Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian by David Nirenberg

By David Nirenberg

Via such a lot of Western eu background, Jews were a numerically tiny or solely absent minority, yet throughout that historical past Europeans have still apprehensive greatly approximately Judaism. Why should still that be so? This brief yet powerfully argued publication means that Christian anxieties approximately their very own transcendent beliefs made Judaism a major software for Christianity, as an apocalyptic religion—characterized via prizing soul over flesh, the religious over the literal, the heavenly over the actual world—came to phrases with the inescapable significance of physique, language, and fabric issues during this global.

Nirenberg exhibits how turning the Jew right into a personification of worldly over religious issues, floor over internal which means, allowed cultures prone towards transcendence to appreciate even their such a lot materialistic practices as religious. concentrating on 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 multiplied the possibility of their very own life inside of Christian tradition simply because they have been used to symbolize Judaism. Nirenberg attracts on an astonishingly varied number of poets, painters, preachers, philosophers, and politicians to reconstruct the jobs performed through representations of Jewish “enemies” within the production of Western paintings, tradition, and politics, from the traditional global to the current day.

This erudite and tightly argued survey of the ways that Christian cultures have created themselves via considering Judaism will attract the broadest diversity of students of faith, paintings, literature, political concept, media conception, and the heritage of Western civilization extra generally.

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Extra resources for Aesthetic Theology and Its Enemies: Judaism in Christian Painting, Poetry, and Politics

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A lamb lies at his feet, and a river flows from his throne through the garden: a pictorial representation of the verse from the Apocalypse “procedentem de sede Dei et Agni” (Rev. 22:1, “the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb”). The river descends until it empties into a fountain outside the walls of paradise. Those walls, with turrets left and right, separate paradise from the painting’s ground floor: the terrestrial antechamber or forecourt, so to speak, of the heavenly city.

4:15: “Fountain of the garden, well of living water”). 3 (plate 2) Jan van Eyck, The Fountain of Grace, or the Dispute between Church and Synagogue, workshop of Jan van Eyck, Prado Museum, Madrid. Photo courtesy of Album /Art Resource, NY. 4 Detail of river and scroll, The Fountain of Grace, or the Dispute between Church and Synagogue, workshop of Jan van Eyck, Prado Museum, Madrid. Photo courtesy of Album /Art Resource, NY. 4). On the left a pope stands by the fountain, surrounded by Christian clerics, cardinals, and kings; on the right a group of Jews, surrounding their high priest.

18 All of these practices were controversial, and the controversy was itself often represented as a conflict between Christian and Jew. The earliest Western medieval example I know of comes from circa 1010 CE, when Henry, a cleric in the employ of the Emperor Henry II (r. 19 He did so by staging an epistolary debate with one Wecelin, who had supposedly been so disturbed by the use of images in Christian devotion that he had converted to Judaism. We may never know whether Wecelin really existed and, if he did, whether he was really a convert to Judaism.

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