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Philosophy of Jewish Religion, Ancient and Medieval Periods

philosophical text
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The Professorship in Ancient and Medieval Jewish Religion and Philosophy is deeply concerned with the conjunction “and”: the synthesis of religion and philosophy, i.e. Jewish religious philosophy as described in the canonical texts of Isaac Husik (1916), Julius Guttmann (1933), Georges Vajda  (1947), Colette Sirat (1983), and Heinrich and Marie Simon (1984). The curriculum spans two thousand years from Philo of Alexandria in the ancient world to Saadia Gaon and Maimonides in the Middle Ages to Moses Mendelssohn at the dawn of Jewish modernity.  This timespan encompasses three classic syntheses of Jewish religious philosophy:

  • The Hellenistic-Jewish synthesis
  • The Arabic-Jewish synthesis
  • The German-Jewish synthesis

Although Jewish religious philosophy speaks Greek in Alexandria, Arabic in Baghdad or Córdoba, and German in Berlin, it always refers back to the Hebrew and Arabic sources of Judaism and, symbolically, to the city of Jerusalem. For example, when Moses Mendelssohn first argued that Judaism does not constitute a state within a state, ushering in the age of emancipation, he did so in a volume titled Jerusalem. This discipline examines the tensions between philosophy and religion, exile and home, or, to return to urban symbolism, Athens and Jerusalem. Over the course of their studies, students in Jewish Theology should receive an overview of these three epochs of Jewish religious philosophy and become well-versed in at least one classic work of Jewish religious philosophy.

We place particular emphases in Jewish theology:

  • The classics are studied in the context of their linguistic and intellectual history. One problem is that students of Jewish Theology and Jewish Studies often lack specific training in philosophy. They might read Platonic, Aristotelian, Leibnizian, or Kantian works without being familiar with Plato, Aristotle, Leibniz, or Kant. It is important to us that Jewish works are interpreted in light of these philosophical and historical contexts and that students become familiar with the necessary terminology or doctrine.
  • Naturally, in Jewish Theology, we study the classics from the same theological and intellectual interest that produced them. In particular, these works are not included in the curriculum merely out of Jewish or historical interest, but rather – as is standard with classic texts – they are accorded a normative claim to validity. This does not mean neglecting our historical distance from the classics. Rather, we remain open to their synthesis under altered circumstances and ask ourselves questions such as the work’s lasting theological contribution, just as Salomon Maimon and Nachman Krochmal reviewed the synthesis of Maimonedes under the premises of Kant and Hegel.

Prof. Dr. Daniel Krochmalnik

Prof. Dr. D. Krochmalnik
Photo: W. Homolka

Campus Am Neuen Palais / House 2, Room 2.01

E-Mail: daniel.krochmalnikuni-potsdamde

Tel.: (+49)331/977-124932
Office hours:
Monday, 12 -13:00

Additional online offer for the lectures of Prof. Dr. D. Krochmalnik:

The lecture "Aggada, Halacha and Metahalacha on the Messiah and the Messianic Time" (Mon 10-12) and the BA seminar "Ta'ame Ha-Mitzvot" (Wed 16-18) are additionally offered as an online event. Please contact hvoelkuni-potsdamde for access data.

Prof. Dr. D. Krochmalnik
Photo: W. Homolka

Academic Staff

Photo: Verlag

Dr. Helga Völkening

Research Assistant
BAföG Officer
Campus Am Neuen Palais / Haus 15, Raum 1.05

E-Mail: hvoelkuni-potsdamde
Tel.: (+49)331/977-4359

Consultation hours:
Please arrange an appointment by e-mail and the desired medium (telephone, Skype, Zoom, etc.).

Photo: Verlag