T O P I C
CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION OF JEWS OVER THE CENTURIES
United States Holocaust memorial Museum, Gerard S Sloyan, Professor Emiritus of Religion, Temple University
Many of today’s Jews are convinced that the horror of Hitler’s days was simply the culmination of centuries of Judenhass ("Jew Hate"). But is this what happened? Were the baptized Christians of Europe ripe for the pagan nationalism of Hitler, Rosenberg, Göring, Himmler, and the rest?
THE EARLIEST CHRISTIANS
The claim of Jesus’ followers that their Master was the sole authentic interpreter of Mosaic Law was not unusual. What set his followers apart was the claim that God had raised him up from the dead. Most Jews could hear this with amusement and, in the early days, without any violent reaction. As Pharisee-oriented Jews knew, the resurrection of the just would occur on the Last Day once it was heralded by Elijah’s return. There was no mention of the resurrection of one individual well before Elijah’s announcement. The Jesus Jews were convinced that their people’s scriptures had foretold it. Most Jews were not.
The sole written testimonies to the tensions over Jesus in various Jewish communities are the writings in Greek by ethnic Jews compiled around 135, later called the New Testament. They were written at a time when the language of the gentiles that had produced so much Jewish post-biblical writing was being disavowed by the newly authoritative Rabbis. The Christian writings were produced roughly between 50 and 125, and came to be called by what they were believed to have given witness to: namely, a "new" or, better, "renewed" covenant (in Latin, but a not quite accurate translation of B’rith: Novum Testamentum).
In two of his letters, Paul accuses his fellow Jews of substituting their own "justness," resulting from Mosaic observance, for the only true justness: the one that comes from faith in what God had done in Christ. By "faith" he means perfect trust in God as the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Paul in effect accuses of bad faith any Jews who have heard his message and not accepted it.
Similar and even harsher language is directed at "the Jews" in the Gospel according to John. This late first-century writing features bitter internal Jewish argumentation. Hard fighting and harsh words were no strangers to religious strife among post-70 Jews. There was about this exchange, however, one tragic detail. Within a century one of the two litigants ceased to be ethnically Jewish. That changed everything. The fact was that many Judean Jews knew little of Jesus; and most Jews in the diaspora never heard of the movement until more than one hundred years had passed. This did not keep the new, largely gentile proclaimers of the Gospel from assuming that they understood the Jewish lack of response as a failure to acknowledge what they should have known from their scriptures.
The drastic change came in 380. At this time Theodosius I decreed Christianity to be the official state religion. By then, the earlier imbalance of population of Jews over Christians was a matter of distant memory, even if pagans in the empire still far outnumbered the favored newcomer. But the Jewish position became precarious with this declaration. Political measures against the Jews did not immediately follow, but the circumstance did not bode well for Judaism or any religion other than Christianity.
The popularly elected Ambrose, bishop of Mediolanum, opposed the efforts of Theodosius to acknowledge the civil rights of Jews, pagans, and heretics as equal to those of Christians. In a public confrontation in his cathedral, Ambrose made the emperor back down. He asked rhetorically in one of his epistles (40): "Whom do [the Jews] have to avenge the synagogue? Christ whom they have killed, whom they have denied? Or will God the Father avenge them, whom they do not acknowledge as Father since they do not acknowledge the Son?" This kind of writing typifies the shape the Christian argument had taken over the course of two centuries.
PEACEFUL COEXISTENCE AND PAPAL INTERVENTION
There is no popular writing extant to tell us how the ordinary Christians of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa thought of Jews and acted toward them in Christianity's first six hundred years. It must have fixed in the popular mind the conviction that the Jews had crucified Jesus and that their descendents bore hereditary guilt for the deed because they had never repudiated it. A fair presumption is that Jews and Christians got on fairly peacefully at the neighborhood level, knowing that pagan idolatry was the common enemy.
The correspondence of Gregory I tells us something about attempts at the forced conversion of the Jews. He favors their becoming Christians, unsurprisingly, but demands justice in their regard under the terms of Roman Law. From his letters we learn a few things about Jews in the empire toward the year 600: that some were deeply involved in the slave trade; that Jews lived untroubled lives among Christians in certain regions and were dealt with cruelly in others; and that close living brought irritations in its wake because of over-vigorous chanting in adjacent synagogues and churches. The papal correspondence was, by and large, protective of Jewish rights, while continuing to assume their subordinate position in society.
Such was not the case in the century that followed Gregory’s papacy. At the same time, the expulsion of Jews was beginning in Europe; from France under King Dagobert (626) and under the Spanish monarchy—with church collusion—when in 694 the Jews were required to choose between baptism and slavery. These moves appear to be based on religion, but history has shown that all such expulsions and persecutions are dependent on other factors such as politics, xenophobia, and scapegoating. The unique factor was that the Christians arrived early at the erroneous conclusion that the Jews were being divinely punished for not having come over to their way of belief. Even when religious difference had little or nothing to do with specific Christian antagonisms to Jews, it could always be alleged as the root rationale for Christian behavior.
In the years 500-1500 the Jews, as a religious and a cultural minority, were often preyed upon by the Christian majority in a familiar sociological pattern. The papal record is consistently mixed. Harsh infringements of Jewish rights are censured at the same time that restrictions are imposed on their full participation in society. The vocabulary of guilt for Jesus’ crucifixion and charges of stubbornness and blindness recur.
Still, as many historians of Judaism have observed, these infringements of civil and social liberty never approached the point of the elimination of the Jewish people entirely—a terrifying first from the Nazi era.
THE MEDIEVAL ERA
After a few centuries of freedom from harassment during the Carolingian period (800-1000), the Jews of western Europe began to suffer new indignities as the crusades came on. The Muslims were the "infidel" targets in the attempted recapture of the holy places in Palestine. However, the pillage and slaughter committed by Christian mobs against Jews on the way linger long in Jewish memory.
The Jews of Germany were subjected to many indignities after the crusades, including accusations of poisoning of the wells and ritual murder. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, these slanderous charges often led to massacres. Many German Jews fled eastward, bringing with them a particular dialect (Jüdisch, hence Yiddish), possibly of Bavarian origin.
Several Polish noblemen of the Middle Ages showed special favor to Jews who immigrated because of persecution in Germany, coupled with a Polish desire for Jewish expertise in commerce. Autonomous systems of Jewish community government (the kahal) flourished in Poland, while the lower or grade school (heder) and Talmudic academy (yeshiva) were found everywhere. A deterioration of Jewish life set in during the long reign of Sigismund III (at the turn of the seventeenth century), partly as a result of measures taken in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The previous centuries were certainly the high point of Jewish intellectual life in Europe, a fact that made more recent Polish anti-Judaism the more tragic.
The long reign of German-born empress Catherine the Great (d. 1796) saw the influx of perhaps a million Jews into Russia, and was marked by her giving them their first political rights in Europe. She settled them on land, however, as a device to keep them out of economic occupations and the professions. The Orthodox Church subjected them to conversionary sermons, leading to riots and slaughter later in the century. Many an older U.S. Jew has heard vivid tales from grandparents of repressive measures in the old country, including the need to lock oneself in one’s house on Good Friday against marauding ruffians.
Returning to Germany, we find Martin Luther in his early days naively imagining that the Jews, to whom he was attracted by his studies, would flock to the Church in his reformed version. When nothing of the sort happened, he denounced them in a set of pamphlets written in vituperative fury. He had produced the early, favorable "That Christ Was Born a Jew" in 1523, but after he turned on this so-called "damned, rejected race," he wrote Against the Sabbatarians (1538) and On the Jews and Their Lies (1543).
EUROPEAN ANTISEMITISM AFTER 1800
The antipathies of Poles, Germans, Russians and others against Jews are often explained as if they were religiously based in the patristic and medieval manner. From the early 19th century on, however, anti-Jewish sentiment of Catholic and Protestant Europe, itself increasingly secularized, had other roots no less mythical. The proper term for it is anti-Semitism. Its target was Jewish ethnicity. It was primarily politically and economically motivated. Demagogues, however, were only too happy to put the ancient Christian rhetoric of anti-Judaism in its service.
