Picture: Bible Moralisée, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Cod. 2554, fol. 52v
Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages

Prof. Daniel J. Lasker

About the lecture:

Debate, Dispute & Dialogue: Jews & Christians in the Middle Ages

Jews and Christians devoted much intellectual effort in the Middle Ages (for our purposes, ninth to sixteenth centuries) to debating the merits of their respective religions, disputing the theological stances of their opponents, and learning from each other as neighbors who had much in common. Many people believe that Jews engaged in a critique of Christianity only because they were forced to, as in the main public disputations, or because they were repulsing a Christian missionary threat. Yet, we have examples of Jewish anti-Christian polemical writings in areas without a specific Christian conversionary campaign, such as in Islamic countries. Furthermore, not all Christian anti-Jewish writings were for the purposes of convincing Jews to become Christians. For members of both religions, the debate with the other side was a way of sharpening their own theological commitments and drawing borders between the two religions.

There were a number of different polemical tactics. First and foremost were arguments based on exegesis of texts, most notably the Hebrew Bible which the Christians understood to be the “Old Testament,” preparing the world for a “New Testament.” Many verses in the Hebrew Bible were seen as predicting the advent of Jesus and the establishment and spread of Christianity. Jews were anxious to demonstrate that the Christian understanding of their Scriptures was mistaken. In addition, both sides used historical arguments, such as the Christian contention that the spread of Christianity and the strength of Christian countries, compared to the weak situation of the Jewish people exiled from their land, was proof of the truth of Christianity. Jews replied that the absence of world peace, one of the signs of the Messiah, was proof that the Messiah had not yet come. Furthermore, thinkers on both sides tried to demonstrate that their own religion was rationally necessary, or at least possible, and the other religion was theologically deficient.

Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages were marked not only by debate and dispute. Although there was no dialogue as we understand it today, the two communities did not live in total isolation from each other. Jews and Christians saw the religious practices of their neighbors, and often one side adopted some of the practices of the other religion. In addition, there are a number of examples of Jewish and Christian scholars who discussed biblical passages, not as a way of undermining the rival religion but as a way of determining for their own community the meaning of the text which both considered holy. Religious philosophers were often influenced by lines of reasoning developed by members of the other religion, such as Thomas Aquinas’s use of Maimonides’s thought, or later medieval Jewish borrowings from Christian scholastic thought.

Prof. Daniel J. Lasker, the Norbert Blechner Professor of Jewish Values (emeritus) in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.

He holds a Ph.D., M.A. and B.A. from Brandeis University, and also studied at Hebrew University. Prof. Lasker has taught at Yale University, Princeton University, University of Toronto, Ohio State University, University of Texas, University of Washington, Yeshiva University, Boston College and other institutions. He is the author of close to three hundred publications in the fields of medieval Jewish philosophy, especially on the thought of Rabbi Judah Halevi; the Jewish-Christian debate, including the edition of a number of central Jewish polemical texts; and Karaism. His most recent books are From Judah Hadassi to Elijah Bashyatchi: Studies in Late Medieval Karaite Philosophy (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008); The Sage Simhah Isaac Lutski: An Eighteenth-Century Karaite Rabbi. Selected Writings (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2015 [Hebrew]); (With Johannes Niehoff-Panagiotidis and David Sklare), Theological Encounters at a Crossroads: A Preliminary Edition of Judah Hadassi’s Eshkol ha-kofer, First Commandment, and Studies of the Book’s Judaeo-Arabic and Byzantine Contexts (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2019); and Karaism: An Introduction to the Oldest Surviving Alternative Judaism (London: Littman, forthcoming in 2022).

The lecture is a part of

Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

A Series from the National Library of Israel

The relations between Jews and Christians through the ages have often been fraught, in part because they share some common scripture, but often interpret it very differently. In this series, we will examine the interaction between these communities, which has varied over time and place. The series address a sensitive yet vital set of issues from a variety of approaches and perspectives, and contributes to the hope that we may move from polemic toward reconciliation.

The series was created by the National Library of Israel in collaboration with Prof. Marc Brettler (Duke University), who will be moderating each lecture and Q&A session.

Moderator: Marc Brettler, the Bernice and Morton Lerner Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University.

A graduate of Brandeis University, he has published and lectured widely on metaphor and the Bible, the nature of biblical historical texts, gender issues and the Bible, and the use of the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament. His How to Read the Bible was the award winner in the Judaism category of the Best Books 2006 Book Awards. He is co-editor with Amy-Jill Levine of The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press), the first book of its type; professors Brettler and Levine presented this book to Pope Francis in 2019. In 2017 and 2021, he was one of 100 scholars and leaders asked to participate in the “American Values Religious Voices” project.

