403 Good Jews and bad Jews in 1620 and 1630

On four successive Mondays, from 21 January to 14 February, I moderated a webinar on the theme “Rembrandt seen through Jewish eyes,” in preparation for an exhibition of that name in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow. One point of disagreement among the speakers was how welcoming the Netherlands was to Jewish immigrants. I felt that some speakers had too rose-colored an impression of things, for which I bring the following heavy evidence to bear.

In 1620 the Dutch poet Joost van den Vondel (1587-1679) wrote the texts for an illustrated book of thirty-eight eulogies to what the title calls God’s heroes of the Old Covenant, from Adam to Judah Maccabee. This is the kind of product that makes the heart beat faster of those in search of Christian sympathy for Jews in the famously tolerant Amsterdam. It would seem to confirm the attractive belief that Dutch Christians respected the Jews among them as the people first chosen by God.


I do not own a copy of the original book, and to my intense annoyance and waste of precious searching time, there are no images of the inside pages to be found on internet. This illustration of the pages on Abraham is from the unequaled Wereldbibliotheek edition of Vondel’s work, volume II, 1928. As a fellow Abrahamite of the Jews, the Christian Vondel, then still a Mennonite, was paying honor to the first Jew, Abraham himself.

What has not yet been studied (and mentioned only once in print, in passing, by Els Stronks in 2012, before I rediscovered it on my own the day before yesterday) is that God’s heroes was based on a Latin book published in Antwerp in 1577 by Christopher Plantin, Sacrarum antiquitatum monumenta. As the title of that edition says, it is devoted to the holy patriarchs, kings, prophets and heroes of the Old Testament, with images, eulogies and captions. The author was Ludwig Hillesheim, a prominent personage in the ancient Rhineland town of Andernach, near Koblenz. He was a committed Catholic, in a time and place when this did not speak for itself. Beside fulfilling one high municipal office after another, he wrote a number of tractates that were not published until after his death in 1575, in Cologne. Monuments of the saints of antiquity was one of them.


The engraved plates, made in the years before 1577, are by Johann Sadeler, after drawings by Chrispijn van den Broeck. Both artists worked for Plantin in Antwerp, who the author probably never met. Here are Adam and Eve.

One look at both editions makes it perfectly clear that God’s heroes makes use not only of the plates from Antwerp, but is modeled fairly exactly on the Plantin imprint. A verso page has an image with header and caption, the facing recto a page-long poem on the figure depicted. What is also clear is that the publication could not have been Vondel’s idea. He must have been hired by the publisher to provide a Dutch text to replace the Latin one by Hillesheim, of which the publisher had a copy and the plates. That publisher was one of the foremost in the northern Netherlands, Dirck Pietersz Pers (1581-1659). More interesting than their similarities are the differences between the two books. Hillesheim’s is based entirely on the Old Testament. The references in the margins are to passages in the Jewish Bible in which the depicted protagonists appear.

That is far from the case of God’s heroes, where many quotations are from the New Testament. The line beneath the opening print of Adam and Eve comes from 1 Corinthians 15: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” To avoid giving the impression that they are Judaizing, publisher and writer go out of their way to emphasize that salvation comes from Christ alone, more specifically through faith alone in Christ, with numerous citations of the fascinating chapter 11 of Hebrews.

To make doubly sure no one would get the wrong idea, God’s heroes was sold together with two other writings of Vondel: De heerlyckheyd van Salomon (The glory of Solomon), translated from the French of Guillaume de Bartas, and provided on the title page with the helpful motto “Christus. Hier is meer als Salomon” (Christ. Here is more than Solomon), and the stage play, Hierusalem verwoest (Jerusalem destroyed). The latter too has a motto: “Den Joden tot naedencken, den Christenen tot waerschouwingh’” (For the Jews to think about, a warning to Christians). The message of the play is put into words in a nutshell in verses 2293-96:

O Christians all, may Jerusalem’s sad plight
Break your stony hearts. Ponder too God’s right
For double vengeance on this godless folk,
Which his goodness so thanklessly revokes.

This was not enough. Vondel and Pers had to make it absolutely clear that the Jews coming to Amsterdam in these years had no claim to the admiration being bestowed on Solomon and God’s other heroes of the Old Covenant, or to consolation for the loss of Jerusalem and its Temple. Read the poem immediately preceding the text of Jerusalem destroyed:

To the Jewish rabbis. A sonnet.

