Watchman Willie Martin Archive

This was sent to me in the mail with no return address; so am unable to completely verify all aspects of it, but believe most of it, if not all, to be accurate.

Antisemitism From Constantine to the Eighth Century: For three centuries the Church had to contend against those with whom the greatness of Rome was inseparable from the secular worship of the Gods. Still, the resistance of the civil authorities, of the priests and philosophers, could not arrest the march of the Church; persecutions, hatred, hostility enhanced its power of propaganda; it addressed itself to those whose spirit was troubled, whose conscience was vacillating, and to them it brought an ideal and that moral satisfaction which they lacked. Moreover, at that hour when the Roman Empire was rending all over, when Rome, having abdicated all power and authority, received its Caesars from the hands of the legions, and competitors for the purple bobbed up in every nook of the provinces, the Catholic Church offered to that expiring world the unity it was seeking.

Yet, while offering intellectual unity to the world, the Church at the same time was ruining its institutions, customs and manners. In fact, at Rome, as well as in the Empire, all public functions were at once civil and religious, the magistrate, the procurator, the dux being invested with priestly functions; no public act was performed without rites; the government was, in a manner, theocratic; this ultimately came to be symbolized in the worship of the Emperor. All those who wanted to withdraw from that worship were held to be enemies of Caesar and the Empire; they were considered bad citizens. This sentiment explains the Roman dislike of Oriental religions and of the Jews; it explains the measures adopted against the worshipers of Yahweh, and still more the severity shown towards the worshipers of Mithra, of Sabazius and particularly towards the Christians, for the latter were not foreigners like the Jews, but rebel citizens.

The triumph of Christianity was brought about by political considerations, and so, to make its victory and domination lasting, it was obliged to adopt many of the ceremonial observances of (Codex Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 16) ancient Rome. When the Christians had increased in numbers, and formed a considerable party, they were saved and could see the dawn of victory glimmer, for now a pretender to the throne could find support among them and use their services to solidify his authority.

So it happened with Constantine, and Constantius, perhaps, foresaw it when he commanded the Gallic legions. The victorious church succeeded to Rome. She inherited its haughtiness, its exclusiveness, its pride, and almost without any transition period the persecuted turned persecutrix, wielding the power by which she had been fought, holding the consular fasces and hatchet and commanding the legionaries.

While Jesus was taking possession of the superb city and his universal reign was commencing, Judaism was in agony in Pales tine; the teachers of Tiberias were powerless to hold the young Judeans and the "illustrious, most glorious, right reverend" patriarch had but the shadow of authority.

The flourishing Jewish schools were in Babylonia; the centre of Israel's intellectual life was transferred thither; still WHEREEVER CHRISTIANITY ENDEAVOURED TO EXTEND ITS INFLUENCE IT HAD TO RECKON AND TO CONTEND WITH THE INFLUENCE OF JUDAISM; though since the close of the third century the latter was of little importance, at least directly. Indeed, at that time the Judaizing heresies were nearly extinct. The Nazarenes, those circumcised Christians attached to the old law, who are mentioned by St. Jerome and St. Epiphanius, were reduced to a handful of meek believers, who had found refuge at Berea (Alep), at Kokabe in Batanea, and at Pella, in the Decapolis. They spoke the Syro‑Chaldaic language; a remnant of the primitive Church of Jerusalem, they no longer exerted any influence, swamped as they were amidst Greek‑speaking churches.

Still, though Ebionism was dying out, Judaizing continued; the Christians attended the synagogues, celebrated the Jewish holidays, and the contentions over the Passover were still on. A large faction in the churches of the Orient insisted upon celebrating the Passover at the same time as the Jews. It required the action of the Nicaean Council to free Christianity of this last and weak bond by which it had still been tied to its cradle. After the Synod all was over between the Church and the Temple, officially, and from the orthodox standpoint, at least; it required, however, the action of further councils to prevent the faithful from conforming to the old usage, and it was not until 341 A.D., when the Council of Antioch (Codex Theodosianus, 1. XVI, tit. IX, 3, 4, 5) had excommunicated the Quartodecimans that unity of the celebration of the Easter was effected.

Since the Church had become armed, ANTI-JUDAISM UNDERWENT A TRANSFORMATION. PURELY THEOLOGICAL IN THE BEGINNING, CONFINED TO ARGUMENTS AND CONTROVERSIES, IT DEFINED ITSELF AND BECAME HARSHER, MORE SEVERE AND AGGRESSIVE (Something that Christianity must do today as well). Beside writings, laws appeared; the enactment of laws resulted in popular manifestations. The writings themselves underwent a change.

Throughout the centuries of persecution, apologetics had flourished, and a vast literature had come into being, born of the need felt by the Christians to convince their adversaries. They addressed themselves now to the Jews, now to the pagans, now to the emperors, and all of them, Justin, Athenagoras, Tatian, Aristo of Pella, Melito, endeavoured to prove to Caesar that their doctrines were not dangerous to the public weal (Here you can see that Christianity was not well received by the worldly rulers, just as today. They tried then to stamp it out and they are beginning the push, with the Jews at the forefront, and try to stamp it out once again in our time); that even without sacrificing to the gods, they could be loyal subjects, as obedient as the pagans and morally superior.

They argued with the Jews that it was they, the Christians, that were the only faithful to tradition, for they fulfilled the prophecies and the least details of their dogmas were foreseen and announced by the Scriptures. Triumphant Christianity was no longer in need of apologists; Caesar had been converted and Cyril of Alexandria, the author of a book against Julian the Apostate, was the last of the apologists. As regards Israel, the Christians persisted, even to our own day, in demonstrating to them their stubbornness; it was done in a less insidious and less convincing manner; they spoke as masters, and from the middle of the fifth century, apologetics proper ceased, reappearing only much later considerably modified and transformed.

THEY NO LONGER TRIED TO WIN OVER THE JEWS TO CHRIST; INDEED, A FEW YEARS SUFFICED TO SHOW TO THE THEOLOGIANS THE FUTILITY OF THEIR EFFORTS, AND THE EFFECT OF THEIR REASONING, BASED MOST FREQUENTLY UPON A FANTASTIC EXEGESIS OR A FEW ABSURDITIES OF THE ALEXANDRIAN TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE, was lost on these stubborn men, who listened only to their own teachers and clung the stronger to their faith the more it was despised. To arguments was added insult; the Jew was regarded less as a possible Christian than as an unrepenting deicide. They denounced those men, whose persistence was so shocking and whose very presence marred the complete triumph of the Church. Pains were taken to forget the Jewish origin of Jesus and the Apostles; to forget that Christianity had (Codex Justinianeus 1. I, tit. IX, 6) grown in the shade of the Synagogue. This oblivion perpetuated itself, and today who in all Christendom would acknowledge that he bows to a poor Jew and a humble Jewess of Galilee?

The Fathers, the bishops, the priests, who had to contend against the Jews treated them very badly. Hosius in Spain; Pope Sylvester; Paul, bishop of Constantine; Eusebius of Caesarea (Demonstratio Evangelica.), call them "a perverse, dangerous and criminal sect."

Some, like Gregory of Nyssa (Testimonium adversus Judaeos ex Tetere Testamento, Migne, P. G.,. XLVI..), remain on dogmatic ground, and merely reproach the Jews for being infidels, who refuse to accept the testimony of Moses and the prophets on the Trinity and Incarnation. St. Augustine (Oratio adversus Judaeos, Migne, P. L. XLII.) is more vehement. Irritated by the objections of the Talmudists he brands them as falsifiers, and declares that one need seek no religion in the blindness of the Jews, and that Judaism may serve only as a term of comparison to demonstrate the beauty of Christianity.

St. Ambrose (De Tobia, Migne, P. L. XIV) attacked them from another side; he took up anew the charges of the ancient world, those which had been used against the first Christians, and accused the Jews of despising the laws of Rome. St. Jerome (Ep. CLI, Quaest. 10, Migne, P. L. XXII) claimed that an impure spirit had seized the Jews. Having learned Hebrew in the schools of the rabbis, he said, referring doubtless to the curses pronounced against the Mineans and distorting their meaning: "The Jews must be hated, for they daily insult Jesus Christ in their synagogues"; and St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Ep. CLI, Quaest, 10, Migne, P. G., XXXIII) abused the Jewish patriarchs, claiming that they were a low race.

We find all these theological and polemical attacks combined in the six sermons delivered at Antioch, by St. John Chrysostom (Adversus Judaeos, 10, Migne, P. C., XLVIII) against the Jews; an examination of those homilies will give us an understanding of the methods of discussion, as well as the reciprocal attitude of Christians and Jews and their mutual relations.


Being obliged to admit that the Jews are not ignorant of the Father, he adds that this is not enough, since they have crucified the Son and reject the Holy Ghost, and that their souls are the abode of the devil. Therefore they must be mistrusted; the Jewish disease must be guarded against. (Cod. Theod., b. XVI, tit. viii, 5)

In the second sermon these diatribes are resumed; Chrysostom appears in it much worried over the influence exerted by the Jews. "Our sheep," he exclaims, "are surrounded by Jewish wolves," and he reiterates the warning: Avoid them; avoid their impiety; it is not significant controversies that separate us from them, but the death of Christ. If you think that Judaism is true, leave the Church; if not, quit Judaism.

The other four sermons are chiefly theological. Availing himself of the invectives of the prophets, Chrysostom calls the Jews thieves, impure, debauchees, rapacious, misers, crafty, oppressors of the poor; they have filled the measure of their crimes by immolating Jesus. He does not content himself with all that. He advances arguments upon controversies which must have been very lively at Antioch. He defends the Church; HE SHOWS THAT ISRAEL IS DISPERSED IN CONSEQUENCE OF THE DEATYH OF CHRIST (Here we can see that one of the early fathers is telling us that the Israelites were NOT the Jew. For the Israelites had been dispersed abroad); he draws from the prophets and the stories of the Bible proofs of the divinity of Jesus, and HE RECOMMENDS TO HIS FLOCK TO STAY AWAY FROM THE SERMONS OF THOSE JEWS WHO CALL THE CROSS AN ABOMINATION AND WHOSE RELIGION IS NULL AND USELESS TO THOSE WHO KNOW THE TRUE FAITH. IN SHORT, SAYS HE IN CONCLUSION, IT IS ABSURD TO CONSORT WITH MEN WHO HAVE TREATED GOD WITH SUCH INDIGNITY AND AT THE SAME TIME TO WORSHIP THE CRUCIFIED.

These homilies of Chrysostom are characteristic and valuable. One finds there already the policy which the Christian preachers were to pursue throughout the ages to follow; that mixture of argument and apostrophizing, of suasion and abuse, which has remained peculiar to anti‑Jewish preaching. Especially worthy of notice is the part of the clergy in the development of anti‑Judaism originally religious anti‑Judaism, for social anti‑Judaism arose much later in Christian society.

These sermons portray, in a live picture, the relations between Judaism and Christianity in the fourth century; these relations continued for a long time, until about the ninth century. The Jews had not arrived yet at that exclusive conception of their individuality and their nationality which was the work of the Talmudists. Their proselytic ardour was not dead; they were not conscious of the fact that they had forever lost their moral power over the world, and they struggled on. They persuaded pagans and Christians to Judaize, and they found followers; if need be they would make converts by force; they did not hesitate to circumcise their slaves. They were the only foes the[44] Church had to face, for paganism was quietly passing away, leaving in the souls but legendary survivals, which have not entirely died out even to this day. If paganism, through its last philosophers and poets, still opposed the diffusion of Christianity, it no longer sought, since the fourth century, to regain those whom Jesus held by his bonds. The Jews, however, had not given up; they deemed themselves in possession of the true religion, upon as good a title as the Christians, and in the eyes of the people their assertion had the attraction flowing from unflinching convictions.

