Page 22 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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Angeles. An authority on Jewish-Muslim polemics, Professor
Perlman is now preparing for publication the anti-Jewish po-
lemic
Ifkham al-Yahud
by the convert to Islam, Samuel Ibn
Abbas (Morocco, 12th century).
Jewish-Christian polemics commenced with the appearance of
Jesus. T h e New Testament records disputations between Jesus
and the Pharisees. The Talmud and the Midrash cite discussions
between Talmudic scholars and
M in im ,
Jewish Christians. They
also contain much material pertaining to the Jewish attitude to
Jesus and early Christianity. These sources were dealt with by a
number of scholars, the best collection being R. Travers Her-
ford’s
Chris tianity in Ta lmud and Midrash
(London, 1903).
There are no extant Jewish records of religious disputations
between Jews and Christians in the early M iddle Ages. T h e
controversies become prominent in the 12th century, after the
First Crusade, when the Church policy toward the Jews crystal-
ized and renewed efforts were made by the newly established
ecclesiastical orders to gain the Synagogue for the Church. T h e
eminent scholar Professor Harry A. Wolfson succinctly charac-
terized Jewish-Christian polemics in his introduction to the
second edition of the book
Jesus as Others Saw H im ,
by Joseph
Jacobs (New York, 1925). Wolfson writes: “Throughout the his-
tory of religious controversies between Christians and Jews in
the Middle Ages Christianity was on the defensive. T h e Chris-
tians considered themselves called upon to prove the claims they
made on behalf of Jesus by endeavoring to show that the vague
prophetic promises were all fulfilled in Christ. T h e Jews had
no counter claims to make; they simply refused to be impressed.
As the historical custodians of the Bible text as well as of its
interpretations, the Jews looked rather amazed at times even
amused at the confidence with which the erstwhile heathen
interpreted at their own pleasure the mistaken Scriptures quoted
from the Vulgate. The attitude of aloofness and incredulity was
sufficient to enrage saints among Christians, for it gave them
uneasiness of feeling. . .״״ The characterization of Professor Wolf-
son is true also today when the theological assertions of the
Church about the fate of the Jewish people as a result of the
crucifixion are seriously challenged by the establishment of the
State of Israel.
The Jewish-Christian polemical literature can be divided into
the following four categories: 1. Public disputations of which
reports were preserved by both sides. 2. Private disputations
recorded only by one side. 3. Polemical works by Jewish authors
without a disputation background. 4. Christian anti-Jewish po-
lemical works of the same nature. T o the last two categories,
which may be written in the form of a dialogue solely as a
literary device, belong also compilations of Biblical passages.