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Marks of Distinctions

Christian Perceptions of Jews in the High Middle Ages

Irven M. Resnick

Publication Year: 2012

Through the use of several illustrations from illuminated manuscripts and other media, Resnick engages readers in a discussion of the later medieval notion of Jewish difference.

Published by: The Catholic University of America Press


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Title Page

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

In the course of my research, I have benefitted from the assistance of countless librarians and scholars. Much of this work was completed during my many research visits to the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, for whose hospitality I remain grateful. Thanks...

List of Abbreviations

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p. xi


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pp. 1-12

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1. Introduction to Medieval Physiognomy

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pp. 13-52

The term anti-Semitism was coined at the end of the nineteenth century to designate a seemingly modern phenomenon— a rational, secular theory of Jewish inferiority and Jewish evil said to be distinct from an older and much discredited religious hostility. It is very likely...

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2. Physical Deformities and Circumcision

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pp. 53-92

It is a medieval commonplace that the soul directly moves or acts upon the body, but the body only indirectly influences or acts upon the soul. Consequently, although bodily deformities or illness need not imply a corresponding corrupt state in the soul, one expects...

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3. The Jews and Leprosy

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pp. 93-143

If the Jews’ alleged licentiousness and sexual appetite “feminized” them in some sense, it also tended to assimilate them to another marginalized group in the Middle Ages: namely, lepers. Both constituted at times a pariah minority. Although medieval lepers suffered from...

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4. The Dietary Laws, Food, and Illicit Sexualitiy

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pp. 144-174

It may be worthwhile here to consider the dietary laws and to examine their role in Christian-Jewish polemical encounters. These laws indicate the foods that Jews may or may not eat, according to a basic taxonomy of animals found in the world: that is, animals of the...

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5. The Jews and Melancholy

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pp. 175-214

Although certain foods, corrupt air, or illicit sexual encounters might introduce leprosy, physicians seeking its natural causes also sought an acceptable explanation in the language of Galenic humoralism. Already we have seen that the four bodily humors are related to the four...

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6. Planetary Influences; or, the Jews and Saturn

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pp. 215-267

Even for the Roman historians Tacitus (d. 117) and Dio Cassius (d. 235) a link was presumed to exist between the Jews and Saturn. According to the Roman author Frontinus (d. 103) in a report repeated by Dio Cassius, it was on the day most sacred to the Jews, namely,...

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7. Case Studies Revealing a Jewish Physiognomy

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pp. 268-319

If personal names alone were not often sufficiently distinct to separate Jew and Christian, what about physical appearance and, in particular, skin coloring or what today we would call “complexion”? Here again, as already indicated, some of our evidence suggests that Jews...

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pp. 320-324

The Jews’ saturnine, melancholy nature is not to be explained simply by exterior influences attached to a particular clime, that is, by the “environmental thesis.” Rather, it seems that their complexional nature is also determined, for many Christian thinkers, by the...


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pp. 325-378


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pp. 379-385

E-ISBN-13: 9780813219707
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813219691

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 814705622
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Marks of Distinctions

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Judaism -- Relations -- Christianity.
  • Christianity and other religions -- Judaism.
  • Physiognomy -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Human body -- Social aspects -- Europe.
  • Human body -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Church history -- Middle Ages, 600-1500
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