Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews -- A History [NOOK Book]

Overview

In this “rare book that combines searing passion . . . with a subject that has affected all of our lives” (Chicago Tribune), the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the two-thousand-year course of the Church’s battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has sparked in his own life as a Catholic. “Fascinating, brave and sometimes infuriating” (Time), this dark history is more than a chronicle of religion. It is the central tragedy of Western civilization, ...
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Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews -- A History

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Overview

In this “rare book that combines searing passion . . . with a subject that has affected all of our lives” (Chicago Tribune), the novelist and cultural critic James Carroll maps the two-thousand-year course of the Church’s battle against Judaism and faces the crisis of faith it has sparked in his own life as a Catholic. “Fascinating, brave and sometimes infuriating” (Time), this dark history is more than a chronicle of religion. It is the central tragedy of Western civilization, its fault lines reaching deep into our culture.
Drawing on his well-known talents as a storyteller and memoirist, Carroll has created “a deeply felt work, a book that measures the ‘sweep of history’ against [his] experience as a man of the church” (San Francisco Chronicle). A courageous and affecting reckoning with difficult truths that will touch every reader, “CONSTANTINE'S SWORD is a history written to change the way people live” (Talk).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780547348889
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/2002
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 768
  • Sales rank: 105,183
  • File size: 7 MB

Meet the Author

James Carroll was raised in Washington, D.C., and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar-
in-residence at Suffolk University, he is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a
regular contributor to the Daily Beast.

His critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award–winning An American Requiem, House of War, which won the first PEN/Galbraith Award, and the New York Times bestseller Constantine’s Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.

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Customer Reviews

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( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 25 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2001

    The sad truth about what really precipitated the Holocaust.

    This book reads like a novel. It reveals fascinating facts about Christianity at every turn. For example, the cross as a symbol of Christianity did not appear until around 300 AD. It is an extremely insightful look into the development of the Christian Church and it's relationship to Judaism. What makes this book really credible is the fact this prize winning author was actually ordained a Catholic priest. Throughout the book the author intertwines history with his own deep feelings while visiting some of the most important historic sites in Christendom. The author makes the point that the Church did not have to develop the way it did and if it had taken other turns in history the tragic events of the 20th century need not have happened. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of recent popes, the same mistakes are being repeated today as exemplified by the recent erection of a cross at the site of Auschwitz. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to understand the real roots of anti-semitism. It will make you realize that the ground work for a Hitler had been layed long before. The author, who still cherishes his religion, is to be commended for his courageous exposure of facts Catholism would rather keep in the closet.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2002

    Good writing, bad reviews

    The beauty of this book is that it is a critical analysis of historical events, rather than just chronicles of events. Carroll has tackled a profoundly complicated and controversial topic and explains it very well. <P>The book is complicated, and yes, it is filled with big words. It would be tough for the average layperson (non-academic or theologian) to get through as quick bedtime reading. However, this book is quite palatable: Carroll's passion helps drive what could otherwise be a very dry read. This history is tough to breeze through, but in the end, its worth the effort. <P>I'm disappointed in the negative review, below, by Christopher Galiardo. His haughty, high-falutin' wording assigned, he seems to have missed the point: Carroll isn't arguing all Christians are anti- Semites. Rather, Christian doctrine and policy has had anti-Semitism enshrined in it, which Christians must work at and rectify. Second, of course the book glosses over the advances of the past two generations: this is a 2000-year history; the last 50 years are merely epilogue. However, this lack of appreciation of historical record and analysis makes sense: no self-respecting historian would show off a pedigree of universities in a review, suggesting that Galiardo is merely showing off. (I was at a cafe in Paris; does this men I studied history in France?) And finally, the ad hominem attack on Carroll's mental state by suggesting he suffers from psychological disorders is downright hitting below the belt. <P>This is a brilliant but controversial historical read. It may be tough to read, but it's never dry. If you want a book that talks about how cool Christians have been to Jews from the first century to 1945, I suggest visiting the fantasy section.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2002