In the morning of its triumph the Church as yet did not hold that universal ascendancy which it gained later; it was still weak, though powerful; but those who directed it aspired to universality, and THEY COULD NOT HELP CONSIDERING THE JEWS AS THEIR WORST ADVERSARIES; THEY HAD TO STRAIN THEMSELVES TO THE UTMOST TO WEAKEN JEWISH PROPAGANDA AND PROSELYTISM. IN THIS THE FATHERS FOLLOWED A SECULAR TRADITION; UPON THIS BATTLE GROUND THEY ARE UNANIMOUS, AND THERE ARE LEGIONS OF THEOLOGIANS, HISTORIANS AND WRITERS WHO THINK AND WRITE OF THE JEWS THE SAME AS CHRYSOSTOM: Epiphanius, Diodorus of Tarsus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyprus, Cosmas Indicopleustes, Athanasius the Sinaite, Synesius, among the Greeks; Hilarius of Poitiers, Prudentius, Paulas Orosius, Sulpicius Severus, Gennadius, Venantius Fortunatus, Isidore of Seville, among the Latins.

However, after the edict of Milan, anti‑Judaism could no longer confine itself to oral or written controversies; it was no longer a quarrel between two sects equally detested or despised. Before his conversion, Constantine, who originally declined to grant any exclusive privileges to Christians, accorded, by the edict of tolerance, to everyone the right to observe the religion of his choice.

The Jews were thus put on an equal footing with the Christians; the pagan pontiffs, the priests of Jesus, the patriarchs and teachers of Israel enjoyed the same favour and were exempt from municipal taxes. But in 323, after the defeat and death of Licinius, who had reigned in the Orient, Constantine, the victor and lord over the Empire, supported by all the Christians of his states, showed them marked preference. He made them his great dignitaries, his counselors, his generals, and thenceforth the Church had the imperial power at its disposal to build up its dominion. The first use it made of this authority was to

persecute those who were hostile to the Church; it found Constantine quite obedient to its wishes.

On the[45] one hand, the emperor prohibited divination and sacrifices, closed the temples, ordered the gold and silver statues of the gods to be melted for the embellishment of the churches; on the other hand, he consented to repress Jewish proselytism and revived an ancient Roman law which prohibited the Jews from circumcising their slaves; at the same time he deprived them of many of their former privileges and barred them from Jerusalem, except on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple, and that upon payment of a special tax in silver. Thus, by aggravating the burdens which were oppressing the Jews, Constantine favoured Christian proselytism, and the preachers were not slow to represent to the Jews the advantages baptism would bring.

Still, in spite of his hostility to the Jews, perhaps factitious, since the authenticity of the letter written in a violent language and attributed to him by Eusebius (Eusebius, Vita Constantini, III, 18, 20) cannot be vouched for, he took pains to protect them against the attacks of their own renegades. Under his successors, no such reservation was made. The Church was now all‑powerful with the emperors. Catholicism became the established religion, the Christian worship was the official worship, the importance of the bishops increased from day to day, as well as their influence. They inculcated upon the minds of the emperors those sentiments with which they were inspired themselves, and while their anti‑Judaism manifested itself in writings, imperial anti-Judaism found expression in statutes. These laws, inspired by the clergy, were directed not only against the Jews, but against Christian heretics as well. Indeed, during the fourth century, so fertile in heresies, the orthodox themselves were at times disturbed when heretical theologians led the emperors.

Of these laws, all of which were enacted from the fourth to the seventh century, the majority are directed against Jewish proselytism. The penal statutes directed against those who circumcise Christians are reaffirmed (Codex Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 16); the offense is made punishable by exile for life and confiscation of property. The Jews are prohibited from owning Christian slaves (Codex Theodosianus, 1. XVI, tit. IX, 3, 4, 5); they are not allowed to marry Christians; such unions are treated like criminal fornication. (Codex Justinianeus 1. I, tit. IX, 6) Other laws encourage Christian propaganda and proselytism among the Jews, either directlyby protecting the apostates (Cod. Theod., b. XVI, tit. viii, 5) and enjoining Jews from disinheriting their converted sons and grandsons44 or indirectly, by vexatious legislation against Jews. Their privileges were curtailed.

It was decreed that the moneys which were sent by[46] the Israelites to Palestine should be paid into the imperial treasury;45 they were debarred from holding public office;46 they were assessed with hard and oppressive curial taxes;47 they were practically deprived of their special tribunals.48 The vexations were not confined to that; the Jews were harassed even in the observance of their religion; the law undertook to regulate the manner of observing the Sabbath;49 they were ordered not to celebrate their Passover before Easter, and Justinian went as far as to prohibit them from reciting the daily prayer, the Schema, which proclaimed one God, as against the Trinity.

Still, notwithstanding the favourable disposition of Emperor Constantine, the Church was not given a free hand in everything. While restricting the religious liberties of the pagans and the Jews, he was obliged to act with caution; the worshipers of the gods were still numerous under his reign, and he dared not provoke dangerous disturbances. The Jews benefited to some extent by this hesitation. With Constantius everything changed. Constantine, who was baptized only on his deathbed by Eusebius of Nicomedia, was a skeptic and a politician, who used Christianity as a tool; Constantius was an orthodox,

as fanatical and intolerant as the clergy and the monks of his day. With him, the Church became dominant, and wielded its power for revenge; it seems the Church was eager to make its erstwhile persecutors pay dearly for all it had suffered at their hands. No sooner was it armed than it forgot its most elementary principles, and directed the secular arm against its adversaries. The pagans and the Jews were persecuted with utmost severity; those who offered sacrifices to Zeus, as well as those who worshipped Jehovah, were maltreated: anti‑Judaism went together with anti‑paganism.

The Jewish teachers of Judea were exiled, they were threatened with death if they persisted in giving instruction, they were compelled to flee from Palestine, while in other provinces of the empire they were denied the rights of Roman citizenship. While the Roman legions, on expedition against King Shabur II, of Persia, were camping in Judea, the Jews were treated like inhabitants of a conquered country. They were heavily taxed; they were forced to bake bread for the soldiers on Sabbath and on holidays.

In the cities, monks and bishops denounced pagans and Jews, inciting against them the Christian populace and leading fanatical mobs in assaults upon temples and synagogues. Under Theodosius I,[47] and under Arcadius, synagogues were burned at Rome and at Callinicus, in Mesopotamia. Under Theodosius II, at Alexandria, St. Cyril stirred up the mob, hermits invaded the city, massacred all the Jews and pagans they met, assassinated Hypathia, plundered synagogues, set the libraries on fire, defying the efforts of the prefect Orestes whom the emperor later disavowed. At Imnestar, near Antioch, Simon, the ascetic, acts likewise, and under Zeno similar scenes are enacted at Antioch. A fury of destruction takes possession of the Christians; one might say, they wish to destroy all traces of the old world to prepare the sweet reign of Christ.

Still the Jews did not behave passively in the face of their enemies, they had not, as yet, acquired that stubborn and touching resignation which became their characteristic later..

To the vehement discourses of the priests they replied by dis courses, to acts they responded by acts; to Christian proselytism they opposed their own proselytism and vowed execration on their apostates. Violent sermons were preached in the synagogues. Jewish preachers thundered against Edom, i.e., against Rome, the Rome of the Caesars which had become the Rome of Jesus, and which was now ravishing the faith of the Jews after having ravished their nationality.

They did not content themselves with rhetorical common‑places, they excited their brethren to revolt. While Gallus, Constantius's nephew, governed the Oriental provinces, Isaac of Sepphoris raised the Judeans, being aided in his undertaking by a fearless man, Natrona, whom the Romans called Patricius. The Jews took up arms, but they were severely repressed by Gallus and his general, Ursicinus. Women, children, and old men

were butchered, Tiberias and Lydda were half destroyed, Sepphoris was razed to the ground and the catacombs of Tiberias were filled with fugitives who were hiding for months to escape detection and death.

Under the reign of Phocas the Jews of Antioch, tired of persecutions, outrages and massacres, one day rushed upon the Christians, assassinated the patriarch Anastasius the Sinaite, and took possession of the city. Phocas sent against them an army with Kotys in Command, the Jews at first repelled the imperial legions, but unable to hold out against large enforcements brought to Antioch, they were subdued and massacred, maimed, or banished. Their submission, however, was merely apparent; they were awaiting an opportunity to renew the struggle; the opportunity soon presented[48] itself. When Chosru II, king of Persia, marched against the Byzantine empire, to avenge his son‑in‑law, Mauritius, whose throne had been usurped by Phocas, the Jews joined the king. Sharbarza invaded Asia Minor, disregarding the peace proposals of Heraclius, who had just dethroned Phocas, and he saw the Jewish warriors of Galilee flock under his banners.

Benjamin of Tiberias was the soul of the revolt; he armed and led the rebels. The Jews wanted to reconquer Palestine and restore it to that purity which to them had been polluted by the Christians. They burned the churches, sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the convents, raising on their way all their co‑religionists, and joined by the Jews of Damascus, Southern Palestine, and the Isle of Cyprus, they besieged Tyre, but were forced to raise the siege.

For fourteen years they were masters of Palestine, and the Christians of Palestine were in great numbers converted to Judaism. Heraclius drew them away from the Persians, who had not lived up to their promise to surrender to their allies the holy city of Jerusalem; he reached an understanding with Benjamin of Tiberias, promising to the Jews impunity and other advantages; but when the emperor reconquered his provinces from Chosru, he ordered, at the instigation of monks and the Patriarch Modestus, to massacre those with whom he had treated. When Julian the Apostate, after repealing the restrictive laws of Constantine and Constantius against the Jews, wanted to reconstruct the Temple of Jerusalem, the foreign Jewish communities remained deaf to the imperial appeal; they had become estranged from their national cause, at least directly.

With all the Jews of that time, the restoration of the Kingdom of Judah was intimately bound with the advent of Messiah and they could not expect it from a crowned philosopher; they had but to await the heavenly king who had been promised them; this sentiment persisted throughout the ages. With the death of the last patriarch Gamaliel VI, the phantom of royalty and of a Jewish nationality passed away and there was left to Israel but the chief of exile, the exilarch of Babylonia, who disappeared in the eleventh century.

In Persia and Babylonia, the Jews lived since their captivity, after the ruin of Jerusalem many more sought refuge in that admirable and fertile country, where they were given land to farm on and lived happily under the benevolent rule of the Arsacidae. They founded schools at Sora, Nachardea and Pumbaditha, and[49] made numerous proselytes. But in the middle of the third century the dynasty of the Arsacidae, who were very unpopular, fell with Artaban, and Ardashir founded the dynasty of the Sassanides. It was a national and religious movement. The Neo‑Persians or Guebres execrated the Hellenizing Arsacidae who had abandoned the fire worship. The triumph of Ardashir was the triumph

of the Magi, who raged against the Hellenizing, the Christians of Edessa and the Jews, for the anti‑Judaism of the Magi was combined with anti‑Christianity; so the hostile brothers were persecuted simultaneously, still the Jews, more feared for their numbers and their strength, suffered more in consequence, in those troublous days. However, those persecutions were never of long duration.

After suffering oppression at the end of the third century from Shabur II, who led away 70,000 Jewish prisoners from Armenia to Ispahan, the Israelites were for many years left undisturbed; but in the sixth and the seventh century under Yezdigerd II, under Pheroces, and under Kobad, restrictive measures were adopted at the instigation of the Magi. The Jews were prohibited from celebrating the Sabbath; their schools were closed, the Jewish tribunals were abolished. During the reign of Kobad, Mazdak, the Magus, was the originator of these persecutions. Mazdak, the founder of the sect of Zendiks, preached communism and deprived the Jews and Christians of their wives and property. Under the leadership of the Exilarch Mar Zutra II, the Jews rebelled, and, according to Persian chronicles, they defeated the partisans of the Magus and founded a state, whose capital was Mahuza, a city inhabited by Persian converts to Judaism. This state existed for seven years until Mar Zutra was defeated and killed.

Since then the Jews, in Persia, witnessed alternately peace and trouble; happy under Chosroes Nushirvan and Chosru II, oppressed under Hormisdas IV, they ultimately tired of their precarious situation, and, in concert with the Christians of the Sassanide kingdom aided Omar to capture the throne of Persia, thus contributing to the triumph of Mohammed and the Arabs.

