Isidore of Seville on the Jews

8/25/13, by Clement Pulaski

From the time of the Crucifixion of Christ when the Jews shouted out "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:25), there has been great enmity between the Church and the faithless Jews who rejected the Messiah. As the Church grew in prominence and intermingled with the temporal authority, Christian attitudes towards the accursed Hebrews shaped legal pronouncements regulating conduct between the two groups. Some of the harshest and most notorious laws against the Jews were passed under the supervision of Isidore of Seville (c. 560-636). This Spanish Bishop, who is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, was one of the most learned men of his age, and his magnum opus the Etymologiae, an encyclopedic survery of all human knowledge, was widely used throughout Europe for centuries after his death. He is notorious as an "antisemite" not only because of his involvement in passing strict measures against the Jews but also for his tract De fide catholica contra Iudaeos (On the Catholic Faith Against the Jews), which defends Christianity from Jewish calumnies. As in the case of all of the great Christian teachers of the past, Isidore's opposition to the Jews is closely linked with his understanding of the Gospel and the role that the apostate Jews played in the murder of Christ. Isidore did not fight against Jewish influence because of economic tensions or irrational hatred: he fought against them because they are followers of Antichrist and sons of Hell.

The councils over which Isidore presided passed the following measures against the Jews*, some of which dealt with Jews who had converted to Christianity:

-banning further relations between Jews and Jewish converts to Christianity

-banning Jews and Jewish converts to Christianity from holding public office

-requiring the removal of Jewish children from their parents to be raised in monasteries or Christian households (there is some debate among historians as to whether this applied to all Jewish children and to what degree this measure was carried out. If it did apply to all Jewish children, then successfully carrying out the measure would have caused Judaism to vanish)

-forbidding Jews from owning Christian slaves

It is clear that at this early date Christians already understood the problem of false Jewish conversion, a problem which has continued to plague the Church in our own times. The tendency of Jewish converts to revert to their old ways or to favor their kinsmen was too strong to allow them a full place in Christian society. However, Isidore did not view the evils of the Jews as being genetic; while he may have doubted the ability of Jewish converts to act completely Christian, it appears that ethnically Jewish children raised by Christians were seen as fully acceptable. In light of our current understanding of genetics we might criticize this oversight, but despite any shortcomings it is clear that these measures promoted by Isidore would do much to curb Jewish influence in society.

Forbidding Jews from owning Christian slaves would seem to have a rather straightforward justification given the hatred that the Jews have towards gentiles in general and Christians in particular, but Isidore also gives the further reason that Christians should not serve Jews because the Jews are servants of Antichrist. When a Christian serves the interests of or takes orders from Jews he fails in his duty to serve Christ, for the Jews by defintion are opposed to Christ and the Gospel. It is likely that this same reasoning was used to justify banning Jews from holding public office: being ruled by Jews not only leads to being oppressed physically, but it inverts the spiritual order. The failure to grasp this essential principle has been the ruin of Christendom, as the brainwashed Christians of today applaud the rise of Jewish politicians, rejoicing to have one of "God's chosen people" steering the ship of state. The Jews who control our society are doing everything in their power to work against the teachings of Christ, and have been heavily involved with every effort to promote consumerist greed, fornication, sodomy, disrespect of parents, and atheism. The self-professed Christians who support or condone the rule of Jews over gentiles are responsible for the spread of these evils.

Turning now to the text of De fide catholica contra Iudaeos**, we see that Isidore's understanding of the Antichrist Jews and their role in history is based firmly in Old Testament prophecy, which predicted quite clearly that many members of God's covenant nation would become spiritually diseased. It is principally through the twisting of Old Testament passages that the Christian Zionists promote their lies, making a correct, traditional interpretation of the Old Testament indispensible.

According to Isidore the Old Testament prophesied that a large number of the Jews would fail to recognize Christ, would put him to death, and would then be punished for their actions:

And that the Jews were not going to recognize Him, Jeremiah foretells in the person of the Lord, saying, "'For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have dealt very treacherously with Me,' declares the Lord. They have lied about the Lord and said, 'Not He; misfortune will not come on us, and we will not see the sword or famine. The prophets are as wind, and the word is not in them.'" (Jeremiah 5:11-13).