Germany was populated with more Jews than any country in Western Europe when Hitler came to power. It also had the same ugly heritage of anti-Jewish sentiment as all Christian Europe. The short-lived Weimar Republic could not deliver Germany from the severe economic hardships it experienced after World War I. Jews had been the Republic’s strong supporters and a few of them were the architects of its constitution, a fact that Hitler capitalized upon. Huge inflation in 1923 and the depression of 1929 increased Germany’s problems. Some leading capitalist families, gentile and Jewish, managed to escape these problems, but the eyes of the angry populace were trained on the Jews rather than the gentiles.
Was there a direct line from the anti-Jewish passages in the New Testament to the gas chambers at Auschwitz, as some have alleged? Probably not. The line was indirect, beginning around 150 with gentile misreadings of the bitter intra-Jewish polemic contained in those writings. The theological anti-Judaism of the Church fathers, repeated endlessly in medieval and Renaissance-Reformation preaching, was the far greater culprit. It was the continuing rationale for the indefensible Christian conduct of the Middle Ages onward that was xenophobic and angry at Jewish resistance to absorption into the cultural mainstream. But because the Church’s preaching and its catechizing had long shaped the popular mind, a new phenomenon was able to come to birth: modern anti-Semitism.
Can the mischief of eighteen and one half centuries be reversed? Catholics point to statements like section 4 of the Vatican II statement on non-Christian religions (Nostra Aetate, October, 1965) which exculpated the Jews of all time of the charge of deicide ("killing God"), and warned Catholics against thinking that anything in their scriptures taught that Jews were a people accursed or rejected. Numerous statements have come from Protestant bodies in the U.S. and Europe deploring Christian anti-Semitism.
Documentation of this sort is important, but it is ineffective unless it is implemented from the pulpit and in church publications and educational materials. Christians need to become aware of their almost total ignorance of postbiblical Judaism, the hatred some have for Jews, and the violence perpetrated against Jews by their fellow Christians.
Visitors to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and other exhibits from the Nazi period usually say: "Why has no one told us of these things?" It may well take centuries of education and prayer to reverse the evils of two millennia. The Christian communions have at least made a start.
National Review, DENNIS PRAGER March 6, 2018
They believe in supporting American allies and supporting countries that share their moral values.
In speeches to fellow Jews around America, I often point out that many American Jews are experiencing cognitive dissonance. The institution Jews most admire — the university — turns out to be the most significant source of Israel hatred in America and the rest of the West. At the same time, the people many Jews most distrust — Christians (especially Evangelical and other conservative Christians) — turn out to be the Jews’ and Israel’s best friends.
Given that these two facts are undeniable, how do many American Jews deal with this dissonance? They largely ignore the Israel hatred on campuses, and they dismiss the authenticity of the Christian support. They dismiss it by denying it is genuine. Christians who support Israel, they (and non-Jews on the left) argue, do so for two deceptive reasons.
One is they seek to convert Jews.
That Christians seek to convert non-Christians is, of course, true. The primary aim of Christianity, after all, is to spread belief in Christ. But why would anyone think supporting Israel will convert Jews? Does anyone think that Christians who support Israel’s enemies are making Muslims convert to Christianity? The fact is there isn’t a shred of evidence that Jews have converted to Christianity because of Christian support for Israel. Indeed, the Jews who most support Israel are either the most religious or the most strongly identifying secular Jews. Neither is a candidate for conversion.
Another way Christian support for Israel is belittled is by claiming that Christians support Israel in order to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. But pastor John Hagee, head of Christians United for Israel, the largest pro-Israel organization in America, has said countless times nothing a Christian can do will hasten the return of Jesus; only God will decide when that happens — and in His own good time.
Moreover, even if this were the reason Christians support the Jews and Israel, why would it disturb Jews? It would mean that Christians would support them until Jesus returns. What’s wrong with that?
Having spoken at numerous churches’ “Night to Honor Israel” events, I know how genuine this support is. But last week in Nashville, I witnessed a particularly convincing example of the sincerity of this support. I spoke before thousands of Christians at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention when they gathered one evening solely to express their support for Israel. Maybe five Jews were present. Isn’t thousands of Christians devoting an entire evening to express support for Israel — with essentially no Jews in attendance to witness it — about as convincing a proof of the authenticity of this support as one could imagine?
So, why do Christians support Israel? They believe in supporting American allies and supporting countries that share their moral values. And, unlike the Left, they have moral problems with Islamism, not with Zionism.
But the primary reason virtually every Israel-supporting Christian gives is the biblical verse from Genesis in which God says to Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you.” These Christians believe (as does this Jew) God blesses those who treat the Jews decently and curse those who seek to harm the Jews.
You don’t have to be a believer in the God of Abraham or the Bible to accept this proposition. All the Jews’ ancient enemies disappeared from history. And look at what happened to Spain after it expelled its Jews in 1492. One of the greatest powers of the world became largely irrelevant to history within a couple of generations. As for Germans, the perpetrators of the Holocaust, they endured a staggering amount of death and suffering as a result of their support for the greatest Jew hater in history; and their country was divided in half for the next half-century. Likewise, the countries today that most curse the Jews — Arab and other Muslim countries — are among the most benighted countries in the world. If they were to devote to building their countries the money and energy they devote to attempting to destroy Israel, they would be in far better condition morally, socially, economically and politically.
Meanwhile, the country that has most blessed Israel and the Jews is America. No country in the modern period has treated its Jews as well as America has, and no country has stood by Israel as much as America has. And America has been almost uniquely blessed.
These American Christians know something that the secular and left-wing elites do not: The day America abandons Israel will be the beginning of the end of America as we know it.
These people are not fools.
Their detractors are
BEGINNINGS OF PERSECUTION
From: Dr Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, BBC 2011
The story of Christianity’s rise to prominence is a remarkable one, but the traditional story of its progression from a tiny, persecuted religion to the established religion in the medieval West needs some debunking.
Although in the first few centuries AD Christians were prosecuted and punished, often with death, there were also periods when they were more secure. Secondly, the rise of Christianity to imperial-sponsored dominance in the fourth and fifth centuries, although surprising, was not without precedent, and its spread hardly as inexorable as contemporary Christians portrayed it.
Christians were first - and horribly - persecuted by the emperor Nero .
Christians were first, and horribly, targeted for persecution as a group by the emperor Nero in 64 AD. A colossal fire broke out at Rome, and destroyed much of the city. Rumours abounded that Nero himself was responsible. He certainly took advantage of the resulting devastation of the city, building a lavish private palace on part of the site of the fire.
Perhaps to divert attention from the rumours, Nero ordered that Christians should be rounded up and killed. Some were torn apart by dogs, others burnt alive as human torches.
Over the next hundred years or so, Christians were sporadically persecuted. It was not until the mid-third century that emperors initiated intensive persecutions.
Why were Christians persecuted? Much seems to have depended on local governors and how zealously or not they pursued and prosecuted Christians. The reasons why individual Christians were persecuted in this period were varied. In some cases they were perhaps scapegoats, their faith attacked where more personal or local hostilities were at issue.
Contemporary pagan and Christian sources preserve other accusations levelled against the Christians. These included charges of incest and cannibalism, probably resulting from garbled accounts of the rites which Christians celebrated in necessary secrecy, being the agape (the ‘love-feast’) and the Eucharist (partaking of the body and blood of Christ).
Pagans were suspicious of the Christian refusal to sacrifice to the Roman gods.
Pagans were probably most suspicious of the Christian refusal to sacrifice to the Roman gods. This was an insult to the gods and potentially endangered the empire which they deigned to protect. Furthermore, the Christian refusal to offer sacrifices to the emperor, a semi-divine monarch, had the whiff of both sacrilege and treason about it.
Thus the classic test of a Christian’s faith was to force him or her, on pain of death, to swear by the emperor and offer incense to his images, or to sacrifice to the gods.
In the mid-second-century account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, officials begged Polycarp to say ‘Caesar is Lord’, and to offer incense, to save his life. He refused. Later, in the arena, he was asked by the governor to swear an oath by the ‘luck of Caesar’. He refused, and although he was apparently eager to meet his death, beast-fighting had been declared closed for the day and so he was burnt alive instead.
General persecutions tended to be sparked by particular events such as the fire at Rome under Nero, or during periods of particular crisis, such as the third century. During the third century the turn-over of emperors was rapid - many died violent deaths.
As well as this lack of stability at the head of the empire, social relations were in turmoil, and barbarian incursions were on a threatening scale. The economy was suffering and inflation was rampant. Pagans and Christians alike observed this unrest and looked for someone or something, preferably subversive, to blame.
