The Censor, the Editor, and the Text
The Catholic Church and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century
Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin. Jackie Feldman, Translator
2007 | 328 pages | Cloth $69.95
Religion | History
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Table of Contents
Introduction: Censorship and the Transition to Print
Chapter 1. The Burning of the Talmud
Chapter 2. The Institutionalization of the Censorship of Hebrew Literature
Chapter 3. From Polemics to Censorship: The Development of the Expurgation of Written Culture
Chapter 4. Censorship and its Role in the Printing of the Hebrew Book
Chapter 5. From Polemic to Body of Knowledge—Sefer Hazikkuk and the Hebrew Text
Conclusion: Hebraism, Censorship, and Modernization
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Introduction: Censorship in the Transition to Print
Beginning with the middle of the 16th century, the Catholic Church gradually developed institutionalized control of Hebrew literature. In the first stages, in the 1550s, this was expressed through a series of burnings of the Talmud, accompanied by a strict prohibition against using the composition and works based on it. These extreme actions were gradually replaced by a complex and systematic mechanism of censorship of all written literature, and the establishment of permanent surveillance over the production of books both on the part of the Church as well as by secular authorities. The publication of special indices Librorum Prohibitorum, which determined the books which were completely banned, was accompanied by the development of practice of expurgation, in which many changes and erasures of passages were required in order to permit the publication and use of books whose use was permitted in principle. Hebrew literature was also subject to the constant control of censors, most of them converts, who were responsible for checking and expurgating printed books as well as books prior to their publication.
Church policy towards Hebrew literature, as expressed through these measures, is commonly examined on two complementary levels: on one level, it is seen as a link in the continuous struggle of the Church against rabbinic literature, which began with the burning of the Talmud in the 13th century. On another level, these measures have been analyzed alongside the other districtive orders promulgated at the same period against Italian Jewry, which reflect ever-increasing attempts to restrict Jewish existence and exclude them from the larger Christian society. These measures were clearly expressed in the bull Cum Nimis Absurdum, issued in 1555 by Pope Paul IV, which was designed to diminish contact between Jews and Christians; it prohibited Jews from owning real estate property, barred them from certain financial professions, and outlawed the existence of more than one synagogue in any town. During the second half of the 16th century, ghettos were established in many towns in Italy, while Jews were expelled from other cities, sometimes temporarily, and at other times, for good.
Both these dimensions are indeed essential for any understanding of church policy towards Hebrew literature at this period, and each illuminates different aspects of it. They are also supported by statements of the initiators and executors of this policy, who expressed their motives in terms well known from previous Christian polemic literature. Furthermore, the connection between various actions taken vis-à-vis the Jews and the initiation of the surveillance of Hebrew literature is also undeniable. Kenneth Stow, who provided an illuminating analysis of the link between these two levels, highlighted both the continuity and the changes that were embodied in the policy implemented in the 16th century towards the Talmud. Stow argued that the measures taken by the Church against the Jews and their books expressed a shift from the traditional policy of the Church towards the Jews, a change that should be understood within the framework of Paul IV's messianic desire to bring about the conversion of the Jews, a desire that was also manifested in other measures, such as the establishment of the casa dei neofiti and sermons to which Jews were forced to listen.
This analytic framework, however, is still insufficient for a comprehensive evaluation of the role of censorship and its historical significance. In order to achieve a deeper understanding of the practice of censorship, we must broaden the discussion in ways that will grant new meaning to the dimensions outlined here. In this study, I will attempt to approach the subject from another direction, and develop two general arguments:
1. We should recognize that we may only speak of the censorship of Hebrew literature as part of the larger process of institutionalization of censorship and the establishment of new measures of control over literature in that period, which took place against the background of the transition to print, on the one hand, and the threat of the Reformation, on the other. Censorship was one of the instruments through which the new Catholic perceptions of knowledge was constructed, and should be examined as part of the birth of modern centralist structures of control on the one hand, and the split of Western Christianity from a universal religion into a series of confessions, each of which developed autonomous structures, on the other. Furthermore, rather than being a measure directed against the Jews alone, censorship was initiated precisely because Christians were reading Jewish literature. Thus, it should be examined in the framework of the rise of early modern Christian Hebraism, namely the growing interest of Christian scholars in Hebrew texts between the 15th and the 17th centuries. As such, censorship must be seen as a means of incorporating Jewish literature into Christian discourse and into the category of permitted knowledge, and as a factor that participated in the reshaping of the limits of Catholic orthodoxy.
2. Censorship should not be seen merely as an agent that denies knowledge; it must also be seen as a constitutive factor, one of the elements that participated in the reshaping of literacy during the critical stage of the transition to print. Censorship is undoubtedly a controlling agent with a definite role, the intention of which (in the case of Church procedures) was to define the boundaries of orthodoxy. Yet its consequences must be examined in relation to other formative agents that took part in the cultural process and accompanied the transition to print such as publishers, printers and editors, and in particular, the communities of readers. The explicit intention of the censors was to prevent forbidden contents; the practice of censorship, however, entailed a careful reading of various texts and resulted in the authorization of what the Church considered to be permissible knowledge. Censorship was imposed upon the Jews and definitely had an impact on Hebrew literature, but it did not necessarily deny knowledge. Moreover, in many ways, the instructions of censorial agents were compatible with major contemporary cultural directions and sensitivities that had developed concurrently among the Jews. We should emphasize that the implementation of censorship also provided explicit permission for Jews to publish and use many components of their literary heritage.
In this chapter, I will try to posit the theoretical and historical framework needed for the elaboration and concretization of these themes. In the following chapters I will try to examine the interrelations between the principles that directed the Catholic censor at this period and various other cultural tendencies that developed concurrently both among Jews and among Christian Hebraists. Censorship will be examined alongside other factors participating in the cultural change, and as one of the factors in the process of modernization. The censors who were active in this period, most of whom were converts, served as cultural mediators, and played a significant role in marking the boundaries of culture in general, and of Jewish culture in particular. The dialogue between the censor, the Christian Hebraist and the representatives of the Jewish community provided a framework in which Jewish printed culture was shaped and the boundaries of reading were determined.
On a different level, I will attempt to elucidate the affinity between the values represented by the censor and the principles and values which later shaped modern Jewish historical consciousness. I will attempt to show that, in many ways, the cultural stance of the censor presages many approaches that developed later on, including the perceptions of modern Jewish historiography—the perspective from which censorship has been analyzed. In that sense, the present study is also a study of our own consciousness. Paradoxically, later historians, who described censorship as merely a repressive measure, relied on similar cultural values to those applied by the censor—that is, on the definition of Judaism as an autonomous entity, a religion (or ethnicity) tolerated within the Christian world in condition that its anti-Christian polemics be suppressed. Therefore, censorship is not studied only for its own sake, but serves as a prism that may clarify some crucial aspects concerning the transformation of Jewish discourse from medieval polemics to modernity.
This does not mean that we should underestimate the repressive dimension inherent in the activities of censors, and manifested through the black marks left in many manuscripts and volumes of printed books. Each censorial encounter is undoubtedly a violent and assymetrical action. I also have no intent of underestimating the relation between these activities and measures taken against the Jews, or the missionary motivations behind this policy. My aim in studying the dynamics of censorship is to clarify the principles of editing and the relationship between different agents of control. The "denunciation" of the Inquisition, or the depiction of the Catholic censor as merely "the oppressor of Jewish Spirit," do little to increase our understanding of this phenomenon, nor of early modern Jewish culture. It may only serve a distorted self-image of historians, as if our own writing is exempt from restrictions and takes place in a reality of total "freedom of expression."
