Blood libel

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The blood libel is the superstitious belief that Jewish people needed the blood of Christian babies for varied reasons. It is a common component of Anti-Semitism.

The Catholic Church has formally declared the blood libel to be untrue, and it no longer persists in the West. Indeed, many children venerated as Christian martyrs have been decanonised. However, the blood libel has resurfaced in Islamic countries, and is even taught in Madrasahs in Saudi Arabia. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Egypt have all had recent reports of the blood libel being promoted in books and/or state sponsored media.

It originated first in the writings of the Graeco-Egyptian sophist and grammarian Apion, who alleged that Jews sacrificed Greeks in the Temple of Jerusalem. Later, the murder of Saint William of Norwich was blamed upon the local Jewish community, though a sheriff intervened at the indictment of a group of suspects. The murder was never solved.

Some Roman pagans (prior to the rule of Constantine I and the general acceptance of Christianity), took exception to the ritual of the Eucharist, believing that Christians literally drank blood instead of transubstantiated wine. This was used in propaganda to advocate the persecution of Christians.

Arnold Zweig's 1914 play Ritual Murder dealt with the ways Jews handled the blood libel in terms of the realities of contemporary Jewish life and issues of Jewish male identity.

The Catholic Church at the Vatican Council II (1966) issuesd "Nostra Aetate", also known as the "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions". The document has meant the official end to stereotypes of Jews and Judaism, including charges of "deicide" and the blood libel; it called for new interpretations of both the Old and the New Testament, and it has meant a reexamination of the covenantal traditions.[1]

Further reading

  • Handler, Andrew. Blood Libel at Tiszaeszlar. (1980). 273 pp.


  1. John T. Pawlikowski, "Nostra Aetate: Its Impact on Catholic-Jewish Relations". Thought 1992 67(267): 371-385.