Still the Jews had little to rejoice at under the Mussulman yoke. Their first settlement in Arabia, disregarding the legends which trace it as far back as Joshua or Saul, must date from the time of the captivity, or of the destruction of the first Temple. The original nucleus was swelled by fugitives from Judea, who reached Arabia at the time Palestine was conquered by the Romans. In[50] the beginning of the Christian era there were in Arabia four Jewish tribes, whose centre was Medina.

The Jews accomplished a moral and intellectual conquest of the Arabs, whom they converted to Judaism; at least they made them adopt its rites. The kinship between the two peoples made it easy, the more so that, in Yemen, the Jews had in their turn adopted Arabian customs, which differed but little from the early Jewish customs. They were farmers, shepherds and warriors, at times freebooters and poets. Divided into small groups, fighting among themselves and taking part in the quarrels which divided the Arab tribes, they at the same time founded schools at Yathrib, built temples and propagated their religion as far as the Himyarites with whom their traders were in regular intercourse.

In the sixth century, under the reign of Zorah‑Dhu‑Nowas, all Yemen was Jewish. With the conversion of one Arab tribe of Nedjran to Christianity, difficulties began; they were, however, of short duration, for Christian propaganda was cut short in Arabia by Mohammed. MOHAMMED WAS NURSED BY THE JEWISH SPIRIT; fleeing from Mecca, where his preaching had aroused against him the Arabs who were true to old traditions, he sought refuge at Medina, the Jewish city, and as the apostles found their first adherents among the Hellenic proselytes, so he found his first disciples among the Judaizing Arabs.

Likewise, the same religious causes embittered Mohammed and Paul to hatred. The Jews rebelled against the preaching of the prophet, they heaped ridicule upon him, and Mohammed who had until then been inclined to compromise with them, violently repudiated them and wrote the celebrated Sura of the Cow, in which he unmercifully inveighed against them. When the prophet had assembled an army of followers he no longer confined himself to abuse, he marched against the Jewish tribes, vanquished them, and decreed that "neither Jews nor Christians" should be accepted as friends. The Jews rose and allied themselves to those Arabs who rejected the new doctrines, but the extension of Mohammedanism triumphed over them. By the time of Mohammed's death they had been reduced to extreme weakness; Omar completed the work. He drove out of Chaibar and Wadil Kora the last Jewish tribes, as well as the Christians of Dedjran, for Christians and Jews alike polluted the sacred soil of Islam.

Wherever Omar carried his arms, the Jews, oppressed by reason of that very affinity which united them with the Arabs, favoured[51] the second caliph, who took possession of Persia and Palestine. Omar enacted severe laws against the Jews, who had assisted his antagonist; he subjected them to restrictive legislation, prohibited the erection of new synagogues, forced them to wear dress of a particular colour, enjoined them from riding on horseback, and imposed upon them a personal and a land tax. Christians were treated likewise. Nevertheless the Jews enjoyed greater liberty under Arab rule than under Christian domination. On the one hand, the legislation of Omar was not rigorously enforced; on the other hand, aside from a few manifestations of fanaticism, the Mussulmanic mass, in spite of religious differences, showed a friendly disposition towards them. And later, with the expansion of Islam, the Arabs were hailed as liberators by all the Western Jews.

The condition of the Western Jews since the destruction of the fragile Roman empire and the rush of barbarians upon the old world, was subject to all the vicissitudes of the times. The Csesars, those poor Caesars who bore the names of Olybrius, Glycerius, Julius Nepos, and Romulus Augustulus, fell, but the Roman laws remained; and if for short periods they were not enforced against the Jews, they still remained in effect, and the German sovereigns could make use of them at pleasure.

From the fifth to the eighth century the fortunes of the Jews wholly depended upon religious causes which were external to them, and their history among those who were called barbarians is bound with the history of Arianism, its triumph and defeats. So long as the Arian doctrine predominated, the Jews lived in a state of relative welfare, for the clergy and even the heretical government were busy fighting against orthodoxy and little worried about the Israelites, who, to them, were not the enemies to be crushed.

Theodoric, however, was an exception. No sooner was the Ostrogoth empire established than the king prohibited the erection of synagogues and endeavoured to convert the Jews.50 He protected them, however, against popular outbreaks, and compelled the Roman Senate to rebuild the synagogues which had been set on fire by the Catholic mobs which rose against the Arian Theodoric.

Still in Italy, under the Byzantine dominion so harassing to them, or under the more indifferent Lombard rule, for the Arian and the pagan Lombards scarcely took notice of the existence of Israel the Jews were guarded against the zeal of the lower clergy[52] and their flocks by the benevolence of the pontifical authority, which, from the earliest days of its power, seems to have desired, with rare exceptions, to preserve the synagogue as a living testimony of its victory.

In Spain the condition of the Jews was quite different. From time immemorial they freely settled in the peninsula; their numbers increased under Vespasian, Titus and Hadrian, during the Judean wars and after the dispersion; they owned large fortunes, they were wealthy, powerful and respectable and exerted a great influence upon the population among whom they lived. The imprint received by the peoples of Spain from Judaism, endured for centuries, and that land was the last to witness once more the contest, with almost equal weapons, between the Jewish and the Christian spirit. More than once Spain came very near becoming Jewish, and to write the history of that country until the fifteenth century means to write the history of the Jews, for they were intimately connected in a most remarkable way, with its literature and intellectual, national, moral and economic development. The church, from its very establishment in Spain, contended against Jewish tendencies and proselytism, and it was only after a struggle of twelve centuries that it succeeded in completely extirpating them.

Until the sixth century the Spanish Jews lived in perfect happiness. They were as happy as in Babylonia, and they found a new mother country in Spain. The Roman laws did not reach them there and the ecclesiastical ordinances of the Council of Elvira, in the fourth century which enjoined Christians from intercourse with them, remained a dead letter.

The Visigothic conquest did not change their condition and the Arian Visigoths confined themselves to persecuting the Catholics. The Jews enjoyed the same civil and political rights as the conquerors; moreover, the Jews joined their armies and the Pyrenean frontier was guarded by Jewish troops. With the conversion of King Reccared everything changed; the triumphant clergy heaped persecution and vexation upon the Jews, and from that hour (589 A.D.) their existence became precarious. They were gradually brought under severe and meddlesome laws which were drafted by the numerous councils, held during that period in Spain, and were enacted by the Visigoth kings.

These successive laws are all combined in the edict promulgated, in 652, by Receswinth; they were[53] re‑enacted and aggravated by Erwig, who had them approved by the twelfth council of Toledo (680).51 The Jews were prohibited from performing the right of circumcision and observing the dietary laws, from marrying relatives until the sixth generation, from reading books condemned by the Christian religion. They were not allowed to testify against Christians or to maintain an action in court against them, or to hold public office. These laws which had been enacted one by one, were not always enforced by the Visigoth lords, who were independent, in a way, but the clergy doubled their efforts to procure their strict enforcement. The object of the bishops and the dignitaries of the church was to bring about the conversion of the Jews and to kill the spirit of Judaism in Spain and the secular authority lent them its support. From time to time the Jews were put to the choice between banishment and baptism; from that epoch dates the origin of the class of Marranos, those Judaizing Christians who were later dispersed by the Inquisition. Until the eighth century the Spanish Jews lived in that state of uncertainty and distress, relying only upon the transitory good will of some kings like Swintila and Wamba. They were liberated only by Tariq, the Mohammedan conqueror, who destroyed the Visigothic empire with the aid of the exiled Jews joining his army and with the support of the Jews remaining in Spain.. After the battle of Xeres and the defeat of Roderick (711), the Jews breathed again.

About the same epoch a better era dawned for them in France. They had established colonies in Gaul in the days of the Roman republic, or of Caesar, and they prospered, benefiting by their privileges of Roman citizenship. The arrival of the Burgundians and Franks did not change their condition, and the invaders accorded them the same treatment as the Gauls. Their history was subject to the same fluctuations and rhythms as in Italy and Spain.

Free under pagan or Arian dominion, they were persecuted as soon as orthodoxy became dominant. Sigismund, king of the Burgundians, after his conversion to Catholicism enacted laws against them which were confirmed by his successors.52 The Franks, being ignorant of the very existence of the Jews, were wholly guided by the bishops, and after Clovis they naturally began to apply to the Jews the provisions of the Theodosian Code. These provisions were aggravated and complicated by ecclesiastical authority which left to the secular power the duty of enforcing and compelling the[54] observance of its decrees.

From the fifth to the eighth century that part of the canon law relating to the Jews was worked out in Gaul. The laws were formulated by the councils and approved by the edicts of the Merovingian kings. The chief concern of the church, during those three centuries, seems to have been to separate the Jews from the Christians, to prevent Judaizing among the faithful and to check Israelite proselytism. This legislation which had, towards the eighth century, become extremely severe in dealing with the Jews and the Judaizing, was not enacted at one stroke; beginning with the council of Vannes, of the year 465, the synods first confined themselves to platonic injunctions. The clergy at that epoch had but very scant authority and could inflict no penalties; it was not before the sixth century that the support of the Frank chiefs enabled it to enact penal legislation, which originally applied only to clerical offenders against the decisions of the councils, but later was extended to laymen.

Nevertheless, one must not imagine the condition of the Jews at that epoch as very miserable. On the Jewish, as well as on the Christian side, one notices a mixture of tolerance and intolerance which is accounted for either by a mutual desire to make converts, or even to some extent by reciprocal religious good‑will. The Jews took an interest in public life, the Christians ate at their tables; they shared in their joys and sorrows, as well as in factional fights. Thus they are seen, at Arles, to unite with the Visigothic party against the bishop Caesarius,53 and later to follow the funeral of the same bishop, crying: Vae! vae! They were the clients of great seignors (as witnessed by two letters of Sidonius Apollinaris),54 and the latter helped them to evade the vexatious ordinances. In many regions the clergy visited them, a great many Christians went to the synagogues, and the Jews likewise attended Catholic services during the mass of the catechumens. They resisted, as far as possible, the numerous efforts to convert them, at times attended with violence, notwithstanding the recommendations of certain Popes,55 and they boldly engaged in controversies with theologians who endeavoured to persuade them by the same means as the Fathers of former ages. We shall return to these controversies and writings when we shall come to study the anti‑Jewish literature.

Thus, as shown above, during the first seven centuries of the Christian era, anti‑Judaism proceeded exclusively from religious[55] causes and was led only by the clergy. One must not be misled by popular excesses and legislative repression, for they were never spontaneous, but always inspired by bishops, priests, or monks. It was only since the eighth century that social causes supervened to religious causes, and it was only after the eighth century that real persecution commenced.

It coincided with the universal spread of Catholicism, with the development of feudalism and also with the intellectual and moral change of the Jews, which was mostly due to the influence of the Talmudists and the exaggerated growth of exclusiveness among the Jews. We shall now proceed to examine this new transformation of anti‑Judaism.



44 Code Theodosien, 1. XVI, tit. VIII, 28.

45 Codex Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 17 and Cod. Theodos., 1. XVI, tit. VIII, . 14. 46 Codex

Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 18.

47 Justinianus, Novellae, 45.

48 Codex Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 15.

49 Codex Justinianeus 1. I, tit. IX, 13, and Cod. Theod., 1. VIII, tit. IX, 8.

50 His course was probably influenced by his Minister Cassiodorus, who . seems to have had scant

sympathy for the Jews‑he characterized them as scorpions, wild asses, dogs and unicorns.

