Monday, July 23, 2018

"Anti-Jew" / "Anti-Semite" (There's a difference.)

In a matter before Queen Elizabeth I's Privy Council involving the playwright Christopher Marlowe, Richard Baines, a semi-pro if not professional informer offered "A note containing the opinion of on[e] Christopher Marly Concerning his damnable Judgment of Religion, and scorn of Gods word" (1593). One blasphemy Baines attributed to Marlowe was "That he [Christ] was the sonne of a Carpenter, and that if the Jewes among whome he was borne did Crucify him theie best knew him and whence he Came." 

Baines's quotation is not very good evidence for what Marlowe said since Marlowe was soon too dead to confirm or deny it; it is, however, excellent evidence for what a knowledgeable guy in a nervously Christian country would judge would really interest and upset the authorities. 

If nothing else, the argument "The Jews knew him best ..." was always potential to oppose Christianity, and if nothing else made the presence of Jews a potential problem for Christians. In any event, off and on from antiquity and more so after the First Crusade, England and other European countries had anti-Jewish currents prior to nation and race in the modern sense. That's anti-Jewish stuff.

Later in the 17th century, there was movement into more (Early) Modern theories of race (I'm thinking of Thomas Rymer on Othello, 1693), and by the 19th c. we got full-blown racism and nationalism. If Jews were out of place in Christendom, how about in a White Christian nation if Jews were neither White nor Christian? If the emphasis is on "Nation and Race," you get anti-Semitism: Jews as Semites, not Aryans.

Not all of the Tiki-Torch trolls of Charlottesville are conscious of such matters, but some are, and in an era of return to open racism and virulent nationalism, we need to spell out such distinctions. 

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