Through engaging the writings of two Jewish thinkers, Emmanuel Levinas and Etty Hillesum, this essay sets out to develop a Christian theological approach to affectivity. It begins by introducing Levinas and Hillesum to develop a context for dialogue between Jewish thought and Christian theology. Initiating a phenomenological foundation, the essay suggests that affectivity resonates through the human condition of loneliness and otherness. Building on this perspective and aided by Levinas’s thought and the practical expression of Hillesum’s affectivity of talking to God, the focus turns to introduce and develop the notions of spontaneity, melancholy, and vigilance. Hence, it suggests the central elements of a theological approach to human affectivity in Christian living. Accordingly, by seeking to be poor in spirit and offering friendship to the poor, affectivity becomes a way for the Christian community to live in unity, signifying the resilience to embrace the turbulence of conversion, the shock of encountering the other’s suffering, and the joy of loving others “so terribly.”


Levinas, Hillesum, Christian theology, Jewish thought, affectivity


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