Your company of priests could not contain its glee
When Jesus’s arms were stretched and hammered to the block.
Crucified, abused, despisèd and bemocked
Because he had to drink that beaker to the lees.

Little did they know that justice, from on high,
Would even out the scales in heaven’s gilt abode,
Would value guiltless blood above Ophiric gold,
And grant the weight of truth to each last scornèd sigh.

But when the day arrived that God had foreordained
For vengeance on that place of godlessness unreined,
So smugly sure of safety on holy Temple’s aerie,

The people realized what punishment they earned,
Which their evilness could not avert or turn,
Nor fortified defence or specious sanctuary.

In other words, the Jews had it coming to them that Jerusalem was destroyed, and their hypocritical reverence for God on the Temple Mount could not help them. The same goes for all the tribulations the Jews suffered through the ages. After all, didn’t they themselves say “Crucify him, crucify him, and release Barabbas to us; his blood is on our head” (lines 2238-49) and “His blood be on us and our children” (line 186)? Some Jews who lived under the Old Covenant can be called God’s heroes, but once Christ had lived, Jews who denied his divinity had forfeited their right to grace. There were Christians who were later embarrassed by this judgment. In his publication of the works of Vondel of 1855, Jacob van Lennep castigated predecessors for leaving “To the Jewish rabbis” and the motto of Jerusalem destroyed out of their editions.

Rembrandt, Simeon with the Christ child in the Temple, 1630
Etching on paper, 10.2 x 7.8 cm
Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum (RP-P-OB-790)

What makes things more damning for the deniers is that there are Jews who did recognize Christ. The first and foremost among them was Rembrandt’s favorite person from the Bible, Simeon, the old Jewish man who recognized baby Jesus as the Saviour, come to redeem Israel. In 1630 Rembrandt made a small etching of the scene, showing Simeon seated, holding the Christ child on his left arm, and with his right hand gesticulating to tell Mary what an exceptional child she had borne. To the left, we see the bent knee, on a crutch, of a person leaving the scene. In the webinar, Shelley Perlove interpreted this detail as a reference to the beneficent powers that were later to allow Christ to heal the lame. I do not see it that way. The person walking away from Jesus just as his divinity was being revealed, I am convinced, is a bad Jew. Just as Simeon was the first Jew to accept Christ, the handicapped person is the first Jew to turn away from the Redeemer.

Vondel’s text and Rembrandt’s image are not reassuring about Jewish-Christian relations in Amsterdam. To a god-fearing Jew, the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God was as blasphemous as was Jewish denial to Christians. Given this irreconcilable discord, it is that much more of a blessing that Jews were able to live without fear in a Christian country. But this does not mean that Dutch tolerance for Jewish settlement in a certain number of towns and cities implies mutual religious respect.

© Gary Schwartz 2022. Published on the Schwartzlist on 15 February 2022. For Vondel and the Jews, see Jürgen Pieters, “New Historicism – Hierusalem verwoest (1620) and the Jewish question,” in Jan Bloemendal and Frans-Willem Korsten, eds., Joost van den Vondel (1587–1679), Dutch Playwright in the Golden Age, Leiden and Boston (Brill) 2012, online in Open Access. The first to notice that God’s heroes was based on Sacrarum Antiquitatum Monumenta was Els Stronks, in her inaugural lecture for her professorship at Utrecht University, Loden letters, digitale dartels, 2012, available online. See for Simeon as Rembrandt’s favorite personage my book Rembrandt’s universe, London (Thames & Hudson) 2006, pp. 362-67. The four installments of the webinar (three are already up) will be posted on the museum’s YouTube page.

Getting the contents and technique of the Moscow webinar into shape was a stressful experience. We had very good supervision from the museum, and I always had confidence that the program would go out on time and as announced. However, all twelve speakers had to be helped to get their equipment and knowledge of procedure up to snuff, which took some extra, sometimes nerve-wracking preparatory meetings. The worst thing is when my provider lost internet for the entire area of my village, when the Friday before the second session the optical fiber was sheared during street repairs. Internet was indeed down through the time for the webinar on Monday evening. To my great good fortune, a neighbor with whom we are friendly turned out to have a different provider, with a coax cable connection that was intact. He has a garden house with excellent wifi that I was able to use. The nicest part of the webinars for the participants were the round-table discussions with each other and the audience after the talks, and our private sessions after the audience left. It sparked the temptation to organize private conferences with a small number of colleagues. Hope I can resist it.

