Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century provides a multifaceted account of Jewish life in Europe and the Mediterranean basin at a time when economic, cultural, and intellectual encounters coincided with heightened interfaith animosity.
2017 | 368 pages | Cloth $75.00
Religion / History
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Table of Contents
—Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler
PART I. INTELLECTUAL COMMUNITIES AND INTERACTIONS IN THE LONG THIRTEENTH CENTURY
Chapter 1. Rabbinic Conceptions of Marriage and Matchmaking in Christian Europe
Chapter 2. Nahmanides' Four Senses of Scriptural Signification: Jewish and Christian Contexts
—Mordechai Z. Cohen
Chapter 3. Bible and Politics: A Correspondence Between Rabbenu Tam and the Authorities of Champagne
Chapter 4. Rabbis, Readers, and the Paris Book Trade: Understanding French Halakhic Literature in the Thirteenth Century
PART II. SECULAR AND RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES
Chapter 5. The Madrasa and the Non-Muslims of Thirteenth-Century Egypt: A Reassessment
Chapter 6. Jews in and out of Latin Notarial Culture: Analyzing Hebrew Notations on Latin Contracts in Thirteenth-Century Perpignan and Barcelona
Chapter 7. From Christian Devotion to Jewish Sorcery: The Curious History of Wax Figurines in Medieval Europe
—Kati Ihnat and Katelyn Mesler
Chapter 8. Nicolas Donin, the Talmud Trial of 1240, and the Struggles Between Church and State in Medieval Europe
PART III. TRANSLATIONS AND TRANSMISSIONS OF TEXTS AND KNOWLEDGE
Chapter 9. Cultural Identity in Transmission: Language, Science, and the Medical Profession in Thirteenth-Century Italy
Chapter 10. Matter, Meaning, and Maimonides: The Material Text as an Early Modern Map of Thirteenth-Century Debates on Translation
—S. J. Pearce
Chapter 11. Pollution and Purity in Near Eastern Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Crusading Rhetoric
Chapter 12. Adoption and Adaptation: Judah ha-Levi's ???? ??? ????? ????? ?????? in Its Ashkenazic Environment
List of Contributors
Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler
"Go now into the Jews' streets and see how many do business with them [the Christians] even on the holiday itself."
This pronouncement was a central part of one of R. Yeḥiel of Paris's responses to Christian accusations against Jewish conduct during the trial of the Talmud (Paris, 1240). Yeḥiel, a prominent advocate for the Jewish community, was countering a common Christian accusation that "Jews are hostile toward and a danger to gentiles." He argued that, although he and his contemporaries observed the Torah with "all their souls," they still performed many activities that were forbidden by the Talmud. He was alluding to different prohibitions in tractate 'Avodah Zarah that pertained to what was considered idolatry or to aiding idol worshippers but were commonplace activities among medieval European Jews. In the context of the Talmud trial, a landmark event in the history of Jewish-Christian relations, his implication was that not every statement against gentiles in the Talmud need be read as evidence of contemporary anti-Christian activities. Thus he emphasized the close relations between Jews and Christians that he witnessed in his everyday surroundings.
His text states: "For we are taught: For three days preceding the holiday of the gentiles it is forbidden to engage in trade with them. Go now into the Jews' streets and see how many do business with them [the Christians] even on the holiday itself. And further we are taught 'Do not board cattle in the barns of gentiles,' and yet every day we sell cattle to gentiles and make partnerships with them and are alone with them and entrust our infants to their households to be nursed; and we teach Torah to gentiles, for there are Christian clerics who know how to read Jewish books." As Yeḥiel indicates, many of the topics he mentions are noted in the Talmud as actions that are to be avoided. Despite this, he clarifies that Jews regularly engaged in business with their Christian neighbors, involved them in their domestic arrangements, and, most notably in light of the questions of the transmission of knowledge discussed in this volume, taught them the Jewish interpretation of Torah, or perhaps even how to read Hebrew. In another passage, Yeḥiel noted that he was used to discussions with clergy and that this was the reason for his role in the trial.
From Yeḥiel's "Jews' streets" to the secular courtroom, from the cult of saints to the Islamicate bureaucracy, and from shared reliance on Aristotle to shared polemics, this volume highlights a complex interdependence in thought and action among different groups of Jews, as well as between Jews and the Christian and Muslim majority cultures. The chapters, contributed by thirteen specialists in the history, society, and literature of the long thirteenth century, explore intricate interreligious and intercultural dynamics. The presence (though not always literal) of Jews was an integral part of life for medieval Christians and Muslims, who were affected by Jews just as Jews were affected by their situation as a minority culture, or set of cultures. The interaction born of these relationships, from love and friendship to hostility and violence, is best described as "entanglement."
Terms of Entanglement: Historiographies
The Paris Talmud trial represented a new sort of hostility in medieval Christian-Jewish relations: the Jews were accused of not only rejecting Christianity but of deliberately rejecting that which was valid in pre-Christian Jewish belief. It can be seen as a momentous event in a series of anti-Jewish intellectual developments running from the thirteenth century through the early modern period that built on earlier layers of Christian-Jewish hostility. Although the thirteenth century did mark a watershed in regard to interreligious polemics, the past decades of research have focused especially on the fact that Jews were not just on the receiving end of polemics, they also produced them, in some cases initiating polemical interchanges.
