A Tale of Light and Darkness: Martin buber’s gnostic canon and the birth of theopolitics

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The current article revisits the tenuous relationship between Martin Buber’s conception of divine rule on earth (theopolitics) with Carl Schmitt’s famous notion of political theology, by underscoring their shared, though diametrically opposed interest in Gnostic ideas. Based on a reading of Buber’s heretofore unpublished lectures on Judaism and Christianity, the study outlines the nexus between the German tradition of scientific research, religious ideology and political visions, in order to show that Buber’s treatment of Gnosticism in the lectures is belied by an implicit critique of Schmitt’s dualistic distinction between friend and foe that legitimizes the subversion of liberal democracy. The Gnostic canon that Buber identifies in certain parts of the New Testament is shown to be based on the very same scientific research that fed Schmitt’s fascination with Gnostic teachings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number242
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, The University of Pennsylvania with a Ruth Meltzer Fellowship, Spring Semester 2017.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Adolph von
  • Baur
  • Bousset
  • Buber
  • Carl
  • Christian Ferdinand
  • Gnosticism
  • Harnack
  • Martin
  • Reitzenstein
  • Richard
  • Schmitt
  • Science
  • Theopolitics
  • Wilhelm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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