Zutot 2002 pp 95-101 | Cite as

From ‘Jacob or Esau?’ to ‘Has the Messiah Come?’ Controversies between Jews and Christians as Reflected in Bible Exegesis

  • Hanne Trautner-Kromann
Part of the Zutot: Perspectives on Jewish Culture book series (ZUTO, volume 2)


The history of controversies between Jews and Christians is long and varied. As early as the New Testament there are traces of anti-Jewish polemic, and in subsequent centuries a number of Christian writings appeared with the aim of persuading Jews and Gentiles (and presumably also the Christians themselves) of the truth of the Christian religion. The Christians interpreted the Jewish scriptures allegorically, typologically and Christologically, reading texts and events as statements about … or prophecies of … Jesus, Christianity and the Christians. The Christians claimed to be the ‘new’, the ‘true’, or the ‘spiritual’ Israel, while Jews were the ‘carnal’ Israel or had completely forfeited the right to bear the name of Israel. This development is clearly seen in the writings of the Church fathers and in the texts called ‘Adversus ]udaeos’.1 Some Christian scholars and clerics were interested in Jewish Bible exegesis and had access to Jewish texts, and some even studied Hebrew with Jewish scholars. Nicholas de Lyra and through him also Martin Luther were influenced by Jewish traditions but this did not stop the Christian polemics. On the contrary, in the centuries after the Protestant Reformation the Christian study of Jewish literature and Hebrew and the increased contact with Jews led to even more polemics and mission to the Jews.


Shield Al1d Jewish Tradition Christian Religion Lineal Descendant Church Father 
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  1. 1.
    See for example H. Schreckenberg, Die christlichen Adver sus-Judaeos-Texte und ihr literarisches und historisches Umfeld (I.-II.Jh.). Europäische Hochschulschriften, Theologie 172, (Frankfurt a. Main 1982), idem, Die christlichen Adver sus-Judaeos-Texte (II.-I3.Jh.): Mit einer Ikonographie des Judenthemas bis zum 4. Laterankonzil. Europäische Hochschulschriften, Theologie 335. (Frankfurt a. Main 1991), and M. Simon, Verus Israel. A Study of the Relations between Christians and Jews in the Roman Empire AD 135-425. Eng. trans. H. McKeating (London 1992).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See my study Shield and Sword. Jewish Polemics against Christianity and the Christians in France and Spain from 1100-1500. Texts and Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Judaism 8 (Tübingen 1993) and its bibliography.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    T.B. Falls, ed., ‘Saint Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho’, in idem, The Fathers of the Church vol. 6 (Washington D.C. 1948) 356. For the discussion about ‘Jacob or Esau’, see also J. Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb. Perceptions of Jews and Christians (Hebr.), (Tel Aviv 2001).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    H. Freedman and M. Simon, eds, ‘Midrash Rabbah, Genesis’, Toledoth 63.6-7 (London 1939; 1961) 561.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Trautner-Kromann, Shield and Sword, 142.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Pelikan, ed., Martin Luther: Luther’s Works. Volume 4. Lectures on Genesis (Saint Louis 1964) 368.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    This did not prevent Luther from totally condemning and rejecting the Jews in his treatise against the Jews in 1543 On the Jews and their Lies. Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Trautner-Kromann, Shield and Sword, 123-132.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid., 130.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See A. Posnanski, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Messiaslehre (Leipzig 1904).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    See examples in Trautner-Kromann, Shield and Sword, 147-148, 166, 171-175.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    J.H. Callenberg, Beriebt an einige Christliche Freunde…, Fortsetzung seines Berichts.… Andere Auflage (Halle 1733) 21 and 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hanne Trautner-Kromann
    • 1
  1. 1.Lund UniversitySweden

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