Moreover, we should emphasize that the period in which ecclesiastical censorship was institutionalized and exercised, the second half of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, was also a period of one of the most significant cultural revivals in Jewish history. Not only did the introduction of control of written culture not bring with it any "cultural regeneration" but the opposite is true: canonical Jewish books were first printed in the very years that the censorial rules were implemented in the Hebrew print shops. The most significant example is Yoseph Karo's monumental Shulhan Arukh, the book of codification that was first published in 1565, and immediately became the authoritative legal composition, almost identical to the term "Jewish Tradition." We should also mention the printing of the Kabbalistic tradition, as well as the rise of new types of "secular" literature (such as historiography, poetry etc.). This impressive renaissance developed within the boundaries determined by the censors. I do not intend to establish a direct link between censorship and cultural revival, but rather, reject the perception of the period as one of cultural deterioration. Moreover, we should point to the common background of both of them, as two aspects associated with the transition to print.
The Hebrew canon is a case study that provides us with the opportunity to reveal the dialectics of censorship as we can examine it on two different levels and in terms of two different discourses: the terminology associated with print production, and that associated with Jewish-Christian theological polemics. Thus, it may enlighten both fields of scholarship and contribute towards the understanding of the many facets of the institutionalization of censorship. Accordingly, we may analyze the dialogue between the editors, censors, authors and readers inherent in this process, while tracking the resistance of Jewish readers. The aim is to attempt to locate censorship on several planes—in the context of the Jewish-Christian polemic and dialogue, in the context of the transition to print, in the context of the Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, and in the context from which modern categories such as ethnicity, religion and culture, have emerged. The Jewish example provides us with the opportunity to analyze both sides of censorial discourse: the reading of the censor and the reading of the Jew, at least those Jews who were involved in printing.
The discussion on early modern censorship has significantly expanded in the last decades, and has become a fundamental element in the discussion of early modern culture. Following Paul Grendler and Antonio Rotondò's pioneering studies, many other scholars have contributed new dimensions to this issue. The history of Catholic censorship was recently enriched by two developments: an extensive research project, directed by Jesus Maria de Bujanda was dedicated to the study of the Indices Librorum Prohibitorum promulgated by Church agencies in the 16th century; the opening of the archives of the Congregation of the doctrine of the faith (Congregazione per la dottrina della fede), including the archives of the Congregation of the Index, provided a broad field of material for research, some of whose results have already appeared in a series of studies. These studies concretize the complexity of the process, and its important cultural role. They also direct us towards a different understanding of the censorship of Hebrew literature. The focus of the present study, however is the Hebrew text themselves.
The Constitutive role of Censorship: Preliminary guidelines
The approach that was satisfied in presenting censorship as merely one of the many repressive measures employed by the Church is based on several general assumptions, which call for examination. First, it relies on the modern perception of history as a progressive process, and describes the history of culture as the struggle of the "free and creative spirit" against the oppressive power that prevents its realization and progress. According to this approach, censorship, by its very nature, is an element denying knowledge. This implies, even if not stated explicitly, that had such repressive structures not existed, mankind, or at least the generations in which it was practiced on a massive scale, would have attained accomplishments far beyond what they actually achieved.
One of the most common expressions of this progressive historical model is to be found in the traditional historiographical image of the Catholic Church during the "Counter-Reformation" (a term that will be examined later), as an obscurantist, repressive body, fighting against any expression of rationalism and science. The roots of this conception are to be found in early Protestant historiography, and it later took hold in dominant currents of modern historiography. This attitude towards early modern Catholic Church was also one of the central foundations of the approach which saw the history of science as the gradual liberation from the "chains of religion," towards the attainment of ultimate "objective" knowledge. The approach towards the censorship of Hebrew literature in Jewish historiography is also based on these same images.
Over the last decades, however, these fundamental axioms have been challenged, both on the theoretical level, as well as on the more specific historical one. This challenge also cast new light on the question of censorship. Especially relevant for this study is Foucault's approach to the power/knowledge relations. Foucault rejected the approach that maintained that knowledge can develop only outside the limits of power; instead, he suggested focusing discussion on the "power relations" present in various discursive frameworks and the production of knowledge. He demonstrated that "power" creates knowledge, and that knowledge is created from within the framework of power relations, rather than outside of it. Knowledge and power are inextricably entwined, and together create a single discursive frame. In this context, "Relations of power are not in superstructural positions, with merely a role of prohibition or accompaniment; they have a directly productive role, wherever they come into play." On this basis, he developed the concept of "bio-power" as a fundamental element of modern systems and discourses. Foucault also argued that resistance to power is part of the framework, "never in a position of exteriority in a relation to power."
Foucault's approach is of cardinal importance for the analysis of censorship—a clear instance of the relations of power and knowledge. It is particularly relevant to the discussion of the institutionalization of censorship in early modernity. Censorship is one of the loci in which the modern system of surveillance was developed, and through its study we may illustrate the process of the transformation of the exercise of power into a series of local practices anchored in cultural praxis.
Foucault's approach does not provide a comprehensive framework of interpretation and understanding. Most particularly it leaves no room for different aspects of resistance or for any autonomous cultural developments among minority groups. He does provide, however, a necessary and fundamental key to the understanding of the modern concept of power, and the comprehension of cultural discourse as composed of a blend of control and resistance. These insights inspired discussions of many aspects of modernity in general, and the Catholic world of the Counter-Reformation in particular. It enables us to develop the concept of "censorial discourse" as an ongoing framework, in which power also creates the resistance to power, but through which our own perception has been shaped.
Of course, we should not conclude from this that censorship is not a factor of surveillance with a definitive role, nor do we claim that censorship has no impact on the boundaries of reading or on the ways books are read. But this does illuminate the general context in which this impact should be examined. It is as such that censorship has participated in the production of knowledge.
The discussion of censorship plays a central role in cultural junctures, in periods of sharp cultural transitions, times of literary revolutions or in the reception of new corpora. Early modern censorship is an obvious example through which one can examine its role in the cultural process.
Reading, censorship and the production of books
On another dimension, the discussion of censorship is also challenged by hermeneutical approaches that focus on the reader and the act of reading. Underlying the view of censorship as an agent that denies knowledge is the assumption that the text is an internally coherent entity, which has one and only one meaning that reflects the intentions of the "author." According to this view, each act of erasure is, by its very essence, a kind of erasure of knowledge that damages the "original" or "correct" meaning of the text, and its supposedly unequivocal intentions. Reception theory, in its various forms, challenges these assumptions in ways that grant new meaning to the discussion of censorship. According to the different representatives of this trend, the text receives its meaning through the reader and through the dynamic interaction in which it is actualized in different ways by different readers. Paul Ricoeur placed the gap between the text and the reader at the core of his hermeneutic approach. He presented reading as an active process, an interactive dialogue comprising a series of decisions among various possibilities presented in the text. Wolfgang Iser described reading as a process taking place in the interstices of the words, the place where the active intervention of the reader takes place. The spectrum/horizon of readings of a text is always limited, and determined by the cultural codes that define the historical context common to the writer and the reader.
