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17 The Myth of Jewish Cannibalism: A Chapter in the History of Antisemitism

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Chapter Summary

The first encounters between Jews and Greeks known to us generally left among the Greeks a rather positive impression of the Jews. There is, for instance the well-known passage in the work of Aristotle's pupil, Theophrastus, in which, towards the end of the fourth century BCE, he calls the Jews 'philosophers'. It is important, for that reason, to point out that, alongside positive voices, right from the beginning of the Hellenistic era anti-Jewish voices are to be heard as well. The extreme form of defamation, stemming from an intense hatred of the Jews, was already there before Christianity arose and before theories about the racial inferiority of the Jewish nation were developed. The motif of Jewish cannibalism, whether or not preceded by a ritual murder, turned out to be very long-lived. In the Christian Middle Ages it is revivified in a variety of ways.

Keywords: anti-Jewish voices; antisemitism; Christianity; Jewish cannibalism; Jews; ritual murder



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