Subject: Church History of Antisemitism - Part II
Date:    Wed, 15 Apr 1998 00:35:34 +0000
To:      "Hebraic Heritage Newsgroup"<>


From:          Luana Fabry <>
To:            Hebraic Roots <>
Subject:       Antisemitism

Shalom All

I have finally put on my website the article on "The History of
Antisemitism in the Church".  You will find it at: 

Below is Part 2 of 3 located at the Web page.

Beit Y'shua Australia

             A History of Antisemitism Part 2: The Middle Ages 

     The traditions and foundations laid by the Fathers of the Church
     continued into the Middle Ages and created great intolerance and
     suspicion toward the Jews. The founders of the Church promulgated
     a number of doctrines to theologically invalidate the Jews'
     continuing existence. These doctrines were given the greatest
     possible significance and divine authentication resulting in the
     introduction to the world a concept that had never before been
     present in humanity: theological slander against another
     religious group. An example of such doctrine and theological
     slander can be read in the writings of many of the Church
     Fathers. John Chrysostom, possibly the early Church's most
     powerful and influential orator stated: 

     The Jews have assassinated the Son of God! How dare you associate
     with this nation of assassins and hangmen! The Jews are the most
     worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, rapacious. They
     are perfidious murderers of Christ... The Jews are the odious
     assassins of Christ and for killing God there is no expiation
     possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christian may never cease
     vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God
     always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians to
     hate the Jews.1 

     The result of such statements, which condemned Jews, all Jews for
     all time to be the assassins of Christ and spawn of the devil,
     caused intolerance and suspicion of Jews not only as individuals,
     but as a race. We cannot say that Christian persecution during
     the Middle Ages was constant in all countries and that Jewish
     intolerance came from the Church alone. Neither can we say that
     the Jews lived in peace until the birth of Christianity. Jews
     were enslaved by the Egyptians for hundreds of years and were
     battled by many empires. However, the Egyptians enslaved a people
     who happened to be Jewish, not because they were Jewish. 

     By the eleventh century, the Church had converted to Christianity
     virtually all the inhabitants of Europe. In 1215 AD, the Church's
     Fourth Lateran Council settled the social destiny of the Jewish
     people in Christian lands for many centuries. At this Council the
     whole of western Christianity may have well been represented.
     There were present 71 archbishops, 412 bishops, 800 abbots and a
     host of other Church dignitaries and priests. 2 It was decided
     that Jews were forbidden to walk in public on Christian feast
     days and also had to wear a distinctive badge on their clothing.
     They were to wander over the earth without rights, without a home
     or security and treated at all times as if they were beings of an
     inferior species. The Council's Canon 68 states: 

     Jews and Saracens of both sexes in every Christian province must
     be distinguished from the Christian by a difference of dress.
     Moreover, during the last three days before Easter and especially
     on Good Friday, they shall not go forth in public at all... 3 

     Canon 3 was devoted specifically to the suppression of heresy.
     Heretics found guilty were to be handed over to the secular arm
     for punishment and feudal lords were expected to expel heretics
     from their lands. Thus began a new era for the Jews as
     hostilities against them intensified. 

     By the twelfth century, one of the main outcomes of Church
     doctrine was the demonic stereotyping of the Jews. The popular
     literature of the Middle Ages was almost entirely dominated by
     the point of view of Christianity. Morality plays, stories,
     legends, poems, sermons and songs all painted the Jew as the
     fount of all evil, deliberately guilty of unspeakable crimes
     against the founder of the Christian faith and Church. No sin was
     beyond him - his intention was to destroy Christendom. Sunday
     sermons portrayed the Jew as belonging to his father the Devil,
     the incarnation of the antichrist. We find this concept in the
     graphic arts of the time. One of the earliest dated sketches of a
     medieval Jew, from the Forest Roll of Essex (1277), bears the
     superscription Aaron fil diaboli, "Aaron, son of the devil". Such
     was the Jew stereotyped, that in 1267, the Vienna Council decreed
     that Jews must wear a horned hat. 4 

     Millions of Christians came to believe that the Jews were not
     actually human beings, but creatures of the Devil, allies of
     Satan and personifications of the Antichrist. Repeatedly during
     the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of possessing attributes of
     both the Devil and witches and that they emitted a foul odour as
     punishment for their crime against Jesus. It was said that this
     odour would only left them through baptism. Christian preachers
     taught that the Jew was Satan's partner in all his financial
     dealings, fleecing poor Christians without mercy. This image of
     the Jews became part of Western culture and rendered plausible
     every accusation against them. Therefore, when the ritual- murder
     and blood-libel accusations were brought forth, as ridiculous as
     they were, Christians did not question them. Motivated by the
     belief in the demonic power of the Jewish people, a number of
     clergymen encouraged the persecution of Jews. 

