Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters

Article excerpt

Jewish Dogs: An Image and Its Interpreters. By Kenneth Stow. [Stanford Studies in Jewish History and Culture.] (Stanford: Stanford University Press. 2006.Pp. xxii, 316. $55.00.)

Kenneth Stow remains one of the best interpreters of medieval Christian attitudes toward the Jews. In this magnificent contribution of the representation of the Jews in Catholic (Christian) theology from the early Church through the late Middle Ages, Stow takes a theme: that of "Jewish dogs" (the Jews as dogs) as a means of exploring the dehumanization of the Jews as a collective in Western Christendom. Stow uses this theme to discuss everything from the history of the "irrationality" of the Jews to their status as social pariahs. CentraUy he is concerned with how and why such images lead to specific actions against the Jewish coUective.

Focusing on the period of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and on the Belgian Jesuit Bollandists and then specifically on Richard of Pontoise and Philip Augustus, Stow spins a complex and intricate tale of how Judaism is constructed as the antithesis not only of Christianity, but as a product of a subhuman group defined as much by their "essence" as by their religious practice. The theories of supersession, of how Christianity replaced Judaism in the Divine Order, so well articulated by Augustine in De Doctrina Christiana, comes to be understood as a concept of natural law.

If the Jews had to vanish, their refusal to do so, which so puzzled Hegel in the early nineteenth century, can only be explained by the blindness (to use Paul's word) of the Jews. …

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