Page 15 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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E X T E R N A L A N D I N T E R N A L
C E N S O R S H I P O F H E B R E W B O O K S
B
y
M o s h e
C
armilly
-W
einberger
r h e t r u t h
is dangerous and knowledge is harmful only to
1
those who oppose them,” wrote Aristotle. Throughout the
history of mankind various forces and institutions have fought
both truth and knowledge, utilizing varying forms of censorship.
Because it is prompted by weakness and fear, power based on sup-
pressive censorship cannot endure. In discussing the history of
censorship of Jewish books, we must differentiate between what
may be designated as external censorship and internal censorship.1
External censorship is that imposed by the outside world on
works written by Jews; it originated in the West during the thir^
teenth century. In a letter dated June 20, 1239, Pope Gregory IX
ordered the kings and bishops of France, England, Spain, and
Portugal to confiscate Hebrew books.
. . . The outstanding reason that Jews remain obstinate in
their perfidy is the influence of their books; they should,
therefore, be forced to give up their books and, if they are
found to be against Christ, we, through Apostolic Letters order
that, under your discretion, the Jews who live in the King-
doms of France, England, Aragon, Navarre, Castile, Leon,
and Portugal be forced by the secular arm to surrender their
books.2
Pope Innocent IV, in a letter dated May 9, 1244, wrote to the
king of France:
. . . [by which] they rear and nurture their children, which
traditions are called “Talmud” in Hebrew. It is a big book,
exceeding in size the text of the Bible. In it are found bias-
phemies against God and his Christ, obviously entangled
fables about the blessed Virgin, abusive errors, and unheard
of follies.8
The Talmud was attacked, confiscated, and burned in France,
1See the writer’s
Sepher ve-Sayyiph
(Book and Sword: Freedom of Expres-
sion and Thought Among the Jewish People, New York, 1966).
2
Grayzel, Solomon,
The Church and the Jews in the XH Ith Century
(New
York, 1966), p. 243.
3Ibid., p. 251.
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