Academic Programs 

  A History of Jewish Christian (Mis) Understanding   (HI-691)
Winter/Spring 2005

For most of the past two thousand years, the relationship between Christians and Jews has been a stormy one. During the past two generations, these two peoples, however, have achieved an ever- greater understanding of one another and the prospect for the future is promising. This course will trace that history and examine areas of new understanding and continuing disagreement. (Co-sponsored with the Jewish Chautauqua Society) 


Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
Thursdays 7:00-9:20 p.m. beginning January 27 

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs
Adjunct Professor of Interfaith Relations and Senior Rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel 

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500


Course Syllabus


 For most of the past 2000 years, interactions between Christians and Jews have been uneasy.  Suspicion, mistrust, persecution, expulsions, forced conversions, and pogroms have marked the relationships between the two peoples.

In this seminar we shall try to understand that troubled history. Yesterday’s world was not always bleak.  Today’s world is not always rosy as far as Christian-Jewish understanding goes.  Nevertheless, it seems we are making real progress.  The efforts of the Hartford Seminary to include courses like this and courses in Jewish thought in its offerings are eloquent testimony of the progress.   

Toward the end of the semester, we shall examine some of the hopeful trends that have emerged in recent decades along with some disturbing events that have occurred in recent years.  The goal in offering this course is to contribute positively to a dialogical process that will lead to a greater understanding of the troubled history between Christians and Jews with an eye to creating a cooperative future based on respect and affirmation. Hopefully, such understanding, affirmation, mutual respect can, quite simply, help us build a better world.

Each student taking the course for credit will prepare a twenty-minute presentation on a topic mentioned in or related to the syllabus.  Suggestions for topics that would enrich the seminar include but are not limited to:  The lives and writing of specific Church Fathers, the Crusades, Martin Luther, Disputations in the Middle Ages, Pogroms in Eastern Europe, The Spanish Inquisition, The Mendel Beilis Trial, Christian Responses to the State of Israel, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ.          

On the day of his/her presentation, the student will submit a 3-4 page summary outline of what s/he will cover.  By April 21, each student will submit a 15 page in depth paper covering (and perhaps elaborating on) the substance of his/her presentations.  There will also be a one hour final examination on April 28 designed to measure the students’ ability to identify key concepts and events discussed in assigned readings and classroom discussions.


Books to Purchase

James Carroll, Constantine’s Sword, Boston, Houghton- Mifflin, 2001

William Nicholls Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate, Northvale, New Jersey, Jason Aronson, 1995

Class pack of readings prepared by Instructor


The Class Sessions

January 27—Getting Acquainted, Hopes and Dreams, Expectations, The Concept of the Messiah in Jewish thought, the significance of the Pharisees

Reading:   Carroll, Pp. 3-25.

Nicholls, Pp 45-82.

Walter Harrelson and Randall M. Falk, Jews and Christians:  A Troubled Family, (Nashville, Abingdon Press, 1990), “Historical Perspectives on The Relationships of Jews and  Non-Jews, A Christian Outlook,” Pp. 41-50.

Stephen Fuchs, “The Pharisees:  Their Legacy.”


February 3 and February 10--New Testament Roots of Jewish-Christian Controversy and Mis-understanding.

Passages:  Romans 8-11; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Galatians 1:6-8; 5:1-12;  I Thessalonians 2:14-16.  Mk 8:27-33; 10:32-34; MT 5-7, 20:2-23; 23, 27, 28; LK 4:28-30, 7:24-35, 10:29-37, 11:37-12-1, 13:22-30, 18:9-14;   Acts 2:14-36, 7:51-53, John 1:11, 5:1-18, 8, 10:19-39, 11:1-54, 18:28-19:16,            

Reading:  Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faith and Fratricide,  (New York, Seabury, 1974), “Introduction,” by Gregory Baum, Chapter 2, “The Growing Estrangement: The Rejection of Jew In the New  Testament.”   Carroll, Pp. 71-152.

Samuel Sandmel, Anti-Semitism in the New Testament, (Philadelphia, Fortress Press, 1978), Preface and Introduction, Pp. ix-xxi, and Chapter 2, “Paul”, Pp. 6-18.