This position entails a different approach to the censor's erasures: the view of reading as a complex process composed of a series of decisions presents each reading as an act of censorship, since it negates all other possibilities existing in the text. Therefore we should examine censorship vis-à-vis other editorial decisions that defined the spectrum of reading, and the possible decisions of readers. Consequently, in order to measure the actual impact of censorship, we must turn to another direction and focus on the communities of readers. We cannot summarize the implications of censorship merely by juxtaposing a censored text to an uncensored one. Instead, we should try to reconstruct the reader, and to compare the spectrum of readings of an uncensored text with the potential readings of a censored one. We should try to examine the gap between these two fields and evaluate the consequences of the intervention of the censor accordingly.
Reading and readership have recently become the focus of an expanding and stimulating field of study, most significantly concerning early modern European culture. This approach provided the examination of the mutual relationship between the advent of print and central cultural and religious phenomena, while, at the same time focusing on the genesis of new communities of readers and new patterns of political and social movements. This perspective also offers us a glimpse into various popular beliefs, as demonstrated by Carlo Ginzburg in his seminal The Cheese and the Worms. Ginzburg's reconstruction of the world of the 16th century miller through the examination of his reading of various books—as well as through the perception of the inquisitors inspired the present study, although the cases are significantly different. Other scholars examined changes in the patterns of reading of different elites, and the role of the book revolution in the formation of new religious and social communities.
The focus on reading is also integrated into research examining the different agents linked to the publication of the book, in a way that contributes another dimension to the evaluation of the role of the censor. A thorough investigation of the daily work in the printing houses during the formative period discussed here makes it clear that the censor was one of the participants in the creation of a discursive frame, and also an inseparable part of the establishment of "authorship." This expanding research enables us to regard the printed text as a summary of the dialogue between various agents, and as the product of acts of surveillance performed by representatives of different interests.
This was particularly well formulated by Roger Chartier, one of the most prominent contributors to the discussion on print culture and the history of reading in the past decades:
"On the one hand, every reader has to deal with an entire set of constraints and obligations. The author, the bookseller-publisher, the commentator and the censor all have an interest in keeping close control over the production of meaning and in making sure that the text that they have written, published, glossed or authorized will be understood with no possible deviation from their prescriptive will. On the other hand, reading, by definition, is rebellious and vagabond. Readers use infinite numbers of subterfuges to procure prohibited books, to read between the lines, and to subvert the lessons imposed on them."
Chartier succinctly presents all the aspects of the process of publishing, and locates the censor relative to other factors involved in the production of meaning, without ignoring the active participation of the readers. Various kinds of relations existed among the various agents—the author, the editor, the bookseller, the censor and the reader, which together determined the boundaries of readings. These relations also generated strategies of writing and a series of "subterfuges" designed to create ambiguity, while reshaping the codes of the reader. The dialectics of censorship is based on the mutual relationship between all of these actors—the various agents shaping the text, and the different readings possible in a particular context.
On another, complementary level, the internalization of censorship is examined as part of the shaping of new literary language, and the rise of new modes of writing. Annabel Patterson examined censorship in early modern England as a type of discourse with its own rules, and discerned its formative role in determining literary patterns. She demonstrated that "it is to censorship that we, in part, owe our very concept of "literature" as a kind of discourse with rules of its own." She showed the impact of the accommodation to censorship and the confrontation with it on the literary language of many writers, who internalized, consciously or unconsciously, its principles. This cannot be simplistically summarized as a 'compromise', for the result of this 'compromise' is what we define as culture. Other scholars subsequently followed in her footsteps, noting that the reading revolution took place as a result of the invention of print and the rise of the Reformation. Similarly I will argue that it is to censorship that we owe, to a certain extent, our perceptions of Judaism and Jewish literature. In a different way, Leo Strauss's insights about writing also demand a different approach towards the act of censorship, although one different from that suggested here: whereas Strauss concentrates on writing rooted in the consciousness of the need to hide various aspects from most readers, the present discussion deals with the power relations determining writing, which are based on codes shared with readers. Strauss emphasizes persecution as the factor leading to development of strategies of concealment, and thus advocates reading between the lines as the basis for understanding canonical philosophical texts.
These perceptions clarify how power relations are inseparable part of the declarations of knowledge and are internalized into the language of writing, as investigated by Patterson and others in many texts. The censor himself should be considered as a reader; at the same time his own role is to imagine and reconstruct the potential reader, and thus to decide what readings should be prevented. In that way, he becomes a partner in creating the communicative framework of the text and the final version of the book. It is in light of these considerations that we will turn to an examination of what was erased and which conceptions the erasure attempted to efface.
Print, reading, and censorship in early modern Europe
The supervision over written culture and the discussion of permitted and forbidden knowledge were an integral part of the history of Western Christian culture. The continuous process of formulation of Catholic dogma and the determining of the boundaries of orthodoxy were, to a certain extent, definitions of what was considered as heresy. Ever since the banning of the writings of Arius in the 4th century, with its formative role in establishing Catholic dogma, there were numerous examples of condemnations and burning of books and prohibition of various beliefs.
The surveillance of literature in Europe expanded significantly during the 12th and 13th centuries, as an inseparable part of the broad revolutionary cultural changes and the emergence of literacy that took place in this period. These changes included the rise of new modes of learning and education followed by the birth of the universities; the adoption of external bodies of knowledge, first and foremost the incorporation of the philosophical corpus; the rise of the mendicant orders on the one hand, and the spread of heretical movements on the other. This complex development led to the rise of new modes of control—whether through the universities, or by Inquisitorial agents. In some cases, censorial prohibition served as the basis for the gradual adoption of literary corpora, sometimes after certain modifications were made in the text.
To a certain extent, the institutionalization of the surveillance of written literature in early modern Europe should be seen as a continuation of these processes. And indeed, as with regard to the entire history of literacy, also with regard to the control of reading we can observe a process that began in the 12th and 13th century, and which received its full significance after the 16th century. It is impossible to understand the so-called "print revolution" if we ignore its origins both in previous intellectual trends and in the professionalization of copying during the late Middle-Ages. Yet in the earlier stages, surveillance was not permanent and normally took place as part of ongoing discussions at universities concerning the authority of various works, or as part of the activity of ad-hoc Inquisitions, directed at specific targets.
Therefore, we should emphasize the fundamental change that took place beginning with the end of the 15th century, against the background of the rise of humanism, the invention of print and the Reformation. To these factors we might add the gradual development of the centralist state, the creation of new economical and commercial patterns, and the rise of modern science. Censorship is a topic that joins together these issues. The invention of print brought about the unprecedented distribution of literature, expanded the reading public and precipitated the publication of new books. Yet the new principles of discussion had already been developed prior to the invention of print, and crystallized as an inseparable part of humanistic learning and the process of incorporation of new bodies of knowledge into the Christian world. The rise of humanistic studies created a stratum of a cultural elite outside of the monasteries and universities, that is outside of direct ecclesiastical surveillance. It was the humanists themselves who raised the question of permitted and prohibited reading, in an effort to grant legitimation to the new areas of interest they promoted.
On the other hand, the invention of print did not immediately lead to a change of the patterns of surveillance. Many books had already been prohibited in the 15th century, by means of the traditional procedures already in use in the Catholic world. The apparition of vernacular translations of the Bible, and the challenge to the authoritative status of the Vulgate, made the question of what was permitted and what should be condemned of central importance. But only in the 16th century, as a result of the awareness of the impact of print, on the one hand, and the rise of the Reformation, on the other, did the Church begin to develop a comprehensive and permanent system of surveillance employed first against Protestant literature and expanded later to cover the entire production of print industry. The authorities that gradually initiated the surveillance were motivated by the desire to restore the previous reality and to protect what they defined as the authentic Christian values; but they participated, whether consciously or not, in the formation of the new context which continues to define our cultural horizon up to the present.
