Page 25 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 21

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19
R
o sen tha l
— R
eligious
D
isputat ions
Church, and voice daring criticism of the New Testament. Some
of the arguments in these books have retained their cogency
up to our day. They represented a real challenge to the Church,
which is one of the reasons the majority of these books remained
unpublished until recent years. The Jews were apprehensive
about publishing them. It is noteworthy that the first to publish
Jewish polemical works were Protestant theologians in the sec-
ond half of the 17th century. Theodor Hackspan published the
polemical work
Nizahon
(Victory) by Yomtov Lipman Muhl-
hausen (15th century, Germany and Poland) with a Latin trans-
lation (Altdorf, 1644). Johan Christoph Wagenseil edited the
bulky collection
Tela Ignea Satanae
(“The Fiery Darts of
Satan,” Altdorf, 1681), containing the following six polemical
works: 1.
Zikhron Sefer Nizahon
(“A Memoir of the Book of
Victory”), a tract in rhyme by Meshullam Uri of Cologna, Italy
(16th century); 2. an exchange of letters between a Jew from
Amsterdam and a Christian scholar of Jewish descent, Johan
Stephan Rittangel (17th century), concerning the word “Shilo”
in Genesis 49.10; 3. the anonymous polemical work
Nizahon
(Germany, 13th century); 4. the Hebrew report of the disputa-
tion in Paris; 5. the Hebrew report of the disputation in Bar-
celona; 6. the polemical work
Hizzuk Emunah
(“The Strength-
ening of the Faith”) by the Karaite scholar Isaac of Troki (Po-
land, 16th century). Wagenseil published these works with a
Latin translation. He refuted the small tract of Uri Meshullam
with a long reply of several hundred pages. The very title of
Wagenseil’s collection betrays the motivation for the interest
of these Protestant scholars in the polemical literature of the
Jews. They were eager to divulge to the Christian world the
“Satanic” contents of these works.
Early Printed Polemical Works
The first printed Hebrew polemical work appeared in Muslim
Constantinople. It was the satirical tract
Al Teh i Kaabotekha
(“Don ’t Be Like Your Fathers”) by Profiat Duran (or Efodi,
Spain, 14-15th century). It was printed in Constantinople in
1577. The first printed Yiddish polemical tract was
Judischer
Theriac
by Zalman Zvi of Aufhausen, which appeared in Hanau,
Germany, in 1615. Th is booklet contains a vigorous defense
against the slanderous defamations of an ignorant, vicious and
vindictive convert. The first publication of a Hebrew polemical
work in a Christian country dates from the beginning of the
18th century. In 1709 there appeared in tolerant Holland a
Jewish edition of the above-mentioned
Nizahon
by Yomtov Lip-
man Muhlhausen. There is a proliferation of polemical works
in Spanish and Portuguese by Spanish and Portuguese Jews of
Marrano descent. These Jews, more than their Ashkenazic or