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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2000

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Subject:

Re: gow and antichrist

From:

"Br. Alexis Bugnolo" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 21 Dec 2000 22:09:33 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (317 lines)

At 07:16 PM 12/21/00 -0500, you wrote:
>i was holding off on this response until i got word from andrew gow, to
>whom i forwarded the postings.  but he hasn't responded, and the discussion
>is going all over the map, often following what i think are mistaken
>trails, based on misconceptions of gow's argument.  so here goes, and if
>andrew sends me his reactions, i'll be happy to forward them.  by the way,
>when we first set up the journal online, i had imagined such discussion
>being appended to the article as a corrective and a way to continue the
>conversation.  so thank you for the postings, they restore my faith in
>e-journals.

Yes, I found it of great value; have yet to mine it all.

>
>At 09:20 PM 12/20/00 -0500, you wrote:
>>Dear List Members,
>>
>>Regading the discussion of the first millenium, I found a few extraordinary
>>statements in Andrew Gow's "Jewish Shock-Troops of the Apocalypse:
>>Antichrist and the End, 1200-1600, [Journal of Millennial Studies, Sprint
>>1998] http://www.mille.org/publications/summer98/agow.pdf ,
>>
>>1) where in fn. 2 he writes that the Lollard theory that identified "the
>>papacy with the Antichrist was not merely a political move, but also a
>>fundamentally theological, Bible-centered exegesis."
>>
>>Does he really mean this objectively,
>
>there is, esp in these matters, no such thing as objective.

Surely, you can't be serious.


>>or is he saying that "to the Lollards it was so"?
>
>of course.



>
>>Since if there were a scriptural basis, I find it amazing that
>>it would have taken 13th centuries for the Lollards to come along and find
>>it.
>
>it didn't. the waldensians already did, and there is good evidence to
>suggest that millennialists of the demotic kind (anti-hierarchy) in all
>periods saw the marriage of imperialism and xnty as a devil's bargain --
>donatists saw the xn emperors of the 4th cn as antichrists.

If you are refering to anti-hierarchical movements expoiting anti-christic
imagery, I concurr that given the supposition, it would not be surprising;
but I was refering to exegetical science, which as I see you do not
consider to be objective, and I do; but this is a theological matter, best
left of this list.

>
>>And since no one had found it in 13 centuries, then I supposed it would
>>be reasonable to assume that they had a political motive, rather than a
>>theological one.
>
>it's not an either or.  that's like saying that eusebius and his colleagues
>had a theological and not a political motive for converting constantine and
>the roman empire.  moreover, the distinction gow's working with here is
>btwn a given pope as antichrist and the papacy as corporate antichrist.
>
I was using theological in the objective sense, again. Of course if a group
takes a certain stance against the mainstream, and theologizes it, you can
call it theological motivation; but in medieval terms, theological
movtivations originate with God, and that is how I was using the term.

>>2) where Gow holds that the identification of the Antichrist with the one
>>who many Jews would accept as their Christ as opposed to Jesus Christ was a
>>Medieval, largely anti-semitic invention (pp. 2-3).  I guess he has never
>>read Scripture (John 5:43; Mt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:1ff.)
>
>this is a bizarre list which reminds me, unfortunately, of the "proofs"
>that Jerry Falwell posted last year that the antichrist will be a
>jew.  there's nothing in any of these texts that compels the
>interepretation that the antichrist will be a jewish messiah.

Since this is a Medieval Religion list, I supposed you would see cogency in
proof texts, which were a theological methodology in the West since the
time of the late Carolingian period, begining with the iconclastic
controveries.

>
>>or St. Chrysostom, St.
>>Augustine, St. Cyrill, who are hardly described as medievals.
>
>i know that chrysostom demonized the jews; augustine, hv, did not, and i'm
>unaware that he developed this notion of a jewish messiah as
>antichrist.  what are you thinking of?  and is cyrill the cyrill of
>jerusalem of the mid-4th cn?  cd you cite a passage for this?
>

I was refering to the patristic exegesis of these very passages, quoting
the reference to these Fathers from Cornelius a Lapide's Commentary on
these texts. He does not give the actual citations, and a good translation
will have a concordance, so such are not always given. Cyrill of Alexandria
is the one who did commentaries on scripture

>>3) Throughout he manifests an anachronistic reinterpretation of texts,
>>reading a classification of the descendents of Abraham based on their
>>religious beliefs concerning the Messiah as if it were simply a racial
>>category that had nothing to do with personal choices.
>>The texts he cites pp. 3-13, in as much as he quotes them, seem to agree
>>entirely that racial categories are not being used, but rather religious
>>categories;  to read anti-semitism back into them is to be decidely
>>anachronistic.
>
>i'm not sure where you get the racial notion.  he never uses it, certainly
>not the word racial.  are you assuming that his use of antisemitism is
>racial?

