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Wandering Jew

The Wandering Jew by Gustave Doré

The Wandering Jew is a fictional figure whose legend began to spread in Europe in the 13th century.[1]

The original legend concerns a Jew who taunted Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion and was then cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming. The exact nature of the wanderer's indiscretion varies in different versions of the tale, as do aspects of his character; sometimes he is said to be a shoemaker or other tradesman, while sometimes he is the doorman at Pontius Pilate's estate.


  • Name 1
  • Origin and evolution 2
    • Biblical sources 2.1
    • Early Christianity 2.2
    • Medieval legend 2.3
  • In literature 3
    • 17th and 18th centuries 3.1
    • 19th century 3.2
      • England 3.2.1
        • North America
      • Germany 3.2.2
      • Denmark 3.2.3
      • France 3.2.4
      • Russia 3.2.5
      • Other literature 3.2.6
    • 20th century 3.3
      • Latin America 3.3.1
      • French 3.3.2
      • German 3.3.3
      • Dutch 3.3.4
      • Romanian 3.3.5
      • Russian 3.3.6
      • Swedish 3.3.7
      • English 3.3.8
    • 21st century 3.4
      • Uzbekistan 3.4.1
  • In art 4
    • Nineteenth century 4.1
    • Twentieth century 4.2
  • In ideology (19c. and after) 5
  • The Jew's portrayal in popular media 6
    • Stage 6.1
    • Film 6.2
    • Other 6.3
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


The earliest extant manuscript with the legend is the Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover, where it appears in the part for the year 1228, under the title Of the Jew Joseph who is still alive awaiting the last coming of Christ.[2]

At least from the 17th century the name Ahasver has been given to the Wandering Jew, apparently adapted from Ahasuerus, the Persian king in the Book of Esther, who was not a Jew, and whose very name among medieval Jews was an exemplum of a fool.[3]

A variety of names have since been given to the Wandering Jew, including Matathias, Buttadeus, Paul Marrane,[4] and Isaac Laquedem which is a name for him in France and the Low Countries, in popular legend as well as in a novel by Dumas.

Where the German and Russian language is spoken the emphasis has been on the perpetual character of his punishment and he is known as "Ewige Jude" and "vechnyy zhid (вечный жид)", the Eternal Jew. In French and other Romance languages, the usage has been to refer to the wanderings, as in French "le Juif errant", and this has been followed in English from the Middle Ages.[5]

Origin and evolution

Biblical sources

The origins of the legend are uncertain; perhaps one element is the story in Genesis of Cain, who is issued with a similar punishment – to wander over the earth, never reaping a harvest again, but scavenging. According to Jehoshua Gilboa, many commentators have pointed to Hosea 9:17 as a statement of the notion of the "eternal/wandering Jew".[6] According to some sources, the legend stems from Jesus' words given in Matthew 16:28:

Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, εἰσίν τινες ὧδε ἑστῶτες, οἵτινες οὐ μὴ γεύσωνται θανάτου, ἕως ἂν ἴδωσιν τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐρχόμενον ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ αὐτοῦ.
"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." (New International Version)
'Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.' (King James Version)[7]

A belief that the disciple whom Jesus loved would not die was apparently popular enough in the early Christian world to be denounced in the Gospel of John:

"And Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple following whom Jesus loved, who had also leaned on His breast at the supper, and had said, Lord, which is he who betrayeth Thee? When, therefore, Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall he do? Jesus saith to him, If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou Me. Then this saying went forth among the brethren, that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus had not said to him that he would not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?" (John 21:20-23, KJV)

Another passage in the Gospel of John speaks about a guard of the high priest who slaps Jesus (John 18:19-23, KJV). Earlier, the Gospel of John talks about Simon Peter striking the ear from a servant of the high priest, named Malchus (John 18:10, KJV). Although this servant is probably not the same guard who struck Jesus, Malchus is nonetheless one of the many names given to the wandering Jew in later legend.[8]

The Wandering Jew by Samuel Hirszenberg (1899).

Early Christianity

Extant manuscripts have shown that as early as the time of Tertullian some Christian proponents were likening the Jewish people to a "new Cain", asserting that they would be "fugitives and wanderers (upon) the earth".[9]

Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (b. 348) writes in his Apotheosis (c. 400): "From place to place the homeless Jew wanders in ever-shifting exile, since the time when he was torn from the abode of his fathers and has been suffering the penalty for murder, and having stained his hands with the blood of Christ whom he denied, paying the price of sin.[10]

Medieval legend

Some scholars have identified components of the legend of the Eternal Jew in Teutonic legends of the Eternal Hunter, some features of which are derived from Wotan mythology.[11]

"In some areas the farmers arranged the rows in their fields in such a way that on Sundays the Eternal Jew might find a resting place. Elsewhere they assumed that he could rest only upon a plough or that he had to be on the go all year and was allowed a respite only on Christmas."[11]

A variant of the Wandering Jew legend is recorded in the Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover around the year 1228.[12][13][14] An Armenian archbishop, then visiting England, was asked by the monks of St Albans Abbey about the celebrated Joseph of Arimathea, who had spoken to Jesus, and was reported to be still alive. The archbishop answered that he had himself seen such a man in Armenia, and that his name was Cartaphilus, a Jewish shoemaker, who, when Jesus stopped for a second to rest while carrying his cross, hit him, and told him "Go on quicker, Jesus! Go on quicker! Why dost Thou loiter?", to which Jesus, "with a stern countenance", is said to have replied: "I shall stand and rest, but thou shalt go on till the last day." The Armenian bishop also reported that Cartaphilus had since converted to Christianity and spent his wandering days proselytizing and leading a hermit's life.