    The most honest book I've ever read

    I agree completely with Ron. This book does not paint Christians as anti-Semites, it merely argues the need for change in Catholic (and Christian) doctrine. The "Call for Vatican III" portion of the text along with the fact that he himself is a Christian, and I can't see him saying he's anti-Semitic, demonstrate that he's merely addressing several problems that have become institutionalized over the centuries. As a graduate student in history, that has read NUMEROUS historical works, I must say this is the most honest work I've ever read. Carroll's introspective examination required more courage than most people can muster. While the "dry" history would be interesting to me by itself, the work was made infinitely more gripping by the flashbacks and inclusions of personal perspective that reoccur throughout. I think this is a monumental work and incredibly well-written (anyone who has trouble with the big words, just read it with a dictionary at your side). I think this is a work with a VERY wide appeal that reexamines long-held assumptions and searches for their causes and historical roots. If this isn't a book for everyone, then it should certainly be a book for everyone who defines themselves as Christian. I think, however, that it is abook for anyone who is disturbed by the near-obliteration of the European Jewry that occurred in Nazi Germany...and who isn't?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2001

    True to the Carroll sense of Fairness.

    James Carroll outdoes himself with this book. so long in coming to the world, the truth that needed to be told. As a Carroll, I cried, and as a Jew. Reconciliation for our family as well. Mary Carroll-Bower

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2001

    A Truth for Schools/Clergy/All

    This is one of the best historical books I have ever read. There is so much information on Christianity and Judaism in it that I may have to read it again. This book traces the truth about Christianity and Judaism. I recommend it especially to clergy who make statements that are not necessarily historically correct. His recommendations for the church are especially enlightening and would do a lot to dispel antisemitism as it exists even now.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2001

    Constantine's Sword, a personal history of the relationship of the Church and the Jews

    The most unique aspect of James Carroll's recounting of the tragic relationship of the Church and the Jews is how he relates so personally to the entire 2,000 year story. A former priest and still a devout Catholic, he begins the story displaying his naivete and innocent biases. He even had a Seder with some Jewish students at Boston U. and switched a ritual over matzo for a eucharist ceremony. He early in his quest felt as many Christians do that once Jesus is understood in his Jewishness than Jews will accept him. Obviously 2,000 years of baggage on both sides that make the above a ridiculous fantasy. The Church has had a 'Jewish Problem' from its very origins as here is the parent faith which by and large never accepted the theology of the new one. The book than recounts the terrible history and Carroll makes no excuses for any of it. But as a continued devout Catholic he insists that the Church itself as well as each individual member of it must take responsibility for this history. While he admires Pope John Paul II for his visit to Israel and his belated apology, he realizes that the Church itself and not just its members must own up to its responsibilities. Throughout the book he relates the stories of Constantine, Augustine, Abelard, the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Dreyfus affair and even the Holocaust to his own personal life. In this way he allows the history to live in all of us who read his words and shows us how seriously we need to take the healing process if this tragic relationship is ever to be corrected. It may be that his suggestions for a Vatican III and a revamping of Catholic theology may be asking a bit much for this essentially conservative institution, but at least he seems to be asking the right questions.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 1, 2013

    A complicated history

    This is one fine book with loads of information of the early Church and it's relationship to the Jew. Born and raised a Catholic in the 40s and 50s, the Church never spoke to me of these matters. I think a great deal of us were just not thinking at all and believing what Hollywood presented as facts. Mr Carroll does a brilliant job of presenting the facts in ways I can even understand. I have read several of his books and he has the skills most modern day writers would envy.I highly recommend this book. It's a very long read, but one that is most informative and will serve as a decent reference book in the future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyed the book immensely, but would have liked to have a bit l

    Enjoyed the book immensely, but would have liked to have a bit less of the personal experiences; sometimes the personal experiences would disrupt the flow of the book, but otherwise all the information was great throughout.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 24, 2012

    One of the most informative and objective books I've read on the

    One of the most informative and objective books I've read on the role of the Roman Catholic Church with anti-Semitism. A must read for those who do not want to repeat the worst of religious intolerance.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 3, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    The Statute of Limitations for organized murder lasts forever

