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