It was hardly surprising that a series of emperors ordered savage empire-wide persecutions of the Christians.
Although fourth and fifth century AD Christian narratives tend to describe the preceding centuries bitterly as a period of sustained and vicious persecution, there were in fact lulls.
How can we explain this? Well, the Roman empire was in the first few centuries AD expansionist and in its conquests accommodated new cults and philosophies from different cultures, such as the Persian cult of Mithraism, the Egyptian cult of Isis and Neoplatonism, a Greek philosophical religion.
Paganism was never, then, a unified, single religion, but a fluid and amorphous collection. But it would also be a mistake to describe Roman religion as an easy, tolerant co-existence of cults. ‘Toleration’ is a distinctly modern, secular idea.
The cults of Bacchus and of Magna Mater had also been suppressed.
The very history of Christianity and Judaism in the empire demonstrates that there were limits to how accommodating Roman religion could be, and these were not the only cults to be singled out for persecution.
The cults of Bacchus and of Magna Mater had also been suppressed - by the Roman senate during the Republic, mainly because their behaviour was louche and ‘un-Roman’. Bacchic revels encouraged ecstatic drunkenness and violence, and the cult of Magna Mater involved outlandish dancing and music, and was served by self-castrating priests.
Under particular emperors, Christians were less liable to be punished for the mere fact of being Christians – or indeed, for ever having been Christian. Thus under Trajan, it was agreed that although admitting to Christian faith was an offence, ex-Christians should not be prosecuted.
One of the supposed watersheds in history is the ‘conversion’ of the emperor Constantine to Christianity in, or about, 312 AD. Historians have marvelled at this idea.
Emperors had historically been hostile or indifferent to Christianity. How could an emperor subscribe to a faith which involved the worship of Jesus Christ - an executed Jewish criminal? This faith was also popular among slaves and soldiers, hardly the respectable orders in society.
The story of Constantine’s conversion has acquired a miraculous quality, which is unsurprising from the point of view of contemporary Christians. They had just emerged from the so-called ‘Great Persecution’ under the emperor Diocletian at the end of the third century.
The moment of Constantine’s conversion was tied by two Christian narrators to a military campaign against a political rival, Maxentius. The conversion was the result of either a vision or a dream in which Christ directed him to fight under Christian standards, and his victory apparently assured Constantine in his faith in a new god.
The conversion was the result of either a vision or a dream in which Christ directed him to fight under Christian standards.
Constantine’s ‘conversion’ poses problems for the historian. Although he immediately declared that Christians and pagans should be allowed to worship freely, and restored property confiscated during persecutions and other lost privileges to the Christians, these measures did not mark a complete shift to a Christian style of rule.
Many of his actions seemed resolutely pagan. Constantine founded a new city named after himself: Constantinople. Christian writers played up the idea that this was to be a 'new Rome', a fitting Christian capital for a newly Christian empire.
But they had to find ways to explain the embarrassing fact that in this new, supposedly Christian city, Constantine had erected pagan temples and statues.
How should we characterise Constantine’s religious convictions? The differing but related accounts of his miraculous conversion suggest some basic spiritual experience which he interpreted as related to Christianity.
His understanding of Christianity was, at the stage of his conversion, unsophisticated. He may not have understood the implications of converting to a religion which expected its members to devote themselves exclusively to it.
However, what was certainly established by the early fourth century was the phenomenon of an emperor adopting and favouring a particular cult. What was different about Constantine’s ‘conversion’ was merely the particular cult to which he turned – the Christ-cult – where previous emperors had sought the support of pagan gods and heroes from Jove to Hercules.
Contemporary Christians treated Constantine’s conversion as a decisive moment of victory in a cosmic battle between good and evil, even as the end of history, but it was far from that.
Christianity did increase in numbers gradually over the next two centuries, and among Constantine’s successors only one, the emperor Julian in the 360s AD, mounted concerted action to re-instate paganism as the dominant religion in the empire.
But there was no ‘triumph’, no one moment where Christians had visibly ‘won’ some battle against pagans. Progress was bitty, hesitant, geographically patchy.
The progress of Christianity was bitty, hesitant, geographically patchy.
Christianity offered spiritual comfort and the prospect of salvation on the one hand, and attractive new career paths and even riches as a worldly bishop on the other. But plenty of pagans, both aristocrats based in the large cities of the empire and rural folk, remained staunch in their adherence to an old faith.
Some hundred years after Constantine’s ‘conversion’, Christianity seemed to be entrenched as the established religion, sponsored by emperors and protected in law. But this did not mean that paganism had disappeared.
Indeed, when pagans blamed Christian impiety (meaning negligence of the old gods) for the barbarian sack of Rome in 410 AD, one of the foremost Christian intellectuals of the time, Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, regarded the charge as serious enough to warrant lengthy reply in his mammoth book 'The City of God'.
Paganism may have been effectively eclipsed as an imperial religion, but it continued to pose a powerful political and religious challenge to the Christian church.
By converting the invading pagans, the Church also endangered herself.. The acquisition of so many unbelievers in so short a time threatened to dilute her dogma. The Eastern religion of Christ changed under the stress of its practical application in the West as much as Western Marxism changed under the stress of its practical application in the East.
The establishment of the Papacy in the sixth century gave the Church a strong central rallying point. The last of the old dissident sects were stamped out; the last of the pagans in the former western half of the empire were converted. The Church could now afford to breathe more easily and to survey its domain in tranquillity. The Jews, who had been virtually ignored by the Christians for six centuries, were rediscovered.
Why was this so? The answer has already presented itself. Until their recognition by Constantine, the Christians were far too busy saving themselves from the Romans to bother much about the Jews. In the ensuing three hundred years after the death of Constantine, the Christians were far too occupied fighting the battle of heretical creeds and godless barbarians to pay much heed to the Jews, who minded their own business. This rediscovery of the Jews presented the Christians a king-size problem. The Jews were the only undigested remnant of non-Christians in a sea of Christianity which engulfed them. What should the Christians do? Baptize them, forcibly if need be, as they had done with non believing pagans? Exterminate them as they had done with those barbarians who did not accept the true faith?* Or leave them alone, which might constitute a danger to Christian faith? This dilemma of the Christians and the precarious position of the Jews became the paramount Jewish problem in the Middle Ages.
Though the first six centuries of Christianity were rather tranquil for the Jews, many Jewish historians have made it appear as though they were studded with persecution. As evidence, they cite a law here and a law there, to show that the Jews were banned from this or that office or were denied one or another right. What these historians forget in their search for injustice is that the Jews lived on a continent and in an age full of injustice and violence for everyone. Six hundred years is a long span of time, and occasional injustices do not constitute an official, universal, and consistent program of persecution.
Emperor Caracalla in 212CE had granted the Jews in the empire not only equality but citizenship. Emperor Constantine, in recognizing the Christian Church, withdrew some of these rights from the Jews but did not revoke their citizenship. A fluke of history almost wiped out all the gains of the Christians and almost swept the Jews back to Jerusalem, Temple, and Sanhedrin. When Emperor Julian, known understandably by the Christians as “the Apostate,” came to power in 361, he renounced Christianity, forbade the practice of that religion, turned what was left of the empire back to paganism, restored all the privileges of the Jews, and promised the Jews he would help them rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Julian was ripe for conversion to Judaism. Two years later he died. With him died the fears of the Christians and the hopes of the Jews.
It was the generation following the destruction of the Temple which brought about a final rupture between Jews and Christians. Though Paul had taken the Jewish-Christian sect to the pagans, the Christians flocked to Jewish synagogues in the Diaspora for protection against the Romans. In these synagogues they continued their proselytization efforts lo convert Jews to Christianity. Feeling their hospitality abused, Jewish leaders inserted a prayer in their liturgy against heretics. As the Christians could not recite this prayer, the practice of using the synagogue as a sanctuary died out. In the third rebellion against Rome, when the Christians were unable to accept bar Kochba as their messiah, they declared that their kingdom was of the other world, and withdrew themselves completely from Judaism and everything Jewish. The alienation process was completed. Judaism and Christianity became strangers to each other.
