Gerhard von Rad's Struggle against the Nazification of the Old Testament

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


From 1933 through 1945, the Hebrew Bible was under attack in Nazi Germany. As both the universities and the Protestant Church sought to align themselves with Nazi ideology, the entire notion that Christianity had any connection to Judaism was denied, and the historic tradition of “Old Testament” studies was compromised. This chapter provides an illuminating case study of Gerhard von Rad (1901–1971), one of the enduring giants of German Protestant biblical scholarship. Von Rad began his academic career at Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in 1934, a scant year after the Nazis rose to power. His university actively sought to position itself as the exemplary National Socialist university. A ranking SS officer served as the university’s President (Rektor); he arranged for medical students to undertake pathology training at the Buchenwald concentration camp, located just twenty miles away. Step-by-step, major changes took place throughout the university, including its prestigious Faculty of Theology, that transformed academic appointments, graduate research, and the curriculum in every field, as the university sought to position itself as Germany’s exemplary National Socialist academic institution.

Keywords: National Socialism, Deuteronomy, University History, Biblical Law, Jewish Studies, Gerhard von Rad, History of Scholarship
Article available upon request to author.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Betrayal of the Humanities: The University during the Third Reich
EditorsBernard M. Levinson, Robert P. Ericksen
Place of PublicationBloomington, IN
PublisherIndiana University Press
Number of pages51
ISBN (Electronic)9780253060808
ISBN (Print)9780253060792, 9780253060785
StatePublished - Sep 6 2022

Publication series

NameStudies in Antisemitism

Bibliographical note

Levinson, Bernard M. “Gerhard von Rad's Struggle against the Nazification of the Old Testament.” Pages 154–204 in The Betrayal of the Humanities: The University during the Third Reich, edited by Bernard M. Levinson and Robert P. Ericksen. Studies in Antisemitism. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2022. ISBN 9780253060792. DOI:


  • National Socialism
  • Protestant Biblical Scholarship
  • Antisemitism
  • Deuteronomy
  • Biblical Law
  • University History
  • Disciplinary history
  • Jewish Studies
  • Jewish Law
  • Gerhard von Rad
  • History of Scholarship
  • Walter Grundmann
  • Holocaust Studies
  • Holocaust Shoah
  • German Jewish history
  • Christian Theology
  • University of Jena
  • Old Testament Exegesis


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