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date: 16 April 2024

Wandering Jewlocked

Wandering Jewlocked

  • Lisa Lampert-WeissigLisa Lampert-WeissigUniversity of San Diego

Summary

The legend of the Wandering Jew tells of a man who refused Jesus rest as Jesus struggled to Calvary. In response, Jesus bestowed a curse: the man would henceforth be unable to die, doomed to wait until Judgment Day. According to the Christian tradition of the legend, this experience converted the man to Christianity. Immortal, the cursed man now roams the earth, telling all he encounters of the events of the Passion and other historical events that he has experienced firsthand since that time. The legend circulated orally for centuries and artists, writers, and thinkers from around the world have also engaged with the legend through works of literary, visual, musical, and plastic art, as well as polemic, journalism, and philosophy. The Wandering Jew’s curse has often been understood as a metaphor for the Jewish diaspora, interpreted as punishment for alleged Jewish crimes against Christ. This Christian version of the legend has dominated these adaptations, but there is also an important strand of Jewish responses to the legend that center Jewish experience and provide a Jewish perspective on Jewish–Christian relations in the diaspora. From the textual origins of the medieval period through to 21st-century examples, both Jewish and Christian interpretive strands of the legend reveal the contours of “contact zones” between Jews and Christians. They also reflect on the history of these contacts and anticipate this history’s end, frequently by imagining the apocalyptic end of history itself.

Subjects

  • Western European Literatures

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