Now that they had disassociated themselves from the Jews, the Christians were caught on the horns of a dilemma. They had to discredit the Old Testament which was still held in great esteem by the Greeks and Romans, but they also needed the Old Testament to give sanctity to the New Testament as a way of combating the many attempts made to identify Jesus with pagan gods such as Attis, Osiris, and Adonis, who, like Jesus, were the center of a resurrection rite of one form or other. This dilemma the Church solved neatly by reading a prophecy of the coming of Christianity in the writings of the Old Testament. As one Jewish scholar summed it up:
Hereupon they [the Christians] proclaimed themselves and the members of their churches to be the true “heirs of the promise,” applying every favorable reference and blessing to themselves and every rebuke and curse to the Jews. This fantastic travesty was followed by an official version of Jewish history, which portrayed the Jews as the followers, not of Moses, Aaron, David, Samuel, Jeremiah and Isaiah, but of Dathan and Abiram, Ahab and Manasseh.... The cherished words of the prophets were taken by the Christian zealots to be so much damning testimony against the Jewish people. A wall of misunderstanding and hate was erected by the narrow zealotries of the two faiths. And in the turbulence of passion, the light of either faith became invisible to those whose eyes were accustomed from childhood to the illumination of the other. In the darkness of the medieval period only the philosopher was aware of the unity of the Judeo-Christian tradition that underlies the diversity of creed and ritual.*
As a Christian scholar James Parkes expressed it,
“No people has ever paid so high a price for the greatness of its own religious leaders.”
Generally speaking, in the three centuries from 300 to 600, four sets of laws were passed containing discriminatory provisions against the Jews in the Roman Empire—the Laws of Constantine the Great (315), as noted above; the Laws of Constantius (399), forbidding intermarriage between Jewish men and Christian women; the Laws of Theodosius II (439), prohibiting Jews from holding high positions in government; and the Laws of Justinian (331), prohibiting Jews from appearing as witnesses against Christians.
On the face of it, these laws do appear discriminatory, disparaging, and derogatory. But if we are to get a true picture and understanding of Jewish life in the ensuing Middle Ages, we must first clearly understand the intent of these laws so as to perceive the difference between these and the laws passed a few centuries later. To properly evaluate these laws, they must be viewed with a sixth-century mind, not with the hindsight of the twentieth century. These laws did not apply to Jews alone, but, in the words of their framers, they applied equally to Jews, Samaritans, Manichaeans (Members of a mystic Oriental religion which was carried by Roman soldiers from Asia Minor to Europe. It became so popular with the masses that it represented for a while a threat to the new Church), heretics, and pagans. These laws had two purposes: to protect the infant religion from the competition of other religions, and to protect key posts for coreligionists. When Jews were singled out by historians as the only victims of these laws, we are given a false picture of their intent.
In spirit these laws were no different from laws in America today, but no one questions these, because they wear the cloak of nationalism instead of religion. Just as citizenship is a prerequisite for holding public office in the United States today, so the ecclesiastical state made religious membership the prerequisite for holding office in medieval times. Just as early America protected its infant industries from European competition by erecting protective tariff barriers, so the early Church protected itself from the competition of the Eastern religion by erecting protective legislation against them. Even today, no Protestant can hold public office in Catholic Spain. No Catholic can become president in Lutheran Finland.
Though the Jews voluntarily had given up proselytizing in the second century, Judaism still proved a strong attraction to many pagans and Christians. To stop this trend the Church decreed the death penalty for any apostate Christian. Many slaves converted to Judaism because of the lenient treatment they received at the hands of the Jews, who, in accordance with Mosaic law, set them free after seven years’ servitude. The Church therefore decreed a ban against Jews possessing slaves. Jews as husbands held an especial attraction to Christian women, because they were reputed to be good providers who stressed education for their children. The Laws of Constantine therefore specifically forbade such marriages; but marriages between Christian men and Jewish women were not forbidden, as they usually brought converts into the fold
The religious basis for anti-Semitism (note: this is more strictly called ‘Anti-judaizing’ see Anti-semitism) in Christendom was derived from the accusation, as it appears in the Gospels and it was unquestioningly accepted by all Christians, that the Jews where to blame for the crucifixion of Jesus. The epithet "Christ Killer" became a synonym for "Jew" and subsequently was bandied about with unthinking ease through the ages by countless Christians, including popes, theologians, philosophers and poets. The Gospels, although presumably written by the Disciples, who were born and raised as devout Jews, are nevertheless, full of overt hostility toward the Jews.
What devout Christian has not been inflamed in his deepest feelings on reading in an uncritical state of mind about the clamor the [Jewish] mob raised before Pontius Pilot the Roman procurator, for the life of Jesus. "Let him be crucified," they are alleged to have cried. Then, as if to crown its own infamy and make it appear the more unspeakable the Gospel writer puts these incredible words into the mouth of the shouting mob: "His blood be on us, and on our children." (Matthew 27:25.)
It was principally on this particular passage that the religious anti-Semites of history pounced, nailing it down as the source of supreme sanction for the unremitting persecution of the Jewish people. They argued that the Jews had out of their own mouths condemned themselves with these words voluntarily accepting their blood-guilt as "Christ-killers" bringing it down on the heads of their children and their children's children for all eternity. Some modern Christian students of the Gospels, reading this passage critically, have come to the conclusion that it is nothing but an editorial comment that was patently inserted into the dialogue of the trial-scene in the Passion-drama of Jesus in order to make the cynicism and the diabolical meanness of the Jewish "mob" appear the more revolting. Certainly, it passes all credibility to believe that the Jews, in screaming their hatred for Jesus before the Roman procurator-the man who was both their oppressor and their relentless enemy-would gleefully accept the mark of Cain for themselves and all their descendents so readily and with such relish! John Chrysostom (d. 407), who was later sainted by the Church took the lead in harassing the large Hellenized Jewish community in Antioch, Syria. He roundly abused the Jews saying they were possessed by demons and that their synagogues were serving as rendezvous for devils. During the Feast of Purim in 405, he incited a Christian mob to attack the Jews in their quarter of the city. Taking holy fire from him, Bishop Cyril of Alexandria shortly thereafter led another devout rabble against the Jews of that metropolis. The synagogues were torn down virtually stone from stone in a holy frenzy and Jewish homes were pillaged leaving many dead and wounded behind. The several hundred thousand Jews of Alexandria were driven out, most of them never to return, from the city where their forefathers had settled in the time of Alexander of Macedonia, more than seven hundred years before.
The American non-Jewish historian, Herbert J. Muller has correctly observed:
"The martyrdom that Christians suffered in their early history was negligible compared with the martyrdom they later inflicted on the Jews . . . The [Christian] victims of the Roman Empire were a few thousand in number . . . Israel cannot number or name its million of martyrs. ..."
The long and violent struggle between the two universal powers, the spiritual and the secular, ended after the Crusades with the decisive victory of the Roman pontificate over the empire. The papacy had reached the summit of its power; the Holy See sought, often successfully, to impose its will upon all monarchs and princes as well as their subjects. Innocent III, who wore the tiara from 1198 to 1216, dominated Europe with an iron hand during his papacy.
“Innocent”, a Byzantine concluded, with some exaggeration, “was the successor not to Peter but to Constantine." The decisions made in Rome during this period determined events and life in the Christian West for a long time afterward—and especially concerning the lives of the Jews. For the triumph of the Church wreaked more hardship upon the Jews of Europe than upon any other groups.
Pope Innocent III had used the power of the Church to wage a Crusade within Europe itself against the Albigensians—a war that led to the founding of the Inquisition and the burning of heretics. This Pope, with a host of papal legates and a legion of secular and monastic clergy at his command, was the creator of an ecclesiastical policy that more and more narrowed down the possibility for Jews to survive. As a consequence of that policy the Jews were degraded to the lowest class in society, debased to a pariah group within the Christian order. “The goal was not the extermination of the Jew as a human being,” Professor Karl Thieme has pointed out. “Rather, it was to make the Jew regret his persistence in his religion until he abandoned it, or else to punish him for his ‘obstinacy’ in clinging to it.”
At the beginning of his reign Innocent, like his predecessors, while clearly not favoring the Jews, took them under his protection. In 1199, when violence on the part of Crusaders had again become a common occurrence, he issued a bull declaring that the Jews were neither to be baptized by force nor robbed, injured, or killed without the process of law. They were not to be molested on their feast days, and their cemeteries were to be respected.
But even the opening phrases of the bull undermined the total effect and contrasted strongly with the phraseology of all his predecessors. The initial formula since Gregory the Great had been:
“Sicut Judaeis non debeat esse licentia . . .
