During my time in a prisoner-of-war camp I came to realize the importance of hope. Hope was what sustained us; we expected little from the present but a great deal from the future. Because of the hope we shared there were few suicides in our camp.

But this dimension of hope has been neglected in the free world with its emphasis on physical well-being and economic security. Even in churches, relatively little has been said about Christian hope. Now a painful sense of the meaninglessness of existence, portrayed in much contemporary literature and drama, again brings the concept of hope to our attention. So it was not really surprising that Jurgen Moltmann’s A Theology of Hope (1967) was picked up eagerly and reviewed quickly—and favorably—in popular magazines like Time and Newsweek, even though it was a theological work. With the thoroughness characteristic of many European theologians, Moltmann reinterpreted the whole Bible from the viewpoint of hope, reworking just about every major Christian doctrine around the promise motif.

To theologians and philosophers who question the resurrection of Christ on scientific and philosophical grounds, and to men who assume that they and their fellows have an almost God-like control over the future, Moltmann’s book offers a straightforward challenge to focus again on Christ. Such affirmations as “Jesus meant what he said” and “the resurrection is the key to the understanding of the Bible” seem a clarion call.

Moltmann explains that the hope element is what distinguished Judaism from other religions that also claimed epiphanies. While other religions were preoccupied with the presence of the eternal, the Old Testament is primarily interested in the future and what is promised. Thus Moltmann ...

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