The censorial discourse combines all these factors, and exemplifies the mutual relations among them. From the standpoint of the Catholic Church, print and Reformation were integrated into one phenomenon. However for methodological reasons, and in order to demonstrate the interrelations between these factors, we will discuss each of them separately.
Print and censorship
The invention of print was, no doubt, a major and decisive element in the institutionalization of surveillance, and the gradual institutionalization of censorship was part of the process of the transition to print. Chartier's depiction of the context of the new book market makes this perfectly clear. The study of the history of books, printing and reading has taken on new dimensions since the pioneering studies of Lucien Febvre and Henry Jean Martin, and has turned to be one of the most productive and illuminating fields in the study of modernity. Print cannot serve as the sole explanation for the complex of cultural, religious and political phenomena of the period, but it provides a framework that conjoins the various aspects that were embodied in the historical change, including those preceding the technical invention, like humanism, and those following it, such as the Reformation. We should not view all these developments as resulting from print, as might be implied by Elizabeth Eisenstein's seminal book, which is still one of the broadest studies dedicated to the print revolution. Her subsequent critics, however, did not undermine the central importance of print; rather, they attempted to place this invention within its broader cultural context, and countered the attempt to describe the entirety of cultural revolutions of the period. From a different direction, scholars like Adrian Johns challenged the very notion of "print revolution" and "print culture," arguing that "the very identity of print itself has had to be made. It came to be as we now experience it only by virtue of hard work exercised over generations and across the nations." This awareness is important for the analysis of the mechanisms of censorship that were employed in the early stages of the process, when the very notion of the book as we now understand it, and the very notion of surveillance familiar to us from later periods, did not yet exist. Consequently we have to distinguish between the intentions and the results of those who participated in the production of the first printed editions of books. Nevertheless, the first stages were crucial and revolutionary, and I think it would be wrong to underestimate the revolutionary implications of the advent of printing.
Therefore, the transition to print remains an important framework for the analysis of censorship. The following brief description is not intended to provide a satisfactory historical description of the various dimensions of change (or continuity) associated with the new modes of production of written culture. Rather, it is a schematic description that seeks to clarify the role and location of censorship within the larger process. The depiction of print as a cultural phenomenon emphasizes, along with its advantages, the restrictions it imposes, and thus may clarify the relations between editing and censorship.
Several aspects of the print revolution are essential for the evaluation of censorship. First, print enabled the distribution of knowledge that was previously in the hands of a small minority, while markedly expanding the appearance of new books and new authors. Its immense power was rapidly recognized as a factor leading to both the exposure of new materials, as well as the expansion of the public exposed to the printed word. It is not surprising that the first to recognize the enormous advantages of print were also the first to point to the dangers arising from the expanded distribution of literacy. Savonarola, who was aware of the advantages of printing, may serve as an example: In 1497, he and his supporters burnt the books of Ovid, Dante, and Boccachio, along with works of magic, in an event that expressed a new consciousness that only later became the basis for ecclesiastical policy. Yehuda Messer Leon, who was the first Jew to print a composition of his own in his lifetime, manifested a similar consciousness when he issued, at the end of the 15th century, a prohibition against the reading of Gersonides' commentary on the Torah. The prohibition he attempted to enforce testifies to a clear awareness of the consequences of print and the distribution of printed literature.
The distribution of knowledge is unquestionably the primary foundational element of print, and the aspect that gradually brought about the recognition of the need for change in the forms of surveillance. But it is not the only dimension. This was accompanied by radical changes in the production of knowledge, which for the long run included the creation of new literary genres, new modes of writing and the rise of new communities of readers. While, on the one hand, print created common, homogeneous knowledge, on the other hand, it facilitated the rise and spread of heterodox approaches. It was also the epicenter of burgeoning modern mass movements, both religious and nonreligious. Print created the infrastructure for what Benedict Anderson, in his renowned book on nationalism, called "imagined communities," a term relevant also for the analysis of other, non-national modern phenomena: print was a necessary condition for the formation of territorial identities (through the development of literature in vernacular languages), but also for the crossing of territorial boundaries.
The invention of print had additional implications, which are essential for the evaluation of the role of censorship. The transition to print led to a process of unification and the creation of an authoritative version of each literary work. This process resulted in the creation of the very concept of the "book," in the sense we attribute to the term, as a final, closed entity, an object with a stable and unchanging identity. This aspect also led to a change in the relationship between written and oral culture, as well as between the text and the reader. In manuscript culture, the composition of a text was accompanied by the awareness that its dissemination would result in modifications or corruptions, as the copying of the text is, to a certain extent, a singular event that preserves for us a particular reading. In principle, the rigidity we attribute to the text of a book would have been obvious in a manuscript culture, although attempts to reach unification developed earlier. Thus, print signifies a broad process, which was expressed in other domains of the transition to modernity- the unification of patterns of custom, behavior and control, which developed in parallel.
The development of print fits in well with other intellectual developments that preceded its appearance: from its beginning print was associated with humanistic studies, and printers adopted humanistic critical methods formulated by scholars such as Lorenzo Valla, Erasmus and many others. Such developments expressed what we might term as a "print consciousness," whose sources precede the technical invention, insofar as they searched for the original and accurate version of writings. But it was only in the framework of print that these textual approaches became an inseparable part of the production of culture. The discussion over the correct version of the Scriptures is another expression of a "print consciousness" that preceded the invention of print.
The editing of texts in order to determine its final version was accompanied, among other things, by the erasure of various interpretations to be found in manuscripts, and hence, other possibilities of reading. Walter Ong claimed that few texts could pass the test of print intact, without abridgment. This phenomenon went hand in hand with the spontaneous appearance and popularity of abridged versions for various books. This fact points to an additional feature of the question of censorship: We should not view erasure itself as an act of suppression, as erasure was an almost inevitable consequence of print, that is, of the essence of the dissemination of knowledge.
Matters take on an added dimension when we examine the linguistic codes and the patterns of writing that emerged during this process. In the transition to print, various linguistic codes were determined, accompanied by changes in the character and position of the reader. The long process of transition to print was associated with the replacement of certain terms, the standardization of writing and the shaping of a uniform style based on linguistic conventions which direct the course of reading. In manuscript culture, writing preserved various aspects of orality, where knowledge was created in a dialogical manner, and formulated in narrative-rhetorical form. There, language is dialogical and each word bears a meaning that is situation-dependent. The transition to print required a new kind of relationship as well as a new kind of gap between orality and literacy, until it redefines orality. Censorship can be seen as one of the agents that determined these new relations, with the written language taking primacy over the oral. Writing became enslaved to rigid categories, which were dictated by the framework of the book. Language becomes abstract and knowledge becomes formulated in positive declarations. These rules made print a bottleneck which through a gradual process that endured for hundreds of years, negated or marginalized many characteristics of oral culture. The dialogical dimension was removed to the stage preceding printing, to the printing shop where the printed version was defined through the dialogue/dispute between the writers, editors and censors.
This process was not limited to this period, that is, the second half of the 16th century and the 17th century. While the roots of this process may be found much earlier, we may speak of the entire period between the 16th and the 18th centuries as the "transition period," which ended with the full institutionalization of the composition and surveillance of written literature within the framework of the modern centralist state. These considerations illustrate the difficulty inherent in depicting the practice of early modern censorship simply as a violation of the text. This is because not only censorship, but the transition to print as a whole, led to the disappearance of many contents, as part of the global cultural change. Against this background, censorship takes on a different dimension: we may describe it as one of the factors creating the concrete framework of knowledge, rather than one opposing it "from above." Censorship arose in a reality of crisis of authority, and served as a mediator between two paradigms and two languages of knowledge.