Now it ran:
"Licet perfidia Judaeorum sit multipliciter Improhanda . . .
“Although the false doctrine of the Jews is in manyways to be condemned, believers must nevertheless not oppress them too greatly, for through them the truth of our own faith is confirmed.”
In his messages addressed to bishops and secular rulers, a stem policy toward the Jews emerged more and more clearly.
“The Jews, like the fratricide Cain, are doomed to wander over the earth as fugitives and vagabonds and to cover their faces in shame,”
he wrote in 1208 to the Count of Nevers, who had been displaying kindness toward the Jews.
“Christian princes are in no circumstances to show them favor, but, on the contrary, to reduce them to serfdom. Wrongly do those Christian rulers act who admit the Jews into their cities and villages and avail themselves of their usurious services to extract money from the Christian populace. It even happens that these rulers arrest Christians for neglecting payments to Jewish creditors, and, what is worst of all, tolerate it that in this way the Church loses her tithe.”
Innocent III strongly reproved King Philip Augustus of France for having recalled Jews who had been previously expelled. The Pope protested indignantly that church goods were pawned to Jews and that the Jews were permitted to employ Christian servants and workmen.
The Crusade in southern France against the Albigensians, who rejected the papacy and the Catholic Church, also smote the Jewish communities. In Beziers, one of the centers of “heresy,” the Crusaders summoned by the Pope set a record for savagery. Legate Arnold, a Cistercian monk, wrote to Innocent,
“We regarded neither estate, nor sex, nor age; almost twenty thousand of the citizens were put to the sword. After the great slaughter the city was pillaged and burned, and divine vengeance raged within it in wondrous wise.”
Even orthodox Catholics had not been spared. Whether or not the Crusaders really asked the Legate how to distinguish heretics from Catholics, and whether or not Arnold really answered, “Kill them all, God will know his own," almost all were killed. Certainly Jews could expect little mercy in these circumstances. Two hundred of them, their own chronicle relates, were killed; many were led into captivity.
For three decades the holy war against the heretics raged. It was conducted on the intellectual as well as the military front. A ban was placed upon philosophical writings from Spain; among them were the works of Gabirol. Ancient canons of the Church that applied to the Jews, some of them dating back to the time of the Merovingians, were revived in 1209 at the Council of Avignon. From Spain to England the Jews felt the heavy hand of the Pope. And worse was in the offing. The Jews heard with apprehension the news that sped rapidly through all the countries of Europe: Innocent III had summoned the Church hierarchy to a Council in Rome. Jews remembered only too well the Lateran Council of 1179.
It had accused the Jews of co-operating with the heretical Albigensians and had revived the ancient anti-Jewish laws of the Early Christian Church, which had fallen into desuetude for seven centuries. Once again Jews were strictly forbidden to employ Christians, and Christians were forbidden to enter the service of Jews. These prohibitions extended even to midwives and nurses for the sick. “Believers” were not to be allowed to live among “unbelievers”—the first step toward the future ghettos.
The fears of the Jews proved justified—the new Council went much farther than its predecessor. The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 prepared the way for the downfall of Jewish communities throughout Europe. It forbade Jews to practice Christian occupations—thus forcing them into total isolation from Christian society. “The Jews were branded as a species of submen,” Professor Edmund Schopen has commented, “who, to be sure, were not to be persecuted by violence, but with whom Christians were not permitted to associate.”
The rule that Islam in its early, fanatic phase had imposed upon all “misbelievers” in the Orient, both Jews and Christians, was now taken up by Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council and imposed upon Jews in the Christian West. One canon prescribed that Jews,
“whether men or women, must in all Christian countries distinguish themselves from the rest of the population in public places by a special kind of clothing.”
The reason given for this was to prevent “criminal” sexual intercourse between Christians and Jews.
“So that,” the text declared, “henceforth in case of such criminal intercourse no mistake can be alleged as an excuse.”
In November, 1215, a papal bull gave these decisions of the Council the force of canon law.
The dreadful Jewish badge had been created—that dishonoring sign which for six centuries was to expose the Jews to public contempt everywhere they went in Europe.
Two of Innocent’s successors, Popes Gregory IX and Innocent IV, repeatedly reminded rulers to pay strict attention to the requirement and to allow no exceptions to the wearing of badges. Gradually, these “Cain’s marks” became a common sight in all of Europe, their wearers identifiable everywhere at a distance.
England chose a badge depicting two stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. In France, St. Louis ordered a badge to be made of red felt or saffron-yellow cloth, cut in the shape of a wheel and worn on the upper garment, one in front and one in back, “so that those thus branded may be recognized from all sides.”
Germany instituted the rotella, a patch of yellow cloth in the shape of a wheel or an O. In some countries a simple badge was considered inadequate, and the wearing of a hat of a specified color was also prescribed. The synod of Vienna in 1267 forced the Jews to wear especially humiliating headgear; the cornutus pileus, a high, pointed—and, moreover, horned—cap, so that Jews could be recognized at a distance. The effects of the Council’s decision were felt far to the East; in 1279 the Buda synod decreed a badge consisting of a wheel of red cloth for Hungary and southern Poland. ......Other ordinances designed to humiliate Jews in public were devised. In some places it was regarded as the privilege of the rabble to pelt the Jews with stones at Easter; in other places, representatives of the Jewish community were made to accept blows or slaps in public at this season. In Crete Jewish houses, too, had their special mark. Jewish communities were frequently expected to provide a man for the ugly task of public executioner; the Jewish cemetery often became the site of the gallows. Jews were forbidden to enter public baths, or admitted only on the days reserved for prostitutes.
.....the Jews also entered a period of frightful economic distress. As a result of the Lateran Council they lost all “positions of authority.” Gradually, they were driven out of all important open occupations. Trades they had followed for centuries were closed to them, until at last they arrived at the lowest step on the social ladder, tolerated only in occupations universally execrated—as peddlers and small pawnbrokers.
In September 1939, after the German invasion of Poland, the Nazis decreed that Jewish stores should be branded with a distinctive mark. Soon after, the head of the Generalgouvernement, Hans Frank, ordered that the Jews themselves be marked: all Jews over the age of 12 were to don white armbands, at least four inches wide, inscribed with a blue Star of David. From then on the idea spread to all territory held by the Nazis though with varying success.
Since the days of the Roman Empire Jews had been active in agriculture, commerce, and crafts. Thanks to techniques brought from their homeland in the Orient, they had made important contributions to European agriculture in the cultivation of the vine and the olive, in methods of irrigation. They had introduced Far Eastern spices and Chinese silks to Europe and had demonstrated new ways of bleaching and dyeing cloth.
Their ships had imported sugar and rice, grain and fine woods. They had, as we have seen, enriched European culture by their own works and by their translations.
But all these contributions now counted for nothing. Christian society no longer had any place for them. No Jew could henceforth practice a Christian occupation. That meant the end of all previous ways by which Jews had earned their livelihood. A profound social upheaval began for Jewry.
As occupation after occupation was closed to the Jews, as they were more and more excluded from Christian society, there remained to them only one activity, which Christianity theoretically despised, regarding it as wicked and sinful: the lending of money at interest.
The Church’s campaign against the taking of interest had reached a climax at the Third Lateran Council in 1179. The Council threatened every Christian who dared to lend money at interest with refusal of Christian burial. Irrespective of the interest rate, all such lending was condemned as 'usury'. Only non-Christians could skirt the consequences of this condemnation.
Until the twelfth century the chief moneylenders had been Syrian merchants and monasteries. Now these two groups had either to withdraw entirely from the money market or, if they preferred evasion, as they frequently did, to avail themselves of non-Christian intermediaries—in other words, Jews. Henceforth Jews took over the functions of supplying credit, which even the most primitive society or economy requires. For the Jews, in their hopeless predicament, the lending of money offered a broad field of activity, although one that was new to them.
.....European trade and a mercantile economy were expanding in the wake of the Crusades, and the Jews began to fulfil a function of tremendous importance for the time, and for the future. "As in all the fields of endeavor into which the Jews entered,” Edmund Schopen comments, “in this one, too, they developed the germinitiating money system into a new branch of the economy, well organized and rational. Thus the Jews in late medieval Europe became the founders of the banking system. . . . Nevertheless, even though they had thus shifted course, the same fate awaited them. After the Jews had transformed such dealings from the despised and disgraceful doings of the 'usurer' to a regular profession that filled an important role in the economy, and . . . after they had developed the methods of finance and banking despite continuous risks, the merchants of northern Italy imitated them, and with the immensely larger capital resources of their ‘Lombard’ community took over the large transactions, which yielded enormous profits, so that the Jews had to remain content with insignificant small loans to the petty nobility and burghers.”
