Holy war

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A holy war is a collective, organized use of force ( war ) that is based on a religion , for example with ideas about the commission of a god and his intervention in the war. Such reasons are often given in societies in which political and religious rulers are identical or closely related. They then justify their order, their defense, strengthening and / or expansion as being willed by God.

The term originated in Hellenism and has been common in Christianity for the Crusades since the High Middle Ages . In modern times he also legitimized wars motivated by nationalism , especially the anti-Napoleonic wars of liberation in the German-speaking area , and elevated them to a ideological battle . Similar concepts from other religions, such as jihad in Islam , are often compared with the term that emerged in Christianized Europe, but not equated in research. Also the just war linked to rational ethical criteria is distinguished from holy war.

Old Orient

In the ancient Orient it is difficult to separate politically and religiously conditioned or justified wars from one another. The great empires of Babylonia , Assyria and Egypt often carried out their campaigns of conquest under religious auspices, for example by asking their gods in an oracle or referring to divine orders to the ruler. In Urartu it was continuously described in inscriptions that the god Ḫaldi preceded the army with his šuri . The king wages war by order of God. Otherwise, these wars mostly had purely political and economic goals, not religious ones. Religious elements did not play a decisive role in warfare either. This is why historical science only speaks of holy wars to a limited extent .

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece , wars for the protection of the Apollo shrine in Delphi and its possessions against predatory neighbors were fought as holy wars under amphictyon law:

The First Holy War was waged by Athens and the tyrant Kleisthenes of Sicyon 600–590 BC. Against Krissa . The Spartans led the second against Phocis in 448 , and the third (355–346 BC) was initiated by the Locrians, supported by the Thebans . King Philip waged the Fourth Holy War (339–338) on behalf of the Amphictyons against Amphissa , who was accused of violating the temple area and destroyed it in 338.

In late antiquity , the Persian War of Herakleios took on the form of a holy war.

Since the Roman Empire regularly legitimized and prepared its campaigns of conquest with religious rites, a division into holy or secular wars is judged here as anachronistic.

Hebrew Bible

The term "holy war" appears only once in the Tanach ( Joel 4,9  LUT ). The expression “war of YHWH ” is, however , often found in Numbers , in the book of judges , in the first and second books of Samuel . Gerhard von Rad traced the individual battles from the early days of the Israelites described there in an essay from 1947 to a charismatically directed warfare of a twelve-tribes union and thus triggered a research debate that continues to this day. His basic thesis of a special pre-state sacred institution formed by an Israelite amphictyony has been refuted since 1972 by evidence of precise ancient oriental parallels. The literary tradition of warfare directed by YHWH has nevertheless persisted in the Bible from the early beginnings of the Torah writing to the late Jewish apocalyptic and developed into great prophetic visions of peace.

Pre-state time

In the Miriam song , which is considered to be the nucleus of the story of the Exodus from Egypt , it says ( Ex 15.21  EU ):

Sing a song to the Lord, for he is high and exalted! He threw horses and chariots into the sea.

The Israelites saw their salvation from the overwhelming army of Pharaoh , which sank into the Red Sea without their intervention , as a miracle of their God (Ex 14:14): YHWH fights for you, but you will be calm. From then on, God remained the one who was actually fighting in an otherwise hopeless situation (v. 3ff):

The Lord is a warrior, Yahweh is his name. […] Your right hand, Lord, is glorious in strength; Your right hand, Lord, smash the enemy.

This psalm , which precedes Solomon's temple building, looks back on the victories over hostile neighboring peoples through which King David created the great kingdom of Israel (v. 14-18). This was preceded by the desert period and land grabbing (around 1200–1000 BC), which the 4th book of Moses ("Book of YHWH's wars", Num 21:14) and the book of Joshua as a predominantly military conquest, expulsion and partial extermination of the Represent residents of Canaan .

The book Richter comes closer to the historical course : According to this, the YHWH Wars were spontaneous defensive campaigns by some of the Twelve Tribes of Israel . They only formed a common army when enemy attacks, mostly raids, threatened the existence of individual tribes. These defensive battles were later attributed to the entire tribal union, which had already settled down and was united in the belief in YHWH. This had no permanent leaders and no central political and cultic power. Individuals felt, from case to case, to have been seized by the Holy Spirit and legitimized to declare a war on YHWH and to gather together the Israelites capable of fighting and ready to fight. These charismatic military leaders called themselves “judges” in the sense of “savior”, since a YHWH war was supposed to protect Israel's right to life (Judges 5:11; 1 Sam 12,7). Scattered notes show Gerhard von Rad's basic motifs:

  • The leader, seized by the Spirit of God, blows the trumpet and sends messengers to the most endangered tribes to raise an army (Judges 6,34ff).
  • As a sign of urgency, the messengers carry with them bloody pieces of a sacrificed animal (1Sam 11: 7) or of a woman murdered by the attackers (Judg 19:29).
  • The "YHWH team" - only farmers as infantry without horses and chariots - gathers in a camp (Judges 5.11.13; 20.2). The able-bodied men, divided into tribal groups, are sacredly consecrated (Dtn 23.9ff; Jos 3.5; 1Sam 21.5f).
  • All who have built a new house, are looking forward to a harvest, are newlyweds or are fearful will be dismissed (Deut 20: 5–8; Judg 6: 3).
  • Sacrifices are made (1 Samuel 7.9; 13.9f).
  • A “seer” asks God (Judges 20:23, 27; 1 Sam 7,9). If he receives the promise YHWH has given the enemy into your hand (Jos 2.24; 6.2; Jud. 3.27f; 4.7.14; 7.9.15 etc.), the general calls on the warriors to fearlessness, because God to pull ahead "(Dtn 20.4; Judge 4.14).
  • Blowing trumpets and loud shouts open the battle (Jos 6,5; Jud 7,20), in which YHWH intervenes with natural powers like wind, hail, floods.
  • The enemies tremble and despair (Ex 15,14ff; Dtn 2,25; Jos 5,1; 1Sam 4,7f). The "horror of God" overcomes them and terrifies them, drives them to flight or plunges them into mortal confusion (Ex 23:27; Dtn 7:20, 23; Jos 10:10; 24:12; Judg 4:15; 7 , 21f).
  • After the victory, the " ban " is enforced: according to Jos 6,18f and 1Sam 15 on all surviving enemies, according to Dtn 20,16f only on male fighters who previously turned down an offer of surrender. The booty of the vanquished will be consecrated to YHWH and partly burned, partly distributed.
  • The army is called to your tents, Israel! dismiss.

Especially in the battles with the Philistines , the Ark of the Covenant , a kind of mobile divine throne, was carried to increase the certainty of victory and the willingness to fight. In retrospect, the conquest of Canaanite cities such as Jericho was portrayed as the extermination of the conquered by the command of God (e.g. Jos 6:21; Dtn 25,17ff).

Israel's first king Saul was rejected according to 1 Sam 15: 2f.9f because he had not completely fulfilled the ban on the Amalekites . On the Mescha stele , the Moabite king Mescha documents how, on the orders of his god, he took an Israelite city, killed all its inhabitants and cattle and dedicated the spoil to his god. The “curse” was therefore not a specialty of Israel (Judges 11:24). According to the Deuteronomist editorship (after 586), its neighboring peoples were not destroyed, so that later generations of Israel would not forget how to wage war (Judges 3: 1–3).

Following Ex 14.14, the Book of Judges reduces human participation in God's war and increasingly emphasizes his sole act of salvation. After YHWH's first traditional war, the prophetess Deborah praised those involved who “hurried to YHWH's aid” and rebuked those who were not involved (Judg 5:23). In a divine speech before the representatives of the tribes in Shechem , on the other hand, it says (Jos 24:12):

And I sent fear and terror before you, and they drove them away from you, the two kings of the Amorites , and not your sword or your bow.

Ri 6 also represents God's warfare against human military power: Gideon has to fire all but 300 of 32,000 men. The hopelessly inferior minority defeats the vastly superior Midianites only by nightly rearrangement of their camp, the noise of trumpets and the fear thus generated. The tale of the young shepherd David, who defeats the heavily armed Philistine Goliath only with a slingshot (1 Sam 17.45ff) , also sets this accent :

You come to me with sword, spear and sickle sword, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the lines of battle of Israel, whom you have mocked. [...] All the world should recognize that Israel has one God. Let all who are gathered here also know that the Lord does not bring salvation by sword and spear; for it is a war of the Lord and he will give you into our power.

Royal time

Saul, the first king of Israel, was the prophet Samuel designated (1 Samuel 10.1) and was chosen after a successful battle by the people (1 Samuel 11:15). He last raised the old “people's army” (1Sam 11.6f), made it subject to ritual commandments (1Sam 14.24) and, after unsuccessful questioning, recognized YHWH as the true “savior of Israel” (1Sam 14.39). The following rulers of Israel kept the oracle but saw themselves as the belligerents and victorious (2 Samuel 8: 6-14): YHWH helped David in everything he did. God had thus become the king's helper, while the judges were God's helpers.

By transferring the ark to Jerusalem , David tied the YHWH faith to a fixed place of worship (2 Sam 6). Thereupon a court prophet gave him the promise of the eternal existence of his dynasty (2 Sam 7:16). God now worked through the anointed king at the enthronement , who replaced the charismatic rescuers as military leader (2 Sam 8:14) and set up a standing army among military officers employed at court (2 Sam 8:16). The military became a permanent institution with protests and censuses (2Sam 24), garrisons, contingents of chariots (1Kon 10.26) and fortress building (2Chr 11.5ff; 26.9ff).