Print also generated a process of professionalization of those involved in the "new art": publishers, printers, editors, proofreaders and print workers. Besides the fact that this framework manifests how the production of knowledge exceeded the church's capacity to directly survey it, it is another expression of the new means of production and commerce instigated by the institutionalization of print, one of the nascent expressions of "mass production" and "market economy." The relations between the "author" the editor, the publisher and the book seller, manifest the creation of new loci of power. These new power relations were also associated with the full integration of the censor into the process of production of books and meanings.
As with other professional functions which developed along with print, the function of censor as a clearly defined position was gradually designed during this period. Print led to the development of censorship as a permanent institution, staffed by specialists. Censorship was no longer expressed through specific ad-hoc actions, but became an integral part of publication. The division of labor in early stages of print, and consequently, the distinction between the functions, often remained ambiguous. The print shops were the site of cultural transformation, through constant dialogue and dispute among the many agents, who worked together, even if each was motivated by different interests.
The mechanisms of censorship under discussion here were a clear manifestation of this "transition" stage. The censorship practices in early modern Europe reflect the dialogic nature, the internal contradictions and the ambiguity inherent in the process of transition to print. The printers-shops were an intellectual center—a meeting place for scholars, artists and editors, whose contact shaped the final form of the book. Early modern editors and censors collaborated in the creation of the cultural context and its boundaries. Naturally, they themselves remained unaware of the significant transformations they effected, and their intentions were very different. Their actions were often based on previous categories, and thus, they can be seen as a bridge between our consciousness and the earlier one of which they were part, and which was eliminated or modificated by their own activities. We must take care not to obscure the power relations and the differences between the agents active in organizing the text: they acted based on different motivations, and in the service of well-defined limited goals. But within this framework, the censor, along with the editor, was a factor determining the final version of the text, or, in other words—the production and formulation of the book.
Ecclesiastical surveillance developed hand in hand, though often in confrontation, with mechanisms of surveillance of secular authorities, and the question of censorship became one of the foci of the struggle for authority. So too, with respect to Hebrew literature, the relation towards it changed not only as a result of ecclesiastic instructions, but also in accordance with the interests of political authorities. The supervision of contents developed as part of the development of the network of privileges granted to publishers by religious and secular authorities, in order to protect their rights and to ensure the constant surveillance of their activity. We can hardly distinguish between surveillance for the sake of censorship and surveillance for the sake of taxation. Censorship was completely integrated into the system of privileges, and the establishment of copyrights.
The Catholic Church, the Reformation, and the Printing Press
The context of print does not provide a total framework for the formation of control. There is no question that the Protestant challenge was a central factor in the formation of mechanisms of Catholic surveillance, and especially in defining the boundaries of permitted literature. Only subsequent to the Reformation did the Catholic Church start to develop new modes of control, which were first applied to Protestant literature. But then again, the Reformation cannot serve as a comprehensive explanation for the development of censorship: in fact, it should not be seen as an external cause, but rather as part of the larger process of change. We should bear in mind that, parallel to this, networks of control developed in the Protestant world as well. Moreover, censorship should not be understood solely as an action directed against Protestantism, but as part of the Catholic reform taking place at this period, one of whose expressions was the establishment of the Roman Inquisition.
At first, the church warmly welcomed the invention of print, and its central spokesmen described it as a "divine art," an instrument for the diffusion of the Gospel and the creation of unity throughout the Christian world. But very soon, the dangers it embodied, from the point of view of the church, became apparent. Print could serve equally well as an instrument for the spread of heresy. Hence, it is difficult to detach the means of surveillance enforced upon the new industry from the overall struggle against heresy. In both cases, these developments undermined the existing frameworks of knowledge. Previously accepted views now acquired a new and threatening significance, as a result of their widespread distribution and the new context.
In the early stages subsequent to the apparition of print, the ecclesiastical efforts to regain effective control expanded considerably, but these activities continued to replicate medieval procedures, and were usually limited to discussions in the universities. In 1479, Pope Sixtus IV sent a letter to the University of Köln, in which he demanded that ecclesiastical censorship be employed against book distributors, and granted the university the right to censor books. In 1487, Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull, which demanded that the publication of "problematic" books be impeded. The Pope ordered the Inquisitorial magistrates and bishops to check books that were already published and see to it that the suspected ones be destroyed.
The first detailed discussion dedicated by the church to the question of the surveillance of print took place shortly before Luther published his theses, in a special session devoted to the subject in the Fifth Lateran Council (1513-1517). The council decided to impose surveillance on books and check them prior to printing, as "there had been things published contrary to the Christian religion or injuring the good name of the Catholics." Following this council, in 1516, Pope Leo X, the patron of humanism, published a decree (Inter solicitudines), in which he instructed that prior to printing, every book be submitted for examination by authoritative persons, who would determine if indeed it was worthy to be diffused.
It is hard to know to what extent these instructions were carried out in practice; apparently, only to a limited extent. But it signifies the growing awareness of the ramifications of print, and of the need for developing additional means of surveillance. A similar awareness developed at this time among secular rulers, who published orders that were intended to maintain surveillance over the publication and distribution of literature, and made it an important factor in the constitution of their authority. Yet even in the first decades followed the rise of the Reformation, responsibility for surveillance was still concentrated almost exclusively in the hands of the universities. Once the irrevocability of the Reformation became apparent, the process of institutionalization was hastened, as part of the redefining of the borders of Catholicism. This was expressed through the establishment of the Roman Inquisition in 1542, which made the surveillance of the book market one of its main missions. It also initiated the publication of the first general Index Librorum Prohibitorum, issued by the Pope Paul IV, and published shortly after his death in 1559. Only later, following the third session of the Council of Trent, was a relatively systematic mechanism established. The first two chapters will show that the discussion of Hebrew literature followed the same stages as the general process.
The Reformation had an important role in the establishing of Catholic censorship, but it would be wrong to see censorship merely as a response. The approach outlined above concerning the role of censorship in the transition to print, follows the same line that directs recent historiographical revisions of the Catholic Church at the period of the Reformation. As was mentioned, the approach that represents censorship as merely an oppressive mechanism is derived from the image of the Catholic Church as a monolithic and zealous body, which opposed all innovation and rationality. Church policy and its attitude toward permitted knowledge and beliefs were summarized as nothing but "reaction." This approach, whose roots lie in Protestant historiography, was also accepted by later historians, and had an important role in the self-perception of later liberal historiography.
This approach has been contested in the past decades, and the description of the church in terms such as Catholic reaction is no longer accepted; furthermore, the common title "Counter-Reformation" has drawn much criticism, although it continues to be used, if only for reasons of convenience. Already in 1956, Hubert Jedin suggested, alongside the term "Counter-Reformation," the term "Catholic Reform." He denounced the attempt to represent Catholicism as solely a reaction to the Reformation, demonstrated the developments within the church, and presented the theological debates as continuing of currents of thought that developed during the Renaissance. He placed emphasis on the earlier sources of the Catholic Reform, and presented it as a process that ran parallel to the Reformation. Other scholars also noted the fact that demands for reform were voiced within church circles far before the appearance of Martin Luther. Some scholars reject the term "Counter-Reformation" entirely, arguing that the effect of the Reformation in these processes was far less prominent. Apparently more neutral terms were suggested, such as the term "Tridentine Church" (first addressed by Eric Cochrane) or "early modern Catholic Church" (suggested by John O'Malley). In fact, there is no reason to undermine the formative impact of Protestantism on the reshaping of Catholicism at this time, and in the understanding of certain aspects of it as a response to the challenge set by the Reformation. But the internal reform of the Church cannot be simplistically summarized as a "reaction," but rather part of the same process.