Responses in the Reply box below (these will be viewed by all visitors to the site) or personally to Gary.Schwartz@xs4all.nl are always appreciated and will be answered.

So will donations. Don’t be shy, send a donation.

Your donations help defray the costs of the Schwartzlist and encourage Gary Schwartz to write more columns.

.Donate Button

20 thoughts on “403 Good Jews and bad Jews in 1620 and 1630”

  1. Good use of texts on the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament! I also found your view interesting on the man hobbling away in the Presentation etching as a bad Jew. This works nicely with my interpretation that the Jewish priests cannot heal him but Christ will. So he is bad in not recognizing that the savior is in Simeon’s arms. One interpretation denounces Judaism and the other the Jewish man in need of healing who doesn’t recognize Christ. He is like the figures on the right that speak against Simeon’s prophecy as I said in my presentation. Gary, your idea adds depth to my views. Thank you. Shelley

  2. Sounds like a fun time, “crowded with incident, I see; though perhaps somewhat too exciting.” Agreed, elegant and effective translations, thank you. Vondel would have admired them.

    Christian hermeneutics has no difficulty in finding the two interpretations complementary, with the man made able to walk (John, Chapter 5) acting as a type of those needing to be made whole by faith in Jesus (the usual understanding in online exegesis), thus typologically representative of the Jewish people, “which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not” – consider their darkness, in that startling repoussoir silhouette and in the gloom of the Temple’s depths, reminiscent of the 1654 Presentation. Only around Simeon, whose eyes have seen salvation, is there “a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”

    In the Gospel of John, the story of the man made able to walk develops into criticism of Jesus for healing on the Sabbath day, the first episode in “growing conflict between Jesus and the Jews—a conflict that intensifies from chapter 5 onwards.”
    More: https://brill.com/view/book/9789004267800/B9789004267800_005.xml

    Some scholars hold that this Gospel was written later than others, when Christian disappointment in Jewish failure to see the light sent first to them had sharpened into antagonism.

    The story of Simeon’s vision does not appear in the Gospel of John, however, only in the Gospel of Luke; in Luke, the story of the man made able to walk involves four friends and a mat. So Rembrandt, assuming that we understand his intention, combined episodes from two books of the New Testament in order to draw the contrast between good and bad Jews.

    I cannot forbear mention of the text in the King James Version (John 5:7), in which the miraculous cure restored the health of “the impotent man.” Such moments made schooling in exegesis less onerous, many years ago.

    1. Early schooling, so precious. What I see as the key phrase in your well-informed remarks, Richard, is “So Rembrandt, assuming that we understand his intention…” To my mind, Rembrandt was less an exegeticist than a rhetorician. He was not investigating theological subtleties, but making powerful points, cutting corners as he did. He wanted his viewers to respond viscerally to his images, not to ponder the artist’s take on a point of theology. That being what Rembrandt was after, as I see it, it would not have occurred to him to insert a visually compelling element like the handicapped hobbler as a premonition of Christ the healer. The figure would have to be related to the main message of the story, which was that a pious Jew recognized Jesus as the Christ. The hobbler was hearing Simeon’s prayer as he turned his back on him and on Jesus.

      In gracious acceptance of your compliment for my translations of Vondel and thanks for your posting,

  3. Hi Gary, thanks as always for the detailed information and chance for a discussion.

    Now a few questions: what is a bad Jew? Wouldn’t a Jew who rejects Jesus as the Messiah be a good Jew instead? I see an angel standing next to Anna, pointing to the group with Simeon and Jesus. This angel is not mentioned in the relevant biblical passage: what is this figure?

    Given the date of the etching, i.e. the year of Rembrandt’s father’s death, I would place the emphasis less on theology than on human psychology: specifically, the fact of “seeing” and salvation as expressed in Simeon’s words in Luke 2, 29-32. This would place Rembrandt’s special interest in this scene in line with his personal interest in the story of Tobit, which features the healing of blindness. This may be a bit old fashioned of me, but it makes Rembrandt seem closer than considerations of religious politics.