At the same time, many scholars studying the accounts of the Talmud trial and other medieval texts have found it difficult to reconcile the deep religious animosity behind disputations, accusations, and persecutions with the routinely cooperative contacts between Jews and Christians mentioned within the very same texts. The religious hostility and ongoing social ties are hard to discuss simultaneously, and in light of the further persecutions that led to the expulsion of Jews from the various regions of western Europe from the thirteenth to early sixteenth centuries, it is not surprising that scholarship has emphasized enmity rather than day-to-day coexistence and intellectual contact. Indeed, modern scholarship has tended to emphasize the distance between Jews and Christians, because the two communities have been studied by different groups of scholars, those familiar with Hebrew sources and those versed in Latin materials. Even shared events, like the Talmud trial, have been studied separately from the Christian and Jewish sides.
Yet over the past decades, scholars have gradually come to the understanding that separation and hostility were constantly in creative tension with economic, cultural, and intellectual exchange, and this seeming contradiction was at the foundation of Jewish existence in medieval Europe. While we encounter the designation "alienated minority" to describe the medieval European Jewish community, we also find other descriptions that affirm Jewish interactions with the Christian majority: "intimate and distant," "together and apart," "overlapping yet separate." The complexity of coexistence began on the most basic level of the streets of the cities of medieval Europe, where Jews tended to live in specific neighborhoods but were not their exclusive residents. They lived alongside Christians and interacted with their neighbors in a variety of ways. Medieval sources tell of neighborly relations and cooperation as well as hostilities. Much of this cooperation took place among women; as Yeḥiel states, for example, Jewish families might hire Christian women to nurse their children, and Jewish women were involved in consumption loans to Christian women. Women's daily interactions to a large extent flew under the radar and must be teased out from a variety of sources; recent scholarship on medieval encounters has increasingly focused on the role of women, although none of the chapters in this volume places it at the center.
The interplay of cooperation and hostility, or separation and collaboration, between Jewish and Christian communities, as well as the complexity of the relations between Jewish communities living under Christian rule and those living under Muslim rule, and furthermore between the Jews of southern and northern Europe, is at the heart of this volume. The terminology used by scholars to describe these complexities—and the debates and dilemmas that arise from that terminology—are key to their understandings of interfaith and intrafaith relations. While use of the term "influence" to describe the way ideas and practices were transferred and shared between religious groups and geographies has fallen out of favor, as scholars have rejected the implied passivity of the group being influenced, there is no generally accepted replacement. Some studies use the geometric metaphors common in the field of comparative history: parallels, intersections, convergences, vectors. However, these geometric metaphors can be too binary, implying a rigid dichotomy: parallel lines never meet, converging lines intersect only in one place. They do not take account of ongoing contact, or of multiple vectors.
As a result, recent scholars have sought to indicate the complex relations between and among groups by employing terms like "embeddedness," "exchange," "acculturation," "appropriation," "overlap," "interpenetration," and "hybridity." These all seek to express the near-paradox of simultaneous connection and separation: one can be embedded but not completely part of, acculturating but still distinct; when one appropriates, one makes something one's own, but not necessarily separate from the culture of origin. Such terms all imply transfer or absorption, in many cases a Jewish incorporation of a Christian or Muslim practice or idea during the medieval period, centuries after Christianity and Islam each incorporated elements of Judaism. The terms also allow for the possibility of ongoing dialogue and conscious decisions in reaction to the Other, as well as the possibility that what is absorbed may look and function very differently from the source. But such terms may lose sight of the other side of the coin: the environment of hostility, anti-Jewish legislation, efforts at conversion, and eventual expulsion. Scholars have used words like "exclusion," "difference," "distinctiveness," "isolation," "hostility," "persecution," "intolerance," and "alienated" to express these realities.
The chapters in this volume seek to look at the Jews of medieval Europe during the thirteenth century as entangled in other cultures, creating connected histories between communities that may include hostile as well as tolerant encounters. Entanglement implies complexity; the things being tangled (threads, vines, branches) can cross many times, becoming difficult or impossible to pull apart, but still remain distinct, as with two colors of thread or two types of plant. They can run alongside each other separately, cross, diverge, and converge again. Parallels, similarities and differences, exchange and appropriation, exclusion and persecution, can all be part of entanglement. "Entanglement" can sometimes be a negative term; we do not voluntarily let our hair, our computer cables, our relationships become tangled. Here we attempt to use it in a more neutral way, as in quantum entanglement where individual particles in a system cannot be described without describing the system as a whole. The chapters in this volume seek to present rising antagonisms alongside shared cultures, privileging neither. Rather than resolve the contradictions between persecution and cooperation, many of the chapters seek to outline them and explain how they endured and coexisted. Complex and entangled coexistence operated not just between Jewish and Christian or Muslim communities, but also among communities within Judaism. Ashkenaz and Sepharad cannot be considered in isolation from each other any more than Jewish and Christian communities in the same region can. Further, as many of the chapters demonstrate, although these communities had their own unique customs and traditions, there was also overlap and appropriation between them.
Many of the chapters look at the way knowledge and ideas were transmitted across religious or geographical boundaries. Entangled transmission is not a static, unidirectional movement of an idea from point A to point B but rather a complex process that has the potential to affect everyone involved, to be rejected, to transform the context into something wholly unrecognizable. The recipients, whether from one Jewish cultural stream to another or from one religious community to another, do not passively absorb knowledge, texts, or practices, but rather make a choice of what to integrate and how to adapt it to be meaningful in its new context. The situation is very similar to what Itamar Even-Zohar has termed a "culture repertoire," which describes the collection of available options from which elements of culture are chosen and employed. Using these terms, we turn now to three distinct foci of entanglement that run through this volume: interactions between intellectual communities; those between secular and religious authorities; and the act of translation as an example of transmission of knowledge between communities.