 Samuel H. Goldenson, “Jesus of Nazareth in The Light of Jewish and Christian Thought and History,” in World Problems and Personal Religion, Sermons, Addresses,  and Selected Writing of Samuel H. Goldenson, (Pittsburgh,   Pennsylvania, Rodeph Shalom Congregation, 1975),     Pp. 229-240.


February 17—Controversial and Misunderstood Passages in Hebrew Scriptures.

Passages:  Genesis 2-3; Exodus 4, 20:4-6, 21:22-24, 34:5-7; Leviticus 26:27-33; Joshua 10:28-43; I Samuel 15:17-35.

Reading:  Abba Hillel Silver, Where Judaism Differed, (New York, Macmillan Publishing Co. Inc., 1956) Pp. 187,  (“In the Genesis story…”) - 193, (“… endowed with  free will.”)

Fuchs, “Pharaoh’s Hardened Heart.”


February 24—The Writings of the Church Fathers

Reading:  Carroll, 164-219.

Nicholls, 170-224.

Ruether: Chapter 3, “The Negation of the Jews in the Church Fathers,” Pp.117-181.

 Malcolm Hay, The Roots of Christian Anti-Semitism, (New York, Freedom Library Press, 1981), Chapter 1, “The Golden  Mouth,” Pp. 26-32. 

A web search on “Chrysostom” will yield sites denying he was an anti-Semite and extolling his greatness.


March 3—Showing and Discussion of “The Passion of the Christ.”

Reading: Fuchs and Stephen Sidorak “Film Undermines Jewish-Christian         Relations,” op-ed, Hartford Courant, February 29, 2004


March 10—Into the Middle Ages—The Crusades

 Reading: Carroll, 237-310

Nicholls, 225-259       

Ruether, Chapter 4, “The Social Incorporation of the Negative Myth Of Jews in Christendom,” Pp.183-195.                                            

Hay, Chapter 2, “Thy Brother’s Blood,” Pp. 33-67.

Norman F. Cantor, The Sacred Chain, (New York, Harper Collins, 1994), Chapter 6, “Ashkenaz and Sepharad,” Pp. 155-185        (“…their Polish masters.”)

Steven Bayme, Understanding Jewish History, Texts and Commentaries, (Ktav Publishing House, Inc.1997), Unit XIV,   “The Crusades and the Jews,” Pp. 164-175.


March 17— The Spanish Inquisition

Reading:  Nicholls, 261-274     

Carroll, 322-362 

Cantor, Pp. 185,  (“At the other end of Europe…”) – top of 194 “… and cosmopolitan in their outlook.”

Bayme, Unit XVI, “Jews and Christian Spain,” Pp.188-197.


March 24—Spring Break.  No class.


March 31Martin Luther

Reading:  Carroll, 365 (bottom, The amorphous spirit…”-368 (bottom)

Joseph Elijah Heller and B. Mordechai Ansbacher, “Martin Luther,” Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 11, Pp. 583-586.

Heinrich Graetz, History of the Jews, (Philadelphia, The Jewish  Publication Society of America, 1967), vol. IV, Pp. 544     (“A year later,…) -552  (“…their deadly enemies.”)      

Hay, 166 (“The Reformation brought no …)-169 (“….Luther’s birthday.”)


April 7---Ghettos, Shtetls, and Pogroms:  Eastern Europe, England and France:

The Dreyfus Affair

Reading: Elissa Kohen, “Shylock and other Pervasive Anti-Semitic  Stereotypes of Post-Expulsion England.”

Simon Dubnow, History of The Jews in Russia and Poland,  “Chapter V, “The Autonomous Center in Poland during Its Decline (1648-1772), Pp. 144, (“ …In the spring of  1648…” - 158, (“…destroyed forever,”)

Howard M. Sachar, “The Course of Modern Jewish History,     

Chapter IV, “Incarceration:  The Jews of Eastern Europe,  Pp. 72-96.

Five Years of My Life, The Diary of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, (New York, Peebles Press, 1977), “Introduction” by Nicholas Halasz, Pp.15-35.


April 14-- The Golden Land, The Great Depression—Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin

Reading:  Morton Rosenstock, “Anti- Semitism in the U.S.,” 

Encyclopedia Judaica,  (Jerusalem, Keter Publishing House, 1972), vol. 15, Pp. 1648-1657.

