Theological anthropology of Abraham Joshua Heschel

Pauline F Sullivan, Fordham University


The purpose of this study is to examine Abraham Joshua Heschel's understanding of the human person. Heschel writes of the human predicament that we live in a "civilization where factories were established in order to exterminate millions of men, women, and children; where soap was made of human flesh." In God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, Heschel raises two fundamental questions: (1) "What have we done to make such crimes possible?" (2) "What are we doing to make such crimes impossible?"^ For Heschel, the "cardinal problem" is the person, more specifically, the person in relation to God.^ In setting forth the essential elements of Heschel's theological anthropology, the deep structural consistency of his thought emerges. This study argues that the basic structure of Heschel's thought is a dynamic, recurrent relationship between situation, insight and appropriate response. These themes of situation, insight and response are drawn from the phenomenological approach he used to analyze prophetic consciousness. Central to this recurrent scheme is the insight of revelation.^ With Heschel's understanding that prophetic consciousness is archetypal of all open-minded human consciousness, the insights and challenge of the prophets are studied in relation to human consciousness as it moves from situation, to insight and to response.^ Moving from the primary insight of revelation, one is then able to grasp Heschel's understanding of history, time, faith and prayer which reflect the dynamic entity of human existence. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy|Theology|Psychology, Personality

Recommended Citation

Sullivan, Pauline F, "Theological anthropology of Abraham Joshua Heschel" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9816347.