Intellectual Communities and Interactions in the Long Thirteenth Century
The comments attributed to Yeḥiel came at one of the most complex moments of Jewish existence in thirteenth-century France, and can be read as a moving attempt to deflect accusations being made against the Jews. At the same time, they can also be seen as indicative of the routine contacts between Jews and Christians in thirteenth-century Paris. These levels of meaning allow for reflection both on contact between Jewish and Christian elites and on the daily interactions that took place between many members of both societies, as well as on the interplay of differing Jewish traditions.
Jewish Europe contained the regions of Tsarfat (broadly designating France and England, though often limited to northern France), Ashkenaz (in its broadest sense including northern France and England as well as German lands; in its narrowest sense referring only to German lands), Sepharad (Iberia), Provence (signifying all of southern France, and culturally close to Sepharad), and Italy, including some areas under Muslim rule. In the thirteenth century, among the intellectual elite, one might find the ?asidei Ashkenaz (Pietists) in the Rhineland, the tosafists in northern France, Maimonideans and anti-Maimonideans in Provence, Nahmanides and his circle in Barcelona, and various kabbalistic groups across Iberia. These different linguistic and cultural communities addressed many similar questions but through the lens of different intellectual traditions.
Even within the one relatively confined discipline of halakhah, cultural difference is evident. Ephraim Kanarfogel's chapter on rabbinic conceptions of matchmaking takes us via halakhah into areas of everyday life that differed across Jewish cultures. He examines the process of marriage formation in medieval Ashkenaz, where matchmakers loomed rather large, and Sepharad, where they did not. Sephardic halakhists, he notes, placed the responsibility for making a match on the parents or grandparents. Sephardic halakhists, as well, were more lenient toward the dissolution of a planned match, as long as the kidushin (betrothal) had not yet taken place. In France, by contrast, a communal ban and a financial penalty were imposed, because the breaking of the match was thought to be highly embarrassing to the couple and their families. Kanarfogel suggests that the reason for both these differences—the use of matchmakers and the greater penalties for breaking a match in Ashkenaz—stems from the greater responsibility put there on the bride and groom rather than on their families. In Sepharad, where parents made the decisions, they could pressure their children to stick with an unwanted match; matchmakers, however, could not bring such pressure on individuals who made their own decisions. Ashkenazic sources emphasize consent of the parties, even of very young girls, whereas Sephardic ones put more emphasis on the will of the Almighty.
Yet, some Ashkenazic and Sephardic halakhists knew each other's work, and as a result it is often quite difficult to distinguish between aspects of halakhic traditions and schools. Jewish communities in different towns and indeed in different regions maintained close links, and several of the chapters demonstrate the processes and results of that intellectual contact in multiple areas of scholarly endeavor. Moses Nahmanides, the subject of Mordechai Cohen's chapter, is a good example, sitting astride several very different currents in Jewish culture. In his Torah commentary Nahmanides endeavored to incorporate midrashic sensibilities—often mediated through Rashi's glosses—in an otherwise Andalusian model of peshat (plain sense) represented by Abraham Ibn Ezra (1089-1164) and Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). At the same time, he integrated typological exegesis and kabbalistic modes of interpretation into his commentary, evidently to resolve hermeneutical tensions produced by a convergence of the Andalusian and northern French peshat models. Cohen shows how Nahmanides selected elements from an available culture repertoire. His fourfold classification of ways of reading Scripture is reminiscent of the four senses known to Christian exegetes. A number of scholars have noticed parallels between Jewish quadripartite models and Christian ones, but the four ways of reading never corresponded exactly. Cohen shows that while Nahmanides may have gotten the idea of a fourfold schema from Christian sources, the schema he developed—peshat, midrash, typology, and mysticism—served to solve a very specific problem that he had, relating to questions that were fundamentally part of Jewish and not Christian biblical interpretation. Cohen points out that Nahmanides need not have read Latin to have learned of Christian typology and the fourfold division; he need only have spoken with Christian scholars, as he likely did.
Discussions between Christian and Jewish scholars also appear in Rami Reiner's chapter, which uses a report about correspondence between Rabbenu Tam (R. Jacob ben Meir, d. 1171) and Henry the Liberal, Count of Champagne from 1152 to 1181, to demonstrate another aspect of the entanglement of intra-Jewish and intercommunal processes of knowledge transmission. Biblical exegetes and halakhists were expected to be two different groups of specialists (much like theologians and canon lawyers in Christian society), although Rabbenu Tam's polymath grandfather Rashi and his brother Rashbam were exceptions. By Rabbenu Tam's generation the study of the law via the Talmud had become, in northern France, the most highly regarded field of study, while the major biblical exegetes of the period were located in the south of France and in Iberia. Yet, as Reiner shows, the line between the areas of specialization was hardly inviolable; a leading halakhist like Rabbenu Tam was expected to have encyclopedic knowledge of the Torah as well, and to demonstrate this in his work. As a powerful French lord (son-in-law of Louis VII), Henry the Liberal was patron of a major circle of intellectuals at his court, and it is likely that this activity is what prompted him to address to Rabbenu Tam queries about certain passages of the Bible, showing that the opinion of Jewish scholars was respected on the sacred texts that they shared with Christians. But it is even more remarkable that Rabbenu Tam was able to frame his answers not only in terms of Jewish traditions but also in terms of the Christian majority society; if not himself an intimate at the court, he was well aware of features of aristocratic life. The correspondence demonstrates the integration of a man totally immersed in a talmudic discourse community who was at home in the community surrounding Henry's court as well.