The historiographical revision turned in several directions, and revealed the serious discussion and the spiritual renaissance which was also associated with the reshaping of early modern Catholicism. New studies dedicated to the Council of Trent demonstrate these aspects, emphasizing the aim of bringing about both doctrinal and administrative reform. The discussion of censorship was one of the central discussions of the council, especially in its third session (1562-3). As will be elaborated at greater length in Chapters Two and Three, this discussion clarifies the complexity of the entire process, and challenges the monolithic description of the Tridentine church.
Another major aspect of this issue was the new evaluation of Catholic attitude towards scientific knowledge, as part of the larger question of relations between religion and science. Liberal historiography of science depicted the Catholic attitude as mired in irrational beliefs, combating all expressions of scientific knowledge and free investigation. The most famous example of this is Galileo's trial, which became the myth of the free scientist fighting against the dark, oppressive forces of the religious establishment. This approach has been modified through many studies, that examined Galileo's ideas against the background of the intellectual currents of his day on the one hand, and the complicated attitude of the Church on the other. Of special importance for our discussion is the approach of Rivka Feldhay, who demonstrated that Galileo's ideas were formulated through confrontation with the challenges presented him by the inquisitors and a serious response to the accusations brought against him. She particularly emphasized the internal debate that took place over this issue within the church, particularly between Dominicans and Jesuits. As I will explain later, this approach is of special relevance for understanding the attitude of the Church towards Hebrew literature as well: in spite of important differences, in both cases the question of the legitimacy and boundaries of knowledge was raised and discussed according to similar principles. Sometimes the two were part of the same debate. Roberto Bellarmine, the Jesuit cardinal who was a prominent participant both in the establishment of censorship over Hebrew literature and in the Galileo trial, reflects the relationship between these two discussions.
As part of this revision, the image of the Roman Inquisition, which was established in 1542, has also undergone major modifications. Without ignoring the violence conducted against those suspected of heresy or sorcery, and without undermining its role in the suppression of various intellectual movements and popular beliefs, recent research has also presented the formative role of inquisitional practice, and analyzed its institutionalization as part of the rise of modern institutions of governance and justice. As emphasized by Tedeschi, the Inquisition also elaborated legal procedures, based on the rights of the accused to defense. The Inquisition was a precursor of new frameworks of surveillance and punishment, in which modern patterns of legal procedures and of exercise of power were created. The establishment of the Inquisition was analyzed as an important element in the administrative reform of the church. Following Carlo Ginzburg's path-breaking examination of the hermeneutic methods of the Inquisition, several scholars have emphasized the dialogical dimension linked to activities of the Inquisition, and its role as a mediating mechanism that fixed cultural boundaries. Studies of Prosperi, Tedeschi, Del Col, Peters and many others provided concrete details of the mechanisms and values of Inquisitorial practices. The Inquisition is, by its essence, an encounter with heresy in its various forms. Consequently, the records of the trials of the Inquisition have become one of the most important, if problematic, sources exposing various cultural phenomena. Following Foucault and Norbert Elias, historians have also turned this discussion to the emphasis of what was called "disciplinamento."
The censorial framework was one of the most explicit, since censorship is, by its very essence, a hermeneutic practice. The censorial discourse gradually became a procedure of continuous discussions and negotiations, which combined inclusion with exclusion, recognition through restriction. Censorship was the focus of intense intellectual discussion, which led to different and sometimes contradictory decisions, but always left an ambiguous space in which resistance to its enforcement took place.
Catholic censorship and Hebrew literature
The complicated character of the discussion of Hebrew literature, may contribute another dimension to this general framework. The control over Hebrew literature is an exceptional case, because of the two elements mentioned above: first, in that case censorship was explicitly associated to the other measures instituted against the Jews of that period: their frequent expulsions, ghettoization and economic restrictions, and the efforts to bring their conversion; second, the origins of this discussion in Medieval Christian polemics against the Jews and their literature. In spite of these unique factors however, censorship of Hebrew books was institutionalized as part of the general process, and according to principles similar to those that directed the establishment of surveillance. Chapters Two and Three investigate Hebrew literature, demonstrating that it was based on the same categories used in censorship of literature in general. Hence, the examination of the censorship of Hebrew literature may contribute another dimension to the understanding of Catholic censorship in general. The exceptionality of Hebrew literature may help to shed light on the entire process, and provides another dimension to the aspects described above. The control over Hebrew print provided a basis for the integration of Hebrew literature into the Christian corpus, while applying to it the same categories employed in the examination of other literary corpora. While the printing of the Talmud and its use were prohibited throughout this period, explicit permission was granted to possess most Jewish books, and hence legitimacy was granted to many aspects of Jewish communal and intellectual life. The burning of the Talmud (undoubtedly a traumatic experience for the Italian Jewish communities), was intended to erase heresy as part of the incorporation of Hebrew literature. The application of censorship to Hebrew literature led to official recognition of the church of Hebrew literature, and consequently of Jewish practice, even if only subsequent to changes and the obliteration of certain passages.
Therefore, censorship should also be examined as part of the rise of early modern Hebraism, that is, the growing interest of Christian scholars in some parts of Jewish literature, not only for the purpose of polemic against Judaism, but also as an authentic body of knowledge, essential for the understanding of Scriptures and for confirming the Christian faith. Though the origins of Hebraism are earlier, through the course of the 15th and 16th centuries the interest in Hebrew literature broadened in different ways in Catholic and Protestant circles. It preoccupied many scholars, among them prominent officials of the Church, and was a widespread and influential discourse. Hebraist studies were institutionalized by the establishment of chairs for Hebraic studies in universities, the translation of Kabbalistic books, Jewish biblical exegeses and also Talmudic texts.
The censorial discourse was an inseparable part of the development of Hebraism, in a way that clearly illustrates the relation between control and cultural developments. The censorial practice with respect to Hebrew literature was based on the existence of two reading publics for this literature—Jews as well as Hebraist Christians. The aim of the church in exercising censorship was to guard against the penetration of heresy and prevent heretical readings. As an analysis of the church's instructions shows, the prohibition against reading Hebrew literature also applied to areas in which no Jews lived, such as in the Iberian Peninsula. We may relate this to the struggle against the conversos (some of whom indeed try to keep basic Hebrew books), but also to the spread of Hebraist studies by other Christians as well. From the point of view of the Roman Church of that period, the problem posed by the conversos was different, as the latter had accepted Christianity and become part of Christian society, but they raised the same fears. The rise of Hebraism raised the fear of the penetration of Judaism into the Christian world. It therefore also reflects the ambivalent attitude towards converts.
We should stress that Hebraism did not necessarily express and produce attitudes of "tolerance" towards Jews. In fact, in many cases, it was associated with their exclusion and marginalization. Indeed, the Hebraist discourse created a cultural space in which Jews and Christians worked together on the basis of common principles and common cultural values. The Hebrew print shops in Italy were a clear example of such dialogue. But early modern Hebraism, in Catholic as well as in Protestant world, was fundamentally ambivalent in its attitude towards the Jews, and engendered contradictory images of Jews and Judaism. The recognition of the value of Jewish literature often strengthened missionary tendencies, and was associated with anti-Jewish sentiments. Hebraism in general embodied both inclusion and exclusion of the Jews, and can be seen as the medium through which Jewish identity was transformed.