    First, I gave the writer high marks for taking a very difficult subject and putting it in a well-organized and readable form. With his background as a former Priest, I have to conclude that generally he knows what he is talking about and he does quite well in telling the story. I was disappointed to see him give Paul (Saint) more or less a free pass on his early activities when we know from Paul's writings that he "persecuted those of the way unto death." In fact, he had just participated in a Temple riot in which he siezed a faggot of nwood and started assailing others. James, the brother of the Lord was thrown down from the Temple steps head first and broke one, if not nboth legs. Paul pursued the Essene community with authorizing letters from the Temple Pharisees. Doctinally, Paul essentially reversed the teaching of the community on the Law (Torah), circumcision, and table fellowship. Paul's acts were about as Anti-Semitic as one could get yet the authore broad brushes this and does not criticize it. Additionally, there can be no excuse for the church's silence during the period of holocaust killings. Turning you head the other way just doesn't cut it. As your past actions have clearly shown, the church as such, has all the pomp, trappings, and ceremony, along with the Golden Throne but no real clout. This is a sad, sad record for any organization but for it ti have been the most respected religious organiztion in the worl, your impotence is staggering.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2006

    At least a '10 Star' History

    Not at all boring - exciting - relates Christianity's development in a chronological, neat fashion, interspersed with personal vignettes. The entire Western world should read to learn and understand why we are where we are - politically and religiously. I have read many of Carroll's sources but none of them present the big picture...Carrol does.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2005

    Veryhistorical

    This book is extremely fascinating. Touching on an epoch when anti-Semitism was encouraged by the greatest religious body of the world, it explains a lot about a stereotype that persists until today and hatred against a people which few can explain. A perfect answer to the question, 'Why is there so much anti-Semitism in the world?'

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2003

    CHURCH RULERS BY A PRIEST WITH A CONSCIENCE

    AS A CATHOLIC BORN AND RAISED, CONSTANTINE'S SWORD, IS A SPECTACULAR REVEALING HISTORY ON CHURCH DOCTRINE AND THEOLOGY AND THE EVOLVING MIND SET OF THE CHURCH AS IT RELATES TO JUDAISM. I HAVE STUDIED THE FORMATION OF CHRISTENDOM FROM MANY ANGLES, BUT THIS THOROUGH AND DETAILED ACCOUNT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT CONTENT AND THE EVOLVING EDICTS, DICTATES, AND PHILOSOPHY OF ANTISEMITIC SCAPEGOATING OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY IS AMAZINGLY TOLD BY A, I ASSUME, LIBERAL AND REFORMING PRIEST. IT IS RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE WHO CAN TAKE THIS CRITICISM OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. I ESPECIALLY LIKED THE ACCOUNTS OF THE NAZI-VATICAN PARTNERSHIP DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR. THE TREATIES MADE BY EUGENIO PACELLI, THAT BECAME POPE PIUS XII, WITH THE NAZI REPRESENTATIVE, FRANZ VON PAPEN, A CATHOLIC. THE TREATY--' REICHKONKORDAT'. ALSO THE ANTIMODERNISM OF THE CHURCH AND THE HERESY OF 'AMERICANISM'. MOST REVEALING.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2002

    Author's attempt at honest reporting fundamentally flawed--scholarly questions raised

    As a historian educated at the University of Chicago, Dartmouth, and universities in Germany and Rome, I must confess that the idea of this book initially fascinated me. Finally, it seemed, an author would tackle the daunting task of chronicling the nearly two-thousand years of Jewish-Christian interaction. I was unspeakably disappointed. While the author has presumably made an attempt to analyze the aforementioned relations objectively, the conclusions that he draws, at least from a historical perspective, are untenable. Not only does he gloss over the generations in which great strides have been made in mutual understanding between the two religions, but he also demonizes the very Christian faith that he claims to espouse. Such a bias, one that has caused Caroll to distort historical facts, could possibly be ascribed to what psychologists refer to as the 'ex syndrome.' As a former priest, he likely suffers form a(n at least) subconscious desire to defend his abandonment of the faith. This desire colors all his judgments and skews the way that he analyzes facts. This psychological malady is deadly for objective historical reporting, something taught to all historians as early as high school. To sum up my analysis of the book, I am deeply saddened by what I have discovered in a book with such a promising title. Although I do not share the same faith as the author, it is even apparent from the standpoint of a disinterested historian that he merely tries to justify his own decision to leave the Catholic priesthood by branding Christians as anti-Semites.

    1 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 30, 2009

    History?