Rabbenu Tam lived in the small town of Ramerupt, but most Jews tended to be concentrated particularly in growing urban centers. Many towns, like the Jews themselves, had special relationships with the regional lord or monarch through grants of privileges. The contact described by R. Yeḥiel shows that activity like that of Rabbenu Tam continued, with Jews exchanging ideas with learned Christians. Some of them traveled a long way to do so, although most Jewish religious authority was local. As urbanization proceeded in Europe through the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Jews formed part of the economic lifeblood of towns.
Towns were centers of knowledge as well as commerce, and the locus of Christian learning shifted to the universities that were established there. Studies at Christian universities fell into four areas: the arts, consisting of the study of language and linguistic logic, which were expanded after the reception of Aristotle by the addition of moral and natural philosophy; law, that is, canon and civil law, for which Bologna was the most famous; medicine, which became increasingly professionalized with the reception of Aristotelian theory and its separation from empirical practice, and for which Salerno and Montpellier were best known; and theology, the "Queen of the Sciences," whose home was in Paris.
The idea of the colleges that made up the medieval universities of the thirteenth century has a great deal in common with the madrasa of the Islamicate world, although the latter was largely dedicated to studying religious law. Jewish yeshivot tended to be smaller than madrasas or the Christian universities—more like the colleges within the latter—and focused mainly on the study of Talmud. However, in none of the religious traditions did education in the broadest sense remain restricted to these rarefied institutions of higher learning. The aids for preachers that proliferated after the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) demanded regular instruction of the laity, and later works of edification for the laity themselves drew upon theological teachings from the universities, just as Jewish works attempted to summarize talmudic learning for a wider audience. Judah Galinsky's chapter on thirteenth-century halakhic compilations discusses the summaries and restatements of halakhic material that were written in the second half of the century, notably the 'Amudei golah (Pillars of Exile), also known as the Sefer mitsvot katan or Semak, of R. Isaac of Corbeil, completed in 1276-77. Compared to works from earlier in the century, like the Sefer ha-terumah (Book of Offering) of R. Barukh ben Isaac, the Semak presupposes a much wider audience, and other works of the period fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. These compilations contrast with the scholarly work from the Rhineland in the eleventh century and from northern France in the twelfth. Somewhat similar compilations existed already in twelfth-century France in the form of maḥzorim, liturgical guides containing not only parts of the liturgy but also practical legal as well as ritual material. It is in the thirteenth century, however, as Galinsky demonstrates, that the genre of the practical legal treatise, at least the major points of which were eventually intended for study by all in the synagogue, came into its own.
Galinsky attributes this development partly to the influence of Maimonides and his Mishneh Torah and that of ?asidei Ashkenaz, both of which tended to push toward a more accessible presentation of halakhah. In part, however, he argues that these texts grew out of their context in the urban center of Paris, a center for the book trade. The rise of the University of Paris meant that a good deal of copying was done there in urban ateliers rather than in monasteries as previously. Besides textbooks, these ateliers produced works for the use of clergy in preaching and pastoral care, as well as works directed at laypeople, at least well-off ones. These three categories correspond roughly to the audiences Galinsky has identified: scholars for the Sefer ha-terumah, a secondary elite for works like Moses of Coucy's Sefer ha-mitsvot, and a wider group of laypeople for the Semak. All three were experimenting with audience and format, especially compared with static genres used in the Rhineland, and all three authors had ties to Paris. These works were written for no one but Jews; they were in no way explicitly in dialogue with Christian work. And yet, as Galinsky shows, the authors wrote within the setting of a wider Christian culture, and Christian texts may have spurred their thinking about form and audience, if not the content, of their work.
Secular and Religious Authorities
Jews and members of other communities were entangled not just by their ideas but also by the authorities that governed their lives. Sites of intellectual work (yeshiva, madrasa, university) were clearly demarcated by religious identifications, despite allowing for contact between select individuals; however, the circumstances within which most medieval Jews lived were immersed within those of the majority culture. Jews and Christians were in close daily contact by necessity and proximity as well as by choice. These mundane exchanges did not involve intellectual engagement of the kind that typified exchanges between learned men, but the practices and beliefs that were imparted and exhibited as part of these exchanges were no less consequential in determining the way Jews went about their daily activities and their religious rituals. Sometimes Jewish activities depended upon the local secular power. In the thirteenth century cultural, religious, and intellectual developments collided with politics, marking a shift in the relations among Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. The entanglement of religious and secular authority deeply affected the position of Jews in medieval polities. This aspect of the period stands out in the work both of scholars working on the Jews within Islam and those working on Christian Europe.
