Constantine's Sword
eBook - ePub

Constantine's Sword

The Church and the Jews, A History

James Carroll

  1. 780 pages
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

Constantine's Sword

The Church and the Jews, A History

James Carroll

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About This Book

The "monumental" New York Times bestseller in which a Catholic explores the problem of anti-Semitism through Church history ( The Washington Post ).

A Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and a New York Times Notable Book

In this "masterly history" ( Time ), National Book Award-winning author James Carroll maps the profoundly troubling two-thousand-year course of the Church's battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has provoked in his own life as a Catholic.

More than a chronicle of religion, this dark history is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture. The Church's failure to protest the Holocaust — the infamous "silence" of Pius XII — is only part of the story: the death camps, Carroll shows, are the culmination of a long, entrenched tradition of anti-Judaism. From Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus on the cross, to Constantine's transformation of the cross into a sword, to the rise of blood libels, scapegoating, and modern anti-Semitism, Carroll reconstructs the dramatic story of the Church's conflict not only with Jews but with itself. Yet in tracing the arc of this narrative, he implicitly affirms that it did not necessarily have to be so. There were roads not taken, heroes forgotten; new roads can be taken yet. Demanding that the Church finally face this past in full, Carroll calls for a fundamental rethinking of the deepest questions of Christian faith. Only then can Christians, Jews, and all who carry the burden of this history begin to forge a new future.

"Carroll discusses the history of Christian-Jewish relations honestly, touchingly, and personally…Carroll investigates his own prejudices as a believing Christian, a former Catholic priest, and a long-time civil rights activist. As he unearths history (using all the best sources), he also encounters emotions he didn't realize he had and shows how his historical journey was also a personal pilgrimage of faith."— Booklist

"A triumph."— Atlantic Monthly

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Agenda Item 1: Anti-Judaism in the New Testament

“HOMO SAPIENS is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority,” the novelist Joyce Carol Oates once commented, “then forgets that symbols are inventions.”1 The first followers of Jesus were no less human than the rest of us, and we saw that this is more or less what they did. Recall that after Jesus died, his friends quickly came to understand him in Jewish apocalyptic terms, expecting him to return soon, ushering in the End Time. This is why, for example, Paul counseled his readers to forgo marriage, not because he was antisex but because so little time remained that procreation, an ultimate investment in the open future, had ceased to have meaning. The assumed imminence of Christ’s return informed the first Christians’ readiness, even eagerness, to offer their lives as martyrs. The cult of martyrdom and apocalyptic longing go hand in hand.
It is impossible to imagine that the members of a new Vatican Council could return to the early second century and undo what was done after Marcion—the “tragic mistake,” as some scholars call it, of the formalizing of the New Testament canon, which institutionalized, from the Christian side, the split between Judaism and Christianity. The road not taken then might have led to a religious collaboration between evolving rabbinic Judaism and nascent Christianity, with some kind of mutual notion of the one covenant, binding both currents to the broader stream of the one Israel. But only in science fiction do people get to relive such choices and follow such roads to other, wished-for outcomes. There is no changing the fact, in other words, that Christianity and Judaism are separate religions, each with distinct integrity that the other must respect. But by recalling that this real outcome, which after all was imagined neither by Jesus nor by Paul, was the result of contingent human choices made in response to accidents of history, the members of Vatican III could understand that no purpose of God’s was served by the “parting of the ways,” and that no conclusions about the superiority of one religion or the other should be drawn from it. Furthermore, Vatican III must affirm in the clearest terms what has so far been indicated only obliquely, at the level of theology, not official Church teaching—namely, that while Judaism exists without essential reference to Christianity, the reverse is not the case. The God of Jesus Christ, and therefore of the Church, is the God of Israel. The Jews remain the chosen people of God. The Jewish rejection of Jesus as the Son of God is an affirmation of faith that Christians must respect.

Table of contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Contents
  3. Copyright
  4. Dedications
  5. Epigraph
  7. Sign of Folly
  8. Stumbling Block to Jews
  9. The Journey
  10. My Mother’s Clock
  11. Passion Play
  12. My Rabbi
  13. Between Past and Future
  15. My Great-Uncle
  16. Jesus, a Jew?
  17. The Threshold Stone
  18. Destroy This Temple
  19. The Healing Circle
  20. Paul, the Martyr of Shalom
  21. Parting of the Ways
  22. The Lachrymose Tradition: A Cautionary Note
  24. The Heart of This Story Is a Place
  25. The Story of Constantine
  26. The Cross and the Religious Imagination
  27. The Vision of Constantine
  28. The True Cross
  29. Augustine Trembling
  30. The Seamless Robe
  31. The Danger of Ambivalence
  33. The War of the Cross
  34. The Incident in Trier
  35. Mainz Anonymous
  36. The Blood Libel
  37. Anselm: Why God Became Man
  38. Abelard and Héloïse
  39. Thomas Aquinas: Reason Against the Jews
  41. One Road
  42. My Inquisition
  43. Convivencia to Reconquista
  44. Convert-Making: The Failure of Success
  45. Expulsion in 1492
  46. The Roman Ghetto
  47. The Religious Response of the Jews
  48. Shema Yisrael!
  50. Karl Marx, Second Son of Trier
  51. Spinoza: From Rabbis to Revolution
  52. Voltaire and the False Promise of Emancipation
  53. Jew as Revolutionary, Jew as Financier
  54. Revolution in Rome: The Pope’s Jews
  55. Alfred Dreyfus and La Croix
  56. The Uses of Antisemitism
  57. Lucie and Madeleine
  59. From Christian Anti-Judaism to Eliminationist Antisemitism
  60. Setting a Standard: The Church Against Bismarck
  61. Eugenio Pacelli and the Surrender of German Catholicism
  62. The Seamless Robe in 1933
  63. Maria Laach and Reichstheologie
  64. Pius XII: Last Days of the Roman Ghetto
  65. Edith Stein and Catholic Memory
  67. The Broad Relevance of Catholic Reform
  68. Agenda for a New Reformation
  69. Agenda Item 1: Anti-Judaism in the New Testament
  70. Agenda Item 2: The Church and Power
  71. Agenda Item 3: A New Christology
  72. Agenda Item 4: The Holiness of Democracy
  73. Agenda Item 5: Repentance
  74. Epilogue: The Faith of a Catholic
  75. Acknowledgments
  76. Chronology
  77. Notes
  78. Bibliography
  79. Index
  80. About the Author
  81. Connect with HMH
Citation styles for Constantine's Sword

APA 6 Citation

Carroll, J. (2002). Constantine’s Sword ([edition unavailable]). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Retrieved from (Original work published 2002)

Chicago Citation

Carroll, James. (2002) 2002. Constantine’s Sword. [Edition unavailable]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Harvard Citation

Carroll, J. (2002) Constantine’s Sword. [edition unavailable]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).

MLA 7 Citation

Carroll, James. Constantine’s Sword. [edition unavailable]. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.