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Blood Libel - A History of Groundless Anti-Semitic Fables


Quotation from a deluded, American, 19th century Vice-consul:

"A most barbarous secret for a long time suspected in the Jewish nation...at last came to light in the city of Damascus, that of serving themselves of Christian blood in their unleavened bread...a secret which these 1840 years must have made many unfortunate victims."  Jasper Chasseaud, US vice-consul, Beirut, Lebanon, 1840 CE.


The Blood Libel Myth:

Fables surround us. Almost everyone has heard of zombies, but it is incredibly difficult (perhaps impossible) to find a person who has actually seen one. It is said that millions of people have seen UFOs. But nobody seems to have actually taken a clear, detailed picture of one. Many people have heard of the full-size alligators living in the New York City sewer system, but nobody seems to have come across one first-hand. Fables also exist in the religious field. Perhaps the most common, and probably the most long-lasting and hurtful is the "Blood Libel" myth.

Blood Libel is the accusation by "religious group A" that "religious group B" is committing unbelievably despicable acts of ritual murder. Typically, the story contains a number of riveting details:


Blood Libel Accusations Against Jews:

In 1144 CE, an unfounded rumor began in eastern England, that Jews had kidnapped a Christian child, tied him to a cross, stabbed his head to simulate Jesus' crown of thorns, killed him, drained his body completely of blood, and mixed the blood into matzohs (unleavened bread) at time of Passover. The rumor arose from a former Jew, Theobald, who had become a Christian monk. He said that Jewish representatives gathered each year in Narbonne, France. They decided in which city a Christian child would be sacrificed. The boy became known as St. William of Norwich. Many people made pilgrimages to his tomb and claimed that miracles had resulted from appeals to St. William. The myth shows a complete lack of understanding of Judaism. Aside from the prohibition of killing innocent persons, the Torah specifically forbids the drinking or eating of any form of blood in any quantity. However, reality never has had much of an impact on blood libel myths. This rumor lasted for many centuries; even today it has not completely disappeared. (7)

Pope Innocent IV ordered a study in 1247 CE.. The investigators found that the myth was a Christian invention used to persecute the Jews. At least 4 other popes subsequently vindicated the Jews. However, the accusations, trials and executions continued.

Nicholls (10) reports that "there are 150 recorded cases of the charge of ritual murder, and many led to massacres of the Jews of the place."

Some of the incidents were:


Host Desecration:

The host is a wafer used during the Roman Catholic mass. At a certain point during the ritual, it is believed to be converted into the actual body of Jesus Christ, just as the wine becomes Jesus' actual blood. These elements of the mass are then eaten by the believers.

A variation of the blood libel myth developed in Europe early in the 11th century. Instead of accusing the Jews of killing an innocent child, they were accused of desecrating the host. Sometimes they were accused stabbing pins into the host, or of stepping on it. Other times, they were accused of stabbing the host with a knife until Jesus' blood leaked out. Sometimes, they were accused of nailing the host, in a symbolic replay of the crucifixion.

Like the blood libel myth, host desecration makes no logical sense. Being Jews, they would not believe in the Christian doctrine of transubstantiation - that the host during mass becomes the actual body of Jesus. To them, the host is just a simple wafer with no religious significance.

Nicholls (10) reports that "100 instances of the charge have been recorded, in many cases leading to massacres." Some of the incidents were:

Unlike the basic Blood Libel myth, rumors of host desecration by Jews appear to have died out in the Middle Ages. It has surfaced recently, during the mid-1990's. In at least two Roman Catholic cathedrals (one in Ontario, Canada and another in Mississippi) some parishioners believed that Satanists were masquerading as church members, attending mass but not swallowing the host. They believed that it was later taken from the cathedral and used in Satanic rituals.

Other Groundless Anti-Semitic Fables:


References:

  1. "A Calendar of Jewish Persecution," at "HearNow," a Messianic Judaism web site. See: http://www.hearnow.org/caljp.htm
  2. "Classical and Christian Anti-Semitism," at:   http://www.virtualjerusalem.co.il/education/education/holocaust/guide/chap3/chap.html
  3. Jasper Chasseaud, Letter to John Forsyth (1840-MAR-24, no. 12), microfilm 367, State Department archives, U.S. National Archives. Quoted in (4)
  4. Jonathan Frankel, "'Ritual Murder' in the Modern Era: The Damascus Affair of 1840," Jewish Social Studies Volume 3, Number 2, at: http://www.indiana.edu/~iupress/journals/jss-art3.html#r4
  5. Paul Johnson, "A History of Christianity," Atheneum, New York, NY, (1976), Page 490
  6. Edward Vanhoutte, "Importance and unimportance of the Jews of Belgium from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment," at: http://pcger17.uia.ac.be/JEWS.html
  7. M.I. Dimont, "Jews, God and History," Mentor Books, Revised edition, (1994), Page 235. You can buy this book from Amazon.com bookstore
  8. Wildwoman, at: http://www.loop.com/~bramble/famous.html#anchor585978
  9. Arnold Leese, "Jewish Ritual Murder," Nazi propaganda by the "Father of British National Socialism." Available from Renaissance Press, a Neo-Nazi group at: http://home.onestop.net/rpress/index.html
  10. William Nichol, "Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate," Aronson, (1995).

This page originally found at: Religious Tolerance web site.

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Questions or Comments:  danwc@excite.com