Luke Yarbrough's chapter on the madrasa and non-Muslims focuses on how Jews, who formed part of the intelligentsia in Muslim as well as in Christian society, lost their previous connections with political authorities. Jews had often provided a significant part of the corps of administrative officials in Egypt, but in the thirteenth century they (along with Christians) began to be excluded from the administrative class. The madrasa played a role in this process, not, as previous scholarship has argued, because it strengthened group consciousness and a knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence that supported discrimination, and prepared Muslim religious scholars for debate with unbelievers. Rather, Yarbrough suggests that while elite audiences did not consider the madrasa related to state employment, through a long and gradual process madrasa patronage networks became intertwined with bureaucratic ones. Muslim scholars with certain personal connections competed successfully for administrative positions, thus marginalizing Jewish and Christian officials and their communities. Yarbrough's work fits into a tradition of scholarship on Jews in medieval Europe that suggests that the anti-Judaism that advocated political and legal marginalization was inevitably entangled with larger economic and political changes, here a closer relationship between political and religious elites occasioned by the rise of the madrasa (and, mutatis mutandis, the university).
Rebecca Winer's chapter, analyzing a corpus of Latin loan documents in notarial registers from thirteenth-century Perpignan, demonstrates how Jews were part of the notarial culture of their times. A Jewish notarial culture already existed in the thirteenth century, but the Crown attempted to increase its revenues by controlling this notarial system and regulating Jewish use of Latin notaries. The fact that Jews entered into transactions before Christian notaries is not at all surprising; the registers for Perpignan contain hundreds of such contracts, and Perpignan is not unusual in this regard within the Crown of Aragon. What is highly remarkable is that some of these Jews added Hebrew notations to the register, either their signatures or other phrases. These unexpected markings shed light on how the Jews and Christians viewed and behaved toward each other when they came together before the notary to acknowledge a transaction. Above all her chapter demonstrates the complexities involved in studying communities that interacted simultaneously on a variety of different levels, both religious and economic.
Winer's evidence points to a cooperation, if a grudging one, that was not always the case. In Europe, although relations between Christians and Jews had never been ideal, the thirteenth century saw the origins both of blood libels and of accusations of host desecration. Each instance of these accusations reflected its local circumstances, but a shared Christian culture made certain topoi available to local communities. Local communities were not the only ones who took advantage of accusations against the Jews to claim effective authority. The new mendicant orders, international in scope and eager to claim independence and a position of intellectual leadership in Christendom, deployed attacks on the Talmud as one of their tools. And monarchies got in on the act as well. By the end of the century, the first of Europe's major expulsion of Jews—from England, in 1290—had taken place; even earlier, Jews in many places were considered "royal serfs" and monarchs' role in judging accusations like blood libel—even if they found in favor of the accused Jews—was an assertion of their power over them, as well as over their powerful Christian accusers.
The exercise of royal, lordly, or papal power over the Jews, who were in many places granted special status that exempted them from legal authority other than their community's and the king's, cannot be seen in isolation. It was part of a system in which monarchical power was evolving over the course of the thirteenth century, alongside the development of (Christian) representative institutions of various sorts. The "crisis of Church and State" of the late eleventh and twelfth centuries had largely been resolved in favor of the hierarchical church, which constituted a monarchy of its own; Pope Innocent III (r. 1198-1216), who convened the fourth Lateran Council, was the epitome of papal monarchy. This is not to say that all churchmen followed everything the pope said, any more than all secular people followed the secular laws of their jurisdiction; there were many competing entities within the church, including monastic orders, mendicants, and beguines, and different synodal regulations applied to different regions. There was considerable diversity of thought even within what was considered orthodox. Nevertheless the church was increasingly hierarchized and bureaucratized, much like the various kingdoms and principalities were coming to be.
This process worked at many levels, from the training of the parish clergy to the expansion of the papal chancery. As R. I. Moore suggests, "The decrees of Lateran IV  set forth a sweeping program which drew upon and synthesized the intellectual, administrative, and pastoral developments of the tumultuous century and a half since the Gregorian reforms. They provide yet another example, and one of the most successful, of the systematization which was the central characteristic of this age and culture, laying down with lucid precision the foundations and framework for the government of the church and much of European life for the rest of the middle ages and beyond." Church and state worked hand in hand to suppress "heresy," when it suited monarchs to do so (as in the Languedoc), a development which has some parallels to the attacks on Jews; like Judaism, heresy was not a new concern, but ways of dealing with it were changing. Ecclesiastical regulation, which had previously touched relatively lightly on Jews and relied on secular authorities for enforcement, began to exert wider jurisdiction over Jews in the thirteenth century, just as the church was also setting up new mechanisms—such as the role of inquisitors—for bringing its judicial apparatus to bear.
Accusations against Jews—for which real Jews suffered—could serve hermeneutic functions within Christianity. For example, in the wake of the church's new emphasis on transubstantiation (made doctrine at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215), host desecration accusations against Jews, along with their disseminated narratives, served to reinforce the truth of transubstantiation. When host desecration narratives end, as they often do, with miracles that render Jesus' presence in the host manifest, the function of these narratives as a reinforcement of Christian faith is evident. Christian culture could also make a negative image of the Jew central to its own self-definition. The chapter by Kati Ihnat and Katelyn Mesler examines a particular aspect of material culture as a case study of how Christians used the figure of the Jew to think with. Over the course of the early and central Middle Ages, Christians developed a practice of making votive images of wax, to be venerated or offered to a saint in petition or in thanks for healing. Christian authorities found themselves in the position of supporting the use of such images, while developing concerns over correct theological understanding and proper devotional usage on the part of the votaries who offered them. These anxieties were, in effect, displaced onto the Jews. The concern with Jewish sacrilege against Christian holy objects was of long standing, and accusing Jews of desecrating wax images, or even of practicing sorcery with them, allowed Christians to delineate the boundaries of acceptable devotional practice. At the same time, such accusations, part of the Christian imaginary, had very real repercussions for the Jews involved.
