The Messiah as the Spirit of History: Krochmal and Graetz

  • Lionel Kochan


It has been said: ‘What is remarkable is the persistence of historistic-theological thinking among twentieth-century Jewish historians of the Jews, long after Protestant theological methods transcended historicism and developed quite new issues and questions.’1 This persistence is to be understood as a continuation into modern times of the unending quest for a historical consummation. But the ancient motif was married to the terminology and thought-world of the nineteenth century, and particularly to Hegel and Hegelianism. Whatever the precise degree of dependence between the old and the new, the old stands out within a modem garb, in so far as the messianic idea is assimilated to the supposed movement of history. In modern times this first made itself evident in the work of Krochmal and Graetz. Neither, as traditionally observant and devout Jews, could be a Hegelian, for both must reject the Hegelian notion that the Idea in its various phases was successively embodied in different peoples or worlds, with Judaism relegated to a passing phase of the ‘Oriental world’.2 On the other hand the philosophy of the spirit admirably lent itself to re-formulation in terms that duly acknowledged the centrality of the ‘spirit’ of Israel.


Jewish History Religious Factor Precise Degree Supposed Movement Ancient Motif 
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Copyright information

© Lionel Kochan 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lionel Kochan
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WarwickUK

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