Abraham Geiger on the origins of Christianity
Abraham Geiger's writings on Christian origins constitute an important bridge between the consideration of early Judaism as a factor in New Testament studies and the development of a Jewish view of Jesus, Paul and early Christianity. Studies of the history of nineteenth century New Testament scholarship, as it developed in Germany, have not paid attention to the emergence of Jewish history as a central factor in the scholarship, nor to the role played by the political struggle over Jewish emancipation within nineteenth century Germany. Prior studies of Geiger's work have not examined his writings on Christianity, nor questioned the influence of his confrontation with Christianity on his conception of Jewish history, particularly during the Maccabean and rabbinic periods.
This study examines Geiger's central historical scholarship in order to establish the method of argumentation he developed concerning the influence of Judaism on the origins of Islam and Christianity. Geiger's interest in issues of Christian origins and the Jewish background to it functioned in three central ways. First, he used his scholarship as a tool to overcome the anti-Judaism he identified in Christian scholarship. Second, he argued that scholarly study of Judaism was not only important, but essential to a thorough understanding of the New Testament and early Christian history. Third, he developed a Jewish version of the rise and development of Christianity, with particular attention to the figures of Jesus and Paul, whom he set within the context of rabbinic Judaism.