Matthew Paris included this passage from Roger of Wendover in his own history; and other Armenians appeared in 1252 at the Abbey of St Albans, repeating the same story, which was regarded there as a great proof of the truth of the Christian religion.[15] The same Armenian told the story at Tournai in 1243, according to the Chronicles of Phillip Mouskes, (chapter ii. 491, Brussels, 1839). After that, Guido Bonatti writes people saw the Wandering Jew in Forlì (Italy), in the 13th century; other people saw him in Vienna and elsewhere.[16]

The figure of the doomed sinner, forced to wander without the hope of rest in death till the second coming of Christ, impressed itself upon the popular medieval imagination, mainly with reference to the seeming immortality of the wandering Jewish people. These two aspects of the legend are represented in the different names given to the central figure. In German-speaking countries and Russia he is referred to as "Der Ewige Jude" (the immortal, or eternal, Jew) and "vechnyy zhid ("вечный жид")", while in Romance-speaking countries he is known as "Le Juif Errant" (the Wandering Jew) and "L'Ebreo Errante"; the English form, probably because it is derived from the French, has followed the Romance. As well as "El Judío Errante" (The Wandering Jew), he is known in Spanish as "Juan [el que] Espera a Dios", (John [who] waits for God).[17][18][19]

There were claims of sightings of the Wandering Jew throughout Europe, since at least 1542 in Hamburg up to 1868 in Harts Corners, New York.[20] Joseph Jacobs, writing in the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, commented 'It is difficult to tell in any one of these cases how far the story is an entire fiction and how far some ingenious impostor took advantage of the existence of the myth'.[21] It has been alleged by an 1881 writer, who however cites no instances, that the supposed presence of the Wandering Jew has occasionally been used as a pretext for incursions by Gentiles into Jewish quarters during the late Middle Ages, when the legend was accepted as fact.[22]

In literature

17th and 18th centuries

The legend became more popular after it appeared in a 17th-century pamphlet of four leaves, "Kurtze [sic] Beschreibung und Erzählung von einem Juden mit Namen Ahasverus" ("Short description and tale of a Jew with the name Ahasuerus").[23] "Here we are told that some fifty years before, a bishop met him in a church at Hamburg, repentant, ill-clothed and distracted at the thought of having to move on in a few weeks".[24] As with urban legends, particularities lend verisimilitude: the bishop is specifically Paulus von Eitzen, General Superintendent of Schleswig. The legend spread quickly throughout Germany, no less than eight different editions appearing in 1602; altogether forty appeared in Germany before the end of the 18th century. Eight editions in Dutch and Flemish are known; and the story soon passed to France, the first French edition appearing in Bordeaux, 1609, and to England, where it appeared in the form of a parody in 1625.[25] The pamphlet was translated also into Danish and Swedish; and the expression "eternal Jew" is current in Czech, Slovak, and German, der Ewige Jude. Apparently the pamphlets of 1602 borrowed parts of the descriptions of the wanderer from reports (most notably by Balthasar Russow) about an itinerant preacher called Jürgen.[26]

In France, the Wandering Jew appeared in Simon Tyssot de Patot's La Vie, les Aventures et le Voyage de Groenland du Révérend Père Cordelier Pierre de Mésange (1720).

In England the Wandering Jew makes an appearance in one of the secondary plots in

  • "The Wandering Jew," and "The Wandering Jew's Chronicle" English Broadside Ballad Archive
  • Wandering Jew and Jewess dramatic screenplays
  • The Wandering Jew, by Eugène Sue at Project Gutenberg
  • entryCatholic Encyclopedia
  • by Ilf and PetrovThe Golden Calf from The (presumed) End of the Wandering Jew
  • Israel's First President, Chaim Weizmann, "A Wandering Jew" Shapell Manuscript Foundation
  • "The Wandering Image: Converting the Wandering Jew" Iconography and visual art.