As givers of credit the Jews became indispensable to the dignitaries of Church and State. They financed the wars and building projects of sovereigns. The Church, which had pronounced so sharply against the taking of interest and hence condemned the Jews as 'sinners', gladly and frequently availed itself of their services. In England nine Cistercian monasteries, the cathedrals of Lincoln and Peterborough, and the Abbey of St. Albans were built, thanks to loans granted by Aaron of Lincoln.
The dominance of Jews in the world of finance reached its pinnacle in the thirteenth century. But there were grim aspects to the picture...... Originally, the Jews had possessed the privileges of foreigners. They were accorded special rights like other groups in the population, like the clergy and the merchants. As we have seen, they enjoyed the protection of rulers and from the time of Louis the Pious on held charters or letters confirming that status. But in the twelfth century this situation began to change, and the change for the worse continued in the thirteenth. Frederick Barbarossa had declared that the Jews under his protection belonged to “our exchequer” Under Frederick II they became sheer property. In 1236 he declared them servi camerae (servants of the chamber), which usually meant the treasury of the king’s private household. They were, in a sense, chattels who could be dealt with as their possessor thought fit. They could be taxed; their property could be confiscated at any time, and the rights held in them could be disposed of or lent, sold, pawned, or given away. This was not mere theory; the German emperors did in fact deal with the Jews they owned as if they were personal property. In the policy of mon archs who were rapidly consolidating their strength, this royal prerogative proved to be a highly useful instrument.
Unfortunately for the servi camerae, the financial demands of three masters—emperor, local lord, and town—gave them no peace. Economically, they were forced to the wall. To add to unbearable burdens, the Church entered the field, demanding its tithe from the Jews. Thus the Jews became a constantly drained source of income, repeatedly forced to raise new sums, of which they themselves were permitted to retain only a fraction. All secular and ecclesiastical magnates who had the funds to be creditors, if only temporarily, were indirect participants in their banking and loan affairs. This situation inevitably proved the nemesis of the Jews. The more the lower nobility and urban patricians fell into debt to them, the more unpopular they became. The populace in any case had no comprehension of the vital part played by the Jews as providers of credit. The resentment fostered by indebtedness soon turned to hatred and inevitably led to violence. Naked economic motives often lay behind the assaults upon Jewish communities; religious zeal was frequently mere pretext. Quite often the attackers were the very ones who owed large sums to their victims. Massacres were often followed by destruction of the promissory notes kept in the homes of the “usurers”. If the Jewish creditor was killed, and the note burned, the debtor had gained both the borrowed money and the interest.
The Jews of France and England were subject to the worst exploitation. One Sabbath day, January 19, 1180, Philip Augustus of France had all the Jews arrested; they were conveniently assembled in their synagogues. Their property and all their valuables were confiscated and they themselves were cast into prisons. They were released only after they had raised a huge ransom This extortion was merely a prelude. That same year the King annulled all the claims of Jewish creditors. The Christian debtors, however, had to pay a fifth of the sums they owed into the royal treasury. A hermit of Vincennes, so it was said, had persuaded the King to take this step as an act pleasing to God. For the Jews it meant complete ruin; the King had reduced them to beggary. But Philip Augustus went a step further: His edict of 1182 banished all Jews from the Crown lands. They were permitted to sell only their movable goods, and to take the proceeds with them. All their real property—houses, fields, and vineyards—the King himself appropriated. He gave the abandoned synagogues to the Church to be transformed into Christian houses of worship. Sixteen years later, in 1198, Philip Augustus readmitted the Jews.
England’s rulers put their exploitation of the Jews on a systematic basis. By royal decree, all financial transactions had to be registered with the Exchequer of the Jews. Copies of all deeds of indebtedness were deposited here. The business enterprises of the Jews as well as their whole fortunes were subject to strict state control. Thus, even if records were lost in the course of attacks on Jewish communities, the royal exchequer would suffer no loss. (For a summary of Usury and Bible Law go to Jewish Virtual Library see also Links below)
One of the most monstrous and fateful of charges against the Jews, deriving from pagan times, suddenly reappeared in the Christian West: the false accusation of ritual murder.
Once upon a time the Romans had accused the early Christians of murdering children in order to use their blood for ritual purposes. Among the unsophisticated masses of the Roman Empire the tale had been believed. Now it suddenly began to haunt all of Europe, this time directed against the Jews.
The chronicles of England record the earliest case. In 1146 the Jews of Norwich were accused of having kidnapped, tortured, and killed a Christian boy before the Passover. But for the time being this remained an isolated fantasy. It was only after the tragedy that took place in the French city of Blois that such slanderous charges developed into a veritable mass psychosis.
News of this frightful event came as a crushing blow to all Jews. Rabbi Jacob Tam declared the day the martyrs of Blois had been burned a day of mourning and fasting to be observed annually by the Jewish communities of France, England, and the Rhineland. It was as if the Jews had a premonition that there were more such horrors to come.
Before long, the accusation was raised in many places in Germany and Austria. In the winter of 1181, near Vienna, three boys who had been playing on the frozen river vanished. All searches proved invain. Then several Christians came forward and swore that they had seen Jews lure the boys into a house and slaughter them. The Jews were tried; three hundred died at the stake. When the ice melted in the spring, the bodies of the drowned children were fished out of the Danube, intact.
In 1199 the slander claimed more victims in Erfurt. In 1235 members of the Jewish communities in Lauda and Bischofsheim, charged with the same crime, ended on the scaffold. The end of that year was marked by a particularly sinister tragedy. Near Fulda on Christmas Eve a miller who had gone to town with his wife came back to find his house burned down. The charred bodies of his five children were found in the ruins. Crusaders had just turned up in Fulda, and the rumor spread swiftly that two Jews had killed the miller’s children in order to use their blood in medicines; then, to cover the traces, they had set fire to the house after their crime. People claimed to have seen them making off with the blood in leather pouches. Thirty-two Jews of the Fulda community were arrested and tortured until two of them provided the desired “confession.” Three days later, without waiting for further trials, the Crusaders killed all the arrested men. Emperor Frederick II happened to be staying in nearby Haguenau. The remains of the children were brought to him to demonstrate the alleged crime of the Jews. The Emperor realized the folly of the charge, and commanded: “Since the children have died, let them be buried.” But in order to calm the people, whose excitement had risen dangerously at the sight of the bodies of the “holy martyrs,” he ordered an official investigation. A commission consisting of secular and ecclesiastical lords—bishop, monks, dukes, and counts—looked into the case. After making thorough inquiries they came to the following decision:
“Neither in the Old nor in the New Testament is there any text to show that the Jews desire human blood. On the contrary, they guard themselves against being tainted by any blood at all. This is evident from the book that in Hebrew is called Berechct [“Bereshith,” the first word of Genesis, used to signify the first book of the Pentateuchl, and is in harmony with the prescripts of Moses from the laws that in Hebrew are called Talmillot [Talmud]. There is little likelihood that those to whom even the blood of clean animals is forbidden would have any taste for human blood. Against this charge are its frightfulness, its unnaturalness, and the natural human feeling the Jews display toward Christians also. Moreover, it is not probable that they would risk their lives and property. We have therefore declared the Jews of Fulda . . . completely innocent of the crime with which they have been charged.”
In July, 1236, Emperor Frederick confirmed the conclusion of the investigators. A copy of the decision was placed in the archives of the city of Cologne, where it has remained to this day. Frederick pronounced all the Jews of Germany innocent of the charge, and forbade everyone to repeat the slanderous allegation. But even the imperial command could not prevent further dissemination of the baleful calumny. Unsolved murders of Christians continued to lead to vicious assaults upon the Jewish communities living in the vicinity. Quite often murderers would carry the bodies of their victims to Jewish houses to divert suspicion from themselves.
Avarice went hand in hand with superstition when charges of blood crimes were raised against the Jews. That is evident from a papal letter of the period. On July 5, 1247, Innocent IV addressed a circular letter on the subject to the archbishops and bishops of Germany.