    Carroll tells that according to family history, an uncle died an Irish hero in 1916. 1916 being the year of the "Easter Rising", one might construe that uncle died an Irish hero in the Easter Rising. Carroll reveals, truth be told, the Irish hero uncle died in France serving in the British military. Likewise, Constantine's Sword plods with heavy footnotes to sift, shift and shape history in order to entrench the position of a dead soldier in a negative light.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2005

    Too drawn out

    The book was good in some respects, but it had a lot of unnecessary material in it. I got about 400 pages through and had to put it down. The book should have been cut down by at least 200-250 pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2002

    Wait for a revised second edition

    CONSTANTINE¿S SWORD is a good but needlessly rambling and flawed book. One assumes that if the author (previously unknown to me) could have written a better book, he would have. Part spiritual autobiography (after the fashion of Augustine and Cardinal Newman), part romp through centuries of barely digested sources, the book tackles an important subject as well as the author apparently knows how. Why are Christians, especially Roman Catholics and Lutherans, Carroll asks, so strongly and almost eternally predisposed to hate Jews? Today's hatred is fueled by the very Christian Scriptures themselves. ***Carroll therefore invites today¿s Catholics to call an unprecedentedly wide open Third Vatican Council, among other things, to admit that the Gospel of John got some things terribly wrong in exaggerating the importance of Jesus¿s death on the cross of Golgotha and in making ¿the Jews¿ uniquely responsible for that death. The bibliography and the end notes are very good.***My advice to readers: wait for a second, revised edition, which will be improved if it is briefer by two-thirds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2002

    Most Dissappointing

    I was glad to finally see a review that really stated how I felt about the book thanks to Christopher Galiardo's April 2002 review. Thank you for putting it in words I wasn't able to. Your education background (not to mention your religeous) validated even more our mutual opinions. You must have a very extensive dictionary to plow through the wordsmithing of this book. It was very painful to understand where the points were being made due to the over use of words most people don't inclued in their daily lives. I was let down because I was hoping to find the interrelations of how Christianity and Judaeism intertwined these past two thousand years. Look out Oedipes Rex. The searching for his identity overtakes and undermines the actual subject of the book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2002

    Recommended, though not exactly successful.

    James Carroll has tackled an ambitious agenda in Constantine's Sword. He seeks to summarize and explain two millennia of Christian anti-semitism; to convey his personal reflections on that history through autobiographic soul-searching; and finally, to propose reforms that will cleanse the Church of Jew-hatred. His success in pursuit of these goals varies widely. The basic history makes good reading, especially if you don't already know the story. I enthusiastically recommend the book simply on this basis, since the well-told history comprises about two-thirds of the text. The autobiographical content is a mixed bag. There are some moving anecdotes and some interesting insights on the cross and other Christian touchstones. I personally like Carroll's use of the Cross at Auschwitz as a compositional centerpiece; other readers may find it glib. Carroll's incestuous fantasization of the Pieta seems a bit goofy to me; others may find it evocative. When Carroll pursues his third goal, selling his own reformist proposals, his good intentions trump his good sense. Carroll is an ex-priest, dedicated to his faith though skeptical of the current Pope. He fervently wants to believe that anti-semitism is a cancerous tumor on the Church, not an essential part of Catholicism's flesh and blood. Unfortunately for him, the history he recounts shows just the opposite. The founding documents of Christianity are polemically anti-Jewish. Carroll does a good job of explaining this bias by recounting the evolution of the Gospel, but neither he nor any other Christian can eliminate the hatred without drastically changing the Canon. That explains why, in two thousand years of Church history, Carroll can find only a few marginal clergymen who urged Christians to respect Jews and Judaism. Carroll mourns these advocates of a 'road not taken'; he doesn't seem to understand the reasons for their failure, or the key point that their failure was inevitable. This point becomes vivid when Carroll unveils his program for Church reform. Despite Carroll's tortured disclaimers, his program amounts to total revolution: a repudiation of the Gospel and most of the intricate dogma built upon it. In fact, the 'Vatican III' he envisions would convert Roman Catholicism into something very much like Reform Judaism: a pluralistic monotheism based on God's love and humanistic principles that, as Carroll notes, pre-date Jesus. Some of us might consider that conversion a vast improvement, but I don't think many of us will be invited to a Church Council any time soon.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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