51 Leges Visigoth, 1. XII, tit. II, 5.

52 Lex Burgundionum, tit. XV, 1, 2, 3.

53 Vie de Saint Cesaire, Migne. Patrologie latine, t. LXVII.

54 Sidonius Apollinaris, 1. III, ep. IV, and 1. IV, ep. V.

55 Fredegaire (Chronique, XV), and Aumoin (Chroniqua Moissiacensis, XLV) relate that, at the

instigation of Emperor Heraclius, Dagobert gave to the Jews the choice between death, exile and

baptism. (Gesta Dagoberti, XXIV). The same is reported of the Visigothic King Sisebut (see appendix

to the Chronicle of Bishop Marius, A.D. 588; Dom Bouquet, t. II, p. 19). Chilperich forced many Jews

to be baptized. (Gregoire de Tours, H. F., 1. VI, ch. XVII). Bishop Avitus compelled the Jews of

Clermont to renounce their faith, or leave the city. Gregoire de Tours, H.. F., 1. V, ch. XI). Other

bishops resorted to force, and it required the interference of Pope St. Gregory to stop or at least

moderate their zeal. "The Jews must not be baptized by force, but brought over by sweetness," says he

in his letters addressed to Virgil bishop of Arles, to Theodore, bishop of Marseilles, and to Paschasius,

bishop of Naples. (Regesta Pontificum Romanorum, ed. Jafle, nos. 1115 and 1879.) But the authority

of the Pope was not always effective.



by Bernard LAZARE


Chapter Five



THE church reaches its final constitution in the eighth century. The period of great doctrinal crises is at

an end, dogma is settled and heresies will not cause it any trouble until the Reformation. Pontifical

primacy strikes deep root, the organization of the clergy is henceforth solid, religion and liturgy are

unified, discipline and canonic law are settled, ecclesiastic property increases, the tithe is established,

the federal constitution of the Churchsub‑ divided into sufficiently autonomous circuitsdisappears, the

movement of centralization for the benefit of Rome is clearly outlined. This movement came to an end,

when the Carolingians had established the temporal power of the popes, and the Latin church, strongly

hierarchical before, became as centralized, in a comparatively short time, as the Roman empire of yore,

which the church's universal authority had thus supplanted. Simultaneously Christianity spread further

still and conquered the barbarians. The Anglo‑Saxon missionaries had set the examples in Saint

Boniface and Saint Willibrod; they had followers. The gospel was preached to the Alamans, the

Frisians, the Saxons, the Scandinavians, the Bohemians and the Hungarians, the Russians and the

Wends, the Pomeranians and the Prussians, the Lithuanians and the Finns. The work was accomplished

at the end of the thirteenth century: Europe was Christianized.

The Jews settled in the wake of Christianity as it kept spreading by degrees. In the ninth century, they

came from France to Germany, got thence into Bohemia, into Hungary and into Poland, where they met

another wave of Jewsthose coming by way of the Caucasus and converting on their march several

Tartar tribes. In the twelfth century they settled in England and Belgium, and everywhere they built

their synagogues, they organized their communities at that decisive hour, when the nations were coming

out from chaos, when states were being formed and consolidated. They[57] remained outside of these

great agitations, amid which conquering and conquered races were amalgamating and uniting one with

the other; and in the midst of these tumultuous combinations they remained spectators, strangers and

hostile to these fusions: an eternal people witnessing the rise of new nations. However, their role was

surely of account at all times; they were one of the active elements of ferment of these societies in the

process of formation.

In some countries, as e.g., in Spain, their history is in so high a degree interlinked with that of the

peninsula, that, without them it is impossible to grasp and appreciate the development of the Spanish

people. But if they had influenced its constitution by the numbers of their converts in that country, by

the support they had given in succession to the various masters in possession of its soil they did so by

seeking to bring to themselves those among whom they lived and not by letting themselves be absorbed.

Still, the history of the Spanish Marranos is exceptional. Everywhere, though, as we shall see, the Jews

played a part of economic agents; they did not create a social state, but they assisted after a fashion in

establishing it, and yet they could not be treated with favour among the organizations to whose

formation they had lent aid. For this there was a serious obstacle. All the states of the Middle Ages

were molded by the church; in their essence, in their very being, they were permeated with the ideas

and doctrines of Catholicism; the Christian religion gave the unity they lacked to the numerous tribes

which had gathered together into nations. As representatives of contrary dogmas, the Jews could not

but oppose the general movement, both by their proselytism, and by their very presence as well. As the

church led this movement it was from the church that anti‑Judaism, theoretical and legislative,

proceeded, anti Judaism which the governments and the peoples shared and which other causes came

to aggravate. The social and religious state of affairs and the Jews themselves gave origin to these

causes. But they had remained ever subordinated to those essential reasons which may be traced to the

opposition, then secular already between the Christian spirit and the Jewish spirit, between the

universal, and so to say, international Catholic religion, and the particularist and narrow Jewish faith.

Only towards the end of the eighth century the activity of the Western Jews developed. Protected in

Spain by the Caliphs, given support by Charlemagne who let the Merovingian laws fall into[58] disuse,

they extended their commerce which until then centered chiefly in the sale of slaves. For this they

were, indeed, particularly favoured by circumstances. Their communities were in constant

communication, they were united by the religious bond which tied them all to the theological centre of

Babylonia whose dependencies they considered themselves up to the decline of the exilarchate. Thus

they acquired very great facilities for exporting commerce, in which they amassed considerable

fortunes, if we are to believe the diatribes of Dagobard,56 and later those of Rigord,57 which, with all

their exaggeration of the property of the Jews must not, yet, be entirely rejected as unworthy of

credence.58 Indeed, with regard to this wealth of the Jews, especially in France and Spain, we possess

the testimonies of chroniclers and the Jews themselves, several of whom reproached their coreligionists

for devoting to worldly welfare much more time than to the worship of Jehovah. "Instead of calculating

the numerical value of the name of God," says the Kabbalist Abulafia, "the Jews prefer to count their


Parallel with the general advance we really see this preoccupation with wealth grow among the Jews

and their practical activity concentrating on a special business: I mean the gold business. Here we must

emphasize a point. It has often been said, and it is repeated still, that the Christian societies had forced

the Jews into this position of creditor and usurer, which they have for a long time kept: this is the thesis

of the philosemites. On the other hand the antisemites assert that the Jews, from time immemorial, had

natural inclinations for commerce and finance, and that they but followed their normal disposition, and

that nothing had ever been forced upon them. In these two assertions there is a portion of verity and a

portion of error, or rather that there is room to comment on them, and especially to give them a hearing.

At the time of their national prosperity the Jews, like all other nations, for that matter, had a class of the

rich, which proved itself as eager for gain and as hard to the lowly as the capitalists of all ages and all

nations have proven. The antisemites, as well, who make use of the texts of Isaiah and Jeremiah, e.g.,

to prove the constant eternal rapacity of the Jews, act very naively, and, thanks to the words of the

prophets, can but establishand puerile it is the existence, in Israel, of possessors and poor. If they

examined impartially the Judaic codes and precepts only, they would acknow[59] ledge that legislation

and morals prescribed never to charge interest on debts.59 Taking all in all, the Jews were, in Palestine,

the least mercantile of the Semites, in this regard much inferior to the Phoenicians and Carthaginians. It

was only under Solomon that they entered into intercourse with the other nations. Even at that time, it

was a powerful corporation of Phoenicians that was engaged in the banking business at Jerusalem.

However, the geographical position of Palestine prevented its inhabitants from devoting themselves to a

very extensive and considerable traffic. Nevertheless, during the first captivity and through the contact

with the Babylonians, a class of merchants had formed, and from it came the first Jewish emigrants,

who established their colonies in Egypt, Cyrenaica and Asia Minor. In all cities that admitted them, they

formed active communities, powerful and opulent, and, with the final dispersion, important groups of

emigrants joined the original groups which facilitated their installation.. To explain the attitude of the

Jews it is, accordingly, not necessary to fall back upon a theory of the Arian genius and the Semitic

genius. Indeed, we well know the traditional Roman cupidity and the commercial sense of the Greeks.

The usury of the Roman feneratores had no limit any more than had their bad faith; they were

encouraged by the very harsh laws against the debtorsa worthy daughter of that law of the Twelve

Tables which granted to the creditor the right of cutting pieces of flesh from the live body of an

insolvent borrower. In Rome gold was absolute master, and Juvenal could speak of the "sanctissima

divitiarum maiestas." 60 As to the Greeks, they were the cleverest and boldest of spectators; rivaling

the Phoenicians in the slave‑trade, in piracy, they knew the use of letters of exchange and maritime

insurance, and, Solon having authorized usury, they never did away with it.

As a nation the Jews differed in nothing from other nations, and if at first they were a nation of

shepherds and agriculturists, they came, by a natural course of evolution, to constitute other classes

among them. And devoting themselves to commerce, after their dispersion, they followed a general law

which is applicable to all colonists. Indeed, with the exception of cases when he goes to break virgin

soil, the emigrant can be only an artisan or merchant, as nothing but necessity or allurement of gain can

force him to leave his native soil. Therefore, the Jews coming into Western cities acted in no way

differently from the Dutch or English when[60] they established business offices. Nevertheless, they

came soon enough to specialize in the money business, for which they have been so bitterly reproached

ever since, and in the fourteenth century they constituted quite a coterie of changers and lenders: they

had become the bankers of the world.

The Middle Ages considered gold and silver as tokens possessing imaginary value, varying at the will of

the king, who could order its rate according to the dictations of his fancy. This notion was derived from

Roman law, which refused to treat money as a merchandise. The church inherited these financial

dogmas, combined them with the biblical prescriptions which forbade loan on interest, and was severe,

from its very start, against the Christians and ecclesiastics even that followed the example of the

teneratores, who advanced money at 24, 48 and even 60 per cent., when the legal rate of interest was

12 per cent. The canons of councils are quite explicit on this point; they follow the teaching of the

Fathers, Saint Augustin, Saint Chrysostom, Saint Jerome; they forbid loans and are harsh against those

clerics and laymen who engage in the usurer's business.

At the same time, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the wage system was established, the

bourgeoisie developed, grew rich and acquired privileges and franchises: capitalistic power was now

born. Commerce having taken on a new form, the value of gold increased and the passion for money

grew with the importance which the currency had acquired.

Indeed, on one hand were the rich, on the otherthe peasants, landless, subject to the tithe and

prestations; workingmen dominated over by the capitalist laws. To cap it all, perpetual wars, revolts,

diseases and famines. Whenever the year was bad, the money gave out, the crop failed, an epidemic

came, the peasant, the proletarian, and the small bourgeois were forced to resort to borrowing. Hence,

by necessity there had to be borrowers. But the church had forbidden loan at interest, and capital does

not choose to remain unproductive, but during the Middle Ages capital could only be either merchant or

lender, as money could be made productive in no other way. As far as the ecclesiastical decisions had

any influence, a great part of the Christian capitalists did not want to begin an open revolt against their

authority; there was also formed a class of reprobates for whom the bourgeoisie and nobility often

acted as silent partners. It consisted of Lombards, Caeorsins, to whom the[61] princes, the lords

granted the privileges of loaning on interest, gathering a part of the profits which were considerable, as

the Lombards lent money at 10 per cent. a month; or of unscrupulous foreigners, like Tuscan emigrants

settled in Istria who went in usury to such extremes that the community of Triest suspended, in 1350, all

execution for debts for three years. This did not take away the ground from under the usurers, but as I

have said they found obstacles which the church placed in the way of their operations (the council of

Lyons of 1215 wanted to declare the wills of usurers void).

As for Jews, these obstacles did not exist. The church had no moral power over them, it could not

forbid them, in the name of the doctrine and dogma, to engage in money exchanging and banking. Thus

a religious conception of the functions of capital and interest, and a social system which ran counter to

this conception, led the Jews of the Middle Ages to adopt a profession cried down but made necessary;

and in reality they were not the cause of the abuses of usury, for which the social order itself was

responsible. If they did not cultivate land, if they were not agriculturists, it is not because they possessed

none, as has often been said; the restrictive laws relative to the property rights of the Jews came at a

date posterior to their settlement. They own property, but had their domains cultivated by slaves, for

their stubborn patriotism forbade them to break foreign soil. This patriotism, the notion which they

attached to the sanctity of their Palestinian fatherland, the allusion which they kept alive in them of the

restoration of that fatherland and this particular faith which made them consider themselves exiles who

would one day again see the holy cityall this drove them above all other foreigners and colonists to take

up commerce.