The discussion of the censorship of Hebrew literature clarifies the two contradictory—but also complementary—dimensions embodied in Christian Hebraist discourse: integration and separation—the integration of Jewish literature into Christian culture and the separation of the Jews from the Christians. Both aspects were demonstrated by the practice of censorship that determined at the same time two fields of reading: one common to Jews and Christians, the other almost exclusively Jewish. Its activity may be seen as part of the process that can seen as "civilizing the Jews," or what Ronnie Po-chia Hsia called "disenchanting Judaism." Censorship had a role in the transition of Judaism from a kind of magic and heresy into a body of knowledge. The Jews were tolerated as an ethnic-religious group, while their own literary tradition was studied as an authoritative source of knowledge.
Hebraist discourse, as demonstrated in acts of reading and acts of censorship, can be seen as the space in which the cultural transformation occurred. Hebraism cannot be distinguished from polemics, and to a certain extent can be seen as the internalization of previous Christian polemic strategies. It created a framework that encompassed Christians, converts and Jews, and in which the new cultural boundaries were confirmed together with the creation of new modes of power relations, exemplified by the intervention of the censor. Early modern Christian Hebraism may be understood as a framework mediating between the previous theological polemic and the modern discourse, based on the concepts of ethnicity and culture that developed later. On the one hand, this framework adopted Jewish writings into European culture and, in principle, granted legitimacy to Hebrew literature and Jewish existence—but by distancing them and reformulating the hostility towards them. Within this framework, the fundamental Christian ambivalence towards the Jews was redefined, presenting Jews both as carriers of an ancient wisdom, as well as representatives of an alien culture. The censorial discourse took place within the context of a much broader historical transformation, and participated in this transition. It embodies the link between Hebraism and modern Jewish discourse.
The Hebraist context was at the core of the production of Hebrew print in this period. Most of the Hebrew publishing houses operating in Italy in the 16th century, where the main transition stage of Jewish literature into print took place, were owned by Christians who were clearly motivated by Hebraist sentiments. The central role of Christians in the publishing of Hebrew books, as publishers, printers and editors, grants a new dimension to the question of censorship, and to the perception that distinguishes between "external" and "internal" cultural agents. Chapter Four will examine the role of the censor in this framework. The Hebrew publishing house was an exciting meeting place for people of different cultural and religious identities: Christian Hebraists, Jewish scholars and converts. The process of editing and publication was done in the framework of dialogue and dispute among them. This framework may contribute another dimension to the description of Chartier quoted above. Converts, who served in the publishing houses as both editors and censors, were a mediating factor between Christian Hebraists, Church officials and the Jewish community. The converts reflected an ambivalent stance that expressed their continuous attempt to bridge between the two aspects of their identity by accommodating Hebrew literature to the Christian world. They blurred the distinction between Jews and Christians, and at the same time redefined the boundaries. By that, they evidently confirmed Jewish existence within the Christian world and determined its boundaries. Although it is undeniable that the motive of many censors was to advance the conversion of the Jews, In practice, they defined an authorized space and explicitly legitimized Jewish books and Jewish interpretations.
In fact, the censorship in Hebrew books was minimal, and its significance marginal, and the number of erasures in most books was negligible. It was more an act of defining boundaries than a massive intervention in the contents. Besides the Talmud, which was condemned, in most cases the main concern was limited to explicit anti-Christian passages, with explicit permission to retain most aspects of Jewish belief and law. What should be emphasized is that, in most cases, editions of books that are products of the process of editing and censoring that took place in the Hebrew publishing houses in Italy survive down to this day.
The Talmud and the shaping of censorship
Catholic policy distinguished between the Talmud and other levels of Jewish literature, including Halakhic books. The Talmud was prohibited during the entire period subsequent to its burning, in spite of negotiations aimed at bringing to its renewed printing in Italy. This prohibition notwithstanding, the discussions on the issue were of great importance, as they generated the framework for the rules of censorship for all Hebrew literature and the permitting of such literature subsequent to expurgation. These aspects will be further examined in chapters One and Two of this study.
The Talmud became the object of Christian attacks beginning with the 12th century, and especially since the 13th. Since then, the Talmud played the central role in the Christian polemic against Judaism. As Amos Funkenstein pointed out, the change in the patterns of the polemic towards the Jews, and the focus on the Talmud, was part of a broader cultural change in Europe at this period. The Talmud was first burnt in Paris in the year 1242, following a public trial over its contents. Rabbinic Jewish literature, which was previously almost unknown in the Christian world, was presented as proof that the Jews had abandoned the Laws of Moses, and as a blasphemous composition, containing insults against the Christian faith. Popes Gregory IX (1227-1241) and Innocent IV (1243-1254) demanded that the Talmud be confiscated, on the grounds that it expressed the Jews rejection of the Divine Law, and their abandonment of the path common to the two religions, the foundation for their toleration. Copies of the Talmud possessed by Jews were confiscated and destroyed several times during the course of the 13th century. In 1320, Pope John XXII declared that Christians who study the errors of the Talmud are suspect of Judaization. Following his instructions, Talmud burnings took place in Burgos, Toulouse, Paris and other cities. Subsequently, we find no further mention of the Talmud in papal documents for over a hundred years. It is difficult to determine what the extent of these actions was, and Jewish sources seem to indicate that its practical import was very minimal.
This was a new line that reflects a change in the patterns of Christian polemics, and was associated with new measures against the Jews. Those who set the tone for this new policy were the friars of mendicant orders, especially the Dominicans. The church prohibited monks from copying over the Talmud, even for polemic purposes, suspecting that the very contact with it might lead to satanic phenomena. We should note that the "revelation" of the Talmud by Christian society and the trials against it developed in tandem with the definition of the Talmud as the center of Jewish existence in Europe, and parallel to the development of intensive learning and commentary, as expressed through the activities of the Tosafists. This development was an integral part of the rise of literacy in that period. Another expression of this is the appearance of kabbalistic works at this time, in 12th century Provence and in 13th-century Spain.
This process was also associated with the growth of interest of Christian scholars in Jewish tradition, in a way that clarifies the link between polemics, mission and Hebraism. The most significant example for that was Raimon Marti, the author of the Pugio Fidei. On the one hand, Marti belonged to those who expressed the view that the Talmud was a work written under satanic influence, and should be seen as a threat to the Christian society. But the main innovation of his composition was the claim that the Talmud contains important aspects of the Hebraica Veritas, and could provide evidence for the proof of Christianity. The Pugio Fidei presents many Talmudic texts in order to prove his argument. Similar interest also directed the monk Ramon Lull, who saw the kabbalah as an important source for the confirmation of Christianity, and consequently as an important element in his missionary activity. Following the publication of Pugio Fidei, Marti was made responsible for erasing the passages insulting to Christianity. And indeed, the expurgation of the Talmud in Spain in the 1260s and '70s, can be seen as the first stage of expurgation of Hebrew literature. Spanish manuscripts of the Talmud from this period already omitted certain anti-Christian phrases, and Jews also omitted paragraphs used by Martinus for proving the Christian faith.
