Page 114 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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But Kallen himself is an exception to this rule. He is a great
proponen t of the principle of separation of church and state, yet
in his own life and work there is no separation of daytime life
from night life, no separation of work from leisure living, of the
American from the Jew.
The Mos t Contemporary of Jews
Another con tribu tion to Kallen’s greatness derives from the
fact tha t he stands among us as the preem inent Hellenistic Jew.
Th is is not to suggest tha t he is in some way an anachronism. On
the contrary, he is the most contemporary of Jews. But the
process by which the Jewish people selectively assimilated in to
itself ways and values from other peoples and diverse cultures
—a process known historically as Hellenization—has continued in
Kallen as an active and conscious principle of Jewish th inking
and living. As Paul T illich believes in the perpetual Reformation
in Christianity, so Kallen believes in the perpetual Hellenistic
Revolution in Judaism.
Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, Hellenic
culture became diffused throughout a great par t of the civilized,
and even uncivilized world. Men everywhere learned Greek,
took Greek names, translated their own national writings in to
Greek, and worshipped the gods of the Greeks. As P lu tarch
summarized the effects of the Hellenic diaspora, Homer became
common reading in Asia, and the sons of Persians “learned to
intone the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides.” I t was in this
setting tha t the Bible was translated into Greek, becoming the
Septuagint, and tha t the Greek-speaking Jews claimed tha t
Plato and Pythagoras had studied Jewish writings and tha t Moses
had been the teacher of Orpheus.
At the same time that the Greeks were the teachers, they were
also the pupils. They learned from the Persians, the Jews, and the
Egyptians. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, came from Cyprus;
Chrysippus was probably from Tarsus; Posidonius came from
Apamea on the Orontes; Meleager came from Gadara, near Lake
Tiberias. These and other erstwhile “barbarians” taugh t the
Greeks, even as they learned from them. T h e result was the
flowering of civilization known as Hellenism, in which Jews
participated as givers and takers.
Kallen would say the Jews have survived as a people precisely
because they have
always
been givers and takers, because they
have always been participants in an ever-continuing, ever-chang-
ing Hellenistic civilization.
Here and there some groups of Jews have been forced into or
have voluntarily sought isolation from the rest of society—like