“We have heard the fervent supplications of the Jews,” Innocent wrote, “that some ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries, as well as other noblemen and officials in your towns and dioceses, have invented godless accusations against the Jews, using these as a pretext to plunder them and to seize their possessions. These persons seem to have forgotten that the testimony for the Christian religion is found precisely in the ancient writings of the Jews. Whereas Holy Scripture commands, ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ and even forbids them to touch the dead on the Passover, Christians are raising against Jews the false accusation that on this festival they eat the heart of a murdered child. If the corpse of a person killed by an unknown hand is found anywhere, the death is ascribed to the Jews, with evil intent. All this is only a pretext to persecute them in the crudest fashion. Without judicial investigation, without any legal conviction of the accused or their confession, indeed, in disregard of the privileges graciously granted to the Jews by the Holy See, they are godlessly and unjustly robbed of their property, subjected to the pangs of hunger, imprisonment, and other tortures, and condemned to a shameful death. In the power of such princes and rulers the Jews have to suffer far more than did their ancestors under the pharaohs in Egypt. Because of such persecutions these unfortunates find themselves compelled to leave those places where their forefathers were settled from ancient times. Fearing total extermination, they have now appealed to the Holy See for protection. Since We do not wish unjust torments to be inflicted on the Jews, whose conversion God in His mercy is still expecting, We command you to treat them amicably and benevolently. If in the future you hear of such illegal oppressions, see to it that the law is obeyed and do not permit any persons to molest the Jews unjustly.”
But this papal remonstrance proved equally vain. The terrible accusation continued to spread. Even among scholars there were those who believed the charge of the Jews’ blood-guilt. The Dominican Thomas of Cantimpre, a pupil of Albertus Magnus, was one of them. In 1263, in his much-read book on bees, Bonum universale de apibus, he asserted that
the Jews would continue to spill the blood of Christians every year.
Because, when Jesus stood before Pilate, they had called Christ’s blood down upon themselves and their children, God had punished them with an ugly How of blood which only stopped when they converted to Christianity. But they believed that they could be freed of their secret ailment if Christian blood were spilled.
Some secular rulers opposed the libel as vigorously as the Popes. Respected rabbis were given opportunities to refute it publicly; Christian theologians systematically demonstrated its untruth. But neither warnings nor threats, neither imperial prescripts nor papal bulls helped, nor did all the efforts at enlightenment. In 1283 the ritual murder lie turned up in Mainz. Two years later the Munich rabble did not wait for the results of an investigation into such a charge; they massacred all the Jews they could lay hands on. A hundred and eighty persons who had fled into the synagogue were burned along with the building. In Erfurt, Colmar, Krems, Magdeburg, and Weissenburg, in Paris, Bern, Wurzburg, and Poznan, in Prague, Trent, Boppard, Budweis, and many other places, thousands of Jews died, the victims of psychosis and superstition. Some fifty alleged ritual murders, each of which took its toll in the blood of the Jewish community, have been recorded up to the end of the fifteenth century alone—and the records are indubitably incomplete. And as Cecil Roth has remarked,
'the relics of the alleged victims were venerated by the populace. Miracles were attributed to them at their shrines'.
The fantastic accusation lived on into the twentieth century, when even in supposedly civilized states Jews could still be charged with ritual murder. For example on July 27 1937 five Jews in Bamberg, Germany were placed on trial for the 1929 ritual murder of a German child and on May 1 1989, ‘Rachel’ a witness to Jewish ritual murder appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show
Between 250CE and 1948 the Jews have been expelled from 109 locations. Its effect varied between country and/or place. For example in Spain and England the expelled Jews did not return for hundreds of years while in France, which was not united in the Middle Ages, they went to a nearby duchy often returning to where they had been expelled within a few months. They often paid an admission tax on entry and then resumed paying taxes as normal.
The two main reasons for expulsion were religion as in Spain where all inhabitants had to be Christian to France where expulsion meant the cancellation (confiscation) of debts from the lender and nationalism as with the Nazis in Germany.
Despite the mass of restrictions imposed on the Jews by the Church in the political, social, and economic spheres, and the attacks on the Oral Law by Christian theologians, the campaign to proscribe Jewish literature was not launched until the 13th century.
An attempt had been made to prevent teaching of the "second tradition" (δευτέρωσις) by Emperor Justinian in 553 (novella 146), and in 712 the Visigoths in Spain forbade converts to Christianity to read Hebrew books. The first condemnation of the Talmud to burning was preceded by a period in which new forces of rationalism had made their appearance in Western Europe as well as an upsurge of sectarian movements such as the Cathari or Albigenses. Such trends were countered with strong measures by the Church. In 1199 Pope Innocent III declared that since Scripture contained lessons too profound for the layman to grasp, Christians should rely wholly on the clergy for its interpretation. The Church also directed its attention to Jews as potential subversive elements. One outcome of the suppression of rationalistic tendencies was the burning of Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed at Montpellier, southern France, in 1233. The Guide was originally denounced to the Dominican inquisitors by Jewish leaders who opposed the study of Maimonides' works. Although the connection between the burning of the Guide and the subsequent burning of the Talmud is tenuous, it set a dangerous precedent.
In 1236 (see (the Disputation of Paris above) a Jewish apostate, Nicholas Donin, submitted a memorandum to Pope Gregory IX listing 35 charges against the Talmud. These included allegations that it contained blasphemies of Jesus and Mary, attacks on the Church, pronouncements hostile to non-Jews, and foolish and revolting tales. They asserted that the Jews had elevated the Oral Law to the level of divinely inspired Scripture, and that this impeded the possibility of their conversion to Christianity. Gregory thereupon ordered a preliminary investigation, and in 1239 sent a circular letter to ecclesiastics in France summarizing the accusations and ordering the confiscation of Jewish books on the first Saturday of Lent (i.e., March 3, 1240), while the Jews were gathered in synagogue. Any other persons having Hebrew books in their possession who refused to give them up were to be excommunicated. He further ordered the heads of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders in Paris to ensure that "those books in which you find errors of this sort you shall cause to be burned at the stake." Similar instructions were conveyed to the kings of France, England, Spain, and Portugal. It was in response to Gregory's circular that the first public religious disputation between Jews and Christians was staged in Paris on June 25–27, 1240. The chief Jewish spokesman was R. Jehiel of Paris, the most eminent French rabbi of the period. An inquisitorial committee condemned the Talmud two years later. In June 1242, 24 wagon loads of books totaling thousands of volumes were handed to the executioner for public burning. Copies may also have been seized and destroyed in Rome.
Subsequently the burning of the Talmud was repeatedly urged by the popes. In France, Louis IX ordered further confiscations in 1247 and 1248 and upheld the principle in an ordinance of December 1254. It was confirmed by Philip III in 1284 and Philip IV in 1290 and 1299. A further burning was ordered in Toulouse in 1319 by the inquisitor Bernard Gui and in Perpignan. In his manual for inquisitors Gui also singled out the works of Rashi , David Kimḥi , and Maimonides for condemnation. The conflagration in Paris was compared by the contemporary scholar Meir b. Baruch of Rothenberg to the destruction of the Temple in an elegy Sha'ali Serufah ("Ask is it well, O thou consumed in fire") included in the kinah of the Ninth of Av. Jonah Gerondi , who had led the anti-Maimonists, is said to have connected the burning of the Talmud with the burning of the Guide in Montpellier and to have bitterly repented his attacks on Maimonides.
Outside France little action was taken in response to the papal appeals. Confiscations may have taken place in England and were ordered in Sicily. There seems to have been widespread destruction in southern Italy in 1270. After the disputation of Barcelona in 1263, James I of Aragon ordered the Jews to delete all blasphemous references to Jesus and Mary from their copies of the Talmud under penalty of burning the work. Condemnations of the Talmud were issued by popes Innocent IV in his bull of 1244, Alexander IV , John XXII in 1320, and Alexander V in 1409. The restrictive legislation imposed on Aragonese Jewry after the disputation of Tortosa 1413–14, contained a condemnation of the Talmud. Pope Eugenius IV issued a bull prohibiting Jews from studying the Talmud following the Council of Basle (see Church Councils ), 1431–43.
