Cursing the Christians?: A History of the Birkat HaMinim

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Oxford University Press, USA, Jan 12, 2012 - History - 389 pages
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Ruth Langer offers an in-depth study of the birkat haminim, a Jewish prayer for the removal of those categories of human being who prevent the messianic redemption and the society envisioned for it. In its earliest form, the prayer cursed Christians, apostates to Christianity, sectarians, and enemies of Israel. Drawing on the shifting liturgical texts, polemics, and apologetics concerning the prayer, Langer traces the transformation of the birkat haminim from what functioned without question in the medieval world as a Jewish curse of Christians, through its early modern censorship by Christians, to its modern transformation within the Jewish world into a general petition that God remove evil from the world. Christian censorship played a crucial role in this transformation of the prayer; however, Langer argues that the truest transformation in meaning resulted from Jewish integration into Western culture. Eventually, the prayer shed its references to any specific category of human being and lost its function as a curse. Reconciliation between Jews and Christians today requires both communities to confront a long history of prejudice. Ruth Langer shows through the birkat haminim how the history of one liturgical text chronicled Jewish thinking about Christians over hundreds of years.
 

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Contents

Introduction
3
Late Antiquity
16
The Period of the Geonim and the Geniza
40
3 The Birkat HaMinim in Europe of the High Middle Ages
66
Early Modern Realities
102
Changes by Choice to the Text
139
Afterword
183
Geniza Texts of the Birkat HaMinim
187
Censored Texts of the Birkat HaMinim 1550 to the Present
221
Texts of the Liberal Movements
247
Abbreviations
255
Notes
257
Glossary
353
Bibliography of Secondary Sources
355
Primary Source Index
373
Subject Index
379

Evidence for the Birkat HaMinim in the PreSephardized Rites of the Muslim World
197
Uncensored Medieval European Texts of the Birkat HaMinim
203

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About the author (2012)


Ruth Langer is Associate Professor of Jewish Studies in the Theology Department at Boston College and Associate Director of its Center for Christian-Jewish Learning. She received her Ph.D. in 1994 from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Her research and writing focuses on Jewish liturgy and Christian-Jewish relations.

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