; idem Religionsphilosophie 110–112. For a criticism of Geiger along similar lines (and emphasizing the differences between him and Zunz) see Solomon Schechter Studies in Judaism Third Series (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America 1924) 47–83.


SchreinerReligionsphilosophie268–273. Geiger’s psychological understanding of individual religiosity is meant.—I am not aware of any passage of Goldziher in which he criticizes Geiger. This does not mean that he agreed with him on the above-mentioned issues; on the status of Hebrew as the language of prayer he certainly did not.


See Turán“Goldziher as a Scholar and a Jew” 262.


Cf. Schreiner“Az országos rabbiképző intézet” 39; idem “Az ujkori zsidóság” 17 19 24–25; cf. Goldziher A zsidóság lényege és fejlődése 116.


Schreiner“Az ujkori zsidóság” 18.


Kaufmann KohlerGrundriss einer systematischen Theologie des Judentums auf geschichtlicher Grundlage (Leipzig: G. Fock1910). At the time of writing the book Kohler was already the rector of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati. For the critical reception of this work see Soussan The Gesellschaft 123–125.


Cf. SoussanThe Gesellschaft82–83. In the context of the foundation of the Gesellschaft it is noteworthy that a page found in Schreiner’s bequest (in his handwriting) titled “Proposals” directed apparently to the Berlin Jewish Community briefly enumerating three financial-educational issues and five scholarly initiatives. The document is undated and it is unclear who authored the proposals themselves. The first of the second set of proposals is the foundation of a Society for the Academic Study of Judaism: “Es ist eine Gesellschaft für die Wiss. d. Judenthums zu gründen.” The fourth proposal is the edition of a “Corpus philosophorum Judaeorum” which is known to be Schreiner’s brainchild: in a letter from 1900 he writes: “Ich beabsichtige eine ‘Bibliotheca philosophorum Judaeorum atque Muhammedanorum mediae aetatis’ herauszugeben [. . .]”; see Schmelczer “Martin Schreiner” 87. These circumstances make it possible even likely that all the initiatives mentioned in the document are Schreiner’s including the Gesellschaft. If this assumption is correct then the document may shed new light on the beginnings of this society and also on Schreiner’s opposition to the initiative of Lucas—who was a former student of his and is regarded as the founder of the Gesellschaft—to establish it.


Schreiner“Was ist uns die Wissenschaft des Judentums?” 177. A religious-theological significance was attributed to Wissenschaft des Judentums by many of its earlier major ideologues. Cf. also the names of the first initiatives and societies from the 1850s to 1860s aiming at publishing Jewish literature from manuscripts: Meorerei Yeshenim; Mekitzei Nirdamim (both means: ‘Wakers of Slumberers’). It is not a mere rhetorical flourish when Zunz speaks in revolutionary-redemptive terms—as a freedom fight and the redemption of captives—about making the Hebrew manuscripts of the Vatican available to the public: Die hebräischen Handschriften in Italien: Ein Mahnruf des Rechts und der Wissenschaft (Berlin: W. Adolf & Co. 1864) 19. The religious significance of Wissenschaft des Judentums as a freedom fight for Zunz should not be obscured by the political context in which his call was made.


Heymann SteinthalAllgemeine Ethik (Berlin: Georg Riemer1885) 122–124.


Cf. Schreiner“Az ujkori zsidóság” 21. For a historical and critical discussion of this idea see Heymann Steinthal Einleitung in die Psychologie und Sprachwissenschaft (Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler 1871) 44–72.


[Jewish Community of Pest]A pesti izraelita hitközség vallásoktatásának egyetemes tanterve49–53. “Eighth grade” was the last grade in high schools for pupils 18 years old. Typography punctuation spelling and layout follow the original as closely as possible.


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