Although the orders of the popes were not effectively upheld by the secular authorities, copying of the Talmud and its study could not be carried out openly and proceeded with difficulty. However, in the new spirit of liberty engendered by the Renaissance, the great German humanist Johann Reuchlin defended Jewish learning and the Talmud, which had again been condemned to destruction by the emperor in 1509 because of charges leveled against it by the apostate Johann Pfefferkorn . The polemical battle which ensued between supporters of the humanists and the obscurantists involved leading Christian scholars, and was a prelude to the Reformation.
It was during the Counter-Reformation in Italy in the middle of the 16th century that the attacks on the Talmud had the most far-reaching consequences. In the reactionary climate, a quarrel broke out between rival Christian printers of Hebrew books in Venice. One of them, with the connivance of certain apostates, denounced the works produced by his competitor as containing matter offensive to the Holy Catholic Church. It developed into a wholesale attack on Hebrew literature. After a council of cardinals had examined the matter, the pope issued a decree (August 1553) designating the Talmud and related works as blasphemous and condemning them to be burned. On Sept. 9, 1553, the Jewish New Year, a huge pyre was set up in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome of Hebrew books that had been seized from Jewish homes. Subsequently the Inquisition ordered all rulers, bishops, and inquisitors throughout Italy to take similar action. The orders were obeyed in the Papal States, particularly in Bologna and Ravenna, and in Ferrara, Mantua, Urbino, Florence, and Venice, the center of Hebrew printing, and also in 1559 in Cremona. Representations by the rabbis gained a reprieve of the indiscriminate destruction. A papal bull issued on May 29, 1554, specified that while the Talmud and works containing blasphemies of Christianity were to be burned, other Jewish works were to be submitted for censorship . The Talmud was included in the first Index Expurgatorius in 1559. The ban against publication of the Talmud, with certain excisions or without them, under a different name, was temporarily lifted (1564) by Pius IV. However, confiscation of Hebrew works continued in Italy, especially in the Papal States, down to the 18th century. The same was the case in Avignon and the papal possessions in France. Renewed interdictions were issued by popes Gregory XIII (1572–85) and Clement VIII (1593). The burning in Rome was commemorated by an annual public fast day observed on the eve of Sabbath of ḥukkat (Shibbolei ha-Leket 263).
The events in Italy were described by the contemporary chronicler Joseph ha-Kohen in Emek ha-Bakhah and by a number of other writers. Mattathias Delacrut , who managed to escape with his own books to Brest-Litovsk, relates that in Venice over 1,000 complete copies of the Talmud, 500 copies of the code of Isaac Alfasi , and innumerable other works were burned. Judah b. Samuel Lerma lost all the copies of his newly printed Leḥem Yehudah in Venice and had to rewrite it from memory. The burning also aroused protest in Christian circles. The Hebraist Andrea Masio openly voiced his resentment of the pope's ruling, saying that the cardinals' report condemning a literature of which they knew nothing was as valueless as a blind man's opinion of color. The proscription of the Talmud in the main center for Hebrew printing was felt throughout the Diaspora. The Jewish centers in Poland and Turkey were prompt to answer the challenge, and printing of the Talmud commenced in Lublin in 1559 and shortly afterward in Salonika. Scholars in Italy subsequently turned to other branches of Jewish learning, and the study of Kabbalah in particular spread rapidly in Italy after the Talmud had been condemned.
The last auto-da-fé of the Talmud took place in Poland, in Kamenets-Podolski in the fall of 1757, following the spread of the Frankist movement in Podolia. Bishop Nicholas Dembowski intervened in the controversy between the Frankists and Jewish leaders and ordered a disputation to be held between them. He subsequently condemned all copies of the Talmud found in his diocese to be seized and burned after they had been dragged through the streets in mockery. A search was made with the aid of the clergy, the police, and the Frankists for the Talmud and other rabbinical writings. Nearly 1,000 copies of the Talmud were thrown into a pit at Kamenets and burned by the hangman.
Anti-Semitism, hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious or racial group. The term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns under way in central Europe at that time. Although the term now has wide currency, it is a misnomer, since it implies a discrimination against all Semites. Arabs and other peoples are also Semites, and yet they are not the targets of anti-Semitism as it is usually understood. The term is especially inappropriate as a label for the anti-Jewish prejudices, statements, or actions of Arabs or other Semites. Nazi anti-Semitism, which culminated in the Holocaust, had a racist dimension in that it targeted Jews because of their supposed biological characteristics—even those who had themselves converted to other religions or whose parents were converts. This variety of anti-Jewish racism dates only to the emergence of so-called “scientific racism” in the 19th century and is different in nature from earlier anti-Jewish prejudices.
This is covered in more detail in Anti-Semitism
WHY THE JEWS HAVE BEEN PERSECUTED: has been summarised as follows:
Simple to Remember
Economic -- "We hate Jews because they possess too much wealth and power."
Chosen People -- "We hate Jews because they arrogantly claim that they are the chosen people.
Scapegoat -- "Jews are a convenient group to single out and blame for our troubles."
Deicide -- "We hate Jews because they killed Jesus."
Outsiders, -- "We hate Jews because they are different from us." (The dislike of the unlike.)
Racial Theory -- "We hate Jews because they are an inferior race."
Christianity became both a religious and temporal organisation (Papal States). Religious in the form of Roman Catholics who made a major effort to destroy other groups, for example the genocide of the Cathars in Southern France (129-1229) and the 30 Years War (1618-1648) between the Catholics and Protestants when it is estimated the between 3,000,0000 and 11,000,000 were killed and the Islamic Moriscos in Spain after 1492. Catholic ideology is summarised by ‘heresy’.
After it became the religion of the Roman Empire the Church saw its priority as growth through conversion. This objective was established by the sixth century and the Church then rediscovered Jews who then became targeted for conversion.
The end of the Crusades saw the end of a long violent struggle between the spiritual and the secular powers. A decisive victory was gained by the Papacy who reached the summit of its power on monarchs, princes and their subjects. For example Innocent III (1198 to 1216) said:
“The Jews, like the fratricide Cain, are doomed to wander over the earth as fugitives and vagabonds and to cover their faces in shame,”
he wrote in 1208 to the Count of Nevers, who had been displaying kindness toward the Jews.
“Christian princes are in no circumstances to show them favor, but, on the contrary, to reduce them to serfdom. Wrongly do those Christian rulers act who admit the Jews into their cities and villages and avail themselves of their usurious services to extract money from the Christian populace. It even happens that these rulers arrest Christians for neglecting payments to Jewish creditors, and, what is worst of all, tolerate it that in this way the Church loses her tithe.”
Nationally, the church often acted as religious police and gave ranting speeches to create and lead mobs. Internationally the Pope made policy on strategy and gave speeches to lead attitude.
The Jewish badge was created and exposed the Jews to public contempt throughout Europe.
They became excluded from occupations and so from Christian society. Lending money with interest was seen as sinful by Christians. Yhe Lateran Council of 1179 accused the Jews of co-operating with the heretical Albigensians and revived the anti-Jewish laws of the Early Christian Church. Once again Jews were strictly forbidden to employ Christians, and Christians were forbidden to enter the service of Jews. These prohibitions extended even to midwives and nurses for the sick. “Believers” were not to be allowed to live among “unbelievers”—the first step toward the future ghettos.
The false pagan accusation of ritual murder reappered against the Jews The Romans had accused early Christians of murdering children to use their blood for ritual purposes. In 1146 the Jews of Norwich in England were accused of having kidnapped, tortured, and killed a Christian boy before the Passover. This developed into a mass psychosis after a similar charge was made in the French city of Blois. On May 1 1989, ‘Rachel’ a Jewish ritual murder witness, appeared on the USA Oprah Winfrey Show.
The Jews were stateless. Between 250 and 1948 they were expelled from 109 locations. When they were allowed to return varied, for example in Spain and England they were unable to return for hundreds of years while in France, which was not united in the Middle Ages, they went to a nearby duchy often returning within a few months. On return they often paid an entry tax and then resumed paying normal taxes.
The two main reasons for expulsion were religion as in Spain where all inhabitants had to be Christian to France where expulsion meant the cancellation (confiscation) of debts.
Jewish book burning also became widely used.
A major factor governing the growth of Christianity and Judism has been the ease with which individuals can convert to that religion. It is very simple to convert to Christianity while it is usually lengthy or even made illegal by Christianity to convert to Judaism
STORY OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
WHY HAS CHRISTENDOM
ATTACKED the JEWS?