The wars of the royal times in Israel and Judah were therefore no longer portrayed as YHWH wars. Rather, the kings and generals now confronted prophets as critical heralds of God's will in order to sharply condemn royal injustice in war and in peace: for example David's murder of his officer Uriah (2 Sam 11); Ahab's robbery from Naboth's vineyard (1 Kings 21: 16-26); the power struggles between Jeroboam and Rehoboam , which disregarded a prophet's command for a truce and thus caused the collapse of the great kingdom of David (1 Kings 11-12). Elijah in particular faced the kings of his time as the real “chariot of Israel and its teams”, armed only with God's unavailable spirit (2 Kings 2:12), without whose blessing the king lost his battles. Ps 33: 16ff explained the theological reason for this:

He who formed their hearts, heed all their deeds. The king is not helped by his strong army, the hero does not save himself through great strength. The horses are of no use to victory, with all their might they can save no one. But the eye of the Lord rests on all who fear and honor him, who see his goodness; for he wants to snatch them from death and save their lives in the famine. Our souls hope in the Lord; he is our shield and our help.

Therefore, unlike in the oriental environment, the leaders of victorious battles in the Bible were not elevated to war heroes. Rather, the heroes of the past were seen as contributing to the spread of violence that followed the great flood (Gen 6: 1-4). State armaments are criticized and limited in the King's Law as a “return to Egypt”, that is, against God's will, the re-enslavement of the Israelites. The king should always have a copy of the Torah with him and read it in order to preserve God's right (Deut 17: 16ff; cf. 1 Sam 8: 10-18).

Scripture Prophecy

Since the 8th century BC Individual prophets, whose messages were recorded, confronted Israel again with the legal will of YHWH, falling back on pre-state tradition. Isaiah in particular offered King Ahaz the archaic protective power of the YHWH war in the face of acute threat from the Aramaic king Rezin : He should be fearless and trust only God, not his military (Isa. 7: 1-9; 30.15). Changing alliances with the threatening great powers, diplomatic intrigues, on the other hand, would bring about the downfall of his kingship all the more certain (Is 18.1ff; 30.1ff; 31.1f). God alone would act (31: 4) and put an end to all proud arrogance of the tyrants (Isa. 13).

With Amos , YHWH wages war against Israel for the first time (Am 2: 13-16), whereby according to later prophets he makes use of foreign rulers (Isa 28:21; 29; 1ff; Jer 21,4ff and others). Amos also announced one day of YHWH as an inescapable reckoning with his apostate people (Am 5,18ff) and thus justified the belief in a final judgment . After the fall of kingship, when Israel could no longer wage wars in the name of God, exilic and post-exilic prophecy also included foreign peoples and painted God's judgment with the images of an eschatological battle against all human arrogance and military power (Isa 34; Ez 30; Zeph 1.7ff). In Joel 4: 9 God's final battle against the armed people is called “holy war” for the only time in the Tanakh.

From the motif of the YHWH war, in which God himself disarms the enemies, the prophecy of salvation deduced visions of universal disarmament and lasting peace among the nations as the final commandment of YHWH (Mi 4,1–5; Isa 2,2–4; Sach 4,6 ; see swords for plowshares ). Ps 46,9ff  EU names its goal as an example:

He puts an end to wars to the limits of the earth; he breaks the bows, smashes the lances, in the fire he burns the shields. "Let go and realize that I am God, exalted above the peoples, exalted on earth."

This vision of Shalom associated with the Messiah -Verheißung (Is 7,14f; 9.1-6; 11,1-9; property 9.9) and the Son of Man expectancy (Dan 7,13ff).

New Testament

According to Mk 10:45, Jesus of Nazareth shared the expectations of Daniel's apocalyptic of the coming of the Son of Man to replace all earthly tyranny. His symbolic donkey ride reaffirmed the disarmament promises of the Hebrew Bible (Mk 11.7; cf. Zech 9.9), which corresponded to his own renunciation of force (Mt 26:52). He described war as an expression of the old, corrupt, unchangeable world order that would end the approaching kingdom of God (Mk 13: 7f). He anticipated this kingdom in his healings and feeding the poor (Lk 11:20) and warned his followers that such action would bring them into serious conflict with the old structures (Lk 12.51f):

Do you think I came to bring peace to earth? No, I tell you, not peace, but division. Because from now on it will be like this: If five people live in the same house, there will be discord ...

In view of his gift of self (Mk 15:24), the early Christians interpreted his crucifixion by Roman soldiers as taking over the final judgment of God on all peoples (Mk 15:33). By being the first to raise him from the dead, God made him Lord of all earthly and heavenly powers and began to disempower them (Ephesians 1: 20ff). In following Jesus they could therefore only fight against enmity, malice and violence in general (Eph 2:14ff), and no longer against foreign believers, foreign peoples and individual rulers.

