Einstein’s “God” letter up for auction again

On December 4th, Christie’s will be auctioning the famous thank you note Albert Einstein wrote to Eric Gutkind (link), in which Einstein comments on his differences with Gutkind’s conceptions of God, the Jewish Bible and Judaism. The letter will be available for viewing in San Francisco from October 25 through November 1 and in New York City from November 30 through the day of the sale. Christie’s has also exhibited the letter in Shanghai during September.

Compared with the two earlier highly publicized sales (in the UK in 2008 and on E-bay in 2012), press reporting about the letter’s content this time, at least so far, is getting closer to what Einstein wrote. This improvement is partly attributable to the auctioneer using a reliable transcription of the handwritten German original, as was confirmed in the Uncertaintist’s recent phone interview with Peter Klatner, who’s overseeing the sale for Christie’s. Unless some press outlet resurrects the comically flawed Guardian translation-wannabe from 2008, we won’t hear again about Einstein calling Bible stories “childish.”

Selective quotation remains a problem, however. For example, Newsweek (link) claims that Einstein called God the product of human weakness, while Einstein writes that of the word God; in context, the word God as Gutkind uses it throughout his book expressing a particular religious concept. Newsweek also claims that Einstein calls Judaism “an incarnation of primitive superstition.” Einstein calls a form of Judaism that, the “unadulterated” form, a reference to Gutkind’s preferred variety of Judaism, which Gutkind, writing in American English, contrasted with “watered down” Judaism.

For the Uncertaintist’s complete coverage of this issue, follow this link. For a gentler, but not contradicting, handwritten comment about the Bible written by Einstein, see link. For a sampling from Einstein’s many published comments on God and religion, visit the Unlinks page (link) and download “Einstein (ir)religion sources.” The Unlinks page is where you’ll also find a complete German-language transcript of the Einstein-Gutkind letter, with an English translation and excerpts from Gutkind’s book, the subject of the letter.

Update: The sale was held in New York on the afternoon of December 4, 2018. The sale total, including buyer’s premium, was US$ 2,892,500.


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