This is an attempt by a noted promoter of Christian-Jewish dialogue to produce a theological treatise pro Judaeis to replace the erstwhile Tractatus adversus Judaeos. It is articulated in nine unequal parts: 1. Entwurf einer christlichen Theologie des Judentums 2. Das grosse Glau-benserbe Israels 3. Der « Jude » Jesus 4. Paulus und Israel 5. Theologische « Wiedergutmachung » 6. Das Unterscheidende und Trennende 7. Gemeins-ame Aufgaben und Ziele 8. Kirche und Israel. Ein Kurzkommentar zu « Nostra Aetate », Nr. 4 9. Psalm 129. Each of those is meticulously further divided and subdivided. There follows an « Autorenregister », but no other index, nor a separate bibliography - trusting no doubt to the abundant bibliographical references in the notes.
In effect what we have here is not a theological tractatus on a single theme, but a series of exegetical essays on variously interconnected themes, accompanied by personal reflections and extensive engagement with the thought of other writers, both Christian and Jewish. Indeed the entire patrimony of Christian doctrine and theology on the subject - from the close of the New Testament to Vatican II - is omitted from serious consideration. On the other hand, there is not even an attempt at an integrated
«New Testament Theology» from the standpoint of canonical unity. Hence the impression of a series of exegetical essays.
Part 1 seeks to establish what may be the leading idea of the entire work, arguing for a continuing objective validity of the Jewish religion «post Christum », as well as for a « Sonderweg » whereby God's salvation will be offered to the Jews in such wise as to exempt them from the universal obligation of conversion to Christ this side of the parousia (cf. 52ff., passim). To support this extraordinary clain, the author engages in detailed exegesis particularly of Romans 9-11, focusing on Rom 11,26. It is for fellow exegetes to examine his treatment in the appropriate forum. Any reader however may legitimately ask a priori whether — considering the entire Pauline corpus, the teaching arising from the NT canon, and the Church's doctrinal heritage (cf., e.g., LG § 14, AG § 7) — this is a credible notion. To this reviewer it is not.
Part 5 addresses itself competently to the main NT issues capable of being exploited in an anti-Jewish sense: The « Pharisees »., the « Jews » in St. John's Gospel, and responsibility for the Crucifixion. Mussner synthe-sises recent scholarship, although it is clear that there are questions here that will bear further research. Parts 4 and 6 debate Liberal Protestant and Jewish claims that Christianity represents a Hellenismg and paganising of the message of the « historical Jesus », and that St. Paul initiated that process... Thus part 4 firmly establishes St. Paul within a thoroughly Israelite matrix, while part 6 locates the « stumbling block to Jews » not in some subsequent distorting Christology, but in the multiple manifestation by the «historical Jesus » Himself of His Divine exousia. All of this makes for very rewarding reading, even though, like much of the rest of the book, one would feel it safest to commend it to professional exegetes.
Parts 2 and 7 ought to be the most valuable to participants in the Christian-Jewish dialogue, with their extensive discussion of the common tenets of the two religions, such as Monotheism, Creation, Man in the image of God and the inseparability of love of God and love of neighbour.
With all the usefulness of individual essays, the book fails to achieve thematic unity. Its identification of Judaism with the religion of the Old Testament, or, at most, with that current in Our Lord's time, does not take adequate account either of the thesis that both Christianity and Jamnia Judaism have « equal» claim to continuity with the OT Israelite religion, or of the massive development and present state of the Jewish religion itself. Indeed the author does not demonstrate a first-hand acquaintance with the Jewish sources and contemporary Jewish writers he cites are often marginal or unrepresentative.
Rather disturbingly the book tends to identify the Church with the Gentile Christians alone. However, contrary to the author's assertion on p. 211 (« Die Kirche bleibt fiir immer der aufgepfropfte "Wildling"...»), it is not the Church, but specfically the Gentile element within it (cf. Rom 11,13) who are the « wild olive tree ». Allied with this is the unquestioning acceptance of Jewish claims that conversion to Christianity would eliminate the Jewish people (cf., e.g., 79), as well as the rejection of mission to the Jews (60ff.). The latter does not consider either the massive secularisation of contemporary Jewry, or the fact that the Gospel is not a tiresome imposition but Good News, to which every man has a right (cf. Evan-gelii Nuntiandi § 53).
These observations and reservations having been made, the book is still a very welcome sign of the serious reassessment in the field by scholars and theologians in response to the call of Vatican II, an undertaking that is still very much under way and that is perhaps not yet fully assimilated at the level of preaching and catechesis. If it interprets « favores sunt ampliandi » to excess, this is understandable in view of the German background and medium and the traumatic memory of Auschwitz, of which the author is acutely conscious (11-18), albeit effecting a transference of responsibility from Gentiles to Christians. Perhaps — after Auschwitz — it will take a Christian from Jewry to write the needed, balanced, Trac-tatus de Judaeis?