In this provocative and erudite systematic study of the origins of antisemitism, David Patterson argues that it has less to do with economic, psychological, racist, xenophobic, social, and political factors than with metaphysical aspects of the human soul. Although he draws on most of the existing studies of the history of this “persistent prejudice” and masterfully summarizes and critiques their perspectives, Patterson’s work does not serve as a history of the phenomenon byt rather as an exploration of the deep metaphysical roots of Jew hatred which he sees in the most ancient of temptations: the temptation to be as God and to be free of accountability to and for other human beings. The desire to “kill” God drives the desire to kill the Jews; hatred of the Jews is at its core the hatred of the God of the Bible and the moral and ethical restraints of the biblical system.
In contrast to almost all the other studies of antisemitism, this book takes a consciously Jewish approach, studying the texts and teachings of Judaism including the Tanach, Talmud, Midrash, Kabbalah, and modern thinkers. There is a sweet “revenge” in this approach for these are precisely the texts and ideas that the antisemites denigrate and seek to destroy. Understanding that antisemitism is a move to eliminate God through the elimination of the prohibition against murder, Patterson contends that the essence of antisemitism is the essence of evil, so to understand it is to understand evil. Proceeding from the premises and text of Jewish tradition, from a God centered approach, Patterson concludes that the only solution to such hatred is to re-infuse the God of loving kindness back into our lives and our sensibilities.
The strength of this book is in its scope, its incisive and thoughtful analysis, and its courageous attempt to explore the metaphysical and theological origins of antisemitism. It certainly is provocative and very suggestive. For some, it may slide into an analysis that borders on religious or theological advocacy, since it leaves unchallenged the claims made in the name of Jewish texts and commentators. Notwithstanding this point, the informed reader will find this book a fascinating, evocative, and fresh approach to an ancient problem well worth their consideration.