    1. Dear Jean-Marie,

      As you can see from my reply to Richard Bready’s comment, which I posted a few minutes before yours came in, we are thinking very much along the same lines, old-fashioned or not. Sightedness and blindness are indeed intertwined themes that preoccupied Rembrandt throughout life, and you are right that the story of Simeon is central to that issue.

      About the non-scriptural angel, this is part of my critique of the catalogue by Christian and Astrid Tümpel, “Rembrandt legt die Bibel aus.” He takes liberties with the text all over the place, introducing and excising elements at will. His role is not that of an explicator but a picture-making dramatist. I liked the disclaimer on the Netflix series “Inventing Anna”: “This whole story is completely true, except for all the parts that are totally made up.”

      As for Jews denying Christ being bad Jews, this is what Christians have been saying since the first century. Judaism is nothing but a preparatory stage for the coming of the Messiah. A good Jew knows this, and follows Christ when he comes. A Jew who does not is betraying his own religion.

      With thanks as always,

      1. Thank you for your prompt reply, Gary. I also assume that Rembrandt was going primarily for effect, but first he had to be affected by the subject matter himself. That is why I harp on the (auto)biographical connection (hence “old fashioned”). The RRP and past abuse on this territory notwithstanding, Rembrandt would probably not be so well-known today if he hadn’t been so self-referential.

        As for the non-scriptural angel, it seems a bit brisk to chalk it up to taking liberties with the text. In Luke, the presentation in the Temple is only part of the story. The rest involves the ritual circumcision, which R. etched (in the same format) around 1630 and before. What I am getting at is that the events involving baby Jesus in the Temple and the story of Tobit might be conflated in R.’s imagination, since both feature sons, angels, sight (metaphorically or literally) and operations with a sharp instrument–as does etching (yes, I am a fan of Marshall McLuhan…). I will spare you my speculations on the signature.

  4. Thank you Gary, quite interesting indeed.
    The notion of “déicide” connected to the Jewish people as a whole started very early on in Christian history ( second century a.d.).
    Interrupted for a very short moment by the Council of Trent in the 16th century it continued until Vatican II in 1968 when it was expressly abolished in the catholic church.
    I don’t know if the protestants ever did anything similar ( Luther also accused the Jews for killing Jesus).
    A very pernicious belief since it seriously reinforced antisemitism.

    1. Thank you, Jan. I remain completely puzzled by the charge of deicide against the Jews. As I understand Christian theology, God sent Jesus to earth to be sacrificed, to atone for the sins of humankind. This implies, does it not, that the Romans and the Jews were instruments of the Incarnation and the Passion, which were the whole idea. If Jesus had not been executed, mankind would not have been saved. So where does this undying bitterness about the Crucifixion being an unforgiveable crime come from?

  5. Many thanks! for pointing out that angel, so dramatically posed, so enveloped in the knot of figures. A way, I suppose, to indicate Anna’s prophetic inspiration. In the more classically organized version of 1639, Anna is accompanied again by a winged figure, apparently a bird, presumably the Holy Spirit, which rather dominates the composition.

    1. In the 1639 etching, two doves are visible; one flying behind the other (a pentimento?). Could this be a reference to the pair of doves or turtledoves required as an offering in the Temple expressly mentioned in Luke? These doves are clearly visible in the foreground of the earliest version of the Circumcision by R. Was this a sophisticated or not-so-sophisticated play on iconography? In a more graphic register, the detail of the cripple in the 1630 “Presentation” etching seems to have been replaced by the dog with splayed legs in the 1639 version.
      I don’t want to deprive the exegetes of their bones, but it may be that Rembrandt was as much into jesting as taking liberties.

      1. Indeed. Jesting or being insouciant about texts. See what I just wrote to Richard Bready.

        About the two doves, Jewish law is misrepresented by Luke, and Luke is misrepresented in the iconography of the scene.


        [22] When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord [23] (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), [24] and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

        There is however no such requirement in Jewish law. The pertinent rituals, referred to in the notes to the States version, concern two kinds of sacrifice. One is the redemption of first-born male children at the age of one month. This is done by giving five silver shekels to a priest. (Numbers 18:14-16.) The other (Leviticus 12:6-8) concerns the purification of the mother, which cannot take place until thirty-three days after the delivery of a male child. (For a girl child, the term is sixty-six days.) A lamb is called for, but “if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.” Before then the mother cannot enter the Temple.

