Actual Origin of Blood-Libel anti-Jewish Accusations

Review of Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, by Israel Jacob Yuval. 2006. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis
The Reciprocal Enmity of Judaism and Christianity From the Beginning. Exterminatory Wishes Clarified
Israeli Jewish author Israel Jacob Yuval originally wrote this book in Hebrew. This work is the English translation.
To begin with, Yuval does not see Christianity as a daughter religion of Judaism. Instead, he sees BOTH Christianity and Talmudic Judaism as daughter religions of Biblical Judaism–the latter of which ended with the destruction of the Temple in 70 C. E. (p. 27). Thus, Christianity and Mishnaic Judaism were sister religions that formed against a common backdrop of subjugation and destruction. (p. 69).
When there are parallels or similarities between early Christian and early Jewish (Midrashic) accounts, the Christian accounts are customarily assumed to be derived from the Jewish ones, even if the latter are centuries younger than the former. Yuval rejects such thinking, and allows for Jewish accounts to have been copied from Christian ones. (p. 69).
Nowadays, we commonly hear that Judaism had no inherent hostility to Christianity, and reacted belatedly against it only in response to persecution by Christians. The truth is rather different. We learn from Yuval that, notwithstanding the rarity of obvious Jewish polemical literature against Christianity in the first eight centuries of their coexistence (p. 26), the Jewish polemics was more subtle. (p. 27). In addition, the hostility between the two religions began long before Christians had acquired the political power to be in a position to persecute Jews. In fact, in pagan Rome, Christians were persecuted while Jews had the legal status of RELIGIO LICITA. (p. 208).
Yuval summarizes the situation as follows, (quote) The basic premise of this book is that the polemics between Judaism and Christianity during the first centuries of the Common Era, in all their varieties and nuances, played a substantial role in the mutual formation of the two religions. Here I am referring not only to an explicit and declared polemic, but to a broad panorama of expressions that include, particularly from the Jewish side, allusions, ambiguities, denials, refutations, and at times also internalization and quiet agreement. (unquote). (p. xvii).
For example, the Midrashic literature opposes Christian teachings not by direct rebuttal, but by presenting alternative stories that negate the Christian versions. (p.51). The early hostility of Judaism to the new Christian religion can be generalized. Yuval, referring to the Tannaim (Rabbinic sages of the Mishnaic Period: 10-210 C. E.), comments, (quote) Confrontation with Christianity in general, and with Jewish Christianity in particular, was at the heart of tannaitic concerns, as may be seen in the sources and scholarly literature. I shall mention here only the most prominent studies… (unquote). (p. 61).
Christians understood the Roman destruction of the Temple as an act of divine vengeance for the Crucifixion of Christ. Jews saw the guilt of pagan Rome in the destruction of the Temple, which they juxtaposed Rome with Edom. (p. 32). Later, Christian Rome became Edom–the continuation of pagan Rome. (p. 274).
Yuval confirms the sometimes-denied fact that the Talmud refers derisively to Jesus Christ. He comments, (quote) Indeed, in several places the identification of Balaam with Jesus is clearly called for (e. g, in B. SANHEDRIN 106b), while other sources clearly speak of two distinct figures (as in B. GITTIN 57a–in the uncensored version the reading there is “Jesus” rather than “the sinners of Israel”, as in the Vilna edition.) (p. 293). The author also confirms that the sentence of boiling in feces (B. GITTIN 57a) applies to Jesus Christ, and that Jews interpreted it as such, going far back into history. (pp. 196-197).
Some commentators have gone as far as suggesting that Christianity is inherently intolerant of Jews and Judaism (perhaps even in a proto-Nazi exterminatory sense), because the very existence of Judaism is a negation of the raison d’etre of Christianity. However, Yuval notes that this goes both ways, (quote) To be a “Jew” meant, in the most profound sense, to adopt a religious identity that competed with Christianity, and vice versa. Or, to adopt the formulation of the late Jacob Katz, the veracity of one religion depended on the negation of the other. (unquote). (p. 25).
The author describes in considerable detail the imprecations against gentiles, directed to God and spoken by Jews, in the face of persecution by Christians, notably during and after the First Crusade. They called upon God to kill indiscriminately and ruthlessly. (p. 120).
