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Lateran Councils III, IV


LATERAN COUNCILS III, IV . The third Lateran (11th Ecumenical) Council was summoned in 1179 by Pope Alexander iii. Canon 26 adopted by the Council was concerned with relations between Jews and Christians. It prohibits Jews and Saracens from having Christian servants, while any Christian who serves them is to be excommunicated. In all lawsuits the testimony of Christians is to be accepted against Jews, just as Jews make use of Jewish witnesses against Christians; anyone who prefers Jewish to Christian witnesses is to be anathematized, "since Jews ought to be subject to Christians, and treated kindly by them only out of humane considerations." A Jew who converts to Christianity is not to be deprived of any of his possessions, "for converts ought to be financially better off than they were before they accepted the Faith." The secular powers are commanded, under pain of excommunication, to ensure that this provision is put into effect. The ban on usury issued by the same Council does not specifically mention Jewish moneylenders. Alexander iii, moreover, issued the Bull Sicut Judaeis, protecting Jews from forcible baptism and other molestation.

The fourth Lateran (12th Ecumenical) Council was summoned in 1215 by Pope Innocent iii to call for a crusade and to combat various heresies. A delegation of Jews from southern France attempted to ensure that no anti-Jewish decisions were taken, but the Council issued four important regulations concerning the Jews. Canon 67 states that Jews must be prevented from exacting immoderate usury from Christians, and also that Jews must pay tithes on property formerly owned by Christians. Canon 68 complains that in many places Christians, Jews, and Saracens are outwardly indistinguishable, so that occasionally, "by mistake, Christians mix with Jewish or Saracen women" and vice versa. Non-Christians must therefore be compelled to dress differently from Christians (see also Jewish *badge). It is alleged there that this is also laid down in the Mosaic law. Jews are not to appear in public at Easter, or on days of Christian lamentation, because they are in the habit of dressing up and railing at Christians on such occasions, nor may they blaspheme against the name of Jesus in any other way. The next canon prohibits Jews from holding public office, and the last insists that converts to Christianity must desist from Jewish observances. An appendix is concerned with the proposed crusade. It lays down in passing that Jews must be compelled to remit interest on debts owed to them by those who take the cross. That all the topics mentioned here reappear in subsequent legislation is a measure of the comparative inefficacy of the Council's decisions.


Mansi, 22 (1778), 209–468, 953–1086; S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews… (19662), index; idem, in: Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of the Jewish Quarterly Review (1967), 293–9.

[Nicholas de Lange]

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