As merchants they were destined to become usurers, given the conditions which the codes had imposed

upon them and the conditions they had imposed upon themselves. To escape persecution and

annoyance they had to make themselves useful, even necessary, to their rulers, the noblemen upon

whom they depended, to the church whose vassals they were. Now the nobleman, the Church despite

its anathemasneeded gold, and this gold they demanded from the Jews. During the Middle Ages gold

became the great motive power, the supreme deity alchemists spent their lives in search of the

magistery which was to produce it, the idea of possessing it inflamed the minds, in its name all kinds of

cruelties were[62] committed, the thirst of riches laid hold of all souls; later on, for Cortez and Pizarro,

the successors of Columbus, the conquest of America meant the conquest of gold. The Jews fell under

the universal charmthe same under which the Templars had fallen and for them it was particularly fatal,

because of their state of mind and the civil status imposed upon them. In order to exist, they turned

brokers in gold, but this the Christians sought as eagerly as they. More than that, under the constant

menace of banishment, always acamp, forced to be nomads, the Jews had to guard against the terrible

eventualities of exile. They had to transform their property so as to make it more convertible into

money, that is, to give it a more movable form, and they were the most active in developing the money

value, in considering it as a merchandise, hence the lending andto recoup for periodic and unavoidable

confiscationsthe usury.

The creation of guildsmerchant and craftguilds and their organization, in the thirteenth century, finally

forced the Jews into the condition to which they had been led by the social conditions general and

specialunder which they lived. All these organizations were, so to speak, religious organizations,

brotherhoods which none joined but those who prostrated themselves before the standard of the patron

saint. The ceremonies attendant upon the initiation into these bodies being Christian ceremonies, the

Jews could not but be shut out from them: and so they were. A series of prohibitions successively shut

them out of all industry and all commerce, except that in odds and ends and in old clothes. Those who

escaped this disqualification did so by virtue of special privileges for which they often paid too dearly.

However, this is not all; other more intimate causes were added to those I have just enumerated, and all

joined in throwing the Jew more and more out of society, in shutting him up in the ghetto, in immobilizing

him behind the counter where he was weighing gold.

An energetic, vivacious nation, of infinite pride, thinking themselves superior to the other nations, the

Jews wished to become a power. They instinctively had a taste for domination, as they believed

themselves superior to all others by their origin, their religion, their title of a "chosen race," which they

had always ascribed to themselves. To exercise this kind of power the Jews had no choice of means.

Gold gave them a power which all political [63] and religious laws denied them, and it was the only one

they could hope for. As possessors of gold they became the masters of their masters, they dominated

over them, and this was the only way to deploy their energy and their activity.

Would they not have been able to display it in some other fashion? Yes, and they tried it, but there they

had to fight their own spirit. For many long years they had worked in the intellectual line, devoted

themselves to sciences, letters, philosophy. They were mathematicians and astronomers; they practiced

medicine, and, if the school of Montpellier was not founded by them, they surely helped in developing it;

they had translated the works of Averroes and of the Arabic commentators of Aristotle; they had

revealed the Greek philosophy to the Christian world, and their metaphysicians Ibn Gabirol and

Maimonides had been among the teachers of the schoolmen. 61 Who stopped them in this advance?

They themselves.

Their doctors endeavoured to confine Israel to the exclusive study of the law in order to preserve Israel

from outside influences, pernicious, it was said, to the integrity of the law. Efforts to this effect had

been made since the time of the Maccabees, when the Hellenizers constituted a great party in

Palestine. Beaten at first, or, at least, hardly listened to, those who later acquired the name of

obscurantists, kept at their task. When Jewish intolerance and bigotry grew in the twelfth century, when

exclusiveness increased, the struggle between the partisans of profane science and their opponents

became fiercer, it blazed up after the death of Maimonides and ended in the victory of the


In his works, particularly in the Moreh Nebukhim (Guide of the Perplexed) 62 Moses Maimonides

attempted to reconcile faith and science. As a convinced Aristotelian, he wished to unite peripatetic

philosophy with the Mosaic faith, and his speculations on the nature of the soul and its immortality found

followers and ardent admirers as well as fierce detractors. As a matter of fact, especially in France and

Spain, the Maimunists were led to neglect the ritual practices and petty ceremonies of worship: bold

rationalists, they had allegoric interpretations for the biblical miracles, as the disciples of Philo before

them, and thus they escaped the tyranny of religious precepts. They claimed the right of taking part in

the intellectual movement of the time and mingling in the society in which they lived without giving up

their beliefs. Their opponents clung to the purity of Israel, to the absolute integrity of its worship,[64] its

rites, and its beliefs; in philosophy and science they saw the most deadly enemies of Judaism and

maintained that the Jews were destined to perish and scatter among the nations, if they did not recover

their wits and did not reject everything that was not of the Holy Law.

In 1232, Rabbi Solomon of Montpellier issued an anathema against all those who would read the Moreh

Nebukhim or would take up scientific and philosophic studies. This was the signal for the struggle. It

was violent on both sides, and all weapons were resorted to. The fanatical rabbis appealed to the

fanaticism of the Dominicans, they denounced the Guide of the Perplexed and had it burned by the

inquisition. At the instigation of a German doctor, Asher Ben Yechiel, a synod of thirty rabbis met at

Barcelona, with Ben Adret in the chair, and excommunicated all those who read books other than the

Bible and the Talmud, when under twenty‑five years.

A counter‑excommunication was proclaimed by Jacob Tibbon, who, at the head of all Provencial rabbis,

boldly defended condemned science. All was in vain: those wretched Jews, whom everybody

tormented for their faith, persecuted their coreligionists more cruelly and severely than they had ever

been persecuted. Those whom they accused of indifference had to undergo the worst punishments; the

blasphemers had their tongues cut; Jewish women who had any relations with Christians were

condemned to disfigurement: their noses were subjected to ablation. Despite this, Tibbon's followers

persisted. It was due to them, that Jewish thought did not completely die out in Spain, France and Italy

during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Even such men as Moses of Narbonne and Levy de

Bagnols, as Elias of Crete and Alemani, the teacher of Pico di Mirandola, as well as later Spinoza, were

all isolated men. As for the mass of Jews, it had completely fallen under the power of the obscurantists.

Hereafter it was separated from the world, its whole horizon was shut out; to nourish its spirit it had

nothing but futile talmudic commentaries, idle and mediocre discussions on the Law.

Henceforth the Jew thought no longer. And what need had he of thinking since he possessed a minute,

precise code, the work of casuist legists, which could give answer to any question that it was legitimate

to ask ? For believers were forbidden to inquire into problems which were not mentioned in this codethe

Talmud. [65]

The Jew found everything foreseen in the Talmud: the sentiments, the emotions, whatever they might

be, were designated; prayers, formulas, all ready‑made, supplied the means for expressing them. The

book left room neither to reason nor to freedom, inasmuch as in instruction the legendary and gnomical

portions were almost proscribedto lay stress upon the law and ritual. True, by the tyranny they had

exercised over their flock they developed in each the ingenuity and spirit of craftiness necessary to

escape from the net which closed without pity; but they also increased the natural positivism of the

Jews by presenting to them as their only idea the material and personal happiness, a happiness which

one could attain on earth if one knew how to bind oneself to the thousand religious laws. To attain this

selfish happiness, the Jew, whom the prescribed ceremonies rid of all care and trouble, was fatally led

on to strive after gold, for under the existing social conditions which ruled him, as they ruled all the

people of that epoch, gold alone could give him the gratification which his limited and narrow brain

could conceive. He was prepared to be changer, lender, usurer, one who strives after the metal, at first

for the pleasures it could afford and then afterwards for the sole happiness of possessing it; one who

greedily seizes gold and avariciously immobilizes it. The Jew having become such, anti‑Judaism became

more complicated, social causes intermingled with religious causes; the combination of these causes

explains the intensity and gravity of the persecutions which Israel had to undergo.

Indeed, the Lombards and Caeorsins, for instance, were the object of popular animosity; they were

hated and despised but they were not victims of systematic persecutions. It was deemed abominable

that Jews should have acquired wealth, especially because they were Jews. Against the Christian who

cheated him, and was neither better nor worse than the Jew, the poor wretch when plundered felt less

anger than against the Israelite reprobate, the enemy of God and man. When the deicide, even so the

object of terror, had become the usurer, the collector of taxes, the merciless agent of the fiscthe terror

increased; it became intermingled with hatred on the part of the oppressed and downtrodden. The

simple minds did not seek the real causes of their distress; they only saw the proximate causes. For the

Jew was the proximate cause of usury; by the heavy interest he charged he caused destitution, severe

and hard misery; accordingly, it was upon the Jews that enmities [66] fell. The suffering populace did

not trouble themselves about responsibilities; they were neither economists nor reasoners; they only

ascertained that a heavy hand weighed upon them: that was the hand of the Jew, and the people rushed

upon him. They did not rush upon him alone; when at the limit of their endurance, they often attacked

all the rich, indiscriminately killing Jews and Christians alike. In Gascony and southern France the

Pastoureaux destroyed 120 Jewish communities, but the Jews were not their only victims; they

invaded castles, they exterminated the nobles and the propertied. Only that among the Christians the

propertied alone suffered violence at the hands of the rebels, the poor were spared; among the Jews

the rich and the poor were exterminated indiscriminately, for, before any crime, they were guilty of

being Jews.

At all events, the masses, restrained by authority and law rarely attacked the capitalists in general; to

goad them on to revolt a terrible accumulation of miseries was necessary. But with reference to the

Jews their ill‑feeling was not restrained at all; on the contrary, it was encouraged. This was a means to

divert attention, and every now and then kings, nobles or burghers offered their slaves a holocaust of

Jews. This unfortunate Jew was utilized for two purposes during the Middle Ages. They employed him

as a leech, let him swell up, fill himself with gold, then they made him clear; or, whenever popular

hatred was too bitter, he was subjected to corporal punishment which was profitable to the Christian

capitalists, who thus paid a tribute of propitiary blood to those whom they oppressed.

To give satisfaction to their wretched subjects, the kings would from time to time proscribe Jewish

usury, would cancel debts; but oftenest they tolerated the Jews, encouraged them, being sure to derive

benefit from them through confiscation or by taking their place as creditors. Nevertheless these

measures were always but temporary, and governmental anti‑Judaism was purely political. They

banished the Jews either to mend their finances, or to elicit the gratitude of the small fry by partly

relieving them of the heavy burden of debt; but they would soon recall the Jews, as they could find no

better tax collectors. However, anti‑Jewish legislation was, as we have said, most frequently forced

upon the royal power by the church, either by the monks or the popes and synods. Even the regular

clergy and the secular clergy acted upon different principles.[67]

The monks addressed themselves to the people, with whom they were in constant touch. In the first

place they preached against the Deicides, but they represented these deicides as domineering, while

they should have been bent forever under the yoke of Christendom. All these preachers gave

expression to popular grievances. "If the Jews fill their granaries with fruit, their cellar with victuals,

their bags with money and their chests with gold," said Pierre de Cluny: 63 "it is neither by tilling the

earth, nor by serving in war, nor by practicing any other useful and honourable trade, but by cheating

the Christians and buying, at low price, from thieves the things which they have stolen." They thundered

against the "infamous" nation "which lives by pillage," and while their invectives were prompted by zeal

in proselytism, they posed especially as avengers, who had come to punish "the isolence, avarice and

hardheartedness" of the Jews. And they found a hearing. In Italy, John of Capistrano, "the scourge of

the Hebrews," was stirring up the poor against the usury and obduracy of the Jews. He continued his

work in Germany and Poland, leading gangs of poor wretches and desperadoes who exacted expiation

for their sufferings from the Jewish communities. Bernardinus of Feltre followed his example, but he

was haunted by more practical notions, among others by that of establishing mont‑de‑pietes to

counteract the rapacity of the lenders. He traveled all over Italy and Tyrol, demanding the expulsion of

the Hebrews, inciting insurrections and riots, causing the massacre of the Jews in Trent.