I assume he is using the word in the contemporary meaning; I did not seem
him define the term or give the reader a warning; nor am I familiar with a
medieval term for it; ergo . . .

>  i think he's using gavin langmuir's notion that the move from
>anti-judaism to anti-semitism occurs when you move from disliking jews for
>who they are (rejectors of the xn message) to disliking them for chimerical
>notions, for what you imagine they are (minions of the devil, international
>conspirators, secret ritual murderers and cannibals of xn youths).

O.K. that's a different sense than common usuage; but I would argue that it
is unfair to the Jewish people to identify their "who they are" as
"rejectors of the Christian message"; they after all did exist before
Christ came. The other reasons are religious, economic, social, etc.

>
>>What value is there in attacking anti-semitism when it is your own
>>reinterpretation of texts which accuses authors of the distant past of the
>>prejudice of the last century?
>
>as i said, i think you misread him.  he's actually discussing some critical
>transformations in xn views of the jews that occurred in the medieval
>period which historians (possibly for anachronistic or apologetic reasons)
>have paid little attention to.

That is clear. But this is not anti-semitism; which is a modern notion. And
his article makes it quite clear that he is talking about anti-semitism,
for he uses the this term, not anti-judaism (e.g. p. 3)

>
>>It seems rather that the communication of the Patristic and Scholastic
>>traditions on the Antichrist into a popular form coincided with a
>>transformation of the quality of the relationship between the Antichrist
>>and the Jew in the Medieval mind.
>
>i'm not sure what you mean.  could you explain?  and why is this a mutually
>exclusive to gow's interpretation of the role of apocalyptic expectation in
>this process of jumping from elite to popular beliefs?
>
Because this is not modern antisemitism; that is racial hatred, however
wrongly justified; but this appears more likely to be a cultural
ostracization. I agree that Gow cites some compelling evidence of a trend
growing every more ominous--but if one is to call it anti-semitism, then it
is best to define the term. If he does not mean racial hatred, but
something more generic, then it would improve the article to say as much;
but it would be even better to consider that different kinds of motivation
have different social contexts and developments. I am sure that reading
such texts now 50 years after WWII has much more significance to us that it
would have to a reader 100 years ago, on account of what has transpired
since. By extrapolation, the medievals would also be moved by it
differently. To pick up these texts to day, and say "Look, antisemitism!"
is historically accurate only if the same definition of anti-semitism is
being used to compare the phenomenon then and in the 20th century AND if
the motivation for such demonization of the Jews is racially based. If a
man hates apples because they are red and another man hates them because
they give him an allergic reaction, then it would be unreasonalbe to say
that both men suffer from the same psychological motivations. Likewise it
is not accurate to say that what Gow is citing is antisemitism, and he so
glibly jumps to this nomenclature that it is very striking indeed. As
regards elite and popular beliefs, there is a difference of motivation
based on the subcultures which form the persons in each group. To say
otherwise is to say that each group was not influenced in their motivations
by their subculture; or that those who are educated could not rise about
the non-literate culture of their day. I say can, not always will; clearly
the authors Gow cites are reflecting popular ideas more than scholastic or
patristic literary themes.


>>I think a study of the changing nature of
>>the identity of the Jew in the Western European popluar mind might have
>>more to do with the iconification of the role of Jews in Western society
>>and the reinterpretation of scriptural and patristic traditions on the
>>Antichrist and the Jew, than with a medieval invention of such a
>>relationship or a latent Christian anti-semitism.
>
>again, why are these two formulations mutually exclusive rather than two
>different aspects of the same process?

To explain a thing is to identify the cause of a thing. Since this
phenomenon did not exist in its medieval form in the classical or patristic
period, it must have a different cause: ergo in this respect the study of
the cause(s) of this phenomenon in the Medieval period excludes previously
existing candidates. There must be something novel at least in
interrelationships, if not in existence, to explain a novel phenomenon.

>  what leads to the "iconification"
>of the jews in this period, and the particular demonizing icons that become
>tropes for the jews?  there is, after all, a difference btwn the jew as
>blind synagogue with broken spear, and jew as devil -- among other things a
>shift from self-confidence (jew as impotent) to self-doubt and anxiety (jew
>as [all-] powerful).  that's one of langmuir's point about the sources of
>antisemitism.
>
To answer the question would be an great achievement of historical research.

