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Anti-Judaism and a Hermeneutic of the Flesh

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A Converso Debate in Fifteenth-Century Spain

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This article investigates the manifestations of anti-Judaism that informed fifteenth-century debates over the religious and civic status of the conversos. Insurgents in Toledo supported the persecution of the conversos and their exclusion from public life by insisting on their continued Jewishness despite baptism. Documents such as the “Petition” and the “Sentencia-Estatuto” issued by the rebel regime, the “Appeal and Supplication” written by Marcos García de Mora, and the anonymous “Privilege,” show that the conversos’ opponents developed a hermeneutic of the flesh founded in a reading of the epistles of Paul and informed by their own particular historical context. This hermeneutic afforded the conversos’ opponents a theological basis for shutting certain baptized Christians out of Spanish society based on their carnal descent, weaving race into Christian theology. So useful a conceptual and rhetorical tool was anti-Judaism, however, that even converso defenders employed it as a weapon against their opponents.

Affiliations: 1: Divinity School, University of Chicago, Brookings, SD, USA


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