Antisemitism: Its History and Causes. Bernard Lazare 1894


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 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 wherever 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 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. 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; 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 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,[32] call them “a perverse, dangerous and criminal sect.”

Some, like Gregory of Nyssa,[33] 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[34] 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[35] 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[36] 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[37] 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[38] 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.

The Jews, says Chrysostom in the first of his sermons, are ignoramuses, who lack all understanding of their own law, and are consequently impious. They are wretches, dogs, bull- headed; their people are like a herd of brutes, like wild beasts. They have driven Christ away, therefore they are capable of evil only. Their synagogues may be likened to playhouses, they are dens of brigands, the abode of Satan. 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.

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 death of Christ; 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 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 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[39] 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;[40] the offense is made punishable by exile for life and confiscation of property. The Jews are prohibited from owning Christian slaves;[41] they are not allowed to marry Christians; such unions are treated like criminal fornication.[42] Other laws encourage Christian propaganda and proselytism among the Jews, either directlyby protecting the apostates[43] and enjoining Jews from disinheriting their converted sons and grandsons[44] or indirectly, by vexatious legislation against Jews. Their privileges were curtailed. It was decreed that the moneys which were sent by 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, 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 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 Christian cult. They burned the churches, sacked Jerusalem, destroyed the convents, raising on their way all their co-religionists, and joined by the Israelites 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 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 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 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 Israelthe Jews were guarded against the zeal of the lower clergy 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 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 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 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.


32. Demonstratio Evangelica.

33. Testimonium adversus Judaeos ex Tetere Testamento, Migne, P. G.,. XLVI.

34. Oratio adversus Judaeos, Migne, P. L. XLII.

35. De Tobia, Migne, P. L. XIV.

36. Ep. CLI, Quaest. 10, Migne, P. L. XXII.

37. Ep. CLI, Quaest, 10, Migne, P. G., XXXIII.

38. Adversus Judaeos, 10, Migne, P. C., XLVIII.

39. Eusebius, Vita Constantini, III, 18, 20.

40. Codex Justinianeus, 1. I, tit. IX, 16.

41. Codex Theodosianus, 1. XVI, tit. IX, 3, 4, 5.

42. Codex Justinianeus 1. I, tit. IX, 6.

43. Cod. Theod., b. XVI, tit. viii, 5.

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.