"God Wants It!" : The Ideology of Martyrdom of the Hebrew Crusade Chronicles and Its Jewish and Christian Background
Sammanfattning: This dissertation deals with the ideology of martyrdom of the Hebrew Chronicles which were written in response to the persecutions of the Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade in 1096. The Chronicles describe how thousands of Jews died, some of whom were killed by the crusaders, others killed each other or committed suicide rather than being forcibly baptized or killed by the crusaders.This study analyzes how the chroniclers both develop previous Jewish traditions on martyrdom, and add many new elements. Several of these novelties, such as for instance the descriptions of the heavenly reward of the martyrs and the emphasis on the innocence of the martyrs, have most likely been inspired by Christian ideas of martyrdom from the immediate surroundings of the chroniclers. It is also possible to see an ideological development between the earliest of the Chronicles, which was written shortly after the events, and the latest, written approximately 50 years after the persecutions. The author of the latest Chronicle has added many ideological interpolations, which stress the righteousness of the martyrs, especially those who resorted to suicide or to killing fellow Jews. This difference between the Chronicles should probably by understood as a response to criticism directed against those martyrs who in these ways expanded the understanding of the concept of martyrdom, from passively being killed to actively taking a life, as a response to religious persecutions.This thesis stresses the importance of taking the non-Jewish background into account when studying Medieval Jewish texts. It shows that the contacts and exchange of ideas between Jews and Christians in Europe during the Middle Ages have been underestimated. It also shows that many elements of the Medieval fabric of thought which previously have been perceived as “Christian” notions, also existed in Jewish literature from the same area and time.
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