In one sense it seems to me that Friedrich Nietzsche didn’t understand the Gospel at all; in another sense it seems that he understood it better than many Christians. A few pages into On the Genealogy of Morals he explains how our idea of “good” comes from “the powerful, the superior, the high minded.” In other words, the elite equated their way of life with what is “good” and the way of the lower classes with what is “bad”. While I am not far enough into his argument to speak for him it seems that what he is saying is this: morality doesn’t derive from a deity or a metaphysical reality, but from the aristocracy equating their life style with that which is pleasant and the life-style of those they oppress with that which is not pleasant. This is how morality is determined.
What caught my attention was Nietzsche’s statement about the Jews. He blames the Jews for being the people who introduced the idea that morality is not that which we can equate with power, or the life-style of the oppressor, arguing instead that morality is seen in the actions of the poor, the oppressed. Nietzsche says that “the slave revolt of morals” began with the Jews, because the Jews spread the idea of morality based on something other than power.  Listen to these words:
“….this is indeed what happened: from the trunk of that tree of revenge and hatred, Jewish hatred— the deepest and most sublime hatred, that is, the kind of hatred which creates ideals and changes the meaning of values, a hatred the like of which has never been on earth— from this tree grew forth something equally incomparable, a new love, the deepest and most sublime of all the kinds of love— and from what other trunk could it have grown?…Love grew forth from this hatred, as its crown, as its triumphant crown, spreading itself ever wider in the purest brightness and fullness of the sun, as a crown which pursued in the lofty realm of light the goals of hatred— victory, spoils, seduction— driven there by the same impulse with which the roots of that hatred sank down ever further and more lasciviously into everything deep and evil. This Jesus of Nazareth, as the gospel of love incarnate, this ‘redeemer’ bringing victory and salvation to the poor, the sick, the sinners— did he not represent the most sinister and irresistible form of the very same temptation, the indirect temptation to accept those self-same Jewish values and new versions of the ideal?” 
In other words, Jewish morality is a sort of hatred: the hatred of the slave for the master. For Nietzsche the brilliance of the Jews—as made most evident in Jesus of Nazareth—is that they convinced the Masters that their morality was immorality and that the morality of the slaves was true morality, shaming the Masters. Nietzsche calls the Gospel of the Crucifixion, “…that horrific paradox of the ‘crucified God’, that mystery of an inconceivably ultimate, most extreme cruelty and self-crucifixion undertaken for the salvation of mankind?”  According to Nietzsche, he says of the Jews, “Never in world history did a people have a more important mission. The ‘masters’ are done away with; the morality of the common man has won.” 
In summary, Nietzsche exhibits both disgust, but also profound respect, as he credits the Jews for being the people who brought forth the world’s most successful slave revolt by convincing those in power than their power was not “good” and by arguing that it is the poor and oppressed who are the truly moral since God honors their suffering. Whether Nietzsche’s historical account is accurate or not is a secondary point. It is his theology that interests me.
Thoughts? Any Nietzsche scholars care to add anything to help me better understand his argument?
 Nietzsche, Friedrich; Douglas Smith (1997-01-23). On the Genealogy of Morals: A Polemic. By way of clarification and supplement to my last book Beyond Good and Evil (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 19). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
 Ibid., p. 21.
(Photo Source: http://www.imagenpolitica.com/elblog/efemerides/aniversario-del-fallecimiento-de-friedrich-nietzsche/)
A few things strike me.
He did recognize as Jews and Christians mostly don’t today, that Christ pre resurrection was Hebrew in every way, just a perfectly good one as opposed to all others . I bet the Jews who read this weren’t thrilled with it anymore than SOP anti semitic Christians in Europe then.
I disagree with his view that the Jews and/or their theology had squat to do with a class warfare idea, that’s casting Marxist dialectics onto the text, IMO. If you read the OT thoroughly, you’ll observe the Jews also held slaves and mistreated them at times although it is still unclear to me exactly what “slave” meant in ANE culture. I tend to think POWs were considered slaves back then for example and what we used to call sharecroppers appear to have been coined as slaves.
The same standards would have applied if Egypt never held the Jews as slaves and if there never had been rich and poor on earth.
I assume you know that Bernhard Förster edited much of Nietzsche’s work before publication, and that Förster’s views were more ‘political’ than Nietzsche ‘s and not always in alignment …?
