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 , 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.
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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 Jews.
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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 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?
An Introduction to Jewish-Christian Relations (Introduction to Religion)
Or will God the Father avenge them, whom they do not acknowledge as Father since they do not acknowledge the Son? 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 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.
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The papal correspondence was, by and large, protective of Jewish rights, while continuing to assume their subordinate position in society. At the same time, the expulsion of Jews was beginning in Europe; from France under King Dagobert and under the Spanish monarchy—with church collusion—when in 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 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.
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. After a few centuries of freedom from harassment during the Carolingian period , the Jews of western Europe began to suffer new indignities as the crusades came on.
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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.
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. The result is a text that can serve as a springboard to more study and dialogue on each of the ten topics we have chosen to present in this volume. The reader will discover that the book is organized into ten chapters.
The first four on Hebrew scriptures, New Testament, the holocaust, and Israel have been organized chronologically. These are followed by an essay on anti-Semitism. An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. No cover image. Read preview.
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Excerpt This volume of essays is an example of something new and exciting which is going on in North America, especially between Jews and Christians. Read preview Overview. Rousseau Ridge Row Press, Marianne Dacy. The Catholic Historical Review, Vol.
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