External links

  • Anderson, George K. The Legend of the Wandering Jew. Providence: Brown University Press, 1965. xi, 489 p.; reprint edition ISBN 0-87451-547-5 Collects both literary versions and folk versions.
  • Hasan-Rokem, Galit and Alan Dundes The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend (Bloomington:Indiana University Press) 1986. 20th-century folkloristic renderings.
  • Manning, Robert Douglas Wandering Jew and Wandering Jewess ISBN 978-1-895507-90-4
  • Gaer, Joseph (Fishman) The Legend of the Wandering Jew New American Library, 1961 (Dore illustrations) popular account.
  • Richard I. Cohen, "The "Wandering Jew" from Medieval Legend to Modern Metaphor," in Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jonathan Karp (eds), The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007) (Jewish Culture and Contexts),


  1. ^ as described in the first chapter of Curious Myths of the Middle Ages where Sabine Baring-Gould attributed the earliest extant mention of the myth of the Wandering Jew to Matthew Paris. The chapter began with a reference to Gustave Doré's series of twelve illustrations to the legend, and ended with a sentence remarking that, while the original legend was so 'noble in its severe simplicity' that few could develop it with success in poetry or otherwise, Doré had produced in this series 'at once a poem, a romance, and a chef-d'oeuvre of art'. First published in two parts in 1866 and 1868, the work was republished in 1877 and in many other editions.[22]
  2. ^ [23] (Latin, De Joseph, qui ultimum Christi adventum adhuc vivus exspectat) p.175 [24] and Encyc. Brit. 11th edition [25]
  3. ^ David Daube, "Ahasver" The Jewish Quarterly Review New Series 45.3 (January 1955), pp 243-244.
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Encyc. Brit. 11th edition.[26] The title for the article in the print edition was "Jew, the Wandering". It was signed "J.Ja." for "Joseph Jacobs, Litt.D., Professor of English Literature in the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York., formerly President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, author of Jews of Angevin England, Studies in Biblical Archaeology etc.
  6. ^ Sweeney, Marvin Alan; Cotter, David W.; Walsh, Jerome T.; Franke, Chris (October 2000). The Twelve Prophets: Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Liturgical Press. p. 102.  
  7. ^ This verse is quoted in the German pamphlet Kurtze Beschreibung und Erzählung von einem Juden mit Namen Ahasverus, 1602.
  8. ^ Salo Wittmayer Baron, Social and Religious History of the Jews, 18 vols., 2d ed., Columbia University Press, 1952–1983. Volume titles [27]
  9. ^ Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (400). Apotheosis. Retrieved 2011-12-22. 
  10. ^ a b A social and religious history of the Jews: Citizen or alien conjurer 11. Columbia University Press. 1967. p. 178.  
  11. ^ Roger of Wendover's Flowers of ... - Google Books. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  12. ^ Flores historiarum – Google Books. 2007-08-07. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  13. ^ For 13c.expulsion of Jews see History of the Jews in England and Edict of Expulsion.
  14. ^ Matthew Paris, Chron. Majora, ed. H. R. Luard, London, 1880, v. 340-341
  15. ^ Anderson (1991), 22-23
  16. ^ For Jews in Germany in and after middle ages see History of the Jews in Germany.
  17. ^ For 14c. expulsion of Jews and 16c. return see History of the Jews in France.
  18. ^ For Jews in Spain in and after middle ages see History of the Jews in Spain.
  19. ^ "Editorial Summary", Deseret News, 23 September 1868.
  20. ^  
  21. ^ Conway, Moncure Daniel (1881). The Wandering Jew. Chatto and Windus. p. 28. Retrieved 2 December 2010. The animus of the revival of the legend is shown by instances in which the Jews' quarters were invaded under rumours that they were concealing the Wanderer. 
  22. ^ This professes to have been printed at Leiden in 1602 by an otherwise unrecorded printer "Christoff Crutzer"; the real place and printer can not be ascertained.
  23. ^ Daube 1955:244.
  24. ^ Jacobs and Wolf, Bibliotheca Anglo-Judaica, p. 44, No. 221.
  25. ^ Beyer, Jürgen, 'Jürgen und der Ewige Jude. Ein lebender Heiliger wird unsterblich', Arv. Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 64 (2008), 125-40
  26. ^ Wallace Austin Flanders, Godwin and Gothicism: St. Leon. Texas Studies in Literature and Language Vol. 8, No. 4 (Winter 1967), pp. 533-545.
  27. ^ English Broadside Ballad Archive. "The Wandering Jew". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  28. ^ English Broadside Ballad Archive. "The Wandering Jew's Chronicle". Retrieved 10 September 2014. 
  29. ^ Third edition: Reliques of ancient English poetry: consisting of old heroic ballads, songs, and other pieces of our earlier poets, (chiefly of the lyric kind.) Together with some few of later date (Volume 3) - p.295-301, 128 lines of verse, with prose introduction [28]
  30. ^ Andrew Franklin
  31. ^ The Wandering Jew, A Poem in Four Cantos by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Written in 1810, published posthumously for the Shelley Society by Reeves and Turner, London 1877.
  32. ^ The Impiety of Ahasuerus: Percy Shelley's Wandering Jew Tamara Tinker, revised edition 2010