The kings, nobles and bishops did not encourage this campaign of the regulars. They protected the Jews

from the monk Radulphe in Germany; in Italy, they set themselves against the preachings of

Bernardinus of Feltre, who accused the princes of having sold themselves to Yechiel of Pisa, the

wealthiest Jew of the peninsula; in Poland, Pope Gregory XI stopped the crusade of Jan of Ryczywol.

The rulers had every interest to suppress these partial uprisings; from experience they knew that when

the bands of starvelings were through slaughtering the Jews, they would kill those who possessed too

great wealth, those who enjoyed excessive privileges, or those lords, counts or barons, whose power

weighed too heavily on the shoulders of tax‑payers.

As for the Church, it kept to theological anti‑Judaism, and, being essentially conservative, favouring the

mighty and rich, it took care not to encourage the passions of the people.. I speak of the official[68]

Church, abounding in prebendaries; striving for unity and centralization, cherishing dreams of universal

domination; the Church of the Synods, the law‑making Church, and not the church of petty priests and

monks which was stirred by the same passions as agitated the lowly. But if the church sometimes

interfered in behalf of the Jews when they were the object of the mob's fury, it nursed this fury and

supplied it with fuel by combating Judaism, even though combating it from different motives.

Faithful to its principles, it vainly persecuted the spirit of Judaism in all its forms. It could not get rid of it,

as this Jewish spirit had inspired it in its earliest stages. It was impregnated with it as the beach‑sands

are impregnated with the sea‑salt which rises to their surface, and despite its efforts from the second

century on to rebuff its origin, to thrust far away all memory of its original foundation, it still preserved

the marks of it. In seeking to realize its conception of Christian states directed and ruled over by the

Papacy, the church strove to reduce all anti‑Christian elements. Thus it inspired Europe's violent

reaction against the Arabs, and the struggle of the European nationalities against Mahommedanism was

a struggle at once political and religious.

Still the Moslem danger was external, but the internal dangers threatening the dogma proved quite as

grave for the church. Formerly benign and confining itself to canonic penalties, hereafter it appealed to

the secular powers, and the Vaudois, Albigenses, Beghards, Apostolic Brothers, Luciferians were

treated with cruelty. The limit of this movement was reached in the inquisition which the Pope Innocent

III. instituted in the thirteenth century. Henceforth, a special tribunal, backed by civil authority, obedient

to its orders was to be the sole judge, and pitiless at that, of heresy.

The Jews could not be overlooked in this legislation. They were persecuted not as Jewsthe church

wished to preserve the Jews as a living testimony of its triumphbut because they instigated people to

judaization, either directly or unconsciously, by the very fact of their existence. Had not their

philosophers sent forth metaphysicians like Amaury de Bene and David de Dinan? What is more, were

not certain heretics judaizing? The Pasagians of Upper Italy observed the Mosaic law; the Orleans

heresy was a Jewish heresy; an Albigens sect maintained that the doctrine of the Jews was preferable

to that of the Christians; the Hussites were supported by the Jews; accordingly, the Dominicans

preached[69] against the Hussites and the Jews, and the imperial army that advanced against Jan Ziska

massacred the Jews on its way.

In Spain, where the mingling of Jews and Christians was considerable, the Inquisition was instituted by

Gregory XI, who gave it its constitution, to survey the judaizing heretics and the Jews and Moors, who,

though not subjects of the Church, were subject to the will of the Holy Office whenever "by their words

or their writings they urged the Catholics to embrace their faith." More than that, the popes recalled the

canonic decisions to the minds of the Kings of Spain, because the fueros, i.e., Castillian customs which

superseded the Visigothic laws, had granted equal rights to Jews, Christians and Moslems.

All these ecclesiastic measures reinforced the anti‑Jewish sentiments of kings and nations; they were

the prime causes; they upheld a special state of mind, which political motives emphasized with the

kings; social motiveswith the nations. Owing to it, anti‑Judaism became general, and no class of society

was free from it, for all classes were more or less guided by the Church or inspired by its teachings, all

of them were or thought themselves harmed by the Jews. The nobility took offense at their riches; the

proletarians, the artisans and peasants, in a word the small people, were provoked by their usury; as for

the bourgeoisie, the merchant class, the dealers in money, it was in permanent rivalry with the Jews,

and their constant competition engendered hatred. The modern contest between Christian and Jewish

capital assumes shape in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Catholic bourgeois looks with calm

eyes on the murder of Jews, which rids him of an often successful rival.

Thus everything concurred to make of the Jew a universal foe, and the only support that he found

during this terrible period of several centuries was with the popes, who, while abetting the passions of

which they made capital, still wanted to guard carefully this witness of the excellence of the Christian

faith. If the Church preserved the Jews, it often was not without schooling and punishing them. The

Church forbade giving them public positions that might confer upon them authority over Christians, it

instigated the kings to adopt restrictive measures against them; it imposed upon them distinctive badges,

the rouelle and hat; it shut them in those ghettoes, which the Jews had often accepted and even sought

in their eagerness to separate themselves from the world, to live apart,[70] without mixing with the

nations, to preserve intact their beliefs and their race; so that in many points the edicts bidding the Jews

to remain confined in special quarters really but sanctioned an already existing state of affairs. But the

chief task of the Church was to combat the Jewish religion dogmatically. However, controversies,

numerous as they were, did not suffice for this; laws were issued against the Jewish books. The

reading of the Mishna in synagogues had already been prohibited by Justinian; after him no laws were

passed against the Talmud, until the time of Saint Louis. After the controversy between Nicholas Donin

and Yechiel of Paris (1240) Gregory IX ordered to burn the Talmud; this order was repeated by

Innocent IV (1244), Honorius IV (1286), John XXII (1320) and the anti‑pope Benedict XIII (1415).

Moreover, the Jewish prayers were expurgated and the erection of new synagogues was forbidden.

The civil laws expounded the ecclesiastical decrees and were inspired by them, as e.g., the laws of

Alfonso X of Castile, in the code of Siete Partidas, 64 the dispositions of Saint Louis, those of Phillip

IV, those of the German emperors and the Polish kings. 65 The Jews were forbidden to appear in

public on certain days; a personal toll was imposed upon them as if on cattle; they were sometimes

forbidden to marry without authorization.

To the laws one must add the customsvexatious customslike that of Toulouse, which made the syndic

of the Jews subject to boxing on the ear. The mob insulted them during their holidays and sabbaths; it

profaned their cemeteries; on leaving the Mysteries and Passion plays it would lay their houses waste.

Not content with vexing them, with expelling them, as did Edward I in England (1287), Phillip IV and

Charles VI in France (1306 and 1394), Ferdinand the Catholic in Spain (1492), they killed the Jews


When on their way to liberate the Holy Tomb, the Crusaders prepared themselves for the Holy War by

the immolation of Jews; whenever the black plague or a famine raged, the Jews were sacrificed in

holocaust to the angered divinity; whenever extortions, misery, hunger, destitution maddened the people,

they would avenge themselves on the Jews, who were made victims of expiation. "What's the use of

going to fight the Mohammedans," cried Pierre de Cluny ,66 "when we have among us the Jews, who

are worse than the Saracens?" [71]

What was to be done against an epidemic unless to kill the Jews who conspired with the lepers to

poison the wells? And so they were exterminated in York and London, in Spain at the instigation of St.

Vincent Ferrer; in Italy, where John of Capistrano preached; in Poland, Bohemia, France, Moravia,

Austria. They were burned in Strassburg, Mayence, Troyes. In Spain the Marranos mounted the

scaffold by the thousands, elsewhere they were ripped open with pitchforks and scythes; they were

beaten to death like dogs.

What crimes could have deserved such frightful punishments? How poignant must have been the

afflictions of those beings ! In those evil hours they cuddled one to the other and felt themselves

brethren; the bond that joined them was fastened more tightly. To whom could they tell their plaints and

their feeble joys, if not to themselves ? From these general desolations, from these sobs was born an

intense and suffering brotherhood. The ancient Jewish patriotism became still more exalted. These

outcasts, maltreated all over Europe, and marching with bespattered faces, got it into their heads to feel

Zion and its hills brought back to life, to conjure up what a supreme and sweet consolation !the beloved

banks of the Jordan and the lake of Galilee; they arrived there through an intense solidarity.

Still, to understand exactly the position of the Jews during these Dark Ages, one must compare it with

that of the people surrounding them. The persecutions of the Jews would go on now that their exclusive

character would render them more sorrowful. In the Middle Ages the proletarians and the peasants

were not much better off; after being shaken up by terrible upheavals, the Jews would enjoy periods of

comparative tranquility, of which the serfs knew nothing. Steps were taken against them, but what

steps were not taken against the Moriscoes, the Hussites, the Albigenses, the Pastoureaux, the Jacques,

against the heretics and the outcasts? From the eleventh to the end of the sixteenth century, abominable

years fell out, and the Jews suffered from it not a whit more than did those among whom they lived.

They suffered for other reasons, and traces of it were left impressed in a different way. But as the

manners had grown softer, hours of greater happiness for them were born. We shall see what changes

the Reformation and the Renaissance were to bring about in their position..


56 De Insolentia Iudaeorum (Patrologie Latine, t. CIV).

57 Gesta Philippi Augusti.

58 For the position of Southern Jews at the time of Philip the Fair, cf. Simeon Luce (Catalogue des

documents du Tresor des Chartes (Revue des Etudes Juives, t. I, 3).

59 "Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of anything

that is lent upon usury: unto a stranger (nokhri ) thou mayest lend upon usury." Deuter. XXIII, 19‑20.

Nokhri means a transient stranger; a resident stranger is ger.

"And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea,

though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him or

increase." Levit. XXV, 35‑36.

"Lord, who shall abide in Thy tabernacle?... He that putteth not out his money to usury." (Psalm, XV,

1‑5). "Even to a non‑Jew," adds the Talmudic cominentary (Makkoth, XXIV). Consult also: Exod. XXII

25; Philo, De Charitate; Josephus, Antiquitates Judaeorum, IV, ch. VIII; Selden, VI, ch. IX.

60 The Hebrew Sibyl speaks of "the execrable thirst for gold, of the passion for sordid gain which

goads the Latins on to the conquest of the world."

61 Cf. S. Munk, Melanges de philosophie juive et arabe.

62 Guide des Egares (Translated by S. Munk).

63 Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny: Tractatus adversus Judaeorum inveteratam duritiam (Bibl.

des Peres Latins, Lyons).

64 Title XXIV.

65 General Statute of Ladislas Jagellon. Art. XIX.

66 Loc. cit.

Date: Sun, 23 Aug 1998 13:44:23 EDT

From: [email protected]




by Bernard LAZARE


Chapter Six



WHEN the first breath of freedom swept over the world at the dawn of the

sixteenth century, the Jews

were but a nation of captives and slaves. Cooped up in the ghettoes, whose

walls their own foolish

hands helped only to make thicker, they were retired from human society, and,

for the most part, lived

in a state of lamentable and heartrending abjection. Their intellect had

become atrophied, as they had

themselves barred all the doors and shut all the windows through which air and

light might have come

to them.

