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Antisemitism and Modernity: Innovation and Continuity by Hyam Maccoby

By Hyam Maccoby

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Extra resources for Antisemitism and Modernity: Innovation and Continuity (Routledgecurzon Jewish Studies Series)

Sample text

His alleged Sanhedrin trial on these charges never happened, as indeed appears clearly from the gospel of John, which records no Sanhedrin trial. Why, then, were the Jews, rather than the Romans, made the villains of the story of the Gospel and Acts? The answer lies chiefly in the depoliticization of the story. As long as Jesus was considered a Jewish figure, concerned with fulfilling biblical prophecies about deliverance and a new Exodus from thraldom to foreign military power (combined with hopes for the end of military empires and the onset of a peaceful theocratic world era, the ‘Kingdom of God’), the Romans would remain the evil power, as they still do in Jewish–Christian writings that have survived, including portions of the book of Revelation.

In particular, the fantasy of Jewish power was operative. The Jews of Spain, freed from their disabilities by conversion, had begun to use their natural talents to occupy important positions in Spanish society, rising high in the professions, and even taking leading roles in the Church. This aroused alarm: the Jews were taking over, as had always been feared. Here sixteenth-century Spain shows a remarkable similarity to the situation set up by the emancipation of the Jews in the Enlightenment era, when the Jews were ostensibly freed but in fact continued to be regarded with fear and suspicion.

Actually, in the period before the massacres of 1391, some Jews who had clearly converted for sincere reasons were treated with honour, and even promoted to high positions in the 31 THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Church. If the consciousness of the wrongness of forced conversion was at the root of this matter, the assertion of the corruption of Jewish ‘blood’ was itself insincere. This consideration may reduce the similarity I have alleged between the theory of limpieza de sangre and the Nazi racist doctrine of purity of blood.

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