Donald Warren, Radio Priest, Charles Coughlin, The Father of Hate Radio, (New York, The Free Press, 1996), Pp. 23    (“…Commercial broadcasting – 28, “…Priest of the radio.”);   

Chapter 9, “Jewish Actions Which Cause Cruel Persecution,”  Pp. 129-160.


April 21:  Hopeful Developments:  Vatican II and Nostra Aetate                             

Reading: Eugene Fisher, “Pope John Paul II’s Pilgrimage of Reconciliation: A Commentary on The Texts,” in John Paul II

On Jews and Judaism, (Washington D.C., United States Catholic Conference, Inc., Pp. 7-19.   

John Paul II, On Jews and Judaism, Pp. 70-97.

A.     James Rudin, “The Dramatic Impact of Nostra Aetate,” in Twenty Years of Jewish-Catholic Relations, ed. By Eugene J. Fisher, A. James Rudin, Marc H. Tanenbaum, (New York, Paulist Press, 1986) Pp.9-18.


April 28—Zionism and the State of Israel  

Reading:   Fuchs, Pawlikowski, Adelson, “The Zionist Dimension to the Christian-Jewish Dialogue.”                 

Harrelson and Falk, Jews and Christians, A Troubled Family

“Understanding the State of Israel,” Pp.145-167.

Summing Up, Where Do We Go From Here?

First hour: written final exam consisting of key concepts and events discussed in readings and classroom sessions.

Then, each student, including –hopefully-- auditors, will present a five-minute reflection on his/her hopes and dreams for the future of Christian-Jewish dialogue and understanding.

Reading: Elliot Abrams, Faith or Fear, Chapter 4, “Evangelicals,” Pp. 63-97.

Stephen Fuchs, “A Jew Looks at Jesus.”

Stephen Fuchs, “Should Christians Convert Jews?”


Grades for the class will be determined as follows:

            Seminar presentation:  35%
Seminar paper:            35%

             Contribution to
Class discussions:       15% 

            Examination on May 4: 10%

Short reflection
on May 4:                       5%


I will be available for consultations by appointment, via email: and by phone (860)233-8215. 

From:  Elie Wiesel, And The Sea is Never Full, Memoirs, 1969 –
                          Pages 376-377.

The ancient scourge, whose origins remain hidden in darkness, knows neither barriers nor frontiers.  It strikes all races and religions, all political systems and social classes, and because hatred is willed by man, God Himself is unable to stop it.  No nation may consider itself protected against its poison; no society is safe against its arrows.  Both blind and blinding, this hatred …kills all those who forget the greatness of which they are capable and the promises once bestowed upon them.  Hatred has no mercy for those who refuse to fight it.  It kills whoever will not try to disarm it.  Parents, teach your children that to hate is to mutilate their own future.  Teachers, tell your pupils that hatred is the negation of every triumph that culture and civilization may achieve.  Politicians, tell your constituencies that hatred is, at all levels, your principal enemy, and theirs.  Tell all those who listen to you that hatred breeds hatred and can breed nothing else.            

To hate is to refuse to accept another person as a human being, to diminish him, to limit your own horizon by narrowing his, to look at him and also at yourself—not as a subject of pride but as an object of disdain and fear.  To hate is to opt for the easiest and most mind-reducing way out  by digging a ditch into which the hater and his victim will both fall like  broken puppets.  To hate is to kindle wars that will turn children into orphans and make old people lose their minds from sorrow and contrition. 

Religious hatred makes the face of God invisible.  Political hatred wipes out people’s liberties.  In the field of science, hatred inevitably puts itself  at death’s service.  In literature, it distorts truth, perverts the meaning of the story and hides beauty itself under a thick layer of blood and grime.

Today, at the threshold of the twenty-first century, this is what we must tell all men and women for whom we wish a future as bright and smiling as the faces of our children.  If we do nothing, hate will come sneaking perniciously and slyly into their mouths and into their eyes, adulterating the mutual relations between people, nations, societies and races.  If we do nothing, we will be passing onto the coming century that message of hatred known to us as racism, fanaticism, xenophobia, and anti-Semitism.

Democracy means dialogue.  Without the other, neither is conceivable.  Together, they contribute towards that “brotherhood of nations” mentioned by Alfred Nobel in his last will and testament as man’s only hope of peace and survival. 

Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500