Thereupon Paulus of Tarsus, imprisoned by the Romans, reinterpreted the tradition from the YHWH war to a radically non-violent religious struggle (Eph 6,10ff):

Become strong through the strength and might of the Lord! Put on the armor of God so that you can withstand the devil's cunning attempts. Because we do not have to fight against people of flesh and blood, but against the princes and powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against the evil spirits of the heavenly realm. Therefore put on the armor of God so that you can stand up on the day of calamity, accomplish everything and endure the battle. So be steadfast: Gird yourselves with truth, put on righteousness as armor and readiness as shoes to fight for the gospel of peace. Above all, take up the shield of faith! With him you can extinguish all fiery projectiles of evil. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, that is the word of God. Do not stop praying and pleading! Pray in the Spirit at all times; be vigilant, persevere and pray for all saints, including me ...

Accordingly, Christian theologians rejected military service as incompatible with being a Christian until the fourth century.

Christian antiquity

Christianity in the first two centuries generally rejected military service. There was evidence that there were no Christians in the Roman army until 175. Origen and Tertullian rejected military service in spite of the state-affirming attitude of the Christians. For Origines, the war was primarily a spiritual battle. It forbade Christians to use weapons and expected the abolition of all wars through the spread of Christian faith ( Contra Celsum 8: 69f.). Tertullian ( De corona militis, around 210) taught that Christ had forbidden Christians to carry a sword, and thus strictly rejected the service of soldiers for Christians, also because of the associated imperial cult as idolatry.

Since the Constantinian Revolution of 313, wars for the expansion of Christianity were finally legitimized and practiced theologically. Eusebius of Caesarea then wrote in a hymn of praise to Emperor Constantine that he was "waging a war under the cross, which is thus holy". After Ambrose of Milan uncritically allowed Christians to serve as soldiers and also affirmed military violence against non-Christians, Augustine von Hippo standardized the reasons for war and warfare of a Christian authority with his theory of the Just War (420). In doing so, he did not resort to the New Testament, but to the Old Testament idea of ​​the YHWH war. For Augustine, the idea of ​​earthly peace is of central importance:

The good of peace is so great that even in the realm of earthly and perishable things nothing can be better heard, nothing more eagerly desired and ultimately nothing better can be found. ( De Civitate Dei 19:11)

He tolerated violence and war as the last resort to regain peace, justice and common good. These must be motivated by love for the enemy and must not aim at enslavement, captivity or the condemnation of the enemy. Augustine never referred to violence and war directly as "holy". He also recognized war as a means of punishment for culpable crimes. He justified the use of force to convince heretics such as Donatists or Manichaeans with a reference to the story of the banquet ( Lk 14.20-23  EU ), in which the guests are urged for their own good.

middle Ages

The idea that military activity represents a heavenly reward worthy of merit in the sense of religion, is evident even before the crusades in three points on warrior martyrdom :

  • The warrior takes part in a religiously legitimized campaign. This is also reflected in the special status of the crusaders. However, the acquisition of heavenly wages is tied to the presence of pure, Christian motives. In the Council resolution of Clermont , Pope Urban II restricted the issuance of penalties to persons who "out of pure humility and not to acquire reputation or property, and not for worldly gain, but for the salvation of the soul and to liberate the Church" take part in the crusades.
  • The warrior finds death in battle. Two letters from Popes Leo IV and John VIII from the second half of the 9th century, in which warriors who fell in battle were promised heavenly rewards, are the first evidence of this view . But there are indications that this view is of older origin. An example here is the conception of King Oswald from the 7th century, who achieved "sanctity" through his death in the struggle to Christianize the Northumbrians . This idea is then clearly formulated in Urban II's crusade appeal from 1095:
If those who go down there lose their lives on the voyage, on land or on water, or in battle against the Gentiles, their sins will be forgiven in that hour, according to the power of God which I grant has been […]

Church representatives of the 9th century such as Bishop Agobard are regarded as pioneers of the crusade idea . He saw the task of the Christian emperors in subjugating the barbarians (ie non-Christians) "so that they accept the faith and expand the boundaries of the kingdom of believers." The empire was seen as the outskirts of the church area, the emperor as an extended arm Church world conquest and power development. Theologians like Petrus Damiani and Manegold von Lautenbach demanded that all Christian soldiers mercilessly fight heretics and pagans . Later, Bernhard von Clairvaux in particular called for a comprehensive church reform, according to which the centrally controlled church must have both spiritual and secular power. This doctrine of two swords was adopted by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 and established dogmatically.

The Crusades of the High Middle Ages had various causes, occasions, goals and courses. The first crusade in particular is considered a classic model of a holy war in church history because it

  • was proclaimed by the then highest Christian authority, Pope Urban II (1095),
  • with the formula “God wants it!” ( Deus lo vult ) was massively justified and propagated
  • sought to recapture areas with Christian minorities and central places of worship that had been under the rule of Islam since 637 ,
  • aimed at the forcible capture of Jerusalem and thus calculated from the outset the annihilation of foreign believers
  • in the course of time further religious minorities, especially Jewish communities , were destroyed
  • to bring about an unification of the divided Christianity through aggressive war against those of different faiths
  • promised relief from sins to those involved.

