So, by the mid-5th Century, Replacement theology and Amillennialism had become entrenched as doctrines of the Church, and the Jews had been demonized, condemned, and ostracized to the point that the Church had become a Gentile organization that was off-limits to the very people who founded it!
These views were reinforced by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who was the most important medieval Catholic theologian. He argued that because of their sin of deicide, the Jews were destined to “perpetual slavery.”33 He further argued that:
- Jews should be compelled to work rather than live in idleness and grow rich by usury.
- Jews should be forced to wear a distinctive badge in order to distinguish them from Christians.
- Jews and heretics could be legitimately killed after a second warning.
To illustrate how severe the rejection of Jews had become by the Middle Ages, consider the oath that the Church in Constantinople required a Jew to take in order to become a Christian:34
I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads and sacrifice of lambs of the Hebrews, and all other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications, and propitiations, and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants and observances and synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews;
In one word, I renounce absolutely everything Jewish, every law, rite and custom…And if afterwards I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with Jews . . then let the trembling of Cain and the leprosy of Gehazi cleave to me…and may I be anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils.
A similar Visigoth oath from the 7th century required a Jewish covert to “renounce every rite and observance of the Jewish religion” and contained a promise that the person would “never return to the vomit of Jewish superstition.”35
Even the so-called “friends of the Jews” held them in low esteem. Consider, for example, Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Peter the Venerable (c.1092-1156), and Pope Innocent III (c.1160-1216). All three spoke out against murderous attacks on the Jewish people.
Yet, Bernard of Clairvaux characterized the Jews in his writings as “more than bestial,” “an evil seed,” and “a race who have not God for their father, but are of the devil…”36
Peter the Venerable, a contemporary of Bernard, was known as the meekest of men and a model of Christian charity. Yet, he said of the Jews: “I doubt whether a Jew can be really human.” He further referred to them as “monstrous animals” and “brute beasts.”37
And Pope Innocent III argued that the Jews should not be killed because they should be left to wander the earth “until their countenance be filled with shame.”38
Again, by the beginning of the Middle Ages in the 5th Century, two erroneous concepts about the Jews had become firmly established in Church doctrine:
- The Jews should be considered “Christ Killers” and should be mistreated accordingly.
- The Church has replaced Israel, and God has no future purpose for the Jews.
These concepts were reinforced throughout the Middle Ages by:
- The Crusades
- Artistic Expressions
- Blood libels
- Black Plague myths
- Distinguishing marks
- Relegation to ghettos
- The Inquisition
Let me comment briefly on each of these.
Crusades — Regarding the Crusades (11th – 13th Centuries), although their major purpose was to free the Holy Land of its Muslim rulers, the hatred of the Jews that had been instilled in the people of Europe by the Church encouraged the Crusaders to slaughter Jews along the way. Further, Pope Urban had given the Crusaders a guarantee of absolution for crimes committed in the Crusader cause. The Crusader shout, “God wills it!” soon became transmuted into “Kill a Jew and save your soul!”39
The atrocities committed in the name of Jesus were beyond imagination. For example, after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem on July 15, 1099, Jews were herded into their synagogues, exits were blocked, and the synagogues were surrounded by soldiers who sang “Fairest Lord Jesus” while they burned the buildings to the ground.40
Artistic Expressions — Since the literacy rate in the Middle Ages was probably only around 25%, the most important mode of communication to the common people was through various forms of art. These took the form of dehumanized portrayals of Jews in paintings, picture books, picture Bibles, sculptures, and dramas.41
One of the most vivid, abominable and obscene pictures was one called “The Jewish Sow.” It appeared throughout Europe in the Middle Ages in many different forms. It depicted Jews nursing on pigs and eating their excrement. This horrid scene was painted on church walls, featured in stained glass windows and portrayed in statuary.42
A more sophisticated portrayal of Replacement Theology was to be found in a very popular image called “Ecclesia versus Synagoga,” or the Church versus the Synagogue.43 It personified the Church and the Synagogue as rival queens. The Jewish queen was shown blindfolded, bareheaded and downcast. In one hand she holds a broken staff. In the other she clutches the tablets of the law which are about to slip from her hand. The Church queen is depicted as triumphant, wearing a crown, with a cross in one hand and a chalice in the other. These statues were often found at the portals of cathedrals. They clearly communicated the idea that the Jews had been cast aside to make way for a new people of God.
Another type of artistic expression that was very popular was the drama. Miracle plays and passion plays abounded during the Middle Ages, and they were used to cultivate hatred toward the Jewish people. Jews were depicted as demons who knew full well that Christ was the Son of God. In each play, as Christ carried the cross, he was tortured by bloodthirsty, cursing devils with hooked noses, horns and tails. The Jews were made to seem as evil as Christ was divine.44
Bible story books and picture Bibles, like the Holkham Bible produced in London in the 14th Century always portrayed the Jews as evil agents of the Devil.45
Blood Libels — Throughout the Middle Ages, professing Christians spread myths which helped to heighten popular hatred and fear of the Jewish people. As a result, it became commonplace among Christian groups to think of Jews as agents of Satan. One of the most popular anti- Jewish myths that gained widespread acceptance was the notion that Jews murdered Christians each year around the time of Passover in order to get blood needed to perform satanic rites. This became known as the charge of ritual murder or “blood libel.” Another common myth that circulated during these years was that Jews would steal the wafers used in communion and stab them with knives, thus killing Christ once again!46
The most notorious blood libel of the Middle Ages occurred in 1493 when a two year old boy named Simon disappeared in Trento, Italy. His father blamed the Jewish community and 15 Jews were charged with ritual murder and burned at the stake.47 This emotional story spread quickly throughout Europe and inspired many charges of ritual murder against Jews.
