The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew by Joshua Trachtenberg

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By Joshua Trachtenberg

A JPS bestseller, this can be the definitive paintings of scholarship at the medieval perception of the Jew as devil—literally and figuratively. via records, research, and illustrations, the e-book exposes the complete spectrum of the Jew’s demonization as satan, sorcerer, and formality assassin. the writer unearths how those myths, many with origins traced to Christian Europe within the past due center a while, nonetheless exist in transmuted shape within the glossy period.

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Sample text

The relation between the Jews and the Antichrist was particu­ larly stressed in these accounts of his career. Not alone was his parentage Jewish—on both sides, it might be said—but so was his earliest and most effective support. Even the artists who designed the manuscript illuminations, and later the woodcuts and en­ gravings, and painted the pictures that adorned the churches went out of their way to emphasize this point. ” Besides the pamphlets and tracts in prose and verse which pre­ sented the legend in full and terrifying detail, and the homiletical disquisitions that pounded home its moral, the stage also seized upon the theme and lavished upon it its capacity for incitation.

30 Here it is the Jew’s refusal to accept the true doctrine that renders him defenseless against Satan. But the Theophilus legend, one of the most popular in the Middle Ages, which occurs in every language and in every literary form, and which strongly influenced the Faust legend if it did not indeed serve as its model and source, puts the matter in another light. There are several dramatic versions of this tale, each presenting the situation with a somewhat different emphasis but all agreeing on the essential point: the intimate relations joining devil and Jews.

The charge of mutilation of the host by Jews rested upon the belief that they too accepted the dogma of transubstantiation, the most peculiarly sectarian of Christian dogmas. Marlowe’s Jew of Malta even swears by the Corpo di Dio! The plenitude of miracles that accompanied al­ leged Jewish criminal acts against Christianity, such as the mutilation of the host and of images of Jesus and the saints, as well as the so-called ritual murders, were constant and inescap­ able evidence which the Jews presumably could not deny (though they did).

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