The centerpiece of thirteenth-century confrontations between Jews and Christians, and a turning point in Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages that represented a great expansion of authority over Jewish thought and religion, was the trial of the Talmud in Paris in 1240, which was followed by the disputation about the Talmud in Barcelona in 1263. In essence, the church was claiming the authority to judge Jews' relationship to their own Hebrew Bible by condemning additions and interpretive traditions that postdated the founding of Christianity. In Paris, a certain amount of institutional apparatus was necessary in order to carry out the trial. The location of Paris provided the combination of a stronghold of royal power, a university that was in theory independent of local church authorities but that had its own governmental apparatus and papal allegiance, and the existence of an inquisitorial process.
Nicholas Donin, one of the central figures in the 1240 Talmud trial, moves us beyond the imaginary into real political conflict. In his chapter Piero Capelli presents him as a key figure in the entanglement of differences (or what Donin saw as contradictions) between talmudic and other possible forms of Judaism, as well as deeply involved in political shifts within Christian polities. Donin was already considered an outsider by Jews before he turned to Christianity. Capelli argues, based especially on the textual history of the Vikuaḥ rabenu Yeḥi'el and other manuscripts, that Donin staked out a position against not only the Talmud but against all rabbinic interpretation of Scripture, and that he was central to the changing attitude of various European states toward the Jews in this period. As Capelli demonstrates, he became a "chess piece" (although not necessarily a pawn) in games such as those between Louis IX and the counts of Toulouse, as Louis used an attack on the Jews as a means of gaining papal support in expanding into the south. Donin did not set out to be a mover and shaker in those larger political events; rather, he may have been set on his road by an opposition to the authority exercised by rabbis over Jewish communities on the basis of their knowledge of Talmud.
Translations and Transmissions of Texts and Knowledge
Donin represents a broader trend in which the number of converts in Christian Europe increased as a result of missionizing efforts, force, financial and social incentives, and the threat of expulsion. Jews in Muslim regions were subject to some, but not all, of these pressures, and their relation to the intellectual culture of the dominant group was different. As the Christian and Muslim worlds increasingly came into contact in the western Mediterranean in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, so too did the Jewish communities there, but the Jews of the Islamicate world had access to a significantly unified culture stretching from Muslim Spain to Egypt and beyond, and they made use of it to develop an intellectual sophistication beyond, as they saw it, what was available in Christian lands. One effect of the perceived disparity was the movement, which began in Muslim Spain and flourished among emigrants from al-Andalus to Provence, to translate texts (science, philosophy, and medicine), disciplines (linguistics), and cultural elements (literary and poetic styles and themes) for the Jews in Christian lands, especially Christian Spain, southern France, and Italy. In transmitting new texts and ideas from one Jewish community to another, Jews also were at the interface of the translation movement at large: they facilitated the movement of texts, especially from Muslim to Christian culture.
The reception of Aristotle, new interpretations of whose writings came to the Jewish and Christian worlds via Maimonides and the Muslim scholars Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd), and subsequent discussions about the appropriate role of rationalism in religion, particularly in the interpretation of sacred texts, was particularly prominent in the thirteenth century. In Christian history the pinnacle of this process was long considered to be Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican active at the University of Paris. Because much of this history in the modern era was written by Roman Catholic scholars who were themselves Thomists or came out of a Thomist background, the thirteenth century was seen as one of intellectual greatness.
Aristotelianism was important in the intellectual traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but it was also a source of conflict within all three. It came under great suspicion in Christian culture, with many texts banned from study in the early part of the thirteenth century and certain Aristotelian and Averroist ideas condemned in Paris in 1277, although the authority of Aristotle eventually triumphed in the Thomist synthesis. Christian Aristotelians, including Alexander of Hales, Albert the Great, and Aquinas, were indebted to Maimonides, and thus the intellectual life of the Christian thirteenth century had strong Jewish and Muslim roots. On the Jewish side, the works of Maimonides had made their way to the south of France and Spain, where huge controversies over their use erupted, especially over the relationship between religious practice and reason, and the use of philosophy in the interpretation of Scripture. Among Jews it was a cultural as well as a doctrinal conflict, as Jewish leaders in Latin Christendom saw Maimonides as challenging the very beliefs, practices, and communal structures that had kept their communities together. His works also unsettled Jewish authorities in the Latin West because those works so obviously carried with them the marks of a cultural environment (that of the Jews of Islam) that was alien to them.
The growth of Aristotelian knowledge, involving Christian universities and intra-Jewish controversies, is a good example of entanglement. On all social levels, knowledge—religious, philosophical, medical, linguistic—reached people through a complicated route. The chapters in this collection all deal in one way or another with the issue of transmission of ideas across linguistic, cultural, or geographical borders. To put this idea in terms employed elsewhere by Yossef Schwartz, "communities of knowledge" potentially share a variety of texts, in distinction to "communities of discourse," groups whose members discuss and interpret the texts in dialogue with each other. Schwartz's chapter uses the example of two scholars living in Italy in 1289-90, Zerahòyah ben Isaac ben She'alti'el ?en and Hillel ben Samuel ben Elazar of Verona, as an illustration of the ways different Jewish intellectual communities fit together. These two men, both of them physicians, philosophers, and translators (from Arabic to Hebrew and from Latin to Hebrew, respectively), were part of a shared community of knowledge but in some ways belonged to different communities of discourse, even though both were Maimonideans. Their disagreement over the interpretation of Maimonides carried with it several subtexts, including the issue of who had the authority to interpret Maimonides, the virtues of practical versus theoretical medicine, and personal competition between these men. They disagreed over Maimonidean hermeneutics in exegesis—an issue, we recall, with which Nahmanides was also concerned—and its implications for specific readings.
One of the prominent characteristics of the long thirteenth century is the impact of translated texts like those undertaken by Hillel and Zeraḥyah. Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic were the primary literary languages of the cultures discussed here. Christians and Jews who lived in Muslim lands would have known Arabic, but in Western Europe (with the exception of Muslim Spain) Arabic was known only by a handful of specialists. Few Christians knew Hebrew and few Jews knew Latin. Communication between Christians and Jews took place in the vernacular they both spoke, whether Arabic or dialects of Italian, French, German, English, or Spanish. This meant that translations from Arabic and translations from Latin had different cultural roles: those from Arabic made texts that were widely available in the Islamicate world available to people outside it, but those from Latin were of texts available in the Christian world only to a handful of learned elite. The Hebrew philosophical-scientific canon came to consist of works originally written in Arabic by Jews, works originally written by Muslims in Arabic or texts translated into Arabic from Greek, and works translated from Latin that in many cases had been translated from Arabic, but these streams merged into one corpus. Yet, as Schwartz points out, the two different Jewish linguistic and cultural contexts developed along different paths, each with its own cultural resonances. When these two scholars translated and commented upon works that came to form part of this corpus, Hillel chose the systematic tract and disputation as formats, both typical of Latin university discourse, whereas Zeraḥyah chose the commentary form characteristic of Maimonideans. The choice of format reflected their different intellectual projects and the intra-Jewish split that characterized linguistic and philosophical communities.
The translation movement began earlier for Christians than for Jews. Toward the end of the eleventh century, Constantinus Africanus, working at Monte Cassino in Italy, made a corpus of Greco-Arabic medicine available in Latin. In the following century, translators working primarily in Spain translated numerous works of philosophy, science, astrology, and medicine from Arabic. The process of translating from Arabic into Latin was often aided by Arabophone Jews, who assisted the efforts in twelfth-century Spain as well as those in the thirteenth century at the courts of Alfonso X in Castile and Frederick II in Palermo. Even with the help of Jews, however, translations from Hebrew into Latin were extremely rare before the Christian Hebraism of the late fifteenth century.
The translation movement for Jews began more slowly, with only a handful of translations from Arabic into Hebrew dating from before the second half of the twelfth century. These early translations include religious works from Judeo-Arabic, linguistic treatises, and astrology. There was also a small but important movement of translation from Latin into Hebrew from the twelfth century, especially of medical texts, which included both works that had been translated from Arabic into Latin and original compositions in Latin. Latin would become an increasingly important source of Hebrew translations over the following centuries, but it did not surpass Arabic in most domains until the fifteenth century, when translations from Arabic experienced a sharp decline.
In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, however, Arabic remained the main source for translation into Hebrew. By the 1160s, Judah ibn Tibbon (ca. 1120-90) had emigrated from Andalusia to Provence and was engaged in the translation of Judeo-Arabic works, including fundamental works of Sa'adia Gaon, Bahòya ibn Paqudah, Judah ha-Levi, and Solomon ibn Gabirol. His son, Samuel ibn Tibbon (ca. 1165-1232), continued by translating works of Averroes, Aristotle, and—most significantly—in 1204 Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed. Although a second translation of the work was produced by Judah al-?arizi (ca. 1205-13)—the version that was translated into Latin a few decades later—the dominance of the Tibbonid dynasty would continue to carry weight, with Samuel's son, Moses ibn Tibbon, and son-in-law, Jacob Anatoli, becoming two of the great translators of the middle of the thirteenth century. Samuel ibn Tibbon's translation of the Guide, more widely circulated, is word for word rather than sense for sense; it makes more difficult reading than al-?arizi, but was valued as bringing the reader closer to the experience of reading the original.
The influence of Maimonides sent shockwaves throughout the Jewish world, as Jews grappled with the implications of his Aristotelian philosophy. In her chapter S. J. Pearce traces one of those waves, demonstrating that transmission of knowledge took place not just across languages but across genres and across time as well as space. Like Galinsky and Capelli, she focuses on the material texts of the medieval Jewish tradition, the manuscripts. The particular manuscript she discusses—a Hebrew version of the Alexander Romance—may not seem at first relevant to the Maimonidean controversies over the place of rationalism in Jewish thought. However, its colophon claims that the Alexander Romance too was translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon, an implausible suggestion based on sources used in the Hebrew text, and in so doing intervenes in the debate over the two translations of the Guide of the Perplexed. Pearce reviews possibilities for understanding the colophon's critique of al-?arizi and what it has to say about translation theory as applied to a text about Alexander. She further reviews the manuscript's problematic history. Her investigation suggests that early modern Ashkenazic readers were building on literary traditions from al-Andalus through their choice of texts. They understood the complexity of the issues involved in the translation of the Guide and other texts from Arabic, and of debates over the place of Maimonides in Jewish culture.
Because of their role in selecting and interpreting the texts to be translated, translators served an important role as cultural mediators, providing the options that composed the intellectual repertoire for either Christians or Jewish communities. Yet transmission did not depend on text translation alone; one may speak of cultural translation, in which a text may remain in its original language but take on a different function or even be rephrased. The study of the Bible was mentioned by R. Yeḥiel as something that brought Jews and Christians together. In the twelfth century, Stephen Harding consulted with Jews to correct the text of the Old Testament; later in the century, monks at the Abbey of St. Victor in Paris were known to discuss Bible interpretation with Jews. Transmission and entanglement are also easily discernible in the medical profession. There was a great deal of personal contact between Jewish and Christian doctors, who learned from each other, cooperated, and—we see clearly from the case of Jacob ben Makhir ibn Tibbon at Montpellier at the end of the thirteenth century—helped translate each other's texts. Jewish doctors did play an important role in the translation movement (with the exception of al-?arizi, all the translators discussed above were physicians), but they also treated Christian patients, just as Christian doctors sometimes treated Jewish patients. Converts, ranging from the repentant Doeg ha-Edomi to the embittered Nicolas Donin, were also important mediators for oral and textual transmission. Other contexts include the relationships between Jews and Christian or Muslim officials and the implications of a shared legal system.
There is even a degree of transmission discernible in the more hostile relations of Christians, Muslims, and Jews during the Crusades, as shown in Uri Shachar's chapter on pollution and purity. He posits not a specific mechanism for transmission of a particular genre, but a similarity in rhetorical tropes across Jewish, Christian, and Muslim accounts of the crusades so notable as to imply the entanglement of a shared culture repertoire. In all three traditions, ideas of pollution and purity were used to distinguish between self and other; but, at the same time as each depicted the other as impure, they also used language that attributed to the other a significant role in the process of purification. Christian crusade rhetoric cast Muslims as contaminants of the sacred sites, earlier through deliberate desecration or, later, by their mere presence; scholarly attempts to explain this trope have treated it as isolated, whereas Shachar shows that it was intertwined with the use of a similar approach in Muslim and Jewish texts. Ayyubid jihad texts, which reacted to Christian holy war rhetoric, stressed the ritual sanctification of sacred sites, which unclean idolaters should not approach, and the contaminating influence of the enemy. The idea of "the Holy Land" did not have the same valence for Muslims as it did for Christians, but by the thirteenth century Muslims too were seeing land as something polluted that needed to be purified with a flow of infidel blood. As individuals were cleansed with water, territory could be cleansed with blood. In Christian thought the cleansing water was that of baptism rather than ritual ablution, but it could still be replaced by spilled blood. Shachar argues that Christians were well aware that Islamic texts required an act of metaphorical ritual cleansing to reclaim polluted land. Jews who immigrated to the Holy Land in the thirteenth century and attempted to prepare the land for the coming of the Messiah also wrote of a ritual bath, which could take the form of a rain of blood, to cleanse the impurity of immoral enemies from the land.
While Shachar identifies similar cultural work done by different texts in three religious traditions, Elisabeth Hollender demonstrates how one text within Jewish society could do different cultural work according to geography and context. The chapters by Kanarfogel, Cohen, and Galinsky show how distinct the intellectual cultures of the various regions in thirteenth-century Judaism could be. But alongside these distinct regional variations in Jewish practices and norms, the cultures of the communities in different geographies were deeply entangled with each other. The scholars Kanarfogel studies understood their shared talmudic texts differently, but they did not work in isolation from each other. Hollender reminds us just how soft the geographical and linguistic borders were. Her chapter questions the dichotomy between Sepharad and Ashkenaz by arguing for ongoing close contact between the two on the basis of the reception of Sephardic poetry in Ashkenaz. Cultural transmission requires more than just a text arriving in the company of a traveling scholar or merchant; shorn of its cultural context, it requires a new context. Transmitted texts do not always fulfill the same functions as they did in their original home, but rather undergo cultural translation. In the new cultural context, readers may put texts to a variety of experimental uses (in this case, liturgical contexts for poems that had previously been more personal) before fixing them into a manuscript tradition. Liturgy is one of the cultural spheres most susceptible to cultural transmission, and Hollender takes as her example the way in which Ashkenazic Jews used the poem Tsiyon ha-lo' tish'ali ("Zion, will you not inquire?") by Judah ha-Levi, making it part of the liturgy and adopting certain Sephardic aesthetic norms in the process, and using it as a model for additional Ashkenazic kinnot (laments) for the Ninth of Av. In contrast with the early modern period when the liturgy became more standardized, in the thirteenth century each congregation made decisions about which kinnot to include alongside Tsiyon ha-lo' tish'ali. The transmitted text gave rise to a new genre, not because the Sephardic poem was perceived to be superior to what was available in Ashkenaz but because it stimulated new Ashkenazic developments. The cultural translation that turned the poem into a kinnah had echoes in other Jewish cultures that accepted the Ashkenazic change of function.
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The quotation with which we began calls us to the Jews' streets, streets that were not hermetically sealed but that were shared with their neighbors who constituted the majority culture. The different chapters in the book all present different environments in which Jews interacted with their surroundings, absorbed, rejected, and appropriated from them, and then produced the sources that historians study today. They touch on a number of central aspects of medieval life: learned and legal culture, polemics, exegesis, translation and ritual. The spaces examined here, the court, scriptorium, madrasa, yeshiva, and university, were arenas of interaction and cultural production, as well as of distinction and appropriation, as were other spaces that are considered less intensively such as the church, the synagogue, the marketplace, and above all the home. The various types of entanglement presented here should make clear that the histories of medieval Christian, Jewish, and Muslim cultures can no longer be written in isolation.