     The strange charges of ritual murder and host desecration were
     based on the alleged profanation of the consecrated communion
     wafer known as the Eucharist. The Catholic doctrine of
     `transubstantiation', which claimed that the Eucharist was the
     literal, physical body of Jesus, was first officially recognized
     at the Fourth Lateran Council. 5 This official doctrine left the
     Jews legally vulnerable to charges of host desecration. It was
     imagined in Christian circles that the Jews, not content with
     crucifying Christ once, continued to renew the agonies of his
     suffering by stabbing, tormenting or burning the host. It was
     said that such was the intensity of their hatred, that when the
     host shed blood, emitted voices or took to flight, the Jews were
     not deterred. (It was not considered, however, that Jewish law
     forbids the eating of human flesh and drinking of blood). 

     The charge of host desecration was levelled against Jews over all
     the Roman Catholic world, frequently bringing large scale
     massacre. The first recorded case of alleged Host Desecration was
     at Belitz near Berlin in 1243. The city's entire Jewish community
     was burned alive for allegedly torturing a host. In Prague, in
     1389, the Jewish community was collectively accused of attacking
     a monk carrying a host. Large mobs of Christians surrounded the
     Jewish neighbourhood, offering the Jews the choice of baptism or
     death. Refusing to be baptized, 3,000 Jews were put to death. 6
     The accusation of Host Desecration was so prevalent, that in 1267
     the Council of Vienna decreed that Jews must withdraw to their
     homes the instant they heard the bell ringing announcing that a
     host was being carried through the streets. They were also to
     lock their doors and windows. 

     The first distinct case of ritual murder or `blood libel' was in
     1144 at Norwich. It was said that the Jews had bought a Christian
     boy before Easter and tortured him with "all the tortures brought
     upon our Lord" and then crucified him on Good Friday. Another
     famous case was that of Hugh of Lincoln in 1255. When the body of
     a boy was discovered laying in a cesspool, the Jews who were in
     Lincoln attending a wedding, were accused of murdering the boy.
     It was said that the child was first fattened for ten days with
     white bread and milk, and then almost all the Jews in England
     were invited to the crucifixion. 7 A Jew was forced to confess
     that the boy was crucified, resulting in the hanging without
     trial, of nineteen Jews. Ritual murder of Jewish children was
     seen as token of Jewish eternal enmity toward Christendom. Since
     Jews were unable to crucify Christ as their fathers did, they
     expressed their hatred on innocent Christian children. 

     On the eve of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, there
     occurred a blood libel case of the `Holy Child of La Guardia'.
     Conversos were made to confess under torture that with the
     knowledge of the chief Rabbi, they had abused and crucified a
     Christian child. 8 

     The ritual murder accusations further reinforced the theological
     stereotypes of the demonic Jew and the Synagogue being the
     `Church of Satan'. Christians had no problem with imagining human
     sacrifices taking place in the Synagogue for magical and demonic
     purposes. Totally ignorant of Jewish law, the masses were easily
     inflamed by anti-Jewish preachers. If the Jews were capable of
     crucifying God, then they were capable of anything. It was also
     believed that Jewish men menstruated and therefore required
     Christian blood to replenish themselves, or alternatively, that
     they needed to make up for the blood they lost through
     circumcision. 9 

     By the fourteenth century the blood libel charge had become
     associated with the Jewish holiday of Passover, the reason being,
     that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make the
     Passover bread and wine. The Inquisitor, John of Capistrano, went
     throughout Europe leading a campaign against the Jewish
     population and initiating a series of trials for ritual murder
     which resulted in Jews being burned at the stake. 10 The
     accusations of ritual murder followed the Jews throughout
     Christendom for generations. Countless thousands of Jews were
     tortured, massacred and dispersed because of this libel. The
     accusations and massacres reached such high proportions, that the
     Popes became alarmed and in numerous papal bulls forbade them. 

