From Roman to Third Reich: anti-Semitism has long history
Published: 21 December 2009 14:03 | Changed: 21 December 2009 15:30
The Holocaust has its roots in Roman times, according to Dutch professor Leonard Rutgers, who published a book recently on how the Jewish identity was shaped in Christian minds.
By Dirk Vlasbom (NRC International)
In 388 AD a Christian mob led by a local bishop destroyed the synagogue of Callinicum, a Greco-Roman city in northern Syria. The attack angered emperor Theodosius I, who had declared Christianity the religion of the Roman state just eight years earlier. As the Jewish community enjoyed a protected status under Roman laws, he ordered the synagogue be rebuilt be rebuilt at bishop’s expense. This triggered Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, to write the emperor a letter defending the obliteration of the Jewish temple. What could possibly be wrong with destroying a “house of betrayal and godlessness” where Christ’s name was sullied on a daily basis, Ambrose asked.
Since the second century, Christian leaders had been publishing texts denouncing “the synagogue”, a metaphor for all the followers of Judaism in the Roman empire. While American historians have dismissed these attacks as 'ideological constructions,' Leonard Rutgers, a professor of Late Antiquity at the University of Utrecht specialised in religion, recently published a book disputing this rosy perspective. His book, Making Myths – Jews in early Christian identity formation, describes how the verbal violence directed at the Jewish population by the church leaders became physical in the fourth century.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
LEONARD RUTGERS has a new book out on the early history of anti-Semitism: