Concrete Past: Test-Case for Human History

Our passions give life to the world. 

Our collective passions constitute the history of mankind.

Thus Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy penned his opening lines to his magnificent tome Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man.

Rosenstock-Huessy was born in Germany in the late 1800s, and was educated in philosophy and law at the University of Heidelberg. He left Germany for the United States in 1933 because Hitler came to power, and he published Out of Revolution in 1938.

The authors says the book’s topic is “[t]he creation of humankind” — for this reason the appropriate subtitle Autobiography of Western Man. In addition, he goes on to say, “our own concrete past is the test-case for all our otherwise too vague discoveries about humanity” (5).

This “test-case” approach to history telling is one of the chief means by which the Old Testament Prophets condemn Israel: the Prophets frequently point to historical test-cases of Israel’s unfaithfulness to Yahweh and her utter disregard for the law of the covenant. Also, the Prophets cast Israel’s sins in a strong light by contrasting Israel’s “concrete-past” with the “concrete-past” of God’s faithfulness to Israel.