        Rembrandt’s interpretations – and this is true of the entire iconography of the scene in the art of his time – correspond to neither of these rituals. The presence of Mary means that we are not witnessing a redemption ceremony, while the child has no place – certainly not the central place of the usual iconography – in the purification sacrifice. What Rembrandt does is to bring together a varying choice of the cast of characters in Luke in assorted settings and styles. He sometimes adds significant features not to be found in Luke or in earlier art. An angel accompanies the prophetess Anna in the etching of 1630; a priest or even the high priest is seen in the painting of 1631, drawing of 1647 and etching of 1654.The latter also has a gigantic Temple guard towering over the priest and Simeon. In this plate the Christ child, far from being a shining light, is mostly covered in shade. Most remarkable of all are the additions to the 1639 etching. Although Luke writes that Simeon was moved by the Holy Spirit to visit the Temple, Rembrandt never provides him with an indication that this is taking place. In the 1639 etching, however, Anna has a bird with an aureole above her head, while a second bird flies into the aureole from behind. What could he possibly mean by this?

        (The above is from my book Rembrandt’s universe of 2006. No one has commented on this, so I still do not know if people who know more about Jewish law and the New Testament than I do think I am right or wrong.)

        1. Probably my favorite Rembrandt is his funniest, the 1634 Annunciation to the Shepherds. “And they were sore afraid,” writes Luke. But the superbly drawn full-tilt stampeding panic of those cows (cf. Rimbaud’s “vacheries hystériques”) is scarcely in that text. It is simply what of course would have happened, as imagined by a great dramatist.

    2. It’s worse than that, Richard. Above Anna’s head in the 1639 etching fly not one but TWO doves! Have a look. This detail alone makes me skeptical of theological interpretations of Rembrandt’s biblical subjects. Anyone who can show me a reference to this in the vast literature on Rembrandt’s etchings, aside from my own, in “Rembrandt’s universe” (2006), p. 365, gets a kewpie doll.

      Here is the pertinent passage by Christian and Astrid Tümpel, in “Rembrandt legt die Bibel aus” (nr. 49): “In der späteren Radierung [von Die Lobpreisung Simeons] tritt die Prophetin Hanna heran – vom Hl. Geist erleuchtet, über ihr schwebt die Taube, die von einem Strahlennimbus umgeben ist. Mit diesem ungewöhnlichen Motiv weicht Rembrandt vom Bibeltext ab, denn dort wird berichtet, der Hl. Geist sei mit Simeon gewesen.” The Tümpels, for whose knowledge I have the highest regard, just looked away from a detail they could not deal with, as if they had not seen it. I would be the last one to claim that I have never been guilty of this sin, but that no one has wished to comment on Rembrandt’s apparent doubling of the Holy Ghost since I pointed it out in 2006 – what does that say?

      In the webinar “Rembrandt seen through Jewish eyes,” Roman Grigoryev gave a splendid demonstration of Rembrandt’s loose and free way with details in etchings, further calling into question our tendency to look for specific meanings in all parts of his compositions.