And again in the person of the Lord [David] says, "Many dogs have surrounded me, and an evil band has besieged me. They pierced my hands and my feet" (Psalms 22:16-17). The term "dog" was used as a symbol for [the Jews] by another prophet. As it is written in Isaiah, "All the dogs are blind, not knowing to bark" (Isaiah 56:10). For it is the habit of dogs, not seeing their own shepherd, not understanding their duty, they turned their barking from the wild beasts to the flock, from the thieves to the Lord.
And that they gave Him vinegar mixed with gall while He was hanging on the cross, was already predicted in the Psalms by the Lord: "They put gall in my food, and in my food they offered me vinegar for drink" (Psalms 69:21), which elsewhere He proclaimed to Jerusalem, saying, "I planted a select vine; how have you become such a bitter, alien vine?" (Jeremiah 2:21) For God planted a good vine, that is, the nation of the Jews. But it became corrupted by its own sin and offered its maker bitterness for drink.

For that the Jews sinning against Christ cursed their own posterity, saying, "His blood is upon us, and upon our sons" (Matthew 27:25), once Isaiah foretold to them with chiding, saying, "Wicked seed, prepare your children for slaughter for the iniquity of your fathers" (Isaiah 14;21). For by the other nations that came into Judaea, the sons were slaughtered for the wickedness of their fathers.
Thus after the suffering of Christ Titus came, and vanquished the Jews, and destroyed the city, and temple and libations and sacrifices ceased. They could no longer be celebrated there. So what was formerly predicted by the prophet came to pass.

When elaborating on the reason for the birth of Christ and why the Jews rejected Him, Isidore highlights the carnal nature of Judaism:

God when he made man, endowed him with the greatest blessedness and adorned him with the grace of the divine image; He placed him in paradise, to be subject to God, and to be preferred over the other creatures. However he became a rebel and rejected God, violating the prohibited precept. Whom downcast for pride God did not kill him, but made an exile from paradise, hoping that through punishment he would be able to restore him to grace. But when he would not be recalled to a life of virtue, he gave the law through Moses, so even through it he might be returned to the love of God and the working of justice. But when stubborn and unbelieving he would not even keep this, the Son of God finally came, and assumed a human body, so that when he is seen, he would be believed in; and so a world would set aside the images of demons and be reconciled to the Creator. This is the reason for the birth of Christ, whom the Jews, although they allow for the birth, still they are caused to stumble at his crucifixion and death; not understanding that just as for the redemption of the world it was seemly for Him to be born, so also it was necessary for Him to suffer, whose passion and death in its own place we will demonstrate from the testimonies of the Scriptures.
The Jews did not hope that the Christ, whom they hoped would come, would die. Thus let them respond, who this one is whom the prophet announced: "He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his scourging we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5)

At the center of the Jewish misunderstanding of the Old Testament is their inability to conceive of a Messiah who would meekly undergo suffering. Isaiah 53 quite obviously describes a Messiah who not only suffered, but did so without any complaint or violent resistance: "Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before his shearers, so He did not open His mouth" (Isaiah 53:7). The fact that the Jews could not connect this passage with the life of Christ led Isidore to exclaim:

The Jews, with abominable unbelief, denying that Christ is the Son of God, being impious, hard-hearted, having no faith in the old prophets, and opposed to the new ones, prefer to ignore the advent of Christ, than to know it; to deny it, rather than believe it.

By refusing to acknowledge that the life and passion of Christ fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53, the Jews have shown themselves to have no faith in the prophetic books of the Old Testament, the very books which they claim to follow. The Jewish mind is so ensnared by the carnal world that they desire a Messiah who will lead them to military conquest, not spiritual enlightenment. This tendency is evident in the final Jewish revolt against the Romans (132-135 AD), which was led by the false Messiah Bar Kokhba. The hard-hearted Jews who rejected the spiritual kingdom of our Lord eagerly followed this worldly, brutish military leader, mistakenly thinking him to be the Christ. The Zionist Jews of today persist in this opinion, viewing the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy in worldy, military terms. (I should also note that Zionist Christians have come to read the Old Testament through a Jewish lense, and can no longer see the spiritual meaning of many Biblical passages).

For our own salvation it is necessary that we accept Christ's teaching about a kingdom not of this world, a kingdom which can be entered only by way of a spiritual rebirth. In so far as we are active participants in a political community, we must resist the Jews who wish to tear us and all mankind away from this heavenly kingdom and into the mire of worldly lusts. In Isidore of Seville we see a model for this synthesis of deep spiritual understanding and vigorous resistance of temporal enemies.

*details about these measures are taken from Isidore of Seville: His Attitude Towards Judaism and His Impact on Early Medieval Cannon Law, Albert, The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 80, No. 3/4
**translations from De fide by Kirk Mims Summers

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