Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisee

By Elukin, Jonathan | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2002 | Go to article overview

Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible Moralisee


Elukin, Jonathan, The Catholic Historical Review


Images of Intolerance: The Representation of Jews and Judaism in the Bible moralisee. By Sara Lipton. (Berkeley: University of California Press. 1999. Pp. xvi, 241. $60.00.)

Images of Intolerance is a learned and provocative book that offers daring readings of the two earliest surviving thirteenth-century manuscripts of the Bible moralisee-one crafted (1220-1229) for Louis IX and the second in vernacular for a member of the royal court. In order to understand the meaning of the striking and often negative presentation of Jews in the two manuscripts (Vienna ONB cod. 1179 and 2554), Upton devotes separate chapters to these aspects of the illustrations: the general image of the Jew, the connection between Jews and money, the representation of the Old Law, the relationship between Jews and heretics, and ideology about converting the Jews. The chapters are linked by the argument that the bibles reveal a growing anti-Jewish polemical discourse in the thirteenth century. Lipton also suggests that this imagery may have echoes in the anti-Jewish sentiments found later among Dominicans, well known for their anti-Jewish animus. Indeed, Lipton believes that "the form and requirements of popular preaching-the need to simplify, concretize, and make immediately relevant an abstract message for the benefit of a lay audienceparallel the form and requirements of the Bible moralisee to a remarkable degree" (p. 80). Moreover, the interplay of text and image created its own organically growing anti-Jewish message: "No individual roundel or text conveys a radical change in ideology or doctrine; rather, it is the cumulative effect of the piling on, broadening, and deepening of the anti-Jewish themes and their use as signs for new and diverse activities that create the impression of a powerful and innovative anti-Jewish program. This effect arises from the particular nature of the manuscript form" (pp. 138-139). It is, of course, hard to test such an interpretation, but Lipton's argument suggests that scholars of anti-Judaism might look to the history of the book as fertile new territory.

The emphasis on seeking a cause for anti-Jewish polemic may obscure an equally interesting insight that extends the significance of the bibles beyond their connection to the Jews. Lipton makes a very good case, although rather as an aside, that the images of the Jews are used to organize and focus indictments of Christian sins that were viewed as Jewish, including the reading of Scripture in a literal way without the guidance of the Church. …

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