In the High Middle Ages, in connection with the Crusades, the term bellum sacrum was even briefly used as a synonym for “holy war” or “holy war”, which, however, should possibly sanctify the war participants rather than the war itself.

Although there are certainly parallels between Christian and Muslim holy struggle, the question of whether Muslim ideas served as role models in the formation of the corresponding Christian term has not been clarified. So was the prospect of religious wages for securing Christian outposts, as it is e.g. B. Pope Urban II assured Tarragona against the Saracens in 1098 in the form of an indulgence corresponding to a pilgrimage , known to the Muslim world in the form of the Ribat since the 7th century. A direct influence of the Ribat on similar Christian ideas is rather disputed by research.

The interpretation of the Reconquista , the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula after the Muslim invasion of 711, as a holy war is mostly only hinted at or assumed in the medieval sources; only occasionally is it expressly formulated in direct words. Already at the time of the Visigoth Empire destroyed by the Muslims in 711 , the idea was widespread that God was the real warlord. In the late 7th century, Metropolitan Julian of Toledo interpreted the fight of the Visigoth king Wamba against insurgents in this sense. For him the king's victory over these rebels, although they were also Catholic Christians, was a “judgment of God”; he understood the battle as a test ( examen ) that God imposed on his servants, and the individual phases of storming a besieged city were carried out "by God" ( per Deum ). In the Kingdom of Asturias , the author of the Crónica Albeldense used the term “ sacra victoria ” for the military successes of King Alfonso III in the late 9th century . against the Muslims; this was the first time that the term “holy” was used directly for fighting in the context of the Reconquista. In the 11th century, as the chronicle of Bishop Sampiro of Astorga shows, there was not only the conviction that victories were gifts from God, but it was even established that God, as the "heavenly King" himself, took military action against his enemies (the Muslims) and take revenge on them by giving Christians victory over them.

Early modern age

In the late Middle Ages and in the 16th and 17th centuries, the religious-ecclesiastical structures and their interdependence with political and social processes became closer again. The dualism of the Middle Ages between state and church took a back seat. In the form of the increasingly bureaucratized denominational churches and early modern states, this led to the development of large universalistic communities that were exclusively in a total confrontation with one another and with traditional notions of order. Interests of the state, the churches, and social groups instrumentalized each other, and in religious wars led to the removal of the limits of violence and brutality that had previously been customary. Examples of this are the battles between Huguenots and the Catholic, French crown in the Huguenot Wars , between Dutch Calvinists and the Catholic, Spanish rulers in the Eighty Years War , as well as intra-denominational battles between Puritans and the Anglican king in the English Civil War . Religious-political contradictions were sometimes eschatologically presented in propaganda writings, tracts or hymns as a struggle between the Antichrist and the representatives of the “true Christian people”. This reached a high point in the Thirty Years' War from 1618 to 1648, which was also a religious war between the Catholic League and the Protestant Union and the houses and states of Europe affiliated to them. Beginning with the Peace of Westphalia , the concept of a just or even holy war was increasingly suppressed, and in internal European conflicts it was replaced by rationally legitimized and limited, norm-symmetrical cabinet wars and international law . In imperial and colonial wars by European powers outside the continent, however, the ideas of a war waged for moral reasons lived on.

19th century

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, the war was still under the control of the rationally defined states and was relatively immune to attempts at instrumentalization from other sources. So Hegel was able to understand it in the basic lines of the philosophy of law in 1820 as the last possible mode of decision in the dispute between states ("The dispute between states can therefore, insofar as the particular wills cannot find an agreement, be decided only by war.") Further evidence for The considerations of military officials like Carl von Clausewitz in Vom Kriege , in which he emphasizes the primacy of state policy over personal and religious interests, are a purely rational view of war .

The war is a mere continuation of politics by other means

With the Enlightenment and secularization following the French Revolution , primarily religiously motivated wars within Europe became increasingly unthinkable.

But already with the Napoleonic Wars , the Wars of Liberation, and the irrationalism of Romanticism , ostensibly lofty goals and terms such as nation , people , fatherland , freedom, revolution , or "education for virtue through military service" were now increasingly quasi-religiously exaggerated, and also went some connections with religion and the churches. Another difference to the cabinet wars was that the generals of the revolutionary armies increasingly used elements of the people's war . In this way, the concept of the holy war waged because of an absolute value - filled with other content - could regenerate and continue to exist, and fill the vacuum created by secularization. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn's words from 1813 bring this to the point with regard to the value “people”:

The future time will see wars for divisions of nations, but they will be holy wars.