The number of those who had escaped this abasement was very limited, and the

Jews who succeeded

in keeping a free brain and proud spirit were in the lowest minority. These

were mostly physicians, as

medicine is the only science permitted by the Talmud; at the same time there

were philosophers

occasionally, and we shall see the role they played in Italy during the


Toward the end of the fifteenth century, the Jew had become the serf of the

Imperial Chamber in

Germany; in France he was the king's serf, the serf of the lord, less even

than a serf, for a serf could

still own something, while a Jew in reality had no property; he was

a thing rather than a person. The king and the lord, the bishop or the abbot,

could dispose of all his

belongings, i.e., of all that seemed to belong to him, since for him the

possibility of owning was purely

fictitious. He was taxable at will; he was subjected to fixed imposts, without

prejudice to confiscations,

and while, on the one hand, the Church was making every effort to attract to

it the Jew, on the other

hand, the baron and church dignitaries kept him in his condition. If he turned

to Christianity he lost his

possessions in favour of the lord, who was anxious to make good the loss of

the taxes which he could

no longer levy on the convert, and thus it was to his interest to remain in

the slaves' prison. He was

looked upon as a beast, impure and useful at that, as lower than a [73] dog or

hog, to which the

personal toll likened him, however; he was the one forever accursed, he upon

whom it was lawful, even

meritorious, to shower the blows which the Crucified had received in Pilate's


The only country where the Jews could claim the dignity of human beings was

closed to them at the

opening of the sixteenth century. The capture of Granada and the conquest of

the Moorish Kingdom

had deprived the Jews of their last refuge. The whole of Spain became

Christian on the day (January 2,

1492) when Ferdinand and Isabella entered the Mohammedan city. The holy war of

the Spaniards

against the infidels ended victoriously, and the Moors in existence were

cruelly persecuted in spite of

the security which had been granted them. The victory having aroused on the

one hand fanaticism, and

the national sentiment on the other, Spain, now free from the Moors, wished to

get rid of the Jews,

whom the Catholic king and queen expelled the very year of Boabdil's fall,

while the Inquisition doubled

the severities against the Marranos and the descendants of the Moriscoes.

Still, the time of great sorrows had passed for the Jews, notwithstanding that

the circumstances to

which they had been reduced were lamentable. They began to descend the hill

which they had so

laboriously climbed, and if they found as yet no complete security in their

paths, they met with more

humaneness, more pity. The manners soften at this epoch, the souls become less

rude, people actually

acquire the idea of a human being; this age when individualism increases,

better understands the

individuals; while personality develops, more tenderness is displayed towards

the personality of the


The Jews felt the effects of this state of mind. They were despised all the

same, but they were hated in

a less violent way. It was still sought to attract them to Christianity, but

that was by persuasion. They

were banished from a good many cities and countries; they were driven from

Cologne and Bohemia in

the sixteenth century; the trade‑bodies of Frankfort and Worms, led by Vincent

Fettmilch, forced them

to leave those cities; but as serfs of the Imperial Chamber, they were

efficiently protected by their

suzerain. If Leopold I sent them out of Vienna, if later on Maria Theresa

expelled them from Moravia,

these decrees of exile had but a temporary effect, their consequences were

felt but for a short time;

and when the Jews re‑entered the cities by virtue of un‑[74] doubted

tolerance, they were not

molested. The massacres of Franconia and Moravia, the funeral piles of Prague,

were exceptions in the

sixteenth century, and as for the extermination ordered in Poland by

Chmielnicki, in the seventeenth

century, they reached the Jews by ricochet only.

Hereafter there have been no systematic persecutions, except those kept up in

Spain against the Jewish

converts, and in Portugal when introduced by the Pope Clement VII, at the

request of John III, and

after the massacres of 1506. Even there the inquisition was entrusted to the

Franciscans, who had

shown themselves less cruel than the Spanish Dominicans.

Still the Jews did not change. Such as we have seen them right in the Middle

Ages, we find them also

at the moment of the the Reformation; morally and intellectually the mass of

the Jews was perhaps

even worse. But if they had not changed, those by their side had changed.

People were less believing,

and therefore less inclined to detest heretics. Averroism had prepared this

decadence of faith, and the

part played by the Jews in the spread of Averroism is well known; so that they

thus had worked for

their own benefit. The majority of Averroists were unbelievers, or more or

less assailed the Christian

religion. They were the direct ancestors of the men of the Renaissance. It is

owing to them that the

spirit of doubt, as well as the spirit of investigation, had worked itself

out. The Florentine platonists, the

Italian Aristotelians, the German humanists came from them; thanks to them

Pomponazzo composed

the treatises against the immortality of the soul; thanks to them, too, among

the thinkers of the sixteenth

century sprang up the theism which corresponded with the decadence of


Animated by such sentiments, the men of this period could not glow with

religious indignation against

the Jews. Other preoccupations engaged them, though, and they had to abate two


authoritiesscholasticism and the supremacy of Rome. The struggles of the

preceding century, the

schisms of the West, the license in the manners of the clergy, simony, the

sale of benefices and

indulgences, all these had weakened the Church and impaired the Papacy. There

were protests rising

against them on all sides. "The clergy must be made moral," said the Father of

the Vienna Synod

(1311). The movement of the Hussites, that of the Frerots, the Fraticellians,

the Beghards, had already

been a protest against the wealth and corruption of the Church; but the Papacy

was[75] incapable of

reform, and the Reformation had to take place outside of and against it.

The Humanists were its promoters. Everything turned them away from

Catholicism. The Greeks of

Constantinople, fleeing from the Turks, had brought to them the treasures of

the ancient literatures. By

discovering a new world Columbus was to open for them unknown horizons. They

were finding new

reasons for combating scholasticism, that old servant‑maid of the Church. The

humanists were

becoming sceptics and pagans in Italy, but in Germany the emancipating

movement which they helped

to bring about was becoming more religious. To beat the scholastics the

humanists of the empire

became theologians, and went to the very sources in order to arm themselves

better; they learned

Hebrew, not as Pico di Mirandola and the Italians had done, in the way of a

dilettante or out of love for

knowledge, but in order to find therein arguments against their opponents.

During these years which ushered in the Reformation, the Jew turned educator,

and taught the scholars

Hebrew; he initiated them into the mysteries of the kabbala after having

opened to them the doors of

Arabic philosophy. Against Catholicism he equipped them with the formidable

exegesis which the

rabbis had cultivated and built up during centuries: the exegesis which

protestantism, and later on

rationalism, would make good use of. By a singular chance the Jews, who had

consciously or

unconsciously supplied humanism with weapons, had also given it the pretext

for its first serious battle.

The contest for or against the Talmud was the forerunner of the disputes over

the Eucharist.

The struggle started at Cologne, the city of the inquisition and capital of

the Dominicans. A converted

Jew, Joseph Pfefferkorn, once more denounced the Talmud before the Christian

world, and, with the

aid of the great inquisitor, Hochstraten, obtained from the Emperor Maximilian

an edict authorizing him

to examine the contents of the Jewish books and destroy those which blasphemed

the Bible and the

Catholic faith. From this decision the Jews appealed to Maximilian, and

succeeded in having the power

originally conferred upon Pfefferkorn transferred to the archbishop elector of

Mayence. As his advisors

the archbishop took the doctors, the humanists, and among them Reuchlin, who

felt no unbounded

sympathy for the Jews, having even attacked them once upon a time. But though

he scorned the Jews

in general, he was a hebraizer[76] for all that, and as such was doubtless

more interested in the Talmud

than in the inquisitorial tribunal with its arrests. He, therefore, violently

fought the projects of

Pfefferkorn and the Dominicans, and not only declared that the books of the

Israelites ought to be

preserved, but even maintained that chairs of Hebrew ought to be created in

the universities. Reuchlin

was accused of having sold himself for the gold of the Jews. He replied with a

terrible pamphlet, The

Mirror of the Eyes, which was condemned to be burned.

But new times were approaching; the storm foreseen by everybody broke over the

Church. Luther

issued at Wittenberg his ninety‑five theses, and Catholicism not only had to

defend the position of its

priests, but was also forced to fight for its essential ‑ tenets. For a moment

the theologians forgot the

Jews, they even forgot that the spreading movement took its roots in Hebrew


Nevertheless, the Reformation in Germany and England as well was one of those

movements when

Christianity acquired new force in Jewish sources. The Jewish spirit triumphed

with Protestantism. In

certain respects the Reformation was a return to the ancient Ebionism of the

evangelic ages. A great

portion of the protestant sects was semi‑Jewish, the anti‑trinitarian

doctrines were later preached by the

protestants, by Michel Servet and the two Socins of Sienna among others. Even

in Transylvania

anti‑trinitarianism had flourish since the sixteenth century, and Seidelius

had asserted the excellence of

Judaism and of the Decalogue. The Gospels had been abandoned for the Old

Testament and the

Apocalypse. The influence exercised by these two books over the Lutherans, the

Calvinists and

especially the Reformers and the English revolutionists, is well known. This

influence continued to the

nineteenth century; it produced the Methodists, Pietists, and particularly the

Millenaries, the men of the

Fifth Monarchy, who in London dreamed with Venner of a republic and allied

themselves with the

Levellers of John Lilburne.

Moreover, Protestantism, at its inception in Germany, endeavoured to win over

the Jews, and in this

respect, the analogy between Luther and Mohammed is striking. Both had drawn

their teachings from

Hebrew sources, both wished to have the remains of Israel stamp with approval

the new dogmas which

they were formulating. But the Jews had always been the stubborn people of the

Scriptures, the people

with the hard nape, rebellious against[77] injunctions, tenacious, fearlessly

faithful to its God and its


Luther's preaching proved vain, and the irascible monk issued a terrible

pamphlet against the Jews. 67

"The Jews are brutes," he said; "their synagogues are pig‑sties, they ought to

be burned, for Moses

would do it, if he came back to this world. They drag in mire the divine

words, they live by evil and

plunders, they are wicked beasts that ought to be driven out like mad dogs."

In spite of these violent outbursts and excitement, in spite of the numerous

controversies, which had

taken place between the protestants and Jews, the latter were not ill‑treated

in Germany; people had no

spare time to busy themselves with them.

Overwhelmed with miseries, decimated by war, ruined, reduced to slavery, a

prey to destitution and

famine, the peasants of the sixteenth century no longer went for the Jewish

money‑lender or the

Christian usurer, but they aimed higher; they attacked in the first place a

whole classof the richand then

the social order as a whole. The revolt was general; at first it was the

peasants of the Netherlands,

then, and chiefly, those of Germany. All over the Empire they founded secret

societies, the

Bundschuh, 68 the Poor Conrad, the Evangelic Confederation. The peasants of

Speyer and of the

banks of the Rhine rose in 1503; the bands of Joss Fritz, in 1512; the

peasants of Austria and Hungary,

in 1515; those of Suabia, in 1524; those of Suabia, Alsace and the Palatinate,

in 1525. All marched with

the battle cry: "In Christ there is no longer master or slave." The tradesmen

joined them; knights, like

Goetz von Berlichingen, placed themselves at their head, and they massacred

the nobles and set the

castles and convents on fire. In this formidable movement which convulsed a

part of Europe until 1535,

everywhere leaving deep traces, the Jews had been neglected, they had ceased

to be the scapegoat,

and the poor wretches, famished and miserable, no longer fell upon them.

Were they as happy in the Catholic countries? Yes, for there, too, they ceased

to be the chief and sole

enemies of the Church, and it was no longer they that were feared. The

relaxation of religious ideas

brought in Italy a rapprochement between a certain class of Jews and the

various classes of society.

First, the humanists, the poets, visited the Jewish scholars, philosophers and

physicians. This familiarity

had begun in the fourteenth century, when Dante was seen to have for his

friend the Jew Manoello, the

cousin of the philosopher Giuda Romano; it continued in the fifteenth and[78]

the sixteenth centuries.

Alemani was the teacher of Picodi Mirandola, Elias del Medigo publicly taught

metaphysics in Padua

and Florence, Leo the Hebrew published his platonic dialogues on love. The

Jewish printers, like the

scholar Soncino, were in constant touch with the literature of the period; his

library was the centre of

Hebrew publications, and he even rivaled Aldo by publishing Greek authors.

Hercules Gonzago, bishop

of Mantua and disciple of the Jew Pomponazzo of Bologna, accepted the

dedication of Jacob Mantino,

who had translated the Compendium of Averroes, while other princes encouraged

Abraham de

Balmes in his work of translation. 69 And not only the sceptical, even

unbelieving faction, of the

Hellenists and Latinists, worshipers of Zeus and Aphrodite more than of Jesus,

were on good terms

with the Jews, but the lord and the bourgeois were likewise. "There are," says

the bishop Maiol,

"persons, and often persons of quality, both men and women, who are so foolish

and senseless as to

take counsel with Jews over their most intimate affairs, to their own

detriment. They (the Jews) are

seen visiting the houses and palaces of the great ones, the dwellings of

officers, councillors, secretaries,

gentlemen, both in the city and country." People did not content themselves

with receiving Jews, they

went to their houses, and, what is more, attended their religious ceremonies.

