Monday, 12 January 2015



Dr Martin Pulbrook)

(Dr Pulbrook is a Unitarian lay preacher and a former lecturer in classics at Maynooth University)

"My Dear Pat,

Thank you for your blog "Krakow and Auschwitz" (8th Jan - 2015), which I have read with great interest.

You ask, naturally enough, why something as ghastly as Auschwitz happened. Can I suggest a tentative answer?

The preserved hair of the Auschwitz victims :-(

Salman Rushdie, in his The Satanic Verses , incurred the wrath of fundamentalist Islam by suggesting (cogently) that there were verses in the Koran which could not possibly be original.

Salman Rushdie

Now the same is in fact true of our Christian Bible. There was nothing remotely anti-semitic in the teaching and practice of Jesus himself. In his perspective both Jews and Gentiles were brothers, travelling, according to different dispensations, towards the same goal, the Heavenly Kingdom.

Most importantly, the verse uttered by the Jews in Matthew at the condemnation of Jesus, "His blood be upon us and upon our children", was not part of the original Hebrew Matthew text at this point. It is precisely such an addition to the original text as Salmon Rushdie has pointed to the possibility of.

And on the implications of this verse (and others like it) has been built the monstrous edifice of the blood-guilt of all Jews for the death of Jesus. Thus Christian fundamentalists, of whom there are alas too many, including the Nazis, could actually imagine to themselves that they were "doing God's work" by punishing and killing Jews, in order to produce a world in which this "guilty" race was no longer present.

1 of the 1,200,000 victims of Auschwitz

It is of course a complete distortion of the actual position of Jesus himself. We should be grateful to Salman Rushdie, and be aware of the extent to which the proper application of an abstruse discipline such as textual criticism * can actually help us to solve and understand major problems".

(Dr) Martin Pulbrook

Textual criticism is a branch of textual scholarship, philology, and literary criticism that is concerned with the identification and removal of transcription errors in texts, both manuscripts and printed books. Ancient scribes made errors or alterations when copying manuscripts by hand.[1]Given a manuscript copy, several or many copies, but not the original document, the textual critic seeks to reconstruct the original text (the archetype or autograph) as closely as possible. The same processes can be used to attempt to reconstruct intermediate editions, or recensions, of a document's transcription history.[2] The ultimate objective of the textual critic's work is the production of a "critical edition" containing a text most closely approximating the original.


Martin, thank you for such an insightful piece.

It reminds us very strongly that Auschwitz was not God's fault - but man's fault.

I suppose it still can be asked:

1. Why did God not intervene and stop it?

2. Where was God when it was happening?



  1. I always struggled to understand why God didn't stop atrocities, particularly as a young child, but my understanding as an adult and from what I have learnt from my various priests over the years is that firstly we were never promised heaven on earth. That this mortal existence was tough - on some more than others. I am no theologian by any means but over the years it has been explained to me that these atrocities and many before and after were perpetrated by the hatred felt by a few that had no God, no holy spirit within them but that God is with those that are suffering, ready to be their strength to endure, promising them a place in heaven. I have been told we can't blame God for this, only mankind. I have been told that God grieves alongside us at these atrocities. This might all seem childlike but for me it does explain it because I used to fail to understand why he let so many innocent die. But it is up to us to intervene and it is up to us to bring God to where it is happening like Father Kolbe who did save one life because of what he did. That’s the way I see it.

  2. Your comment is childlike in the good sense - "Unless you become like little children......." What you say gives great food for thought.