Sunday, 9 January, 8 pm Israel / 7 pm CET / 6 pm UK / 1 pm EST

Sun
9.1.2022
9
ב
Jan
20:00
אירוע מקוון
Zoom
ללא תשלום
Free

עוד מסדרת 

Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

Picture: Bible Moralisée, Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Cod. 2554, fol. 52v
ENG
Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages

Prof. Daniel J. Lasker

About the lecture:

Debate, Dispute & Dialogue: Jews & Christians in the Middle Ages

Jews and Christians devoted much intellectual effort in the Middle Ages (for our purposes, ninth to sixteenth centuries) to debating the merits of their respective religions, disputing the theological stances of their opponents, and learning from each other as neighbors who had much in common. Many people believe that Jews engaged in a critique of Christianity only because they were forced to, as in the main public disputations, or because they were repulsing a Christian missionary threat. Yet, we have examples of Jewish anti-Christian polemical writings in areas without a specific Christian conversionary campaign, such as in Islamic countries. Furthermore, not all Christian anti-Jewish writings were for the purposes of convincing Jews to become Christians. For members of both religions, the debate with the other side was a way of sharpening their own theological commitments and drawing borders between the two religions.

There were a number of different polemical tactics. First and foremost were arguments based on exegesis of texts, most notably the Hebrew Bible which the Christians understood to be the “Old Testament,” preparing the world for a “New Testament.” Many verses in the Hebrew Bible were seen as predicting the advent of Jesus and the establishment and spread of Christianity. Jews were anxious to demonstrate that the Christian understanding of their Scriptures was mistaken. In addition, both sides used historical arguments, such as the Christian contention that the spread of Christianity and the strength of Christian countries, compared to the weak situation of the Jewish people exiled from their land, was proof of the truth of Christianity. Jews replied that the absence of world peace, one of the signs of the Messiah, was proof that the Messiah had not yet come. Furthermore, thinkers on both sides tried to demonstrate that their own religion was rationally necessary, or at least possible, and the other religion was theologically deficient.

Jewish-Christian relations in the Middle Ages were marked not only by debate and dispute. Although there was no dialogue as we understand it today, the two communities did not live in total isolation from each other. Jews and Christians saw the religious practices of their neighbors, and often one side adopted some of the practices of the other religion. In addition, there are a number of examples of Jewish and Christian scholars who discussed biblical passages, not as a way of undermining the rival religion but as a way of determining for their own community the meaning of the text which both considered holy. Religious philosophers were often influenced by lines of reasoning developed by members of the other religion, such as Thomas Aquinas’s use of Maimonides’s thought, or later medieval Jewish borrowings from Christian scholastic thought.

Prof. Daniel J. Lasker, the Norbert Blechner Professor of Jewish Values (emeritus) in the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel.

He holds a Ph.D., M.A. and B.A. from Brandeis University, and also studied at Hebrew University. Prof. Lasker has taught at Yale University, Princeton University, University of Toronto, Ohio State University, University of Texas, University of Washington, Yeshiva University, Boston College and other institutions. He is the author of close to three hundred publications in the fields of medieval Jewish philosophy, especially on the thought of Rabbi Judah Halevi; the Jewish-Christian debate, including the edition of a number of central Jewish polemical texts; and Karaism. His most recent books are From Judah Hadassi to Elijah Bashyatchi: Studies in Late Medieval Karaite Philosophy (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2008); The Sage Simhah Isaac Lutski: An Eighteenth-Century Karaite Rabbi. Selected Writings (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 2015 [Hebrew]); (With Johannes Niehoff-Panagiotidis and David Sklare), Theological Encounters at a Crossroads: A Preliminary Edition of Judah Hadassi’s Eshkol ha-kofer, First Commandment, and Studies of the Book’s Judaeo-Arabic and Byzantine Contexts (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2019); and Karaism: An Introduction to the Oldest Surviving Alternative Judaism (London: Littman, forthcoming in 2022).

The lecture is a part of

Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

A Series from the National Library of Israel

The relations between Jews and Christians through the ages have often been fraught, in part because they share some common scripture, but often interpret it very differently. In this series, we will examine the interaction between these communities, which has varied over time and place. The series address a sensitive yet vital set of issues from a variety of approaches and perspectives, and contributes to the hope that we may move from polemic toward reconciliation.

The series was created by the National Library of Israel in collaboration with Prof. Marc Brettler (Duke University), who will be moderating each lecture and Q&A session.

Moderator: Marc Brettler, the Bernice and Morton Lerner Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at Duke University.

A graduate of Brandeis University, he has published and lectured widely on metaphor and the Bible, the nature of biblical historical texts, gender issues and the Bible, and the use of the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament. His How to Read the Bible was the award winner in the Judaism category of the Best Books 2006 Book Awards. He is co-editor with Amy-Jill Levine of The Jewish Annotated New Testament (Oxford University Press), the first book of its type; professors Brettler and Levine presented this book to Pope Francis in 2019. In 2017 and 2021, he was one of 100 scholars and leaders asked to participate in the “American Values Religious Voices” project.

Sunday, 9 January, 8 pm Israel / 7 pm CET / 6 pm UK / 1 pm EST

Sun
9.1.2022
20:00
Online Event
Zoom
Free of charge
Free

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Jews and Christians through the Centuries: Communities in Conflict and Contact

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