By David Nirenberg
Via so much of Western eu historical past, Jews were a numerically tiny or fullyyt absent minority, yet throughout that background Europeans have still fearful greatly approximately Judaism. Why may still that be so? This brief yet powerfully argued e-book means that Christian anxieties approximately their very own transcendent beliefs made Judaism a huge software for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized by means of prizing soul over flesh, the non secular over the literal, the heavenly over the actual world—came to phrases with the inescapable value of physique, language, and fabric issues during this global.
Nirenberg indicates how turning the Jew right into a personification of worldly over non secular matters, floor over internal which means, allowed cultures prone towards transcendence to appreciate even their such a lot materialistic practices as religious. targeting artwork, poetry, and politics—three actions specially condemned as worldly in early Christian culture—he finds how, during the last thousand years, those actions however extended the possibility of their very own life inside Christian tradition simply because they have been used to symbolize Judaism. Nirenberg attracts on an astonishingly diversified number of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the jobs performed by way of representations of Jewish “enemies” within the construction of Western paintings, tradition, and politics, from the traditional international to the current day.
This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways that Christian cultures have created themselves through considering Judaism will entice the broadest diversity of students of faith, artwork, literature, political thought, media thought, and the historical past of Western civilization extra generally.
Hardcover is un-jacketed.
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Extra resources for Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics
But there were also plenty of Old Christian critics of images to be found, such as Alfonso de Madrigal, alias “el Tostado” (1400–1445), widely admired as the most prolific scholar of his age. And even the most canonical defenders of images in Christian worship, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, had nevertheless worried about the dangers they posed, and emphasized the viewer’s responsibility to achieve the various orientations of the will necessary to view them appropriately, as signs rather than as things.
Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that it and the outside are both clean. Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of corruption. In just the same way, from the outside you look upright, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matt. 23:5, 26–28). In this passage there swirls about the figure of the Pharisee — who will return in our chapters on poetry and politics — an extreme confusion between appearance and truth, beauty and meaning, material exterior and spiritual interior.
20 We are seeing here the emergence of new figures of Judaism produced by changes in Christian aesthetics and devotional media. It is worth stressing here that the emergence of such mediatic figures of Judaism could transform the ways in which Christians perceived and treated living Jews. Transformations in the use of Christian images in the early eleventh century produced new representations of Jews as opponents of those images, representations that were in turn projected onto Jews in the flesh.
Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics by David Nirenberg