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Martin Buber

1878-1965. Jewish religious philosopher. Born in Vienna, he was educated there and at German universities, and from 1916 to 1924 edited Der Jude, a paper for German-speaking Jews. He taught philosophy and religion at Frankfurt University (1923-33) and religion at the University of Jerusalem (1933-51). He was much influenced by the mysticism of the Hasidim and by Kierkegaard's* Christian existentialism. His own contribution was the “I-Thou relationship,” for which he saw Judaism uniquely suited. Religion is essentially the act of holding fast to God; religious truths are dynamic, not dogmatic; and Judaism stressed the encounter of God and man. Buber held that three primary terms-It, I, and Thou-cannot be analyzed as separate concepts, but are purely relational words. “It” is a broad term representing the material world, which permits itself to be experienced. “Without It, man cannot live. But he who lives with It alone is not a man.” By “Thou,” Buber meant a more unlimited concept of deity than the term “God.” The Thou is addressed and not expressed, for to express God is to imply that we can know Him as we can know an object in the realm of It. To maintain a deity worthy of the I- Thou realization, Buber called the God of the man-God relationship the “Eternal Thou,” contending that this was the living personal God of the OT.

See his I and Thou (2nd ed., 1958), Moses (1958), Mamre (1946), and several other works.