In the wars of liberation against the Napoleonic occupation, the Russian side and the German side used the term holy war because of the threat to the Orthodox religion . In the German states this war meant partly a work of redemption and unification, which Ernst Moritz Arndt z. B. presented as follows:

The war ... for the fatherland and for freedom is a holy war, and so the people must raise their hearts and thoughts to God and heaven ... As soon as the young team ... is assembled, a solemn service is held ... they are impressed that death is great praise for the fatherland in heaven and on earth; through justice and preaching, and through spiritual and warlike songs, their hearts are kindled to loyalty, fame and virtue.

Heinrich von Kleist and Johann Gottlieb Fichte glorified the "war in itself" as a catalyst for nation building. In System der Sittenlehre 1798 Fichte, on the one hand, turned against the idea of ​​war as a means of achieving limited ruler's goals; on the other hand, welcomed the risk of one's own existence for abstract ideals like freedom in the sense of romanticism.

There is a real war, not of the ruling families, but of the people: general freedom, and everyone special, is threatened; [...] because everyone should do it for himself - abandoned the struggle for life and death.

The revolutionary years of 1848/49 then drove these ideas to greater acceptance across Europe.

The line of "canonization" and intensification of war or terror to achieve social or political utopias by means of revolution, despite all historical differences, extends in a simplistic way from Danton and Robespierre to the 1848 revolutions, Lenin , Mao Zedong and Che Guevara well into the 20th century. Century.

20th century

First World War

Until the end of the First World War , the nationalist image of the “holy war” of the late 19th century remained dominant.

This war was celebrated enthusiastically by military preachers as a “holy German war”, the time of the war was a “holy time”, during which “holy blood” was shed by German soldiers. This "great, holy war" should help the good to win against the evil.

In addition, it was also emphasized by the non-church as a creative, ethically positive, over-utilitarian factor on people, the people and history. So understood z. B. Max Scheler the First World War in The Genius of War of 1915 as a “call for the spiritual rebirth of man” and “the creation of culture has an eminently positive meaning, so that he allows the existing talents to plunge deeply into the creative sources of the national and personal spirit . "

The French theologians and intellectuals also saw the war against Germany as a “crusade for the kingdom of God, for Christian purity of faith and morality”. On top of that, Catholic France saw itself challenged to fight against Germany, which was protesting. "The French soldiers feel more or less explicitly but firmly that they are soldiers of Christ and Mary, defenders of the faith, and that to die in French means to die as a Christian". In analogy to German war preachers, who emphasized the “chosen nature of the German people”, French military chaplains declared France the “chosen people of God, the eldest daughter and repentant servant of the holy church”.

In England, the image of a vengeance and history-making god served as the advocate of English interests. Here, too, the war with Germany was celebrated as a “holy war” in sermons, the press and literature.

Another sign of the tendency towards partial “canonization” of the war in connection with church and nationalism was the later still controversial practice of the blessing of weapons .

Second World War

During the Second World War , leading National Socialists , armed forces leadership and soldiers as well as parts of the population especially propagated the attack on Russia planned as a war of annihilation as an "ideological struggle" ( Halder ) and a "crusade against barbaric Stalinism and Jewish Bolshevism ".

The Allies also used the motif of holy war. The British Foreign Minister Lord Halifax recognized a threat to Christianity in the Third Reich and propagated the Holy War against Germany. Lord Davidson of the Conservatives declared Britain's entry into the war in 1939 as "Holy War between the forces of right and the forces of wrong".

In the Soviet Union in 1941 Alexander W. Alexandrow composed the song of the Red Army Swjashchennaya Voina ("The Holy War") after the beginning of the German-Soviet War .

After 1945

The civil wars in Lebanon and Northern Ireland , or in the former Yugoslavia, are not to be described directly as “holy wars”, but rather represent conflicts in which other reasons only later acquired a religious dimension, which, through the religious convictions of those involved, also resulted in non-violent conflict resolution makes difficult or impossible.

See also




  • Peter C. Craigie: The Problem of War in the Old Testament. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-57910-883-0 .
  • Tom Yoder Neufeld: Put on the Armor of God: The Transformation of the Divine Warrior in Isaiah 59, Wisdom of Solomon 5, 1 Thessalonians 5 and Ephesians 6. In: Journal for the Study of the New Testament. Supplement , Continuum International Publishing Group, Sheffield 1999, ISBN 1-85075-655-4 .
  • H. Eberhard von Waldow: The Concept of War in the Old Testament. In: Horizons in Biblical Theology 6, 1984, pp. 27-48.
  • Hans Heinrich Schmid : Holy War and God's Peace in the Old Testament. In: The same: Old Oriental World in Old Testament Theology. Six essays. Theological Publishing House, Zurich 1974, ISBN 3-290-11351-5 .
  • Manfred Weippert: “Holy War” in Israel and Assyria. Critical comments on Gerhard von Rad's concept of the "Holy War in ancient Israel" In: Zeitschrift für die Old Testamentliche Wissenschaft 84, 1972, pp. 460–493.
  • Fritz Stolz : Yahweh and Israel's War. Theological publishing house, treatises on theology of the Old and New Testaments 60, Zurich 1972, ISBN 3-290-12060-0 .
  • Rudolf Smend : Yahweh War and the Tribal League. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2nd, revised and supplemented edition, Göttingen 1966.
  • Gerhard von Rad : The Holy War in ancient Israel. (= Treatises on theology of the Old and New Testaments 20). 1951.

