"Hermeneutical Jew"— Compassion or Antisemitism? Part 2


What is the impact of Augustine's Hermeneutical Jew?

As stated in point 5 (in Part 1), Augustine's view saved a lot of Jewish lives. In past writings, I have been harsh on the African monk. In dealing with this new school of thought led by scholars like Fredrikson, at best, I see a dispassionate antisemitic Augustine. His antisemitism does not come from a deep hatred of the Jews, but a skewed theology, based on the Church Fathers. And he is fighting against the more vicious rhetoric against the Jewish people. He's writing in a day when there was no prominent preacher properly handling Romans 9-11.


While it saved lives, it also cost lives. It also continued to perpetuate the idea that the Jews are under judgment and that the Church played a role in enforcing that judgment. For instance, Augustine speaks of them having the mark of Cain. Did this lead to the Jewish "badge" in the 13th century and the Yellow Star of Nazi fame?


The Fourth Lateran Council that Innocent convened in 1215 enacted several canons against "Jewish perfidy," one of which expressed concern lest Christians "by mistake" have intercourse with Jewish or Muslim women. To prevent this troubling scenario, the Council mandated that Jews be distinguished from Christians by the quality of their clothes. England was apparently the first country to decree that Jews actually wear a badge.


In 1217, Henry III ordered that Jews wear a representation of the tables of the Ten Commandments made either of white linen or parchment on the front of their outer garments.[1]


Portraying the Jewish people as a "witness people" in the negative (because of their blindness to Christ) surely led to antisemitism. As the Crusaders marched across Europe to cleanse the Holy Land of Muslims, they realized they had the worst of infidels in their own backyard—the murderers of Jesus Christ. Whole Jewish communities were wiped out—how convenient for those "Christians" who were financially indebted to local Jews.[2]


During the Middle Ages, Jews are accused of ritual murder.

"The first blood libel in Norwich (England) in 1144 helped to forge together a Christian collectivity by demonizing the Jews along with the Francophone heirs of the Norman Conquest. The blood libel that immortalized "Saint William" of Norwich (the young Christian victim at the heart of the medieval cult) also branded the Jews as bloodthirsty "others" who deserved to be killed."[3]

Lest you be tempted to think that Jews were actually guilty—since when is a whole community put on trial and executed?


"A similar incident occurred at Blois in northern France in 1171, when the Jewish community was also accused of the ritual murder of a Christian child. Thirty Jews were convicted and executed for the crime, despite the community's ardent appeal to the archbishop and despite the inconvenient fact that no body was ever produced."[4]


Jews were also blamed for the Black Plague and murdered, despite the fact that the plague began in a region of the world without Jews!


Peter the Venerable paved the way for Hitler, as he,

"The Benedictine abbot of Cluny concluded that because humans are rational creatures and Jews refuse to accept the rational proof of Christianity, Jews must therefore be less than human. 'I do not know whether I am speaking to a man," Peter writes in his scathing polemic Against the Inveterate Obstinacy of the Jews, "I know not whether a Jew is a man because he does not cede to human reason, nor does he acquiesce to the divine authorities which are his own.'"[5]

Once you conclude that a Jew is not human, you can kill it like prey. "Consider the cow or, if you prefer, the ass—no beast is more stupid … The ass hears but does not understand; the Jew hears but does not understand."[6]


Everything Hitler needed to justify the genocide of Europe's Jews could be found in Christian theology.


Part 3 The Conclusion

Part 1

[1] Lindemann, Albert S.; Levy, Richard S. Antisemitism (p. 72). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition. [2] Lindemann and Levy, p. 69 [3] Robert S. Wistrich. “A Lethal Obsession.” Apple Books. p. 48 [4] Lindemann and Levy, p. 74 [5] Lindemann and Levy, p. 71 [6] Riley-Smith, Jonathan, “Christian Violence and the Crusades,” in Anna Sapir Abulafia (ed.), Religious Violence between Christians and Jews: Medieval Roots, Modern Perspectives (Hampshire: Palgrave, 2002), 3–20.



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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this my blog. I am the GODTV Israel Regional Director host of the daily TV program, "Out of Zion". I also serve on the leadership team of a Hebrew-speaking, Spirit-filled congregation in Tel Aviv. We love Yeshua and we love Israel. Hope to see you here soon!

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