Black Plague Myths — The Black Plague in the middle of the fourteenth century killed approximately one-third of the population of Europe. At the time, it was not known how the illness spread, but stories and rumors circulated that Jews had poisoned the wells. Although the accusation was totally unfounded, many Christians believed the myth. One reason it was easy to believe is because the Jews were not impacted by the plague as much as were the Gentiles. But this was due to the sanitary laws of the Bible which the Jews carefully followed. This accusation led to severe consequences for Jews. More than sixty Jewish communities were burned to the ground with all their occupants killed, and in some places, Jews were tortured and burned to death in bonfires.48
Distinguishing Marks — The Fourth Lateran Council headed by Pope Innocent III ruled in 1215 that Jews must wear distinguishable dress and a colored badge of identification.49 This became common practice throughout Europe.
Relegation to Ghettos — In the 11th Century large cities throughout Europe began to herd Jews into designated areas within the cities called ghettos. This action was motivated, of course, by hatred of the Jews. Considering them to be “vermin,” it was decided that they should be cut off from the rest of the population.50
Pogroms — Massive violent attacks against Jewish communities broke out in the 11th and 12th Centuries in France, Germany and England. The Black Plague in the 14th Century provoked additional pogroms throughout Europe. During these pogroms, Jews were murdered, synagogues were destroyed and Torah scrolls were burned.51
The Inquisition — It started in 12th Century France and persisted into the 14th Century. It was originally launched to counter heresy within the Catholic Church, but in 1242 it veered off course by condemning the Talmud, resulting in the burning of thousands of Jewish books. In 1288, the Inquisition produced the first mass burning of Jews at the stake in France.52
In the sixth part of this study on how Replacement Theology has resulted in the historical abuse of the Jews by the Church, we’ll look at examples from the time of the Reformation up until today.
33) Thomas Aquinas, De Regimente Judaeorum, quoted in “Aquinas, Thomas,” Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House, 1971) vol. 3, p. 229.
34) Stefano Assemani, Acta Sanctorium Martyrum Orientalium at Occidentalium, Vol. 1, Rome 1748, page 105. Read more at http://natzrim.blogspot.com/2011/04/constantine-creed.html#fIE03lATVLC2Ekh1.99
35) Gary Hedrick, “Replacement Theology: Its Origins, Teachings and Errors,” http://jeremiah111.org.org/Replacement%20Theology/replacement_theology.htm.
36) Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained With Blood (Shippensberg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 1992), p. 12.
37) Ibid., pp. 12-13.
38) Ibid., p. 13.
39) Andrew D. Robinson, “The Error of Replacement Theology, Part 6: The Crusades,” Magazine of the Prophetic Witness Movement International, June 2013, p. 11.
40) Ibid., p. 12.
41) Andrew Robinson, “The Error of Replacement Theology, Part 8: The Medieval Media,” Magazine of the Prophetic Witness Movement International, October 2013, pp. 8-13.
42) Isaiah Shachar, The Judensau: A Medieval Anti-Jewish Motif and Its History, (London: TheWarburg Institute of the University of London, 1974).
43) Wilipedia, “Ecclesia versus Synagoga,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecclesia_and_Synagago.
44) Wikipedia, “Passion Play,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passion_Play.
45) British Library, “Online Gallery of Sacred Texts: Holkham Bible,” www.bl,uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/holkham.html.
46) Religious Tolerance.org., “Blood Libel Myths: Then and Now,” www.religioustolerance.org/jud_blib1.htm.
47) Paul Oskar Kristeller, “The Alleged Ritual Murder of Simon of Trent and Its Literary Repercussions,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, vol. 59, 1993, pp. 103-135.
48) Remember.org., ‘Classical and Christian Anti-Semitism,” www.remember.org/History.root.classical.html.
49) Medieval Sourcebook: Twelfth Ecumenical Council: Lateran IV 1215, Canon 68, www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/lateran4.asp.
50) The Jewish Encyclopedia (1906), “Ghetto,” http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6653-ghetto.
51) Jonathan Dekel-Chen, David Gaunt, Natan M. Meir and Israel Bartal, editors, Anti-Jewish Violence: Rethinking the Pogrom in East European History (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2010), http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AUYQ8JQ-iM0C&pg=PA19#v=onepage&q&f=false.
52) Jewish Virtual Library, “Christian-Jewish Relations: The Inquisition,” www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Inquisition.html.