Marks of Distinctions

Marks of Distinctions: Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High Middle Ages

IRVEN M. RESNICK
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2851pt
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  • Book Info
    Marks of Distinctions
    Book Description:

    Through the use of several illustrations from illuminated manuscripts and other media, Resnick engages readers in a discussion of the later medieval notion of Jewish difference.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1970-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    The term anti-Semitism was coined at the end of the nineteenth century to designate a seemingly modern phenomenon—a rational, secular theory of Jewish inferiority and Jewish evil said to be distinct from an older and much discredited religious hostility. It is very likely that this new term was coined in the second half of the nineteenth century by the German publicist and propagandist Wilhelm Marr, the founder of the Anti-Semitic League and author of The Victory of Judaism over Germanism, Considered from a non-Religious Point of View.¹ For Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinkers, religious hostility increasingly had been dismissed as...

  7. 1 INTRODUCTION TO MEDIEVAL PHYSIOGNOMY
    (pp. 13-52)

    It is a medieval commonplace that the soul directly moves or acts upon the body, but the body only indirectly influences or acts upon the soul. Consequently, although bodily deformities or illness need not imply a corresponding corrupt state in the soul, one expects to see defects in the soul revealed in the body. Because the body follows the soul when the soul is disturbed, and the soul follows the body in its accidents, the two—the healing of body and soul—cannot be completely separated, leading to a coincidence of interests for medieval theology, medicine, and the natural sciences.¹...

  8. 2 PHYSICAL DEFORMITIES AND CIRCUMCISION
    (pp. 53-92)

    The Jews’ womanly nature was visibly represented by the emasculating ritual that best defined Jewish males as Jews: circumcision. Medieval Latin theologians and polemicists understood that scripture knows various forms of circumcision. Principally, they contrasted the carnal circumcision of the flesh demanded of males eight days after birth (Gen. 17:11) with that spiritual circumcision of the heart promised by God (Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Jer. 9:26). Circumcision of the flesh was required of all those who would participate in the covenant made with the patriarch Abraham (see Lev. 19:8; see figure 2), although its spiritual utility was understood to have ceased...

  9. 3 THE JEWS AND LEPROSY
    (pp. 93-143)

    If the Jews’ alleged licentiousness and sexual appetite “feminized” them in some sense, it also tended to assimilate them to another marginalized group in the Middle Ages: namely, lepers. Both constituted at times a pariah minority. Although medieval lepers suffered from a number of illnesses that do not satisfy the definition of modern Hansen’s disease, nonetheless even as late as the nineteenth century some medical texts identify elephantiasis and certain related illnesses under the rubric lepra Judaeorum (“Leprosy of the Jews”), establishing more than a metaphorical connection between Jews and lepers that extended beyond their shared status as social outsiders...

  10. 4 THE DIETARY LAWS, FOOD, AND ILLICIT SEXUALITY
    (pp. 144-174)

    It may be worthwhile here to consider the dietary laws and to examine their role in Christian-Jewish polemical encounters. These laws indicate the foods that Jews may or may not eat, according to a basic taxonomy of animals found in the world: that is, animals of the land, animals in the waters, and animals of the air. Among land quadrupeds, the fundamental division between those that are “clean” and “unclean” rests on whether or not such animals ruminate, that is, chew the cud, and whether they have a split or cloven hoof. This basic principle can be found in Leviticus...

  11. 5 THE JEWS AND MELANCHOLY
    (pp. 175-214)

    Although certain foods, corrupt air, or illicit sexual encounters might introduce leprosy, physicians seeking its natural causes also sought an acceptable explanation in the language of Galenic humoralism. Already we have seen that the four bodily humors are related to the four types of leprosy: elephantia, leonina, tyria, and allopicia. Of these four types of leprosy or skin disease, elephantia, caused by adust (that is, “burned”) melancholy, was the most severe, and could be introduced by foods that increase the melancholic humor. Pork was one such food. Indeed, Haymo of Halberstadt (d. 853) complained of certain Christians who, like modern...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. 6 PLANETARY INFLUENCES; OR, THE JEWS AND SATURN
    (pp. 215-267)

    Even for the Roman historians Tacitus (d. 117) and Dio Cassius (d. 235) a link was presumed to exist between the Jews and Saturn. According to the Roman author Frontinus (d. 103) in a report repeated by Dio Cassius, it was on the day most sacred to the Jews, namely, Saturn’s Day, that the emperor Vespasian destroyed Herod’s Temple in Jerusalem.¹ Tacitus claimed that according to some authorities the Jews have a special tie to the god Saturn, as evidenced by their practice of having set aside the Sabbath on Saturday, that is, “Saturn’s day.” as a venerated holy day...

  14. 7 CASE STUDIES REVEALING A JEWISH PHYSIOGNOMY
    (pp. 268-319)

    If personal names alone were not often sufficiently distinct to separate Jew and Christian, what about physical appearance and, in particular, skin coloring or what today we would call “complexion”? Here again, as already indicated, some of our evidence suggests that Jews and Christians were, outwardly, physically indistinguishable. The badge on the outer clothing was intended to remedy this. That Jewish converts to Christianity in England were sometimes explicitly identified by appending to their new names the appellation “the Convert/le Convers”—for example, Roger le Convers, John le Convers, and Nicholas le Convers—seems to suggest, too, that otherwise their...

  15. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 320-324)

    The Jews’ saturnine, melancholy nature is not to be explained simply by exterior influences attached to a particular clime, that is, by the “environmental thesis.” Rather, it seems that their complexional nature is also determined, for many Christian thinkers, by the natural power of the stars. One advantage of the astrological explanation is simply that it can support contradictory conclusions: it is consistent that an individual Jew might escape the influence of Saturn, while Jews as a group cannot. This makes the “astrological thesis” extraordinarily adaptable and resistant to empirical falsification. Consequently, although the “environmental thesis” alone may fail to...

  16. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 325-378)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 379-385)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 386-387)