The story of the Wandering Jew first appeared in print in early 17th-century Amsterdam. It tells of a man who cursed Christ on the way to the crucifixion and was in turn cursed to wander till Christ’s second coming. People who challenge or offend the gods, or God, are a familiar theme in European literature. In antiquity they are seen in the stories of Cain and Odysseus, while in the 18th century they appear in stories such as the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship that never reaches port.
The Wandering Jew’s fate warns people not to swear, and the story includes a prophecy that the world would come to an end by 1969, a reiteration of a legend that Cain was the original father of black people, and that Jerusalem should eventually be a home to Jewish people from all over the world.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge's use of the Wandering Jew legend
It’s more than likely Samuel Taylor Coleridge drew on the legends of the Flying Dutchman and the Wandering Jew in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. One version of the Flying Dutchman legend has two spectral figures playing dice, an image Coleridge also uses. Like the Wandering Jew the mariner is fated to go on telling his story to all those he meets.