The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism

By Brown, Michael L. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 1999 | Go to article overview

The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism


Brown, Michael L., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism. By Dan Cohn-Sherbok. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; American Interfaith Institute and the World Alliance of Interfaith Organizations, 1997, xx + 258, $18.00 paper.

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, the author or editor of more than forty books, a number of which are devoted to Jewish-Christian dialogue, has produced a lucid and pointed summary of the painful history of "Christian" anti-Semitism. Presenting a devastating array of material, Cohn-Sherbok draws a straight line from the pages of the NT to the Holocaust and beyond, yet he does so with a uirenic tone, always willing to point to examples of Christian leaders (including medieval popes) who stood up for fair treatment of the Jews. Moreover, the purpose of his book is constructive and redemptive, believing that now is the time for Christians and Jews to come to a place of understanding and mutual affirmation. The fact that this unchanged reprint of the original 1992 edition (Harper Collins) is jointly published by Eerdmans, the American Interfaith Institute and the World Alliance of Interfaith Organizations makes it imperative that evangelicals assess the accuracy and implications of this book, as well as come to grips with the shameful legacy of anti-Semitism in the Church.

After a thorough introduction in which each of the book's 18 chapters are conveniently summarized, Cohn-Sherbok moves systematically from "anti-Judaism" in the NT to the Adversos Judaeos of the Church Fathers, the Inquisitions, blood libels, and Crusades of the Middle Ages, the demonization of the Jews in European culture, and 20th-century anti-Semitism, including, of course, the Holocaust. While there is virtually nothing new that is presented here (the author acknowledges his debt in particular to Leon Poliakov and Rosemary Radford Ruether on p. xi), the special contribution of Cohn-Sherbok's volume is the richness of the material presented, always with reference to Christianity as the thread that ties all these variant manifestations of Jew-hatred together. Thus, while he recognizes the existence of pre-Christian, pagan anti-Semitism, he claims that it is only with the writing of the NT that "Jews come to be viewed as contemptible and demonic" (p. 1). Moreover, his quotations from the Church Fathers (including illustrious names such as Chrysostom and Augustine) not only prove shocking reading for the uninitiated evangelical but seem to back his claim that it was influential leaders such as these who paved the way for subsequent Judeophobia.

Unfortunately, Cohn-Sherbok provides no documentation at all throughout his book, a fact that is especially bothersome in chapters when even a reference to a quoted primary source (such as a Church Father) would have been extremely helpful.

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