Page 24 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

Basic HTML Version

J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
18
situation in Spain; in 1757-59, the burning of the Ta lmud and
the conversion of hundreds of Frankists to Christianity.
The Hebrew sources for the first three pub lic disputations are
available in the very useful and comprehensive thesaurus Judah
David Eisenstein published under the title
Ozar Vikuhim
(New
York, 1928). T h e protocols of the disputations w ith the Frankists
are available in the Hebrew
Le -To ldo t Ha-Tenuah Ha-Franki t
(“On the History of the Frankist Movement”) by the Polish-
Jewish historian Mayer Balaban (2 vols., Tel-Aviv, 1934).
The Hebrew reports of the disputations in Paris and in
Barcelona are to be found in English translations (Paris and
Barcelona in
Conscience on Tr ial
by Morris Braude, New York,
1952; Barcelona also in
Rel igious Polemic
by O. S. Rankin,
Edinburg, 1956). The Latin protocols of the disputations in
Paris and Barcelona were made available by modern scholars.
(See the present writer’s study “The Talmud on T r ia l” in
The
Jewish Quarterly Review,
vol. XLVII (1956-57), pp. 58-76, 145־
169; Cecil Roth, “The Disputation of Barcelona,”
Harvard
Theological Rev iew ,
XLIII (1950), pp. 117-144.) T h e complete
Latin protocol of the disputation in Tortosa, the longest of all,
lasting close to two years with long intervals (69 sessions) under
the auspices of Pope Benedict XIII, was recently published by
a Spanish scholar, Antonio Pacios Lopez, under the title
La Dis-
pu ta de Tortosa
(2 vols., Madrid-Barcelona, 1957). T h e pro-
tocols of the disputations with the Frankists were published in
Poland shortly after they took place (see Balaban,
op. cit.
I,
14-15).
More numerous were the private disputations recorded only
by one side. Some are quite fair to their opponents; they present
with true objectivity the arguments of the other side. There
were also disputations in the form of an exchange of letters.
The most famous is the disputation between Johann Caspar
Lavater, a clergyman from Zurich, Switzerland, and Moses
Mendelssohn, the famous philosopher and father of the Haskalah
movement in Germany. Lavater challenged Mendelssohn either
to refute the truth of Christianity as proclaimed in a book by
a Swiss professor (Bonnet), or, if he found the book convincing,
to embrace Christianity. Mendelssohn proudly replied that the
Swiss professor’s book, like others of the same character, could
not cause him to doubt the validity of Judaism. There is also
a spate of books by Jewish authors containing answers for even-
tual disputations, or to bolster the morale of Jews exposed to
Christian missionary propaganda by being forced to listen to
the sermons of preaching monks in the churches.
These books were not lim ited to monotonous repetitions of
ready refutations of Christological interpretations of Biblical
passages. Some address probing, pertinent questions to the