     Conspiracy theories were also levelled against the Jews. When the
     disasters of plague and famine swept the 14th century, the Jews
     found themselves vilified as well-poisoners and sorcerers. Rumors
     of Jewish well poisoning began to circulate in Southern France
     where, in May 1348, the Jews of a Provencal town were burned on
     this charge. 11 This `poisoning' accusation had particularly
     tragic results during the Black Death which also began in 1348.
     The plague, which killed about one third of Europe's population,
     was blamed on the Jews despite the fact that the plague also
     killed Jews. The Jews were accused of poisoning Christian wells,
     as they used separate wells for themselves. (The reason they used
     separate wells because they were forbidden to use Christian
     wells). Under torture, Jews confessed to spreading the Black
     Death, which resulted in a verdict stating that "all Jews from
     the age of seven cannot excuse themselves from this crime, since
     all of them in their totality are guilty of the above actions."
     12 Jewish children under the age of seven were then baptized and
     raised as Christians after their families were murdered. To the
     horrors of the plague itself were added the wholesale massacre of
     thousands of Jews across Europe. 

     The negative projection of Jews continued for centuries. Even the
     Reformation did not improve the situation of the Jews. At the
     beginning, the great reformer, Martin Luther, expecting mass
     conversions of the Jews, wrote to the Papacy condemning the
     Catholic Church's persecution of them. However, when the mass
     conversion of the Jews did not materialize, Luther felt betrayed
     and his acceptance of the Jews turned into loathing. Luther

     Therefore know, my dear Christian, that next to the devil you
     have no more bitter, more poisonous, more vehement an enemy than
     a real Jew who earnestly desires to be a Jew... Now what are we
     going to do with these rejected, condemned, Jewish people? You
     must refuse to let them own houses among us... You must take away
     from them all their prayer books and Talmuds wherein such lying,
     cursing and blasphemy is taught... You must prohibit their Rabbis
     to teach... You shall not tolerate them but expel them.13 

     Luther also held the Jews accountable (as agents of the devil)
     for virtually all problems. In The Jews and their lies, Luther

     ...verily a hopeless wicked venomous and devilish thing is the
     existence of these Jews, who for 1400 years have been and still
     are our pest, torment and misfortune. They are just devils and
     nothing more. 

     Luther may have divorced himself from Roman Catholic teaching,
     but he did not sever himself from the anti-Jewish root and thus
     took the lies with him into the Reformation. 

     Christendom's perception of the Jew left no alternative but to
     isolate the Jew from the rest of society. This was initially done
     by forcing Jews to wear distinctive clothing. Together with the
     horned hat, depicting the demonic Jew, Jews had to wear a visible
     badge on their clothing. Popes Gregory 1X and Innocent 1V,
     repeatedly reminded rulers of Christian countries to pay strict
     attention to the requirement and to allow no exceptions to the
     wearing of the badge. Gradually, these "marks of Cain" became a
     common sight in all of Europe, their wearers identifiable
     everywhere at a distance. Jews were distinguishable from everyone
     else and therefore subjected to abuse. In some places it was
     regarded a privilege to pelt Jews with stones at Easter; in other
     places, representatives of the Jewish community were made to
     accept blows or slaps during this season. 

     Another form of isolation was the ghetto system introduced in
     Venice by the Church in 1516. 14 The `ghetto' (from the Hebrew
     word get, meaning `divorce'), was a segregated and enclosed
     section of Venice for the complete isolation of the Jews from the
     Christians. Ghettos were prevalent mostly in northern Italy, the
     German speaking countries and a few Polish cities. The Jewish
     quarter, which already existed, was different to that of the
     ghetto as Christians and Jews were able to mingle together.
     Christians often partook of Jewish life and learning. The
     creation of the ghetto was not just to keep the Jews in, but to
     keep the Christians out. 

     Finally, there was no other alternative but for the Jews to be
     expelled. The Jews in the Middle Ages were expelled from most
     countries in which they lived. Medieval Jewish history ended in
     England in 1290, in France in 1306 and in Spain in 1492. By 1569,
     Jews had been expelled from most of the Papal States. 15 However,
     Christendom did not rid itself of the Jews without firstly
     instigating the inquisitions. 

     The first of the Inquisitions began somewhere between 1227 and
     1233 CE. The purpose of the Inquisition was to repress an
     increasing flood of heresies that had been infiltrating the
     Church and to root out the heretics. For the first two hundred
     years, the Inquisitions were mostly directed toward Christians
     who were regarded as heretics. It wasn't until 1478 that a
     different form of Inquisition was founded by King Ferdinand and
     Queen Isabella of Spain. The purpose of this Inquisition was to
     examine the genuineness of Jewish conversos (recent converts to
     Christianity) and marranos (meaning pig) who were suspect of
     practising Judaism in secret. In 1483, the Inquisitorial powers
     were assigned to Thomas de Torquemada by the Spanish Church. 16
     Heretics were to be stamped out, first among the marranos and
     conversos, and then wherever else found. 