  33. ^ a b c d e Brian Stableford, "Introduction" to Tales of the Wandering Jew edited by Stableford.Dedalus, Sawtry, 1991. ISBN 0-946626-71-5 . (pp.1-25).
  34. ^ Gebbie's edition 1873 [29] A similar title was used for an edition under the imprint of Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, Paris & New York.File:Wandering jew title page.jpg
  35. ^ William Russo's 1999 novella Mal Tempo details Wallace's research and real-life attempt to find the mythical character for his novel. Russo also wrote a sequel, entitled Mal Tempo & Friends in 2001.
  36. ^ "Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad (Chap. 54)". Genius. Retrieved 2015-09-12. 
  37. ^ Heinrich Heine, Aus den Memoiren des Herren von Schnabelewopski, 1834. See Barry Millington, The Wagner Compendium, London (1992), p. 277
  38. ^ Fifteenth Book of The autobiography of Goethe: truth and poetry, from my own life translated from the German by John Oxenford (1848).
  39. ^ Full text of "The autobiography of Goethe : truth and poetry, from my own life"
  41. ^ Guillaume Apollinaire,"L'Hérésiarque & Cie"
  42. ^ Franz Rottensteiner, "Afterword" in "The Green Face" by Meyrink, translated by Mike Mitchell. Sawtry : Dedalus/Ariadne, 1992, pp.218-224. ISBN 0-946626-92-8
  43. ^ Northwestern University Press (1983) ISBN 978-0-8101-1706-8
  44. ^ "A Handful of Silver" in Half In Shadow by Mary Elizabeth Counselman, William Kimber, 1980 (p205-212).
  45. ^ Barr, Mike W. (w), Aparo, Jim (p), Ziuko, Tom (i). "The Phantom Stranger" Secret Origins v2, 10: 2-10 (January, 1987), DC Comics
  46. ^ Chris Gilmore, "Grabien, Deborah" in St. James Guide To Fantasy Writers, edited by David Pringle. St. James Press, 1996. ISBN 1-55862-205-5 (pp.238-39)
  47. ^ The three taverns; a book of poems : Robinson, Edwin Arlington, 1869-1935 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
  48. ^ [31]
  49. ^ File:Kaulbach Zerstoerung Jerusalems durch Titus.jpg
  50. ^ Fig.1 and details Figs. 2 and 3 AVRAHAM RONEN KAULBACH'S WANDERING JEW [32].
  51. ^ the replica for the stairway murals of the New Museum in Berlin (see fig.5 "The New Museum, Berlin" [33]) which had been commissioned from Kaulbach in 1842 and was completed in 1866, was destroyed by war damage during WW II.
  52. ^ Kaulbach's booklet had quotations from Old and New Testament prophecies and references to Josephus Flavius' Jewish War as his principal literary source, AVRAHAM RONEN KAULBACH'S WANDERING JEW[34]
  53. ^ art gallery of 19c. work Pinacotheca
  54. ^ Levy, Richard S. (2005). Antisemitism: a historical encyclopedia of prejudice and persecution. ABC-CLIO. p. 186.  
  55. ^ Attribution to Doré uncertain, AVRAHAM RONEN KAULBACH'S WANDERING JEW[35]
  56. ^ reproduction exhibited at Yad Vashem.File:Nazi Wandering Jew propaganda by David Shankbone.jpg
  57. ^ Linda Nochlin, Gustave Courbet's Meeting: A Portrait of the Artist as a Wandering Jew Art Bulletin vol 49 No 3 (September 1967): 209-222
  58. ^ for a short poem of Pierre-Jean de Béranger, derived from a novel by Eugène Sue of 1845: Eric Zafran, with Robert Rosenblum and Lisa Small, editors, Fantasy and Faith: The Art of Gustave Doré, Yale University Press, 2007 [36]
  59. ^ Fig.5, Ronen "Kaulbach's Wandering Jew"
  60. ^ Ronen "Kaulbach's Wandering Jew"[37] Fig.6
  61. ^ Sculpture by Alfred Nossig. Fig.3.3, p.79 in Todd Presner Muscular Judaism: The Jewish Body and the Politics of Regeneration. Routledge, 2007. The sculpture was exhibited in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress, which established the Jewish National Fund.[38]
  62. ^ fig.16 with commentary in Joanna L. Brichetto, THE WANDERING IMAGE: CONVERTING THE WANDERING JEW (2006).[39]. For works of some other artists with Wandering Jew titles, and connected wih the theme of the continuing social and political predicament of Jews or the Jewish people see figs. 24(1968), 26 (1983), 27 (1996), 28 (2002)
  63. ^ Bein, Alex (30 April 1990). The Jewish question: biography of a world problem. Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press. p. 155.  
  64. ^ "Die Judenfrage," Brunswick, 1843 [40], where Bauer argued that religious allegiance must be renounced by both Jews and Christians as a precondition of juridical equality and political and social freedom. (Moggach, Douglas, "Bruno Bauer", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2010 Edition)[41]
  65. ^ On the Jewish Question, Karl Marx, written 1843, first published in Paris in 1844 under the German title Zur Judenfrage in the Deutsch–Französische Jahrbücher.[42]
  66. ^ Mosse, George L. (8 October 1998). The Image of Man: The Creation of Modern Masculinity. Oxford University Press. p. 57.  
  67. ^ File:Nazi Wandering Jew propaganda by David Shankbone.jpg
  68. ^ """Der ewige Jude: "The Eternal Jew or The Wandering Jew. Retrieved 2011-11-14. 
  69. ^ West, Shearer (2000). The visual arts in Germany 1890-1937: Utopia and despair. Manchester University Press. p. 189.  
  70. ^ Anderson, (1991), p. 259.
  71. ^ Nahshon, Edna (15 September 2008). Jews and shoes. Berg. p. 143.  
  72. ^ Harwood, Ronald, "Wolfit , Sir Donald (1902–1968)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 [, accessed 14 July 2009]
  73. ^ Alley Theatre (2008-08-08). "Underneath the Lintel". Alley Theatre. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 



