Tuesday, December 22, 2009

LEONARD RUTGERS has a new book out on the early history of anti-Semitism:
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.