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By David Nirenberg

Via such a lot of Western eu heritage, Jews were a numerically tiny or fullyyt absent minority, yet throughout that heritage Europeans have still frightened very much approximately Judaism. Why may still that be so? This brief yet powerfully argued booklet means that Christian anxieties approximately their very own transcendent beliefs made Judaism a major device for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by means of prizing soul over flesh, the non secular over the literal, the heavenly over the actual world—came to phrases with the inescapable value of physique, language, and fabric issues during this international.

Nirenberg exhibits how turning the Jew right into a personification of worldly over non secular matters, floor over internal that means, allowed cultures susceptible towards transcendence to appreciate even their such a lot materialistic practices as non secular. concentrating on artwork, poetry, and politics—three actions particularly condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he finds how, over the last thousand years, those actions however multiplied the opportunity of their very own life inside Christian tradition simply because they have been used to symbolize Judaism. Nirenberg attracts on an astonishingly varied choice of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the jobs performed by means of representations of Jewish “enemies” within the production of Western paintings, tradition, and politics, from the traditional international to the current day.

This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways that Christian cultures have created themselves through wondering Judaism will entice the broadest diversity of students of faith, artwork, literature, political thought, media idea, and the heritage of Western civilization extra generally.

Hardcover is un-jacketed.

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Additional resources for Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics

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In the following scenes the Jew acts accordingly, throwing the painting down a latrine and defecating upon it. We have already encountered earlier versions of this story (in Gregory of Tours and in 34 Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies Byzantium). In this one the Jew is neither stoned nor saved but executed by the devil himself. A Christian then discovers the image, which instead of stinking of feces smells sweeter than spices, balsam, and unguents, and emits henceforth a substance like oil. In the last panel we see the board itself enshrined as object of devotion.

Where Nepotian stressed the ongoing value of the Hebrew prophets’ literal examples in order to approve of Christian decorations and devotional images, Jerome rejected both by insisting on the complete supersession of the letter by the spirit, casting any residual literalism as Judaizing. ” John of Damascus would assert yet a different relation in the eighth century, amid a civil war over images — the Iconoclast controversy — that shook the eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) in the eighth and ninth centuries (730–787 and 815–843 CE).

Beginning with a series of massacres in 1391 and continuing through the early fifteenth-century forced preaching campaigns of Saint Vincent Ferrer, tens of thousands of Jews living in the Iberian kingdoms had been converted to Christianity. By the time of van Eyck’s visit to the peninsula, a generation more or less after these mass conversions, tensions between “Old” and “New” Christians (as they began to be called) were emerging violently in the form of riots, discriminatory legislation, and other exclusionary practices aimed at the converts and their descendants.

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