Prester John – a similar legend, of a mythical Christian monarch, who ruled a kingdom lost to Christendom deep in Islamic terra incognita.

See also

As part of the numerous Christian references in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion, the mysterious head of SEELE, Keel Lorenz, is implied to be the biblical Wandering Jew; he is portrayed as an old man whose body has been heavily augmented with cybernetic implants. Like most of humanity, Lorenz's remaining biological parts are converted into LCL when Human Instrumentality commences, leaving behind his bionic components. The original Evangelion manga by Yoshiyuki Sadamoto depicts SEELE's existence as dating back centuries, lending further credence to Lorenz's implied identity.

In the episode titled "Lagrimas" of the fantasy/sci fi TV series Witchblade the Wandering Jew/Cartophilus is portrayed by Jeffrey Donovan as a cursed Roman soldier who arrives in modern New York City and becomes romantically involved with protagonist Sara Pezzini before revealing his true identity & agenda to her.

The Doom Metal band Reverend Bizarre also has a sprawling narrative track entitled "The Wandering Jew", which appears on their Harbinger of Metal EP.

In Assassin's Creed there are characters called Sages who inherit the mind and memories of previous people in history. One of the Sages was said to Run into Jesus, his name in the series is only known as the Wanderer. Given the fact that the Character never really dies but his contiousness transfers to new hosts with the same exact appearance this character can be possible to be construed as the Wandering Jew.

In Pokemon X & Y, the character AZ may be based on the Wandering Jew because after his best friend was killed in a war, he created a revival machine to bring it back to life and turned the machine into a weapon to destroy both sides in the war. He was cursed to wander for 3,000 years after creating this ultimate weapon powered by the life force of other Pokemon, up until the events of the game.

The Jew appears as an NPC in the third installment of Gabriel Knight. He is redeemed during the course of the game.

The Jew appears as Adam in the 2015 TV series Forever. His Jewishness is brought to light in the Episode "Hitler on the Half-Shell."


There have been several films on the topic of The Wandering Jew:


Donald Wolfit made his debut as the Wandering Jew in a stage adaptation in London in 1924.[73] The play "Spikenard", (1930) by C.E. Lawrence, has the Jew wander an unhabitanted Earth along with Judas and the Impenitent thief.[34] Glen Berger's 2001 play Underneath the Lintel is a monologue by a Dutch librarian who delves into the history of a book which is returned 113 years overdue, and becomes convinced that the borrower was the Wandering Jew.[74]

A Hebrew-language play titled "The Eternal Jew" premiered at the Moscow Habimah Theatre in 1919 and was performed at The Habima Theatre in New York in 1926.[72]

Fromental Halévy's opera Le juif errant, based on the novel by Sue, was premiered at the Paris Opera (Salle Le Peletier) on 23 April 1852, and had 48 further performances over two seasons. The music was sufficiently popular to generate a Wandering Jew Mazurka, a Wandering Jew Waltz, and a Wandering Jew Polka.[71]


The Jew's portrayal in popular media

The exhibition had been held at the Library of the German Museum in Munich from November 8, 1937 to January 31, 1938 showing works that the Nazis considered to be 'degenerate art'. A book containing images of these works was published under the title The Eternal Jew.[69] It had been preceded by other such exhibitions in Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Dresden, Berlin and Vienna. The works of art displayed at these exhibitions were generally executed by avant-garde artists who had become recognized and esteemed in the 1920s, but the objective of the exhibitions was not to present the works as worthy of admiration but to deride and condemn them.[70]

A caricature which had first appeared in a French publication in 1852, depicting the legendary figure with "a red cross on his forehead, spindly legs and arms, huge nose and blowing hair, and staff in hand", was co-opted by anti-Semites.[67] It was shown at the Nazi exhibition Der Ewige Jude in Germany and Austria in 1937–1938. A reproduction of it was exhibited at Yad Vashem in 2007.[68]

The wandering eternal jew (Le Juif Eternel), coloured woodcut, later shown at the Nazi exhibition Der Ewige Jude in Germany and Austria 1937–1938. Here a reproduction at an exhibition at Yad Vashem, 2007