So this dichotomy you detect, and your insight may be the tension between what Nietzsche actually wrote and what Förster edited it to say …
… or, as some argue, his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche might have at least …
The Christian Humanist did a recent post on appreciating Nietzsche as a Christian that’s pretty close with a lot of what you said:
Nietzsche confronts us with the doctrines and the attitudes of our own that are ultimately more atheist than Christian in character. As I noted above, my departure from Nietzsche and my departure from right-wing American politics came roughly during the same span of years, and one significant reason for those departures’ coincidence is that so much of right-wing politics partakes of Nietzsche’s vision. I might not agree with much of what I read in Nietzsche, but I do read a text that follows its own ideas out to the conclusions that follow, and such an exercise helps me to see the consequences of my own ideas.
I highly recommend their podcast, by the way – it’s well-informed, diverse in subject matter, and often very funny.
@Patrick: Indeed, Nietzsche’s account is going to offend a few groups and I imagine that would make him smirk a bit. Also, I think you’re right that his history may be a bit simplistic. Israel’s self-memory included periods of being oppressed, but also rulers who conquered others as well, whether David, Solomon, or the Hasmoneans. Yet I think he may be noticing something of a trajectory in the Hebrew Bible where the oppressed as not necessarily evil for being oppressed, but sometimes this is in fact the opposite of the truth: the oppressed are righteous.
@Andrew: I don’t know much about the transmission history of Nietzsche’s writings, unfortunately. Are you saying that some of what we have from “Nietzsche” is more the editorial arrangement of others than his own writings/thoughts? Any important impacts this might have made of which I should be aware?
@Joel: I think they are on the something there. I was thinking something similar at points. Thank you for notifying me of this podcast.
Nietzsche sees the problem of his day thusly: Western society has rejected God by conducting its affairs as if God didn’t exist, yet its internal workings continue to depend on concepts (e.g., objective moral values) that don’t make a lot of sense if God didn’t actually exist. In other words, Western society has (in a manner of speaking) irresponsibly killed God in the absence of the kind of philosophical reboot that must accompany such a feat. Nietzsche locates the ultimate origin of the offending concepts with the “dogmatic” philosophical tradition that began with the ancient Greeks, a tradition that later fused with early Christianity to produce Western Christian civilization.
Thus far, I and many other people would largely agree with Nietzsche’s diagnosis of Western society. It’s his prescription where things run off the rails.
To make a long story short, Nietzsche counsels the rejection of this “dogmatic” Christianized tradition in favor of the “heroic” Greek pagan tradition exemplified in the classical texts he loved so much as a classics professor. Obviously, Nietzsche’s preferred classical materials suggest a radically different sort of morality than what we find in the Sermon on the Mount, hence Nietzsche’s polemical denigration of the morality represented in the latter as being a “slave morality” and so on.
@Brian, some Nietzsche fans sensitive to the Nazi connection of his work have suggested that the political dimension was a product of the Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche / Bernhard Förster connection.
It may simply be a historiographical effort to exonerate Nietzsche – I don’t know. The argument goes Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche was the custodian of much of Nietzsche’s work. Under the influence of Bernhard Förster, Nietzsche’s work was edited to favour Bernhard Förster’s nationalist anti-Semitic world view. Nietzsche was ‘apparently’ not sympathetic to anti-Semitism though his sister and her husband were.
Much as I admire Nietzsche exceptional ability to employ logic and reason, still disagree with many of his presuppositions, so I personally amn’t inclined to explore the veracity of this claim, though I don’t find it unreasonable, or unlikely.
That your insight detects this tension between what he wrote and its application, however (and it is good insight) inclines me to believe the basis might be related …
Many thanks to Joel for the link!
Nietzsche’s relationship with European Jewry is, for what my opinion’s worth, dang hard to wrap one’s mind around. On one hand, the great crime of the Jews, according to Genealogy of Morals and Beyond Good and Evil, is precisely as you say: they present to the world a God who prefers the weak over the strong, setting the stage for Christianity. On the other hand, he seems to regard French liberals and German anti-Semites as the heirs of that “slave revolt”–the liberals want to render everyone equal (even as they voice frequent disdain for Christianity), and the anti-Semites’ resentment is the place where the ethics of resentment reaches its peak (and, ironically, gets directed at the very people who provide the roots for the ethics of resentment).
So to dismiss Nietzsche as basically coterminous with German anti-Semitism gets things wrong, but so does the reaction that would diminish the importance of the Jews as one of Nietzsche’s historical bad guys.
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