Jew­ish Dogs: An Image and its Interpreters

Ken­neth Stow
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
The his­to­ry of name-call­ing and the treat­ment of Jews and Judaism as dogs and dog­gish by Chris­tians, is a painful yet fas­ci­nat­ing tale to dis­cov­er. Invec­tive toward out­siders as dogs was con­flat­ed with an admo­ni­tion to beware of dogs and the notion that the Eucharist was the body of Christ that Jews sup­pos­ed­ly sought to sav­age and pol­lute. The Jews became the dogs for which to watch out. When this was lat­er extend­ed from the body of Christ to the church as the body of Chris­tians, the dan­gers posed became incal­cu­la­ble. This notion was an impor­tant ele­ment in the charges of rit­u­al mur­der that echo down through the cen­turies. The tra­di­tion was also expressed in the pol­i­cy of ghet­toiz­ing Jew­ish dogs,” to lim­it them from con­tact with the holy peo­ple and host, whom they were accused of seek­ing to defile. Dis­cov­er­ing the role of the Bel­gian Bol­lan­dist Jesuits, first as per­pe­tra­tors of these destruc­tive tales since the 12th cen­tu­ry, and then eight hun­dred years lat­er in the 20th cen­tu­ry force­ful­ly refut­ing them to be untrue, at some price to them­selves in the con­flict that ensued with their Ital­ian Jesuit coun­ter­parts, is one of the many inter­est­ing ele­ments of Stow’s in-depth research. How Stow ties these destruc­tive accu­sa­tions back to exe­ge­sis of the Church Fathers is sur­pris­ing, reveal­ing a con­tin­u­ous men­tal­i­ty about the threat Jews have been sup­posed to pose to the Chris­t­ian, espe­cial­ly Catholic, West, a con­tin­u­um of con­nect­ed tales by which many nefar­i­ous accu­sa­tions and poli­cies have been legit­i­mat­ed. Such invec­tive may be large­ly absent from the Amer­i­can scene, and thus unfa­mil­iar to some read­ers, but it is, sad to say, still alive in New Tes­ta­ment exeget­i­cal tra­di­tions, and as Stow shows, unfor­tu­nate­ly it is not unknown to school­child­ren around the world to this day. Bib­li­og­ra­phy and index.
Mark D. Nanos, Ph.D., Uni­ver­si­ty of Kansas, is the author of Mys­tery­of Romans, win­ner of the 1996 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award, Charles H. Revson­Award in Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Relations.

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