>>One must remember to the
>>medieval the context of the dominant Christian terminology, forged from a
>>classical and patristic experience, was a medieval one and not a classical
>>or patristic one, and that therefore there was an inherent preponderance to
>>understand patristic and even scholastic discussion in a medieval context
>>rather than one governed by the canons of strict Christian theology.
>
>i don't understand this statement at all.  sorry.  can you explain?

In a culture with a dominate unity which unity (Christianity) itself is
derived from a previous and foreign origin, there is apt to be a
misinterpretation for dominate themes with contemporay themes, on account
of the cultures self-identification of itself with the very ideal it
received from a previous and foreign origin. In this case, there is
Christianity which has come to cultural dominace in the West; but not in
the same state it was in its origin in cultural terms; without a solid
scholarly understanding of this distinction it is all to easy to reread
biblical or apostolic or even patristic themes in the context of the
current social order. One sees this in the writings of that apocalyptic
Abbot of southern Italy in the 12th century, e.g., how the biblical
structure of time is superimposed on contemporary events; one sees this in
contemporary religous movements among certain groups in the USA (Aryan
Nations, etc.)

>
>>To the medieval the Jew was more a unique minority with a foreign culture
>>than a people which shared the same religious tradition from which their
>>own Christianity was based.
>
>this is a strange and far too sweeping a generalization.  all
>medievals?
>  when xn clerics consulted jewish rabbis on the textual validity
>of their biblical mss, were they thinking of them as a unique minority with
>no relationship with to their own religion?  when people claim to have the
>relic of the holy foreskin, are they ignorant of jesus' identity as a jew?

Certainly you are right: but since the literacy rate of the Medieval West
was less than 5% (correct me if I am wrong), then "more" in the above comes
to the fore, for the simple fact that everyday experience in the market
place or streets or along the byways of the country-side made it quite
clear that the Jewish people had a different culture and different
religion. Where has there every been a wide scale movement in Judaism which
has lead Jews to make it known to gentiles that they themselves are no
different than the gentiles and want to live just like them.  For this
reason I think it is not an exaggeration to say "more"

>
>>Thus it was not surprising that they were
>>demonized in the popular mind, just as foreigners and minorities have
>>always been.
>
>this is a-historical trivialization.  foreigners and minorities have rarely
>undergone the kind of systematic demonization that the jews experienced at
>the hands of european xns in the MA (that's langmuir's point).  to
>attribute things like the blood libel and the "red jews" and other beliefs
>about the jews as merely forms of prejudice against "the other" seems a bit
>superficial..

In speaking of the existence of the demonization is one thing, and the
thesis is justified by common experience; that is why minorities are
accorded special protection inasmuch as they are minorities. But the
quality of it, surely I agree with you, had its own unique motives. Do we
see the same program of demonization in any part of the world today? Then
why is that which happen in the Middle-ages so unique; back to the
principle of causality. There had always been such theological speculation
about the Antichrist and the Jews; its right there in scripture, at least
in the tradition of Christian exegisis of the patristic and scholastic
periods. But the movement took a qualitative jump in the period cited in
texts by Gow. Why?

>
>>With that, the discussions of the Antichrist and the role of
>>the Jews at the end of time in Christian theology were ripe targets for the
>>truly novel invention of anti-semitism as a racial hatred of the descendents
>>of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
>
>i'm not sure i understand what you are saying here: regular prejudice plus
>antichrist traditions leads to racial antisemitism?  if so, how does that
>differ at the simplest level, from what gow is arguing (ie that the
>antichrist tradition is the key to the transformation into a virulent
>anti-semitism).

Because this tradition in Christian writing pre-existed the period by (lets
use Augustine) 700-1300 years. If Gow is arguing that, then he'd have to
explain why the long delay from the cause to the effect.

To explain: there are at least three biblical uses of the term Jew all of
which are found in the NT; in Christian theology the methodoly in the
patristic period is exegesis, so naturally each of the uses potentially
could be transmitted. In the texts Gows cites however, by excluding the
possibility of any Jew not adhereing to the Antichrist you have a narrowing
of the term, or rather a conflation of the religious, cultural, and racial
definitions of the term Jew. With that conflation, the NT and the tradition
of the Antichrist in Christian theology and culture can be reshaped and
reinterpreted to lead to racial hatred, rather than just economic envy or
religious disagreements. So the crux of the question, it seems to me,
should be "why the narrowing of the terminology'? What was the cause of
this? I'd expect this question to be answered would require a very specific
and holisitic analysis of each authors sources and influence in writing,
audience and occasion, etc.. This all affects motivation and usage of
terms; and that is what one must address in a scientific study of the
origins of modern anti-semitism, which by definition is in practice a
motivation.

Sincerely in Christ,

Br. Alexis Bugnolo

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