Reading the Bible after Auschwitz

  • Jacques B. Doukhan


Can we still read the Bible after Auschwitz?1 The very fact that the event took place in the heart of the most biblically literate country of the world, a country where the reading of the Bible was promoted for the first time in history in Christian civilization, a country with the largest quota of biblical scholars, and a country with the most developed biblical scholarship, justifies this arrogant question.2 That the Holocaust was produced in a civilization characterized by an intense reading of the Bible may suggest, indeed, that the reading of the Bible played some role in the origination of the event. And this observation leads to a subsequent question even more troubling than the first: why did the reading of the Bible lead to Auschwitz? It will not be easy to answer this question. Is it because of what the Bible is, or what it says, or is it because of the way it was perceived, (mis)understood and (mis)applied? Whatever answer one is tempted to offer to that question, the fact remains that the reading of the Bible appears to be a significant factor in the production of Auschwitz. And if reading the Bible had an impact on Auschwitz, then Auschwitz should have an impact on the reading of the Bible. Even if the reading of the Bible had no effect on Auschwitz, the ‘unique’ nature of the event, and the magnitude of the crime, would affect the reading of the Bible. For after Auschwitz, nothing can be the same, including the reading of the Bible. Indeed, for the first time since the Inquisition and Voltaire, the traditional reference to the Bible has once again been shaken. Expressions used to describe the impact of the Holocaust, such as ‘new Revelation’4 or ‘new Sinai’,5 implicitly bear witness to the force of the Holocaust in relation to the Bible. This revolution has taken place not only in secular circles, where the Bible was already discarded and barely read, but also among the theologians and religious thinkers, where a new Bible criticism and a new hermeneutic has emerged out of Holocaust awareness.


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Jacques B. Doukhan

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