Before Kaulbach's mural replica of his painting Titus destroying Jerusalem had been commissioned by the King of Prussia in 1842 for the projected Neues Museum, Berlin, Gabriel Riesser's essay "Stellung der Bekenner des mosaischen Glaubens in Deutschland" (On the Position of Confessors of the Jewish Faith in Germany) had been published (1831) and the journal "Der Jude, periodische Blätter für Religions- und Gewissensfreiheit" (The Jew, Periodical for Freedom of Religion and Thought) had been founded (1832). In 1840 Kaulbach himself had published a booklet of Explanations identifying the main figures for his projected painting, including that of the Eternal Jew in flight as an outcast for having rejected Christ. In 1843 Bruno Bauer's book with the title The Jewish Question was published,[65] to which Karl Marx responded by an article with the title On the Jewish Question.[66]

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, the figure of the "Wandering Jew" as a legendary individual had begun to be identified with the fate of the Jewish people as a whole. After the ascendancy of Napoleon Bonaparte at the end of the century and the emancipating reforms in European countries connected with the policy of Napoleon and the Jews, the "Eternal Jew" became an increasingly "symbolic... and universal character" as the continuing struggle for Jewish emancipation in Prussia and elsewhere in Europe in the course of the nineteenth century gave rise to what came to be referred to as "the Jewish Question".[64]

In ideology (19c. and after)

Among the paintings of Marc Chagall having a connection with the legend, one of 1923-25 has the explicit title Le Juif Errant (1923–25).[63]

In another artwork, exhibited at Basel in 1901, the legendary figure with the name Der ewige Jude, The Eternal Jew, was shown redemptively bringing the Torah back to the Promised Land.[62]

Twentieth century

1836 Kaulbach's painting initially commissioned by Countess Angelina Radzwill; 1840 Kaulbach published a booklet of Explanations identifying the main figures;[53] 1846 finished work purchased by King Ludwig I of Bavaria for the royal collections; 1853 installed in Neue Pinakothek, Munich.;[54] 1842 Kaulbach's replica for the stairway murals of the Neues Museum, Berlin commissioned by King Frederick William IV of Prussia; 1866 completed; 1943 destroyed by war damage.

Nineteenth century works depicting the legendary figure as the Wandering (or Eternal) Jew or as Ahasuerus (Ahasver) include:

Nineteenth century

In art

Uzbek writer Isajon Sulton published his novel "The Wandering Jew"[49] in 2011. In this novel, the Jew does not characterize a symbol of curse; however, they appear as a human being, who is aware of God’s presence, after being cursed by Him. Moreover, the novel captures the fortune of present-day wandering Jews, created by humans using high technologies.


21st century

"The Wandering Jew" is the title of a short poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson which appears in his book The Three Taverns.[48] In the poem, the speaker encounters a mysterious figure with eyes that "remembered everything." He recognizes him from "his image when I was a child" and finds him to be bitter, with "a ringing wealth of old anathemas;" a man for whom the "world around him was a gift of anguish." The speaker does not know what became of him, but believes that "somewhere among men to-day / Those old, unyielding eyes may flash / And flinch – and look the other way."

The Wandering Jew appears as a sympathetic character in Diana Wynne Jones's young adult novel The Homeward Bounders. His fate is tied in with larger plot themes regarding destiny, disobedience, and punishment. "Ahasver," a cult leader identified with the Wandering Jew, is a central figure in Anthony Boucher's classic mystery novel, Nine Times Nine (originally published 1940 under the name H. Holmes). The Wandering Jew encounters a returned Christ in Deborah Grabien's 1990 novel Plainsong.[47]

The Wandering Jew is revealed to be Christianity, the 1979 short story "The Way of Cross and Dragon".

Paul Eldridge wrote a trilogy of novels My First Two Thousand Years, an Autobiography of the Wandering Jew, (1928), in which Isaac Laquedem is a Roman soldier who, after being told by Jesus that he will "tarry until I return," goes on to influence many of the great events of history; he frequently encounters Solome (described as 'The Wandering Jewess'), and travels with a companion, to whom he has passed on his immortality via a blood transfusion (another attempt to do this for a woman he loved ended in her death). In Ilium by Dan Simmons, (2003), a woman who is addressed as the Wandering Jew plays a central role, though her real name is Savi.

J. G. Ballard's short story "The Lost Leonardo", published in The Terminal Beach (1964), centres on a search for the Wandering Jew. The Wandering Jew also appears in Mary Elizabeth Counselman's story "A Handful of Silver" (1967).[45] Barry Sadler has written a series of books featuring a character called Casca Rufio Longinus who is a combination of two characters from Christian folklore, Saint Longinus and the Wandering Jew. Jack L. Chalker wrote a five book series called "The Well World Saga" in which it is mentioned many times that the creator of the universe, a man named Nathan Brazil, is known as the Wandering Jew. There is a discussion about the Wandering Jew in the Robert Heinlein novel Time Enough for Love. In January 1987 DC Comics the 10th issue of Secret Origins gave The Phantom Stranger four possible origins. In one of these explanations, the Stranger confirms to a priest that he is the Wandering Jew.[46] Angela Hunt's novel The Immortal (2000), features the Wandering Jew under the name of Asher Genzano.

An unidentified Wanderer appears in A Canticle for Leibowitz, A post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Walter M. Miller, Jr. first published in 1960; some children are heard saying of the old man, "What Jesus raises up STAYS raised up;" by implication a reference to St. Lazarus of Bethany, whom Christ raised from the dead. The character appears again in three subsequent novellas, and in Miller's 1997 follow-up novel, Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman.

In Evelyn Waugh's Helena, the Wandering Jew appears in a dream to the protagonist and shows her where to look for the Cross, the goal of her quest.

Robert Nichols' novella "Golgotha & Co." in his collection Fantastica (1923) is a satirical tale where the Wandering Jew is a successful businessman who subverts the Second Coming.[34]

In O. Henry's story "The Door of Unrest" a drunk shoemaker Mike O'Bader comes to a local newspaper editor and claims to be the Jerusalem shoemaker Michob Ader who did not let Christ rest upon his doorstep on the way to crucifixion and was condemned to live until the Second Coming. However, Mike O'Bader insists he is a Gentile, not a Jew.


In Pär Lagerkvist's 1956 novel The Sibyl, Ahasuerus and a woman who was once the Delphic Sibyl each tell their stories, describing how an interaction with the divine damaged their lives. Lagerkvist continued the story of Ahasuerus in Ahasverus död ("The Death of Ahasuerus", 1960).


The Soviet satirists Ilya Ilf and Yevgeni Petrov had their hero Ostap Bender tell the story of the Wandering Jew's death at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists in The Little Golden Calf. In Vsevolod Ivanov's story Ahasver a weird man comes to a Soviet writer in Moscow in 1944, introduces himself as "Ahasver the cosmopolite" and claims he is Paul von Eitzen, a theologian from Hamburg, who concocted the legend of Wandering Jew in the 16th century to become rich and famous but then turned himself into a real Ahasver against his will. The novel Overburdened with Evil (1988) by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky involves a character in modern setting who turns out to be Ahasuerus, identified at the same time in a subplot with John the Divine. In the novel "Going to the Light" (Идущий к свету) (1998) by Sergey Golosovsky Ahasuerus turns out to be Apostle Paul punished (together with Moses and Mohammed) for inventing false religion.


Similarly, Mircea Eliade presents in his novel Dayan (1979) a student's mystic and fantastic journey through time and space under the guidance of the Wandering Jew, in the search of a higher truth and of his own self.

Mihai Eminescu, an influential Romanian writer, depicts in his romantic fantastic novella Sarmanul Dionis a variation. A student follows a surreal journey through the book of Zoroaster, a book seeming to give him God-like abilities. The book is given to him by Ruben, his Jewish master which is a philosopher. Dan is eventually tricked by Ruben, and is sentenced by God to a life of insanity, which he can escape only by resurrection.


The Belgian writer August Vermeylen published in 1906 a novel called De wandelende Jood ("The Wandering Jew").


In both Gustav Meyrink's The Green Face (1916) and Leo Perutz's The Marquis of Bolibar (1920), the Wandering Jew features as a central character.[43] The German writer Stefan Heym in his novel Ahasver (translated into English as The Wandering Jew)[44] maps a story of Ahasver and Lucifer against both ancient times and socialist East Germany. In Heym's depiction, the Wandering Jew is a highly sympathetic character.


Simone de Beauvoir: in her novel Tous les Hommes sont Mortels (1946) - All Men are Mortal, the leading figure Raymond Fosca undergoes a faith similar to the wandering jew, who is being explicitly mentioned as a reference.

Jean d'Ormesson: Histoire du juif errant (1991)

Guillaume Apollinaire parodies the character in "Le Passant de Prague" in his collection L'Hérésiarque et Cie (1910).[42]


In Argentina, the topic of the Wandering Jew has appeared several times in the work of Green Mansions, W.H. Hudson's protagonist Abel, references Ahasuerus, as an archetype of someone, like himself, who prays for redemption and peace; while condemned to walk the earth. In 1967, the Wandering Jew appears as an unexplained magical realist townfolk legend in Gabriel García Márquez's 100 Years of Solitude.

Latin America

20th century

The Hungarian poet János Arany also wrote a ballad called "Az örök zsidó", meaning "The everlasting Jew".

Castro Alves, another Brazilian poet, wrote a poem named "Ahasverus e o gênio" ("Ahasverus and the genie"), in a reference to the Wandering Jew.

Brazilian writer and poet Machado de Assis often used Jewish themes in his writings. One of his short stories, Viver! ("To Live!"), is a dialog between the Wandering Jew (named as Ahasuerus) and Prometheus at the end of time. It was published in 1896 as part of the book Várias histórias ("Several stories").

