Condemnation of the Jews

Susan C. Karant-Nunn

in Reformation of Feeling

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195399738
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777198 | DOI:
Condemnation of the Jews

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This chapter focuses on anti-Jewish messages in Passion sermons. It shows that conventions of anti-Semitic utterance in preaching on the Crucifixion did not soften with the coming of the Reformation. Post-Reformation Catholic preachers continued to tap them with full enthusiasm, and Lutheran and Reformed clergy all drew upon them. However, in the basic dimension of the derogation of the Jews, differences are evident among the three leading denominations. Catholic divines treated the Jews rhetorically as the perpetrators of the most ferocious torture upon Jesus. Lutheran pastors retained the conviction that the Jews were indeed the authors of the gravest offenses against Christ. These remain most assuredly physical, even though the tendency within the evangelical movement is to damp down not just the length of Passion preaching—which itself would curtail elaboration—but also the sensual horror of the Crucifixion. John Calvin and his Reformed followers rendered the Jews' culpability yet more abstract. They adhered to it faithfully, but they turned the figure of the treacherous Jewish mob into a metaphor for their verminously sinful human charges, including themselves.

Keywords: Catholics; Jews; anti-Semitism; sermons; preaching; Catholicism; Lutheranism; John Calvin

Chapter.  11663 words. 

Subjects: Christianity

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