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Lauren F. Winner


Killing Jesus All Over Again

How medieval stories about desecrating the Eucharist were used to justify the murder of Jews.

This is the third installment in a five-part series.

Part 1 [November/December 2000], "Living by Law, Looking for Intimacy," explored what Christians can learn from the debates that divide American Jews, taking as a point of departure Samuel G. Freedman's book, Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry.

Part 2 [January/February 2001], "God of Abraham—and Saint Paul," focused on the pathbreaking "Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity" published last fall in the New York Times and the book of essays it occasioned, Christianity in Jewish Terms, edited by Tikva Frymer-Kensky, David Novak, Peter Ochs, David Fox Sandmel, and Michael A. Signer.

Next, part 4 will discuss German Jews, Edith Stein in particular.

Part 5 concludes the series with Messianic Judiaism.

Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History, by James Carroll, Houghton Mifflin, 576 pp.; $28

Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews, by Miri Rubin, Yale University Press, 266 pp.; $35

What would it mean for Christians to rethink their history with respect to the Jews? James Carroll—former Catholic priest and author of many books, both fiction and nonfiction—has one answer. In his new book, Constantine's Sword, he surveys the centuries since Christ and concludes that Christianity's rejection of the Jews was a fatal flaw at the very beginning of the long history of the church. "Almost every single tenet of Christianity, every single orthodoxy about Jesus, is wrong, says Carroll," an admiring reviewer reports.[1] In Carroll's own words, what we learn from history is that Christians must fashion a new theology "without Golgotha, redemption, or sacrifice," a Christianity which has divested itself of the claim that salvation comes through Christ.

Christians are unlikely to be persuaded, unless they have already all but checked out of the faith. How easy it would be, then, given Carroll's agenda, for believers to reassure themselves that they ...

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