The Wandering Jew makes a notable appearance in the gothic masterpiece of the Polish writer Jan Potocki, The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, written about 1797.[34]

Other literature

In Russia, the legend of the Wandering Jew appears in an incomplete epic poem by Vasily Zhukovsky, "Ahasuerus" (1857) and in another epic poem by Wilhelm Küchelbecker, "Ahasuerus, a Poem in Fragments", written from 1832–1846 but not published until 1878, long after the poet's death. Alexander Pushkin also began a long poem on Ahasuerus (1826) but abandoned the project quickly, completing under thirty lines.


The French writer Edgar Quinet published his prose epic on the legend in 1833, making the subject the judgment of the world; and Eugène Sue wrote his Juif errant in 1844, in which the author connects the story of Ahasuerus with that of Herodias. Grenier's 1857 poem on the subject may have been inspired by Gustave Doré's designs, which were published the preceding year. One should also note Paul Féval, père's La Fille du Juif Errant (1864), which combines several fictional Wandering Jews, both heroic and evil, and Alexandre Dumas' incomplete Isaac Laquedem (1853), a sprawling historical saga.


In the play "Genboerne" (The neighbors across the street), the Wandering Jew is a character (in this context called "Jerusalem's shoemaker") and his shoes will make you invisible when you wear them. The protagonist of the play borrows the shoes for a night and visits the house across the street as an invisible man.

The story of the Wandering Jew is the basis of the essay, "The Unhappiest One" in Søren Kierkegaard's Either/Or (published 1843 in Copenhagen). It is also discussed in an early portion of the book that focuses on Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.

Hans Christian Andersen made his "Ahasuerus" the Angel of Doubt, and was imitated by Heller in a poem on "The Wandering of Ahasuerus", which he afterward developed into three cantos. Martin Andersen Nexø wrote a short story named "The Eternal Jew", in which he also refers to Ahasuerus as the spreading of the Jewish gene pool in Europe.


Robert Hamerling, in his "Ahasver in Rom" (Vienna, 1866), identifies Nero with the Wandering Jew. Goethe had designed a poem on the subject, the plot of which he sketched in his Dichtung und Wahrheit.[39][40][41]

There are clear echoes of the Wandering Jew in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman, whose plot line is adapted from a story by Heinrich Heine in which the Dutchman is referred to as 'the Wandering Jew of the ocean',[38] and his final opera Parsifal features a woman called Kundry who is in some ways a female version of the Wandering Jew. It is alleged that she was formerly Herodias, and she admits that she laughed at Jesus on his route to the Crucifixion, and is now condemned to wander until she meets with him again (cf. Eugene Sue's version, below).

The legend has been the subject of German poems by Schubart, Aloys Schreiber, Wilhelm Müller, Lenau, Chamisso, Schlegel, Julius Mosen (an epic, 1838), and Köhler; of novels by Franz Horn (1818), Oeklers, and Schücking; and of tragedies by Klingemann ("Ahasuerus", 1827) and Zedlitz (1844). It is either the Ahasuerus of Klingemann or that of Ludwig Achim von Arnim in his play, Halle and Jerusalem to whom Richard Wagner refers in the final passage of his notorious essay Das Judentum in der Musik.


A humorous account of the Wandering Jew appears in chapter 54 of Mark Twain's 1869 travel book The Innocents Abroad.[37]

In Lew Wallace's novel The Prince of India, the Wandering Jew is the protagonist. The book follows his adventures through the ages, as he takes part in the shaping of history.[36] An American rabbi, H.M. Bien, turned the character into the "Wandering Gentile" in his novel Ben-Beor: A Tale of the Anti-Messiah; in the same year John L. McKeever wrote a novel, The Wandering Jew: A Tale of the Lost Tribes of Israel.[34]

In 1901 a New York publisher reprinted, under the title "Tarry Thou Till I Come",

In 1873 a publisher in North America (Philadelphia, Gebbie) produced The Legend of the Wandering Jew, a series of twelve designs by Gustave Doré (Reproduced by Photographic Printing) with Explanatory Introduction. For each illustration there was a couplet, such as "Too late he feels, by look, and deed, and word, / How often he has crucified his Lord".[35]

Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories "A Virtuoso's Collection" and "Ethan Brand" feature the Wandering Jew serving as a guide to the stories' characters.[34]

North America

George MacDonald includes pieces of the legend in Thomas Wingfold, Curate (London, 1876).

In Chapter 15 of Great Expectations (1861) by Charles Dickens, the journeyman Orlick is compared to the Wandering Jew.

Thomas Carlyle, in his Sartor Resartus (1834), compares its hero Diogenes Teufelsdroeckh on several occasions to the Wandering Jew, (also using the German wording 'der ewige Jude').

In 1810 Shelley had written a poem in four cantos with the title The Wandering Jew but it remained unpublished until 1877.[32] In two other works of Shelley, Ahasuerus appears, as a phantom in his first major poem Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (1813) and later as a hermit healer in his last major work, the verse drama Hellas.[33]

In 1797 the operetta The Wandering Jew, or Love's Masquerade by Andrew Franklin was performed in London.[31]

In England a ballad with the title The Wandering Jew was included in Thomas Percy's Reliques published in 1765.[30]


19th century


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