On Being a Jesus Freak

The following comes from "What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck,"The Saturday Evening Post, Oct. 26, 1929, p. 17. The questions are posed by Viereck; the reply to each is by Einstein. Since the interview was conducted in Berlin and both Viereck and Einstein had German as their mother tongue, the interview was likely conducted in German and then translated into English by Viereck.

Some portions of this interview might seem questionable, but this portion of the interview was explicitly confirmed by Einstein. When asked about a clipping from a magazine article (likely the Saturday Evening Post) reporting Einstein's comments on Christianity taken down by Viereck, Einstein carefully read the clipping and replied, "That is what I believe." See Brian pp. 277 - 278.

"To what extent are you influenced by Christianity?"

"As a child, I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene."

"Have you read Emil Ludwig's book on Jesus?

"Emil Ludwig's Jesus," replied Einstein, "is shallow. Jesus is too colossal for the pen of phrasemongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity with a bon mot."

"You accept the historical existence of Jesus?"

"Unquestionably. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life. How different, for instance, is the impression which we receive from an account of legendary heroes of antiquity like Theseus. Theseus and other heroes of his type lack the authentic vitality of Jesus."

"Ludwig Lewisohn, in one of his recent books, claims that many of the sayings of Jesus paraphrase the sayings of other prophets."

"No man," Einstein replied, "can deny the fact that Jesus existed, nor that his sayings are beautiful. Even if some them have been said before, no one has expressed them so divinely as he."

On Buddha, Moses, and Jesus

Our time is distinguishedby wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.

What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living.

— From Goldman, p. 88.

Christianity and Judaism

If one purges the Judaism of the Prophets and Christianity as Jesus taught it of all subsequent additions, especially those of the priests, one is left with a teaching which is capable of curing all the social ills of humanity.

It is the duty of every man of good will to strive steadfastly in his own little world to make this teaching of pure humanity a living force, so far as he can. If he makes an honest attempt in this direction without being crushed and trampled under foot by his contemporaries, he may consider himself and the community to which he belongs lucky.

— From Einstein's book The World as I See It (Philosophical Library, New York, 1949) pp. 111-112

Greater Things Than Jesus

It is quite possible that we can do greater things than Jesus, for what is written in the Bible about him is poetically embellished.

— From W. I. Hermanns "A Talk with Einstein," October 1943, Einstein Archive 55-285

The Messiah lives on within us. We are the Holy Spirit. Everyone is capable of greatness.

The Kingdom of God

One has a feeling that one has a kind of home in this timeless community of human beings that strive for truth. … I have always believed that Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God the small group scattered all through time of intellectually and ethically valuable people.

— From Goldman, p. 98.

About Converting to Christianity

A Catholic science student, concerned for Einstein's soul, once wrote to Einstein, begging him to pray to Christ, the Virgin Mary, and to see a Catholic priest immediately. What follows is part of Einstein's reply.

If I would follow your advice and Jesus could perceive it, he, as a Jewish teacher, surely would not approve of such behavior.

— From Goldman, p. 88.