Book Series Diaspora, vol. 4

Barbarians and Jews

Jews and Judaism in the Early Medieval West

Yitzhak Hen, Thomas F.X. Noble (eds)

  • Pages: xii + 341 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2018

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58101-9
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58102-6
  • E-book
  • Available

The essays in this volume attempt to re-evaluate, understand and explain various aspects of Jewish history within the broader historical context of the post-Roman Barbarian world.


“On the whole, this is an important and useful collection of articles that concentrates heavily, out of necessity, on the history of the Jews as Christians imagined them in early medieval Europe. The production value of the volume is very high (…) Hen and Noble have curated a wide-ranging and learned collection, which should be the first port of call for every scholar interested in the defining role played by the Jews, their scriptures, and their history in the imagination of early medieval Christians.” (Scott G. Bruce, in Reading Religion, 14/11/2019)

Barbarians and Jews examines attitudes towards Jews and Judaism in the kingdoms that succeeded the Roman empire. Through the prism of majority–minority relations it also contributes to wider topics, reaching insights on the relationship between the newly founded Barbarian kingdoms and the Roman world, and also a better understanding of internal Christian conflicts.” (Neta Bodner, in Early Medieval Europe, 2021)


Yitzhak Hen is Professor of Late Antique and Early Medieval History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Director of the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies (IIAS).

Thomas F.X. Noble is Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.


The essays in this volume attempt to re-evaluate, understand and explain various aspects of Jewish history within the broader historical context of the post-Roman Barbarian world.  They address a wide variety of topics, sources, and geographies, and together they provide a nuanced and more balanced history of the Jews in the early medieval West. Although written independently of one another by some of the most prominent historians of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, the various essays collected here reveal a remarkable tension between the ‘imaginary’ (or ‘hermeneutical’) Jew and the ‘real’ one. As this volume demonstrates, Augustine’s positive theological understanding of Jews and Judaism was often overshadowed by anti-Jewish sentiments, and consequently anti-Jewish invective remained the drive wheel of Christian theology, especially in the context of debates and polemics among the Christians themselves.



List of Abbreviations

Yitzhak Hen, Introduction

Walter Pohl, Disputed Identifications: Jews and the Use of Biblical Models in the Barbarian Kingdoms

Jonathan P. Conant, Jews and Christians in Vandal Africa

Wolfram Drews, Barbarians and Jews in Early Medieval Spain: Shifting Constellations of Religion and Identity

Giancarlo Lacerenza, Between Old and New Barbarians: The Jews of Southern Italy during the ‘Dark Ages’

Yitzhak Hen and Gerda Heydemann, A Double-edged Sword: Jews and the Rhetoric of Power in Ostrogothic Italy

Stefan Esders, The Prophesied Rule of a ‘Circumcised People’: A Travelling Tradition from the Seventh-century Mediterranean

Yaniv Fox, Ego, Bar-Iona: Jews and the Language of Forced Conversion in Columbanian Circles

Rob Meens, Jews in Early Medieval Penitential Literature

Johannes Heil, Friendly Barbarians? The Jews under Christian Rule in Northern Europe

Rosamond McKitterick and Graeme Ward, Knowledge of the History of the Jews in the Early Middle Ages

Piet Hoogeveen, Jewish Double Portraits: Hrabanus Maurus and his Commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel

Ora Limor, Tales from the East: Jewish Episodes in Early Medieval Travel Narratives

Thomas F. X. Noble, Images and the Imaginary Jew in the Early Byzantine World