Nietzsche's criticism of ancient "priestly" Judaism is as severe and uncompromising as is his attack on modern anti-Semitism. He directs his diatribe, however, not at real individuals nor at a concrete historical group, but against Judaism as a genealogical category embedded within Christianity. And he does not let his critique of ancient priestly Judaism project into a negative attitude toward contemporary Jews. On the contrary: for contemporary, post-Exile Jews he has great admiration and hopes, just as he admires the Jews of the Old Testament. His violent attacks against Judaism concentrate on the second, "priestly" phase in Jewish history. While anti-Semites accuse the Jews of having killed Christ, Nietzsche scolds them for having begotten him.
The Jewish priests excelled in ressentiment and, moved by it, took subtle revenge upon pagan Rome. They distorted all natural values. They spread false ideas about sin, punishment, guilt, a moral world order, compassion and love for one's fellow man as fundamental values. The humble and weak are the good and may expect redemption; all people are equal in their indebtedness to the transcendent God and in relation to the values of love and compassion that He demands. (Nietzsche frequently reads Christian doctrine directly into priestly Judaism, even without acknowledging the gap that separated them.) Yet beneath their doctrine of compassion the priests insinuated the vengefulness of the weak-spirited, whose will to power cannot be expressed except in the distorted way of ressentiment as analyzed in the Genealogy . In them, moreover, ressentiment became creative, a value-engendering power: it revolutionized Roman (Western) culture by investing it with the values of the "slave morality" that Christianity embodied and made everyone internalize. Henceforth, the strong and noble person sees himself as sinner not only through the eyes of the other but in his own eyes as well. His very being inspires him with guilt.
On such utterly false soil, where everything natural, every natural value, every reality was opposed by the most profound instincts of the ruling class, Christianity grew up—a form of mortal enmity against reality that has never yet been surpassed. (A 27)
Was this article helpful?