Page 69 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 14

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Christian Europe and upon the positive outcome of the accultura-
tion and adjustment that followed.
Dr. L. Rabinowitz, a student of the social history of France in
the twelfth century, writes: “From the detailed account of the
social, economic and religious life of the Jews of northern France
during the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries in all its important
aspects, there emerges one fact with unmistakable clarity, viz.,
that apart from the purely religious life, the Jews live in a state of
complete social assimilation with their non-Jewish neighbors.”
The same studies have brought to light something even more
revealing, namely, the extent of the impact of the minority Jewish
culture upon the dominant Christian majority. Beryl Smalley,
student of medieval Christianity, summarizes her conclusions in
The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages
as “ the history of Jewish
influence on Christian scholars, in three stages, distinct though
overlapping: Philo, Rashi, Maimonides.”
She goes on to say, “We hear of controversy between Christian
and Jewish scholars, in the form of polemics and disputation. Yet
a Christian wishing to learn Hebrew, which he revered, not only
as the language of Scripture, but also as ‘the mother of tongues,’
and which, he expected, would be the current speech in heaven,
was obliged to take a Jew as his teacher . . . We also hear of the
Jew as a ‘carrier’ bringing Arabic science to western Europe. But
the exegesis of the north French school of Rashi was no imported
article; it was a native product, of Jewish manufacture. So
collaboration between biblical scholars may have involved a real
contact, in which a specifically Jewish method influenced the
In a more recent study of the descendants of Rashi, the author
Baale Hatosfot,
Ephraim Urbach, states: “The very awareness
of the difference between the Franco-German Jews and their
environment has accentuated even more unconscious relationships
and influences, reflected in the form of their expression and in their
reactions as mirrored in the literary activities . . . The dialectic
method of the
Baal Hatosfot
, for example, was not an isolated
phenomenon but closely related to the literary forms prevailing
in the Roman and canonical laws and traditions of Christian
biblical exegesis . . . There are instances when Rashi uses a
terminology which is of distinct Christian theological flavor; such
an expression of his as
Knessiah shel Melech
could be understood
only as the translation of the accepted Christian term
. . . Indeed, in a number of other places he uses the term
not in the traditional Jewish sense of
Klal Yisrael
, the
personification of the Jewish people, but in the Christian sense of
as the mystic body of the Messiah.”