middle Ages

  • Pamela Berger: Crusade and Jihad: The Wars known as holy. In: Religion and the Arts , Brill, Heft Volume 5, Number 4 / December 2001, ISSN  1079-9265 , pp. 484-494.
  • Malcolm Billings: The Crusades: Five Centuries of Holy Wars. Sterling, 1996, ISBN 0-8069-9410-X .
  • Alexander Pierre Bronisch: Reconquista and Holy War. The interpretation of the war in Christian Spain from the Visigoths to the early 12th century. Aschendorff, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-402-05839-1 .
  • Peter Herrmann (ed.): Faith wars of the past and present . Göttingen, 1997, ISBN 3-525-86272-5 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Kotzur , Brigitte Klein: The crusades: no war is holy. von Zabern, Mainz 2004, ISBN 3-8053-3240-8 .
  • Amin Maalouf : The Holy War of the Barbarians. The Crusades from the perspective of the Arabs. dtv, 2003, ISBN 3-423-34018-5 .
  • David Nicolle Fighting for the Faith: Crusade and Jihad 1000-1500 AD. Pen & Sword Military, 2007, ISBN 1-84415-614-1 .
  • Jonathan Riley-Smith: Why Holy Wars? Occasions and motives of the Crusades. Klaus Wagenbach, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-8031-2480-8 .
  • Dag Tessore: The Holy War in Christianity and Islam , Patmos, 2004, ISBN 3-491-72482-1 .
  • James Johnson: The Holy War Idea in Western and Islamic Traditions. Penn State University Press, College Park 1997.


