Texts from the History of the Relationship

Dating from the Patristic/Rabbinic Era until the Dawn of Modernity

Plus a Few More Recent Texts

[>> Go directly to list of texts]

"In the Christian world ... erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament relative to the Jewish people and their presumed guilt circulated for too long, engendering sentiments of hostility toward this people."                                       – Pope John Paul II, October 31, 1997


These words, spoken at a Vatican conference on "The Roots of Anti-Judaism in the Christian Milieu," are a fitting prelude to this collection of primary texts. Many reflect the growth of a Christian theological system that delegitimized the ongoing Jewish tradition and abetted the marginalization of Jews in Christian Europe. There are also texts representing Jewish polemical responses to these developments, though they are few  in number due to the efficiency of Christian censors over the years.

A Christian and a Jewish scholar discuss biblical interpretation (Ulm, 1483)As with any documents, a full understanding of these texts demands knowledge of the historical contexts in which they were composed. For instance, the relatively few Jewish writings about Christianity often were written when Jews were a tolerated, sometimes oppressed, and occasionally attacked minority in European "Christendom."

The earlier Christian materials stem from a time when a vulnerable Christianity was subject to periodic persecution in the Roman Empire. In addition, Roman intellectuals charged that Christianity was a superstitious distortion of Judaism, particularly because Christians failed to observe the Law of Moses, which they acknowledged had come from God. To justify itself, Christianity sought to discredit the Judaism with which it was often unfavorably compared. Later Christian writings emerged when church leaders exercised broad political power as heads of state. They often display an ambivalent stance toward Jews: marginalizing them as much as possible, yet defending them against wanton violence and superstitious accusations.

It must be stressed that after the Shoah (Holocaust), a wide range of Christian churches repudiated the pivotal claim made by most of the Christian writers listed below; namely, that Jews were collectively cursed or punished by God for the crucifixion of Jesus. Students should compare the materials in this section of Dialogika with the "Documents and Statements" section.

This collection is made available to provide educators, researchers, and students with easy access to pertinent primary texts from the history of Jewish-Christian relations. Items are searchable and may be printed in pdf format. Suggestions for further historical materials to include should be sent to the webmaster.

Title Author
Epistle of BARNABAS (ca. 100) Written by Barnabas
IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, "Letter to the Magnesians" (ca. 103) Written by Ignatius of Antioch
JUSTIN MARTYR, "The Dialogue with Trypho" (ca. 160) - excerpts Written by Justin Martyr
MELITO OF SARDIS, "On the Pasch" (ca. 175) Written by Melito of Sardis
TERTULLIAN, "Against the Jews" (ca. 200) Written by Tertullian
ORIGEN, "On First Principles" (ca. 225) Written by Origen
ORIGEN, "Against Celsus" (ca. 248) - excerpts Written by Origen
CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, "On the Lord's Prayer" (252) - ch 1-11 Written by Cyprian of Carthage
CONSTANTINE I, "On the Proper Day to Celebrate Christ's Resurrection" (325) Written by Constantine I
JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, "Eight Orations Against Judaizing Christians" (387-388) Written by John Chrysostom
AMBROSE OF MILAN, "Letters about a Synagogue Burning" (August, 388) Written by Ambrose of Milan
ROMAN IMPERIAL LAWS concerning Jews (329-553) Written by Roman Imperial Laws
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO: Selections (ca. 400, 411) Written by Augustine of Hippo
POPE GREGORY I, "Letters on the Treatment of Jews" (591, 598) - excerpts Written by Pope Gregory I
TOLEDOTH YESHU (ca. 14th century, tradition to 6th century?) Written by Toledoth Yeshu
JOHN OF DAMASCUS, "Against the Jews on the Question of the Sabbath" (ca. 735) Written by John of Damascus
POPE STEPHEN IV, "Letter Against Jews Owning Land" (768) Written by Pope Stephen IV
POPE ALEXANDER II, "Warning Against Violence Toward the Jews" (ca. 1060) - excerpt Written by Pope Alexander II
HENRY IV, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, "Settlement Charter in the German States" (February 19, 1090) Written by Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor
THE CHRONICLES OF RABBI ELIEZER BAR NATHAN, "The Massacres of Jews by the First Crusaders" (1096) Written by Rabbi Eliezer Bar Nathan
BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX, The Jews and the Second Crusade (1146) Written by Bernard of Clairvaux
EPHRAIM BEN JACOB, "The Ritual Murder Accusation at Blois" (May, 1171) Written by Ephraim Ben Jacob
THOMAS OF MONMOUTH, The Accusation of the 1144 Ritual Murder of William of Norwich (1173) Written by Thomas of Monmouth
RIGORD, The Expulsion of the Jews from France (1182) Written by Rigord
WILLIAM OF NEWBURGH, The York Riots (1190) Written by William of Newburgh
POPE INNOCENT III, On the Jews and Forced Baptisms (1199, 1201, 1209) Written by Pope Innocent III
FOURTH LATERAN COUNCIL, "Canons Concerning Jews" (1215) Written by Fourth Lateran Council
FREDERICK II, HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR, "Refuting Ritual Murder Accusations" (1236) Written by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor
FREDERICK, DUKE OF AUSTRIA, "Charter of the Jews in the Duchy of Austria" (July 1, 1244) Written by Frederick, Duke of Austria
ODO OF CHATEAUROUX, On the Jewish Talmud (1247, 1248) Written by Odo of Chateauroux
THOMAS AQUINAS, "Letter on the Treatment of Jews" (1271) Written by Thomas Aquinas
POPE GREGORY X, "Letter Against the Blood Libel" (Oct 7, 1272) Written by Pope Gregory X
JACOB VON KÖNIGSHOFEN, The Black Death and the Jews (1348-1349) Written by Jacob von Königshofen
POPE EUGENE IV, "Cantate Domino" (1441) - excerpt Written by Pope Eugene IV
AN ITALIAN JEW, The Expulsion from Spain (1492) Written by Italian Jew
HIERONYMOUS HÖLTZEL, publisher, An Account of Alleged Host Desecration and Ritual Murder (1510) Written by Hieronymous Höltzel
MARTIN LUTHER, "That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew" (1523) - excerpts Written by Martin Luther
MARTIN LUTHER, "On the Jews and Their Lies" (1543) - Parts 11-13 Written by Martin Luther
POPE PAUL IV, "Cum Nimis Absurdum" ["Since it is completely senseless ..."] (July 14, 1555) Written by Pope Paul IV
CATECHISM OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT, "Reasons Why Christ Suffered" (1566) Written by Council of Trent
THEODOR HERZL: Audience with Pope Pius X (1904) Written by Theodor Herzl
POPE PIUS XI, Encyclical "Mit Brenneder Sorge" (Mar 14, 1937) Written by Pope Pius XI
POPE PIUS XI, "Spiritually, we are Semites" (Sept 6, 1938) Written by Pope Pius XI
DRAFT ENCYCLICAL: "Humani Generis Unitas" (1938) Written by G. Desbuquois, G. Gundlach, J. LaFarge