Martin Buber

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Buber, Martin

(bo͞o`bĕr), 1878–1965, Jewish philosopher, b. Vienna. Educated at German universities, he was active in Zionist affairs, and he taught philosophy and religion at the Univ. of Frankfurt-am-Main (1924–33). From 1938 to 1951 he held a professorship in the sociology of religion at the Hebrew Univ. in Jerusalem. Greatly influenced by the mysticism of the HasidimHasidim
or Chassidim
[Heb.,=the pious], term used by the rabbis to describe those Jews who maintained the highest standard of religious observance and moral action. The term has been applied to movements at three distinct times.
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, which he interpreted in many of his works, and by the Christian existentialism of Søren KierkegaardKierkegaard, Søren Aabye
, 1813–55, Danish philosopher and religious thinker. Kierkegaard's outwardly uneventful life in Copenhagen contrasted with his intensive inner examination of self and society, which resulted in various profound writings; their dominant theme is
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, Buber evolved his own philosophy of religion, especially in his book I and Thou (1923, 2d ed. 1958), which has been called a bridge between Judaism and Christianity. Conceiving the relations between God and humans not as abstract and impersonal, but as an inspired and direct dialogue, Buber has also had a great impact on contemporary Christian thinkers. He worked to permeate political Zionism with ethical and spiritual values and strongly advocated Arab-Israeli understanding. Among his writings are Jewish Mysticism and the Legends of Baalshem (1931), Mamre (tr. 1946, repr. 1970), Moses (1946), and The Origin and Meaning of Hasidism (2 vol., tr. 1960).


See his A Believing Humanism: My Testament, 1902–1965 (tr. 1967), and Meetings, ed. by M. S. Friedman (1973); biographies by M. S. Friedman (3 vol., 1981–83; 1 vol., 1991) and P. Mendes-Flohr (2019); M. S. Freidman, Martin Buber: The Life of Dialogue (4th ed., 2002).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Buber, Martin


(or Mardochai). Born Feb. 8, 1878, in Vienna; died June 13, 1965, in Jerusalem. Jewish religious philosopher and writer. Exponent of Judaism. Wrote in two languages—German and Hebrew.

From 1924 to 1933, Buber was professor of the philosophy of Judaism and of ethics at the University of Frankfurt am Main. In 1933 he emigrated from Germany, going first to Switzerland and then to Palestine, where he was professor of sociology at the University of Jerusalem. He joined the Zionist movement at the end of the 1890’s, but as early as 1901 he moved away from political Zionism and became an influential ideologist of the Jewish cultural-nationalist movement. After World War II, Buber criticized Arab-Jewish hostility and the inhumane acts against Palestinian Arabs. Buber’s philosophy is close to existentialism; its central idea is of existence as a “dialogue” (between god and man, man and the universe, and so on; I and Thou, 1922). He sought the “dialogical” spirit—which stands opposed to the Greek spirit of “monologism”—in the biblical tradition of the past. He devoted particular attention to the pantheistic tendencies of Hasidism (Tales of Rabbi Nachman, 1906). Buber’s main literary work was the novel-chronicle Gog and Magog (1949), which was based on the life of the Polish Hasidim of the early 19th century. Also widely known are his retellings of the folk legends of the Jews of Eastern Europe about, the wise and just zaddikim. Buber’s sociological views were considerably influenced by anarchism.


Werke, vols. 1-3. Munich, 1962-64.


Diamond, M. L. M. Buber, Jewish Existentialist. New York, 1960.
Gregor, S. R. M. Buber. London, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Buber, Martin, (1967) 1990, A Believing Humanism: My Testament 1902-1965.
Buber, Martin, 1994, The Way of Man, Oxford: Routledge.
(5.) Buber, Martin. "People Today and the Jewish Bible," 19, in Buber and Rosenzweig.