History ETDs

Publication Date

Summer 7-15-2017


This dissertation analyzes the text and context of a mid-twelfth-century Hebrew narrative composed by a Northern European Jew writing pseudonymously as Solomon bar Samson. The so-called Chronicle of Solomon bar Samson treats the perceived reasons for and Jewish responses to the Rhineland pogroms of 1096 C.E., which were carried out by burghers, peasants, and crusaders traveling to the Holy Land. The reasons expressed range from divine retribution for Jewish transgression to Christian vengeance for Christ’s crucifixion while responses range from voluntary conversion aimed at preserving life to suicidal and homicidal martyrdom enacted in the hopes of securing atonement and redemption. Though it depicts historical events, employs elements of contemporary historical methodology, and scholars have designated it as a chronicle which lauds the victimized Jewish community as exemplars of piety, this dissertation contends that Solomon’s narrative neither represents a history nor an homage. A comparison of Jewish literary genres reveals, instead, that Solomon’s narrative bears similarities to and most likely was intended to function as an apocalypse. This emerges in Solomon’s employment 
of pesher biblical exegesis, in which apocalypticists commonly conflated periods of persecution in Israel’s history; the well-known Jewish trope of Israel as a promiscuous woman, and the related trope of Israel’s seduction by a promiscuous woman, a zonah; and the doctrine of reform, teshuvah. Through these, Solomon critiqued what he perceived to be religious leniency, both among the generation of 1096 C.E. as well as his own contemporary society, in the manner of a Jewish apocalypse. Namely, he suggested that all past moments of potential messianic redemption, including 1096 C.E., had not come to fruition because of over-familiarity with or assimilation to the dominant Christian culture. And, like all apocalypticists, he called for reform as a means of securing messianic redemption and ushering in the new and final era.

Level of Degree


Degree Name


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Michael A. Ryan

Second Committee Member

Timothy C. Graham

Third Committee Member

Sarah Davis-Secord

Fourth Committee Member

Devorah Schoenfeld

Fifth Committee Member

Ruth Mazo Karras




Medieval Ashkenaz, Apocalypticism, Solomon bar Samson, Crusade Pogrom, Theodicy, Reform

Document Type


Included in

History Commons