Yuval points out that these Jewish attitudes went far beyond the pain and anger of persecution, and became more or less a mainstay of Jewish thinking. He comments, (quote) Two arguments may be adduced to refute the explanation of Goldschmidt and Freimann, who tended to see these curses as a direct response to the distress and suffering of Ashkenazic Jewry. The first is that this is a standard ritual transplanted into the landscape of Ashkenazic prayer. Even if the texts were created against the backdrop of great disaster, there is a far-reaching significance to their repetition year after year, even in times of calm and tranquility…We are dealing here with a comprehensive religious ideology that sees vengeance as a central component of its messianic doctrine. (unquote). (pp. 122-123).
In addition, the hostility of Jews against Christianity was not limited to matters surrounding Christian conduct against Jews. It was directed against the Christian religion EN TOTO. For instance, Rabbi Yitzhak of Corbeil denounced Christians as idolaters. (p. 204). Of the many anti-Christian stories told by Jews, there was one in which the account of King Solomon and the two whores (I Kings 3:16) was changed so that Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of Jesus, were the two whores. (p. 194).
The author does not mention Martin Luther’s infamous work, THE JEWS AND THEIR LIES. However, the information presented by Yuval makes it easy to see why Luther condemned the defamation and blasphemies directed by Jews against Jesus and Mary.
Yuval first describes the essential difference between Jewish and Christian concepts of martyrdom. Unlike the Christian concept, the Jewish one allows for suicide and even the killing of one’s own children. This is done not only to prevent them from converting to another religion, but also to increase the amount of martyr’s blood that was shed, thereby hastening God’s retribution against the Jews’ enemies. (p. 139).
The large scale of Jews killing their own children, during the martyrdom engendered during the First Crusade in 1096, made a deep impression upon both Jews and Christians. (p. 162). For Jews, this event tied into messianic visions of vengeance.
Although accusations of ritual murder go back to antiquity, they greatly increased against Jews after 1096, especially in Germany and England. Yuval senses the connection to the Jewish martyrdom during the First Crusade. For Christians, the willingness of Jews to kill their own children, in an act of sacrifice and sanctification, became readily mutated into a belief that they would kill Christian children as part of their messianic-oriented ritual sanctification. (p. 164).
Accusations of Jews throwing the Host (the Body of Christ), and Christian babies, into boiling water probably originated from a misunderstanding of the Passover Jewish custom of “kashering” (scalding) of vessels. The Christians juxtaposed this purification custom with Jewish messianic concepts of vengeance against Christians. (pp. 182-185).
With reference to Passover, Yuval describes the Ashkenazic custom of mixing wine into the HAROSET in order to recount the Talmudic teaching of the mortar mixed in with the blood of Jewish babies in Egypt. He adds that, (quote) The Jews were accused of the ritual murder of Christian children as part of the Passover ceremonies, and of preparing matzah with the blood of Christian children. This accusation, which seems to us both terrifying and bizarre, here acquires a coherent context. The Jews–like the Christians–attributed a mythic meaning, in their religious rites, to red wine and to the human blood that it symbolizes. When the Christians accused Jews of using blood to bake matzot, they were perhaps thinking of the HAROSET, in which wine (i. e. blood) is of great importance and which, along with the nuts (i. e., bricks) symbolizes the mortar. Such a thought must not have been alien to the Christian imagination, in which wine also symbolizes (or is tantamount to) the blood of the Savior, while the bread is his body. (unquote). (p. 254).
Yuval points out that, whereas Christianity never sought the systematic extermination of Jews as collective punishment for the Crucifixion of Christ, European Judaism did seek the systematic extermination of Christians (by the hand of God) as collective punishment for the pogroms during the Crusades. Yuval, having just finished an extensive discussion of such things as the accusations of ritual murder, and the blood libels, assesses all this as follows, (quote) Jewish messianism plays an important role in understanding the mechanisms that triggered Christian fantasies about the Jews. There is a tragic asymmetry between the messianic expectations of Christians and of Jews. The Christians awaited the conversion to Christianity of the Jews, while the Jews anticipated the destruction of Christianity…Thus, the Jewish messianic fantasy played a major role in shaping Christian anti-Semitic fantasies. (unquote). (p. 289).

By piotrbein