By Wolfram Drews
Early Medieval Europe, Volume 11, Issue 3 (2002)
Abstract: A conciliar canon from Visigothic Spain relates that Jewish parents, who had been baptized by force, were trying to save their children from baptism, relying on the help of Christian neighbours, who lent them their own children for a second baptism. According to the wording of the canon, Jewish parents thereby illicitly retained their children as ‘pagans’. This very peculiar, ‘extremist’ terminology served as a rhetorical tool to denigrate Judaism, putting it on a par with idolatry, superstition, supposedly primitive religion and backward, rural culture. This rhetorical strategy was used to construct a negative Jewish identity, which in turn served to strengthen a new concept of Gothic identity propagated ever since the conversion of the Visigoths to catholicism. Catholic Goths are presented both as the heirs of christianized Roman culture (which included the acceptance and transformation of catholic anti-Judaism), and as the champions of historical progress, allegedly overcoming different kinds of pre-Christian, ‘barbarian’ religion.