In light of this, the attitude towards the Talmud, is another example of cultural phenomena that had their origins in the 12th and 13th centuries, and came to fruition in the 16th. As we already mentioned, there is a definite connection between the image of the Talmud in Christian thought, the early steps taken against it, and the attitudes and measures taken against it in the 16th century. The criteria for the erasure of passages were similar to those presented in Pugio Fidei. We may find support for this approach in the public expressions of the initiators and executors of this policy, who formulated their motivations using concepts taken from polemic literature, though they carried out their investigation independently. The Pugio Fidei remained a source of knowledge also for the Hebraists of the 16th century and had an important role as an introduction to Hebraism, and also in the shaping of censorship.
Nevertheless, it is important to emphasize the new significance these elements received in the 16th century, in the general context described above. The censorial discussion demonstrates the continuity, but also the transition from one discursive framework to another. One should also take into account the new location of Judaism in the context of the Reformation. In each of the central points of conflict between Protestants and Catholics—the question of justification, the issue of free will and the relation between Scriptures and Patristic traditions, Judaism (at least, as it was understood by the Christian world) presented an alternative worldview: The principle of justification by faith, which was at the core of Lutheran doctrine, demonstrated the superiority of faith over practice for the obtaining of grace. As against it, the Catholic Church emphasized the sacramental dimension as the only path to obtain grace. This condemnation of Protestantism, however, forced the church to adopt a complex stance towards the Jewish perception of Law. The traditional Catholic arguments against the validity of the Halakha could no longer suffice, as they were similar to the Protestant accusations against the Roman Church. A comprehensive condemnation of Judaism could simultaneously confirm the Protestant viewpoint. Thus, the church found itself in tension between the Protestant position, on the one hand, and the danger of accusations of Pelagianism and "Judaization," on the other. Similarly, "Judaism" as perceived by Hebraist scholars provided and marked an alternative attitude with respect to the question of free will. In response to Protestant denial of the role of free will in the process of salvation, the Catholic Church sought to formulate a more complex position. Here too, Judaism allegedly provided a position that could be seen as opposed to the Protestant view, in a major issue that had become the subject of an internal debate within the Catholic world as well, between Dominicans and Jesuits.
Of particular importance for our subject were the ramifications of the Catholic emphasis on the authority of the Church Fathers and the Patristic tradition, as a response to the Lutheran principle of sola scriptura. The condemnation of the Talmud as post-Biblical could no longer be simply accepted, since this argument was similar to the Protestant polemic against the sanctity that the Catholic Church attributed to the Patristic tradition.
In this context, the Church was obliged to redefine its position towards Hebrew literature, based on the recognition that its blanket condemnation would raise essential problems. The Cardinals who tried to find a way to permit the use of the Talmud, were not motivated by a relative tolerance, but by the awareness of essential problems that would have been raised by an all-out condemnation. Condemnation or permission were made in light of its consequences on the Catholic position in this new historical context. The discussion on these issues, as described in Chapter 2, according to reconstructions of other historians (particularly Fausto Parente) explore the serious discussion that associated the inconsistent policy with regard to the permission for the printing and use of the Talmud. Thus, erasure and outlawing could not be done arbitrarily, as each erasure had effects on the debate with Protestantism. Needless to say, no Catholic could desire the conversion of the Jews by leaving him "the Bible alone."
Censorship and Italian Jewry
We can evaluate censorship and the practical consequences of its operation by examining its relation to parallel cultural developments within Italian Jewry in this period. This aspect will be analyzed on two levels: The first, by comparing between the principles of editing employed in the publishing houses and the principles of censorship. Chapter Five is an attempt to read the censorial instructions and their implementations in texts. It goes without saying that this analysis is partial and does not cover all of Hebrew literature. But, as was already noticed, the number of censored passages in itself is relatively small. The censors left large parts of Hebrew literature untouched, although, in certain cases, their involvement was of great significance indeed.
On the second level, the implications of censorship will be examined in relation to currents and cultural directions which developed among Italian Jews (and also in other places) at that period. This examination follows and aims to contribute to historical revisions that have developed over the past decades with respect to the study of Jewish culture of the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, revision that to a certain extent has developed as part of the general historical revision of early modern Catholicism.
Traditional Jewish historiography consecrated to Italian Jews accepted, explicitly or implicitly, the perception of the Counter-Reformation Church as a dark and reactionary body, and applied it towards the history of the Jews as well. Accordingly, the culture of the Jews of the Renaissance was presented as an expression of productivity and cultural integration, while the period starting in the middle of the 16th century was depicted as a period of decline, which was explained as a result of external pressures, ghettoization and censorship. Thus for example, the prominence of the Kabbalah at this period was explained as an expression of cultural decline, and as a result of the prohibition of the Talmud. Interestingly, dominant Jewish historiography followed the principles and values of the Protestant anti-Catholic narrative. The attitude towards censorship as another act of oppression played a major role in the shaping of the historiographical image of Italian Jewry, an image that was far more apologetic than the works of that period that are depicted as "apologetic" literature.
In recent years, a revision of this concept has taken place. While this criticism does not deny the accomplishments of historians of the previous generation, such as Cecil Roth, Avigdor Moshe Schulvass and others, it emphasized the problematic nature of some of their assumptions. As Robert Bonfil showed, the two sides of this equation are far from being accurate. On the one hand, he denied the depiction of the Renaissance as an ideal period from a Jewish point of view, and emphasized the processes of marginalization and repression underwent by Italian Jewry at this period. On the other hand, Bonfil demonstrated that in the context of the Counter-Reformation, the period under discussion here, and within the context of separation and ghettoization, we find many similarities between cultural and religious developments that took place among Jews and Christians. Moreover, Bonfil and other historians argued that the policy of ghettoization paradoxically enabled recognition of Jewish existence as part of the city, and was associated with cultural and religious flourishing in forms similar to those developed in the same period in the Catholic world.
We have the opportunity to reconstruct readings of Jews according to their writings. We can ask to what extent censorship determined strategies of writing and transmission, and what kind of new orality has emerged during the transition to print. We should also remember that the question of censorship also concerned the Jewish authorities of the period, and that print also led to the establishment of internal censorship. The issues, which were a source of debate in these framework, shed another light on the role of ecclesiastical censorship.
We must not forget that with regard to the Jewish context, print created new modes of writing and generated the development of new ideas. As was emphasized, the period in which censorship was exercised and institutionalized was a period of a very significant Jewish cultural renaissance, marked by the publication of the Kabbalistic canon, on the one hand, and new types of "secular" writings (history, poetry and so on), on the other. During these years, new books, particularly the products of the spiritual center of Safed, were printed in the Italian print houses.
The analysis of these cultural developments enables us to trace the concrete consequences of censorship. Its role and principles differed from place to place; however even in places in which control was fragile, the interrelation between censorial demands and cultural development during the transition to print (an issue discussed later by Elchanan Reiner in a series of path-breaking articles), remains an issue of great interest.
The subject under discussion is thus at the intersection of two questions. The first—the role of censorship in the creation of "print culture." The second—the place of Jewish culture within the context of Christian society. The intersection of these two subjects, which are apparently unrelated, advances a new outlook on both, and enables each of them to be checked through the framework of concepts usually reserved for the other. Most important, in examining censorship, we are, in fact, examining our own perceptions. This book can be seen as an inquiry into the values of modern Jewish perceptions, while identifying out to their origins in the work of the censor-convert. We cannot ignore the fact that we evaluate censorship according to later perceptions of knowledge. It is therefore striking to recognize the similarities between dominant modern Jewish perceptions and the principles of censorship, that is to say, Judaism detached from the anti-Christian polemic.