Setting Boundaries: Early Medieval Reflections on Religious Toleration and their Jewish Sources

Glenn W. Olsen

Abstract: The history of toleration has no beginning. Tolerance and intolerance, the instincts to welcome and to exclude, have been practiced by each individual and every people. From its beginnings, Judaism regarded itself as the religion of the chosen people that drew lines of separation between itself and others (especially in the matter of purity) while also welcoming the stranger. Christianity and Islam acted similarly. This paper explores ways in which Judaism’s approach to the problem of tolerating those with whom it could not comfortably live a shared life influenced its daughter faiths, especially Christianity.

Biography: Glenn W. Olsen received his PhD in medieval history from the University of Wisconsin, with a research specialty in the history of Roman and Canon law. He has since taught at Seattle University and Fordham University, and is a professor of history in the University of Utah. Additionally, he has been a visiting professor at a number of universities in the United States and Europe. He has received Fulbright, American Council of Learned Societies, and National Endowment for the Humanities grants, and the Barbieri Grant in Italian History.
A former President of the Rocky Mountain Medieval and Renaissance Association and of the Medieval Association of the Pacific, he is an editor of The Catholic Historical Review and of Communio: International Catholic Review, and is on the executive committee of the International Scientific Advisory Board in charge of the biennial European Culture Congresses. He has published widely in medieval intellectual and ecclesiastical history, and also on topics in modern theology, philosophy, and political theory.

Volume 2, Number 2 (Spring 2007) pp. 164-192