  6. In my 1982-3 work on Rembrandt’s Simeon for my PhD thesis, I never realized this tiny 1630 engraving was so interesting and left it out. At first, I thought the Schwatz/Perlove disagreement should be a “both” rather than “either/or.” But the cripple has indeed turned his back on Christ. as Gary notes. And this is in sharp conrtrast to the cripples and beggars coming TO Christ in the (admittedly much later) 100 Guilder Print. In Rembrandt’s other 1630 engraving of the same subject, the recognition of the Christ Chrust as the Messiah appears at far right in contrast to the two Jews on the far left who are literally left in the dark as a diagonal shaft of divine light above them shines in a Caravagessque fashion down on those who can see. This subject is all about seeing vs. blindess, light vs. dark, but also, to add a new comment, on humility vs. pride. In traditional Christian thinking the Jews are the most blind, stubborn, and proud people of all. The mention of the Temple of Jerusalem helped me see somethign else which has not entered this growing discussion – the architectural rhetoric of pride and blindness. In the 1630 tiny engraving which GS is discussing, and in the 1631 painting in the Mauritshuis, a vast architecture of the Temple of Jerusalem soars above the small group down below. In both scenes, a large group of Jewish worshippers falls on their kneels before the High Priest in the upper right, in striking contrast to those kneeling before the infant Christ far below. Gary’s 1630 print from the Rijksmuseum is so murky in this upper section that I didn’t know what was happening until I saw the much clearer impression from the National Gallery in Washington on wikipedia. Here, in my eyes, is a clear image of Judaism as a false religion of idolaters and high priest worshippers in an outwardly ornate, grandiouse, arrogant, false temple vs. the true religion of Christianity which is inward, humble, and largely invisible. (For a Dutch 17th c. Calvinist, the blindness, pride and sumptuous externality of Judaism and the Temple of Jerusalem would have doubled as an anti-Catholic image not unlike that seen in the 17th c. Dutch painting contrasting Calvinist and Catholic piety – Christ the poor, humble man on an ass vs. the proud pope on a richly decorated white stallion (a contrast Cranach invented in his Passional Christi et Anti-Christi). Gary’s argument would be greatly strengthened, in my view, if he added to his blog Rembrandt’s painting, Christ and the Adulteress, of 1644. This paintign is ALL about the false, gilded, materialistic splendor of Judaism whose persecutory piety is all false hypocrisy. Here Judaism is all about the “lust of the eye” – a new version of the Golden Calf. (There is enough gold in this painted temple of 1644 to satisy both Leo X and Louis XIV.) Christ alone repudiates this Jewish piety which Rembrandt placed in an architecture worthy of the Whore of Babylon. Again, Judaism and Catholicism appear as twin, false religions. (Babylon was a favorite Protestant term for Catholic Rome.)

    This outer/inner polarity is fairly simple in these early Rembrants. My thesis focused on the late Rembrandt where an interesting twist appears. Although the Lord promised Simeon he would live long enough to SEE God with his own eyes, the late Rembrandt closed Simeon’s eyes in a drawing, the 1654 etching, and in the final, unfinished painting of c. 1669 in Stockholm. In 50 years of studying Christian art, I have seen only one earlier example, a relief sculpture by Meister Betram (c. 1365). Since spiritual blindness was one of the most frequent charges leveled against all Jews since the many examples in the letters of the Apostles (esp Paul, who knew something of blindness), Simeon was almost always shown with open eyes. It was only in the 1650s and later that Rembrandt closed his eyes in two drawings, one etching, and one painting. Even his pupil, Aert de Gelder corrected Rembrandt’s “mistake” in his painting of the Presentation (though he continued Rembrandt’s innovation in a related drawing). By closing Simeon’s eyes in his late works, Rembrandt furthered the rejection of all Jewish (and Catholic) blindness and idolatry and invited Dutch Protestants to see with what Luther and Calvin repeatedly discussed as the inner eye of faith.

    That God destroyed this ornate, false temple would have meant even more to Dutch Calvinists than it already meant to medieval and Renaissance Catholics. Along with the two “bad Jews” at far left, in the shadows of the larger 1630 etching, a dog with back turned to Christ, scratches himself, showing his genitals. Here I think of the defecating, indifferent dog in Rembrandt’s Parable of the Good Samaritan).

    Few themes interested R more than this one, with 4 etchings, 3 paintings, and some drawings. In every scene with multiple figures, there are only two good Jews shown alongside Simeon: Mary and Joseph. This pair alone kneels in proper worship. The worst Jew of all in these scenes is the arrogant High Priest who remains very far away and high on his throne. Rembrandt’s images all but call for the destruction of Jerusalem. That doesn’t make him a vicious Protestant anti-Semite like Luther but it does complicate the “feel good” modern myth about Rembrandt the good guy who took a sympathetic interest in Amsterdam’s Jews.

    1. Dear Robert,

      With this contribution, with which I could not agree more and which helps me several steps further, the present discussion has become the most substantive on the Schwartzlist. I’ll leave it to others to respond to your important points, but I just want to add something to your observation that Dutch Calvinists tarred Catholics with the same brush as they did Jews.

      This fits into the major motive of the remarkable book by David Nirenberg, “Anti-Judaism: The history of a way of thinking,” London (Head of Zeus) 2013. He documents antisemitic language in inter-(and even intra-)denominational polemics throughout the history of Christianity. Much of the time, there were not even any Jews in sight when such attacks were launched. Jews stood for everything that was more material than the superior measure of spirituality claimed by the polemicist.

      All my thanks,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *