James Parkes (priest)

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James Parkes (22 December 1896 – 10 August 1981)[1] was an Anglican clergyman, historian, and social activist from Guernsey. With the publication of The Jew and His Neighbour in 1929, he created the foundations of a Christian re-evaluation of Judaism.

Early life[edit]

Parkes was born on Guernsey in the Channel Islands at the end of the nineteenth century and educated at Elizabeth College. While at school, he won an Open Scholarship to Hertford College, Oxford, and then enlisted to fight in the First World War. After returning from the war, he went back to Oxford to complete his degree, and did so, despite catching measles in the middle of his final exams. He then went on to study for ordination.

Judaism and Christianity[edit]

Parkes was drawn to his study of Jewish–Christian relations by first-hand exposure to the brutality of antisemitism on the continent, Parkes traced its animus to the obdurate hard-heartedness and wrongheadedness of Christianity vis-à-vis the Jewish people and their faith. He discovered that the principles and practice of historic Christianity was responsible for the sins and excesses that culminated in the Shoah. His life's work amounted not only to hundreds of articles and twenty-three books, among them The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue (1934), his magnum opus, but also to social activism. According to one historian, Parkes "devoted his whole life to fighting anti-Judaism and promoting tolerance of Jews".[2] In that endeavor, for twenty years his was a lone clerical voice against the missionizing of Jews, and he would be the driving force in the founding of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Following three years of active duty as an infantryman during World War I, he took a degree at Oxford, orders in the Anglican Church, and spent the next 12 years on the continent as an activist in organizations that promoted international cooperation. It was there that he grew aware of the brutality of antisemitism and very early on spoke out about Nazism, surviving an assassination attempt in 1935.

Upon his return to England, he carved out a career as an independent scholar. Parkes contributed to several British publications, including The Observer, The Jewish Chronicle, Punch and Peace News.[2] He bequeathed his Judaica collection to the University of Southampton where it became the cornerstone of the Parkes Jewish Library and the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Christian Relations.

He also wrote Common sense about religion, as part of the Common Sense series.

Partial publications list[edit]

  • The Conflict of the Church and Synagogue: a Study in the Origins of Anti-Semitism. London: Soncino Press. 1934.
  • The Jew and his Neighbour: A Study in the Causes of Anti-Semitism. London: Student Christian Movement Press. 1930.
  • An Enemy of the People : Antisemitism, 1943, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England, Pelican Books P5, Published by Penguin Books


  1. ^ Chertok 2006, pp. 7, 470.
  2. ^ a b Stone 1999.

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