     The procedure of the Inquisition began with a period of grace -
     four months to convert or leave. Heretics were given the
     opportunity to come forward or to denounce others known to them.
     Jews were denounced for varied activities such as smiling at the
     mention of the Virgin Mary, eating meat on a day of abstinence,
     or being suspect of living as `hidden Jews'. (Many Jews which had
     `converted', continued to keep the Sabbath and Festivals
     secretly). For example, a woman was arrested on the grounds of
     not eating pork and changing her linen just before Saturday. 17
     Those who were suspected of being heretics and did not
     voluntarily come forward, were tortured as a means of obtaining
     confessions and finally, the death penalty was by auto de fe -
     burning at the stake. Death came easily to those consigned to the
     flames after weeks of excruciating torture. In this manner,
     thousands of Jews lost their lives during the Spanish
     Inquisitions and thus did the saga of the Jews in Spain end. In
     1492, 300,000 Jews who refused to be baptized left Spain
     penniless. Jews sold their property, fine houses and estates, for
     a pittance; the rich Jews paid the expenses of the departure of
     the poor so that they would not have to become converts.
     Thousands of children were forcibly taken from their parents and
     raised as Christians. Thousands swarmed over the border to
     Portugal where they had temporary respite. However, in 1496, King
     Manuel of Portugal ordered the Jews in his realm expelled. Those
     who still remained in 1497 were subjected to atrocities and
     forced baptisms, especially of children. 18 

     Doctrine upon doctrine, law upon law, accusation upon accusation
     was levelled against the Jew, until only a dehumanized symbol of
     a denigrated Jew remained. First he was given humiliating
     clothing, then he was isolated to the ghetto. He could not own
     land; he had to step aside when a Christian passed by. He could
     not build Synagogues, he could not teach or strike up a
     friendship with Christians. He could only engage in a restricted
     number of professions and trades, and usually only that of
     moneylender and financier, only because this activity, while
     necessary for a prosperous economy, was viewed by the Church as
     sinful and so the Jewish stereotype was perpetuated. The
     Christians of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries did not know
     the proud, learned Jew of other days, but only saw the strangely
     dressed ghetto Jew with the ridiculous peaked hat representing
     his demonic nature. The Jew was nothing more to the Christian
     than an object of derision and scorn. 

     Yet, despite all of this, the medieval period was not a useless
     experience in the history of the Jews. It educated them for the
     Modern Age. Because the Jews were not part of the feudal system,
     they were not tied to its institutions. The Jews became
     cosmopolitan in their lives, speaking the languages of the world
     and appreciating its cultures. They were outsiders with an
     education, viewing societies objectively and thus assessing their
     weaknesses and strengths. In spite of the limited range of ghetto
     education, the Jews as a group remained the most educated in

     The early Church hoped to convert the Jews by convincing them of
     the error of their ways. By declaring Judaism invalid and
     superseded, the Church could not theologically tolerate the Jew.
     The Church thus defined antisemitism's first characteristic -
     "You have no right to live among us as Jews". 

     The Church of the Middle Ages went a step further and secured the
     "Jewish Problem" for centuries to come. In portraying the Jew as
     inhuman and demonic, Christendom could neither theologically nor
     socially tolerate the Jew. Thus, by the fifteenth century,
     antisemitism's second characteristic was defined - "You have no
     right to live among us". 

     l. Prager, D. & Telushkin, J.Why the Jews, New York, Simon &
        Schuster, 1985, p94 
     2.Burman, E. The Inquisition, Northamptonshire, Aquarian Press, 
        1984, p28,29 
     4.Trachtenberg, J. The Devil and the Jews, Philadelphia, The
         Jewish Publication Society, 1983, pp12,13 
     6.Prager, D & Telushkin, J. Op cit. p103 
     7.Keter Publishing House, Antisemitism, Jerusalem, 1974, p70 
     8.Trachtenburg, J. Op cit. pl30 
     9.Wistrich, R. Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred, Pantheon
        Books, New York, 1991, p31 
    l0.Cohn-Sherbok, D. The Crucified Jew,
        Harper Collins, London, 1992, p61 
   11.Trachtenburg, J. Op cit. pl03 
   12.Ben-Sasson,H. A History of the Jewish People, Cambridge,
         Harvard Univer,sity7 Press, 1976, p244, 245 
   13.Keter, Op cit. p70
   14.ibid p90 
   15.Dimont, M. Jews, God and History, Penguin, New
        York, 1962, p255 
   16.Dimont, M. Op cit. p221,222 17.Burman, E. Op
         cit. pl48 18.Wein, B. Herald of Destiny, Brooklyn, NY, Shaar
          Press, 1993, p208, 209