Israel and the Antichrist: Jews in Christian Endtime Scenarios

Hebrew College, 43 Hawes Street, Brookline

(first trolley stop above ground, Green line C train)

Tuesday, November 5, 8 PM

The belief that these are the final moments before God intervenes in history to make visible at last true justice, punishing sinners and rewarding the faithful, can have a wide range of effects on the believers' behavior. Some, focusing on moral deeds as the decisive factor in salvation at the Last Judgment, may focus on extremes of ascetic denial and extravagant acts of loving kindness; others, focusing on creedal distinctions as the key to salvation, may accentuate a violent battle between the forces of good (us) and evil (everyone else). In some cases, in the process of going through wild hopes and crushing disappointments, a movement can move from one extreme to the other. In all cases, Jews play a central role in Christian apocalyptic hopes and disappointments: they are both the final converts and the followers of Antichrist, and the advent of apocalyptic time for Christians signals dramatic changes in their perception and treatment of the Jews. In apocalyptic time, none of the "normal" rules (of either tolerance or contempt) apply; and in a paradox that is typical of apocalyptic beliefs, some of the most warmly tolerant and most violently paranoid attitudes of Christians towards Jews spring up in this context. Jews have no choice in these matters: whatever they may think they are doing -- from abandoning or secularizing their messianic hopes, to following a messiah -- they appear on the Christian apocalyptic screen in radically different forms. Zionism, the great secular messianic project of modern Judaism, has done more than any single event to trigger the Christian apocalyptic imagination. Both the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the current wave of Zionist fundamentalist Christian support for Israel stem from this strange symbiosis. The panelists will not only present past cases where such dynamics came into play, but will attempt to place current Christian-Jewish relations in the context of these outbreaks. Rather than tracing a slow but steady evolution (or devolution) panelists will explore the dialectic between normal and abnormal conditions, the circumstances under which apocalyptic relations erupt, the dynamics of their patterns as they intensify and, inevitably, fail, and the impact on "normative" relations with the return to normal time. The purpose of the presentations is, again, not to treat the topic definitively, but rather to open up a discussion among various groups -- Christian/Jewish, academic/lay public, secular/religious. Both the more tolerant forms of Christian apocalyptic hope (Christian Zionism, efforts to atone for past sins) and the less tolerant ones (efforts at conversion, perceptions of a Jewish conspiracy) are both visible at the approach of the millennium. With that fact in mind, this promises to be a most interesting and potentially valuable evening.


Chair: Fran Malino, professor of French History, Wellesley College

John Gager (Princeton University), author of Kingdom and Community, Origins of Christian Anti-Semitism

Paula Fredriksen (Boston University), author of From Jesus to Christ

Richard Landes (Boston University), co-director of CMS and author of Relics, Apocalypse and the Deceits of History

Andrew Gow (University of Alberta), author of The Red Jews: Anti-Semitism in an Apocalyptic Age

Denise Despres (University of Puget Sound), author of Marian Apocalypticism: Ritual Crises and Anti-Judaism

Steven Katz (Boston University), author of The Holocaust in Historical Context

Commentator: R. I. Moore (University of Newcastle-on-Tyne), author of Formation of a Persecuting Society

Program Sponsored By

Hebrew College
Institute for Medieval History at Boston University
Center for Millennial Studies
Wellesley College

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