"There are among us,"

says again Maiol, "some who visit and superstitiously revere the synagogues";

and, addressing them, he

exclaims: "You hear the Jews blow their trumpets on the days of their

festivities, and you run with your

families to look at them." Thus it went on during the seventeenth century. In

Ferrara they went to hear

the sermons of Judah Azael, and, in 1676, Innocent XI threatened with

excommunication and a fine of

fifteen ducats those who frequented the synagogues. After the terrible shock

which had just disturbed

the Church, they more than ever wished to guarantee security to the Catholic

dogma. Julius III had the

Talmud burned in Rome and Venice upon denunciation by Solomon Romano, a

converted Jew; Paul IV

condemned it again at the request of another convert, Vittorio Eliano; Pius V

and Clement VIII did


During the dogmatic and theological reaction which followed the Reformation,

the Roman Church,

friendly to the Jews heretofore, came to be the only government, almost the

only power, systematically

to persecute Judaism. Paul IV revived the ancient canonic laws and had the

Marranos burned; Pius V

banished the[79] Jews from his domains, except from Rome and Ancona, after

having issued his

Constitution against the Jews, while the Spaniards, as they penetrated further

into Italy, were driving

them from Naples, Genoa and Milan.

The other sovereigns had not the same motives as the popes to attend to the

Jews. And so, from the

sixteenth century on, legislation against the Jews ceased. We find only the

edict of Ferdinand I against

Jewish usuryin Germany; a few decrees in Poland, and much later, the

prohibitions of Louis XV and

Louis XVI. Again to find anti‑Jewish legislation, it will be necessary to

study modern Russia, Rumania

and Serbia, which we shall shortly do.

Anti‑Judaism consisted chiefly in molestations and outrages. The populace

delighted in jeering the Jews,

and the grandees often gave them a chance to do it. Leo X, that ostentatious

pontiff, who was fond of

buffooneryhe had at his side two monks to divert him with their

pleasantrieswould order races between

Jews, and, being very shortsighted, would watch them, glass in hand, from the

heights of his balconies.

During the carnival in Rome the people would parody the burial of rabbis, and

a Jew would be marched

through the city streets, mounted backward on a donkey and holding the

animal's tail in his hand. On the

ghetto‑gates a sow was carved, and they were often covered with obscene

groups, in which rabbis

were represented. The sow symbolized the synagogueexactly as with the

Israelites the Roman Church

was designated by the Hebrew name for hogand the Jews were constantly reminded

of it; a painter

once even related at Wagenseil how he had painted a sow on the door‑leaf of

the arch of a synagogue

which he was engaged to adorn.

With the scholars, the learned and the theologians, anti‑Judaism was becoming

dogmatic and

theoretical. True they wanted to bring the Jews back, but by soft measures. It

was no longer a question

of burning their books, but of translating them. It was said that now that the

Christian faith had struck

deep enough roots, there was no danger to believers from publishing Hebrew

books, as had been done

in the case of those of the Arians and other heretics. Thus it would be

possible to know the polemic

practices of the Israelites, and it would thus be possible successfully to

combat them.

This study brought about a result quite different from that expected. By

scrutinizing the Jewish spirit

one came nearer to the[80] Jews, and thereby became more sympathizing with

them. Men, like Richard

Simon, e.g., who had prepared themselves for scientific exegesis, through

talmudists and hebraizing

researches, could not look with hatred upon those from whom they held their

knowledge. Others were

anxious to know when the Jews would be called to Christian communion. The

seventeenth century was

the most propitious time for the disputes over the recalling of the Jews. In

France this question as to

whether the Jews would be recalled at the end of the world or before itdivided

Bossuet and the

Figurists led by Duguet. 70 In England the Millenaries proclaimed the return

of the Jews.71 In Germany

also this opinion had its advocates, such as Bengal, e.g. In France, not only

did the convulsionaries of

Saint‑Menard proclaim the approaching entry of the Jews into the Church, but

some were seen

entertaining these dreams until our days, and in 1809 President Agier fixed

upon 1849 as the year of the

conversion of the Jews.

All over Europe the Jews enjoyed the greatest tranquility during the

eighteenth century. In Poland alone

they fared badly for having once lived too well. They had been prosperous

there up to the middle of the

seventeenth century. Rich, powerful, they had lived on an equal footing with

the Christians, treated as

though of the people amid whom they lived; but they could not help giving

themselves up to their usual

commerce, their vices, their passion for gold. Dominated by the Talmudists

they succeeded in producing

nothing beyond commentators of the Talmud. They were tax collectors, spirit‑

distillers, usurers,

seigneurial stewards. They were the noblemen's allies in their abominable work

of oppression, and

when the Cossacks of Ukraine and Little Russia had risen, under Chmielnicki,

against Polish tyranny,

the Jews, as accomplices of the lords, were the first to be massacred. It is

said that over 100,000 of

them were killed in ten years, but just as many Catholics and especially

Jesuits, were killed as well.

Elsewhere they were very prosperous. Thus, in the Ottoman Empire, they were

simply liable to the tax

on foreigners and subject to no other restrictive regulations, but nowhere was

their prosperity so great

as in the Netherlands and England. Marranos fleeing the Spanish Inquisition

had settled in the

Netherlands in 1593, and thence settled a colony in Hamburg, then, later on,

under Cromwell, one in

England, whence they had been banished for centuries and whither Menasse‑ben‑

Israel brought them

back. [81] The Dutch, as practical and circumspect a people as the English,

utilized the commercial

genius of the Jews and turned it to their own enrichment. In France Henry II

had authorized the

Portuguese Jews to settle in Bordeaux, where, on the strength of the granted

privileges, confirmed also

by Henry III, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, they acquired great wealth

in maritime commerce.

In the other cities of France there were few of them, and, besides, those

residing in Paris or elsewhere

had settled there only because of the administrative tolerance. In Alsace

alone there was a great


Their splendid condition provoked no violent demonstrations; now and then

protests would be heard,

they would say with Expilly: "With infinite grief one sees how such base

people, who had been received

in the capacity of slaves, possess costly furniture, lead a refined life, wear

gold and silver on their

garments, dress showily, perfume themselves, study instrumental and vocal

music and ride horseback

for mere diversion." At the same time, greater and greater toleration was

shown them from day to day;

the world was drawing nearer to them. Were they, in turn, drawing nearer to

the world? No. They

seemed more and more to attach themselves to their mystic patriotism; the

further they went, the more

the dreams of Kabbala haunted them, with ever renewed confidence they awaited

the Messiah, and

never had the pseudo‑Messiahs been received with so much enthusiasm as they

were in the

seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Kabbalists exhausted arithmetical

combinations to calculate

the exact date of the coming of him, who was so longed for. Toward 1666, the

date most commonly

designated as the sacred date, all Jews of the Orient were raised by the

preachings of Sabbatai Zevi.

>From Smyrna, where Sabbatai had proclaimed himself Messiah, the movement

spread to the

Netherlands, and England even, and everybody expected the restoration of

Jerusalem and of the holy

kingdom from the King of Kings, as Sabattai was called. The same enthusiasm

was displayed in 1755

when Frank appeared in Podolia as the new Messiah.

These hopes which the illuminism of the Kabbalists entertained helped to keep

the Jews apart, but those

who were not seduced by the speculations of dreamers, were weighed down by the

yoke of the

Talmud, a yoke at all events even ruder and more humiliating.[82]

So far from decreasing, the Talmudic tyranny had even increased since the

sixteenth century. At this

time Joseph Caro had edited the Shulchan Aruch, a Talmudic code,

whichaccording to the traditions

inculcated by the rabbinistsset up as laws the opinions of the doctors. Up to

our time the European

Jews had lived under the execrable oppression of these practices. 72 The

Polish Jews improved even

upon Joseph Caro and refined the already enormous subtleties of the Shulchan

Aruch by making

additions thereto, and they introduced the method of Pilpul (pepper‑grains)

into their instruction.

Accordingly, as the world grew kinder to them, the Jewsat least the

massesretired into themselves,

straightened their prison, bound themselves with tighter bonds. Their

decrepitude was unheard of, their

intellectual sinking was equaled only by their moral debasement; this nation

seemed dead.

However, the reaction against the Talmud had proceeded from the Jews

themselves. Mordecai Kolkos,

73 of Venice, had already published a book against the Mishna; in the

seventeenth century, Uriel

Acosta 74 violently fought the rabbis, and Spinoza 75 exhibited little

affection for them. But

anti‑talmudism displayed itself particularly in the eighteenth century, at

first among the mystics, such as,

e.g., the Zoharites, disciples of Franck, who declared themselves enemies of

the doctors of the law. At

any rate these opponents of the rabbinites were unable to extricate the Jews

from their abjection. To

begin this task, it was necessary for Moses Mendelssohn, a Jew and philosopher

at the same time, to

array the Bible against the Talmud. His German version (1779)was a great

revolution. It was the first

blow dealt to the rabbinical authority. The Talmudists, too, who had once

wished to kill Kolkos and

Spinoza, violently attacked Mendelssohn, and prohibited, under penalty of

excommunication, to read the

Bible which he had translated.

These outbursts of rage were of no avail. Mendelssohn had followers: young

men, his disciples, founded

the periodical Meassef, which advocated the new Judaism, endeavoured to snatch

the Jews from their

ignorance and humiliation, and prepared their moral emancipation. As for

political emancipation, the

humanitarian philosophy of the eighteenth century was working hard to bring it

about. Though Voltaire

was an ardent Judoephobe, the ideas which he and the Encyclopaedists

represented were not [83]

hostile to the Jews, as being ideas of liberty and universal equality. On the

other hand, if the Jews really

were isolated in the various states, they still had some points of contact

with those surrounding them.

Capitalism had by this time developed among the nations; stock‑jobbing and

speculation were born; the

Christian financiers applied themselves to them with a zeal, just as they had

applied themselves to

usury, just as they had, in the capacity of farmers‑general, collected imposts

and taxes. The Jews could,

therefore, take their place among those whom "discounts were enriching at the

public's expense, and

who were masters of all possessions of the French of all classes," as already

Saint Simon was saying.

The economic objections which were raised against their possible emancipation

had no longer the same

import as in the Middle Ages, when the church wanted to make the Jews the only

representatives of

the class of money‑brokers. As for the political objections, that they formed

a State within the State,

that their presence as citizens could not be tolerated in a Christian society

and was even injurious to it,

they remained valid until the day when the French Revolution dealt its direct

blow to the conception of a

Christian State. And so Dohm, Mirabeau, Clermont‑Tonnerre, the Abbot Gregoire

were right with

regard to Rewbel, Maury and the Prince de Broglie, and the Constituent

Assembly obeyed the spirit

which had guided it since its inception when it declared on September 27,

1791, that the Jews would

enjoy in France the rights of actual citizens The Jews were on the threshold

to society.


67 The Jews and their Lies, Wittenberg, 1558.

68 The confederate shoe.

69 Abraham de Balmes translated into Latin the greatest part of Averroes's

writings, and his

translations were in use in the Italian universities until the end of the

seventeeth century.

70 On this point consult Duguet, Regles pour l'intelligence des Saintes

Ecritures, 1723. Bossuet,

Discours sur l'Histoire universelle, part II. Rondet, Dissertation sur le

rappel des Juifs, Paris,

1778. Anonymous, Lettre sur le proche retour des Juifs, Paris, 1789, etc.

71 Gregoire, Histoire des sectes religieuses, t. II (Paris, 1825).

72 In Russia, Poland and Galicia they are extant even to‑day.

73 Consult Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebraea, v. II, p. 798. Hamburg.

74 Exemplar vitae humanae (Published by Limbroch, 1687).

75 Tractatus Theologico‑Politicus.

Reference Materials