Was Shylock A Jew?

C H U R C H   R E F O R M   S E R I E S

By Biblicism Institute



The character Shylock, from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, has been critiqued to no end by Jewish watchdogs, because of the negative light under which it was supposedly sketched by its author.

Suggestions as to whether or not Shakespeare was an anti-semite have even surfaced. Unfortunately, as it is many times the case, when the cry-wolf accusation of anti-semitism is being raised, one must look deeper.

And this time one must dig real, real deep.


The faith that is known as Judaism today was never called thus. It was always known as Pharisaism or Rabbinism, the doctrine of the ancient Pharisees whom Jesus was constantly rebuking.

Rabbi Adolph Moses in collaboration with Rabbi H.G. Enlow explained clearly in “Yahvism and Other Discourses,” that: “Among the innumerable misfortunes which have befallen… the most fatal in its consequences is the name Judaism… neither in biblical nor post-biblical, neither in Talmudic nor in much later times, is the term Judaism ever heard…”

The term “Judaism” was first coined by historian Flavius Josephus in the first century as he described the history, the civilization, the language, the poetry, the religion, the art, the science, the manners, the customs, the institutions, and the genocide of the Ancient Judahites. It was not coined with the intention of starting a religion, and nor is Judaism even mentioned in the Bible.

The people who first seized the term Judaism and its historical content were then Christians. They were using it as an educational tool to acquaint themselves with the true Judahite Hebrews who practiced the doctrine of Christ.

As for the word “Jew,” Jewish-born historian Benjamin H. Freedman explained it thus: “When the word ‘Jew’ was first introduced into the English language in the 18th century (1775) its one and only implication, inference and innuendo was ‘Judean.’ “

Therefore, the word “Jew” was an expression Christians were using to describe a Judahite Hebrew or Judean (i.e., someone from the tribe of Judah), and was not intended for those who today are known as Jews.

“During the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries a well-organized and well-financed international ‘pressure group’ created a so-called ‘secondary meaning’ for the word ‘Jew’ among the English-speaking peoples of the world,” continued historian Benjamin Freedman. “This so-called ‘secondary meaning’ for the word ‘Jew’ bears no relation whatsoever to the 18th century original connotation of the word ‘Jew’. It is a misrepresentation.”

Thereupon, beginning in the 18th century, adherents of Pharisaism or Rabbinists – who were not of the tribe of Judah – not only hijacked the word Judaism, but they also misappropriated the word Jew for their own end. (And why did they do that? For an in-depth explanation to that question please see How the Ashkenazi Jews conquered the West.)

Consequently, proselytes of Pharisaism were now to be called Jews (like when Blacks wanted to be called Negroes no more), while their religion had morphed into the aesthetically more friendly appellation of Judaism.


Once the words “Judaism” and “Jew” were commandeered, they became the immediate revisionist words that historians endeavored to apply to everything “Jewish,” especially as such impetus was spurred on by that well-financed group historian Benjamin Freedman mentioned. See How the Ashkenazi Jews conquered the West.

As a result, the words that were previously used to describe the adherents of Pharisaism and their religion were sanitized. This in turn caused compromised writers of all stripes to follow suit, as they searched for any excuse to exploit the word “Jew” in reference to proselytes of Pharisaism.

For example, pre-18th century playwrights employed the word IEWE (Iewe is old English and means Jehudite/Judahite or Judean) in their work, but unlike the word Jew it was pronounced Yee-hoo-wee, stretching its best to imitate the original Hebrew phonetic of Ye-hu-wdiy. Its usage was never meant to describe a JEW in the sense of the religious person we know today, but that didn’t matter to those who had revisionism in mind.


Jesus whips the money changers

As a case in point, in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Shylock the Iewe was a fictional creative construct that borrowed its obvious tautology from the biblical Judahite money changers, whom Jesus whipped and chased out of the Temple. Its creation was not intended to mimic Rabbinists of Shakespeare’s time. Nonetheless, it’s been widely and erroneously interpreted to mean a “JEW” in the modern sense.

In Was Shylock Jewish?, Professor Emma Smith clarified it thus:

“That ‘Jew’ (Iewe) might be an adjective rather than a noun – an attribute of a person which does not always or only denote religion or race – is common in its deployment in early modern English… In the early modern period, the signifier ‘Jew’ (Iewe) had become at least partially detached from the racial or religious signified with which it is now firmly associated… R.H. Tawney – along with Shakespeare’s own biography – demonstrated long ago that Elizabethan money lending was ‘not a profession but a bye-employment’. Thus the early modern association between Jews and money lending was almost always a knowing fiction…”

Shylock & Jessica

Shylock & Jessica

Yet, compromised historians and critics convoluted the whole Shylock-money-lender thing, and re-engineered it to be construed as anti-“Jew” – just the way they twisted Christopher Marlowe’s The Rich Iewe of Malta into The Rich Jew of Malta. As Professor Smith pointed out: “…the representation of anti-semitism is more interesting and significant to us…”

That is why we should beware every time the anti-Semitic accusation is hurled, especially when Jews today are not even Semites.

“…it is impossible to change the genetic make-up from Caucasian to Semitic; which automatically nullifies their claim to be returning to Israel, the land of their forebears, because their forebears were never in Biblical Israel,” explained Benjamin Disraeli, a former Jew who converted to Christianity and a Victorian Prime Minister of Great Britain, referring to his fellow Ashkenazim who were migrating from Russia and Eastern Europe to Palestine, with a view to turning the Arab country into Israel.


Shakespeare was not anti-Jew, and nor was Shylock created to malign those who today are known as Jews, especially when he was penned at a time when “Jews” were called Rabbinists (followers of the Babylonian Talmud), and everyone knew they were not of the tribe of Judah.

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Luke 8:17

Read also: Jesus was not a Jew

Read also: How the Ashkenazi Jews conquered the West