Web links

Single receipts

  1. Patricia Crone: Medieval Islamic Political Thought . Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh 2005, p. 363. See for example Albrecht Noth: Holy War and Holy Struggle in Islam and Christianity . Röhrscheid, Bonn 1966, p. 22f. and Rudolph Peters: Jihad in Medieval and Modern Islam . Brill, Leiden 1977, p. 3f.
  2. Hans Richard Reuter: Holy War III: ethical. In: The religion in past and present , Volume 3, Mohr / Siebeck, 4th edition, Tübingen 2000, Sp. 1564f.
  3. cf. z. B. the stele of Yazılıtaş
  4. John Hagan, Wilhelm Heitmeyer: International manual of violence research. P. 1260.
  5. Chronology of Delphi - 6000 years of history ( Memento of the original from January 16, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.delphic.org
  6. ^ Jörg Rüpke: Domi Militiae - The religious construction of the war in Rome. P. 14.
  7. Manfred Weippert: Holy War I: Old Orient and Old Testament. In: Religion Past and Present . Volume 3, 4th edition 2000, col. 1563.
  8. Thomas R. Elßner: Josua and his wars in Jewish and Christian reception history. Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-17-020520-8 .
  9. Gerhard von Rad: The Holy War in ancient Israel. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1st edition 1951, 5th edition 1969
  10. Walther Zimmerli: Outline of the Old Testament Theology , Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1972, pp. 49–53
  11. Robert Bach: "... the bow breaks, the spear smashes and the chariot burns in the fire". In: Hans Walter Wolff (ed.): Problems of biblical theology. Gerhard von Rad on his 70th birthday. Christian Kaiser, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-459-00779-6 .
  12. Helmut Gollwitzer : War IV: War and Christianity. In: Religion in Past and Present (RGG) Volume 4 (1960), p. 66 ff.
  13. ^ Tertullian: Vom Kranze des Soldiers , translated by KA Heinrich Kellner (= Library of the Church Fathers . Volume 24, 1915, pp. 230-263).
  14. Markus Enders, Holger Zaborowski: Yearbook for Philosophy of Religion , Volume II, 2003, p. 48.
  15. Quoted from: Wilhelm Geerlings : Augustinus. Herder, 1999, p. 75.
  16. ^ Heinz-Jürgen Förg, Hermann Scharnagl: Wars of faith - leaders and seduced. Echter, Würzburg, 2001, p. 124.
  17. Wilhelm Geerlings: Augustine. Herder, Freiburg 1999, pp. 56-57.
  18. Quicumque pro sola devotione, non pro honoris vel pecunie adeptione, ad liberandam ecclesiam Dei Hierusalem profectus fuerit, item illud pro omni penitentia ei reputetur. ; from Decreta Claromontesia
  19. Quoted from: Walter Zöllner: History of the Crusades. P. 50.
  20. ^ W. Montgomery Watts: The Influence of Islam on the European Middle Ages , Verlag Klaus Wagenbach, 2nd edition, Berlin 2002, pp. 71f
  21. Dag Tessore: The Holy War in Christianity and Islam. Patmos Verlag, Düsseldorf 2004, p. 51ff.
  22. Peter Herrmann, Wars of Faith of the Past and Present , Göttingen 1997, p. 44 ff.
  23. Rudolf Hiestand: God wants it! - Does God really want it? - The crusade idea in the criticism of its time. Stuttgart 1998, p. 5.
  24. ^ Heinz-Jürgen Förg, Hermann Scharnagl: Glaubenskriege - Führer und Verführte , Echter Verlag, Würzburg 2001, pp. 82 and 86-87.
  25. Nikolas Jaspert: Early forms of the spiritual orders of knights and the crusade movement on the Iberian Peninsula. In: Klaus Heubers: Europe at the turn of the 11th to the 12th century. P. 104.
  26. On the conception of holy war in the Visigoths, in the Kingdom of Asturias and in the Kingdom of León see Bronisch (1998) pp. 57–61, 142–144, 161–163, 230–233.
  27. ^ Heinz-Jürgen Förg, Hermann Scharnagl: Wars of faith - leaders and seduced. Echter, Würzburg 2001, pp. 94 and 95.
  28. Heinz Schilling: The Peace of Westphalia and the modern face of Europe. In: Historical magazine. Volume 26, Heinz Duchhardt (ed.): The Westphalian Peace. Oldenbourg, Munich 1998, pp. 9-13.
  29. Heinz-Jürgen Förg, Hermann Scharnagl: Wars of faith: leaders and seduced. Echter Verlag, Würzburg, 2001, pp. 95-96, 101, 105.
  30. Herfried Münkler : War and Peace . In: Marcus Llanque, Herfried Münkler: Political Theory and History of Ideas , pp. 105 and 106.
  31. Herfried Münkler: War and Peace. In: Marcus Llanque, Herfried Münkler: Political theory and history of ideas. P. 99.
  32. Hegel: Basics of the Philosophy of Law , § 334, (Third Part: The Morality: - Third Section: The State - B. The External Constitutional Law) on zeno.org
  33. Carl von Clausewitz: Vom Kriege I, 1, 24 ( Memento of the original from March 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.carlvonclausewitz.de
  34. Herfried Münkler: War and Peace . In: Marcus Llanque and Herfried Münkler: Political Theory and History of Ideas , pp. 97 ff.
  35. ^ Friedrich Ludwig Jahn : German Volksthum . 1813, p. 44.
  36. ^ Johann Gotlieb Fichte: Die Staatslehre, or about the relationship between the original state and the realm of reason . In: Immanuel Hermann Fichte (Ed.), Berlin, 971, Volume 4, On Law and Morality, p. 412.
  37. Herfried Münkler: War and Peace. In: Marcus Llanque and Herfried Münkler: Political theory and history of ideas. P. 101.
  38. See for example: German soldier mirror for the holy war. Ernst Moritz Arndt's catechism for the German warrior and military man, contemporary revised. by Heinrich Stuhrmann , ed. from the German Evangelical People's Union. Godesberg 1914
  39. Rüdiger Safranski : The Evil or The Drama of Freedom . Fischer, 1999, pp. 142-143.
  40. ^ Albert Marrin: The Last Crusade - The Church of England in the First World War. Duke University Press, 1974, ISBN 0-8223-0298-5 , p. 136.
  41. ^ Karl-Theodor Schleicher, Heinrich Walle: From field post letters from young Christians 1939–1945 . P. 66.
  42. Hannes Heer, Walter Manoschek and Jan Philipp Reemtsma : At the abyss of memory. In: The time . No. 22/1999, conversation
  43. ^ Karl-Volker Neugebauer : Basic Course in German Military History, Volume II, The Age of World Wars 1914. P. 348.
  44. quoted in Robert C. Self: Neville Chamberlain - A Biography. Ashgate, 2006, ISBN 0-7546-5615-2 , p. 400.
  45. But while the Northern Ireland conflict may not be a 'holy' war, it would be unrealistic not to recognize the importance of religion as a factor in the situation. Religion is the foundation upon which the constitutional, political and social structures of the state have been built, and almost every problem has a secterian dimension. In Jack Magee: Northern Ireland - Crisis and Conflict. P. 1.
  46. Stephan Baier in the daily mail : A holy war for holy earth ( memento of the original from January 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. - Serbia and its Orthodox Church persist in the nationalist Kosovo fever - The cause is the political myth about the blackbird field @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.die-tagespost.de
  47. Martin Schulze Wessel: Nationalization of religion and sacralization of the nation in Eastern Europe. Pp. 15-17.