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Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean

Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean

Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary, Conflict, and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean
    Book Description:

    Jews, Christians, and Muslims all have a common belief in the sanctity of a core holy scripture, and commentary on scripture (exegesis) was at the heart of all three traditions in the Middle Ages. At the same time, because it dealt with issues such as the nature of the canon, the limits of acceptable interpretation, and the meaning of salvation history from the perspective of faith, exegesis was elaborated in the Middle Ages along the faultlines of interconfessional disputation and polemical conflict. This collection of thirteen essays by world-renowned scholars of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam explores the nature of exegesis during the High and especially the Late Middle Ages as a discourse of cross-cultural and interreligious conflict, paying particular attention to the commentaries of scholars in the western and southern Mediterranean from Iberia and Italy to Morocco and Egypt. Unlike other comparative studies of religion, this collection is not a chronological history or an encyclopedic guide. Instead, it presents essays in four conceptual clusters ("Writing on the Borders of Islam," "Jewish-Christian Conflict," "The Intellectual Activity of the Dominican Order," and "Gender") that explore medieval exegesis as a vehicle for the expression of communal or religious identity, one that reflects shared or competing notions of sacred history and sacred text. This timely book will appeal to scholars and lay readers alike and will be essential reading for students of comparative religion, historians charting the history of religious conflict in the medieval Mediterranean, and all those interested in the intersection of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim beliefs and practices.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6465-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)
    Ryan Szpiech

    In the third chapter of his anti-Muslim treatiseContra legem sarracenorum(Against the Law of the Saracens), written around 1300 after his return to Italy from Baghdad, Dominican Riccoldo da Monte di Croce (d. 1320) discusses the Muslim claim that Jews and Christians received a true revelation from God through Moses and Jesus, but then subsequently corrupted it. In order to argue against this accusation, Riccoldo turns to the Qurʾān itself:

    It says in the [Qurʾānic] chapter about Johah [Q. 10:94], “If you are in doubt concerning what we have revealed to you, ask those who have read the Book...

  6. I Strategies of Reading on the Borders of Islam

    • 1 The Father of Many Nations: Abraham in al-Andalus
      (pp. 29-39)
      Sarah Stroumsa

      The now commonly used term “Abrahamic religions” probably has its roots in the writings of the French scholar of Islamic mysticism Louis Massignon, but only relatively recently did this term begin to appear as a regular feature of scholarly discourse in religious studies. Previously, one referred to the trio of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity as “the religions of the Book” or “the monotheistic religions.” The concept of “Abrahamic religions” seeks to include Islam in the religious legacy of the monotheistic and mostly Christian West and stresses the bridges between the Qurʾānic and the biblical traditions through the figure of Abraham....

    • 2 Ibn al-Maḥrūmah’s Notes on Ibn Kammūnah’s Examination of the Three Religions: THE ISSUE OF THE ABROGATION OF MOSAIC LAW
      (pp. 40-57)
      Sidney Griffith

      In mid-March of the year 1280–81, the Jewish phi los o pher of Baghdad, ʿIzz al-Dawla Saʿd ibn Manṣūr ibn Kammūnah (d. 1284) finished writing the famous book he published under the title:Tanqīḥ al-abḥāth li-lmilal al-thalāth(An Overview of Investigations into the Views of the Three Faiths).¹ It was an unaccustomed topic for this otherwise relentlessly philosophical and scientific writer² and he probably undertook the project, as we shall see, at least in part as a response to the earlier, polemical work of the Jewish convert to Islam, Samawʾal ibn Yaḥyā al-Maghribī’s (d. 1174),Silencing the Jews(Ifḥām...

      (pp. 58-68)
      Walid Saleh

      I have been trying for some time to articulate the differences between the story of Johannes Reuchlin (d. 1522) and the Hebrew Bible and al-Biqʿī (d. 885/1480), a fifteenth-century Mamlūk scholar, and his own encounter with the Bible.¹ It is what I will call “the difference of emotionality” of the two stories that I have found most deeply illuminating, and also most elusive to characterize. I have come to believe that a serious problem in studies of Jewish–Muslim relations is the lack of attention to the emotionality of this relationship, the evocative discourse of this encounter. My encounter with...

  7. II Dominicans and Their Disputations

    • 4 Two Dominicans, a Lost Manuscript, and Medieval Christian Thought on Islam
      (pp. 71-86)
      Thomas E. Burman

      To begin, if I may, with the essentials. This essay is about four things: a pair of thirteenth-century scholars of Islam, the lost archetype of a sixteenth-century manuscript now in Paris, the relationships between that lost manuscript and those scholars, and what all this can tell us about the medieval Latin-Christian engagement with Islam. The two scholars are the Dominican missionary-linguists, Ramon Martí (d. c. 1284) and Riccoldo da Monte di Croce (d. 1320) who—along with the sui generis layman, Ramon Lull—were the most important Latin interpreters of Islam in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Both friars wrote...

    • 5 The Anti-Muslim Discourse of Alfonso Buenhombre
      (pp. 87-100)
      Antoni Biosca i Bas

      The year 1339 is the earliest date associated with theEpistola Samuelis(Letter of Samuel) a Latin dialogue between two rabbis about the truth of Christian belief. The text comes to us from the hand of Dominican friar Alfonso Buenhombre (d. c. 1353), who claims in his introduction that he is not the author of the text, but merely the one who translated it from Arabic into Latin after “discovering” it while in prison in North Africa. Although there is evidence that this provenance was invented by Buenhombre, who seems himself to have been the author, the text was later...

    • 6 Reconstructing Medieval Jewish–Christian Disputations
      (pp. 101-112)
      Ursula Ragacs

      In the winter of 2011, politicians from Austria and Liechtenstein were confronted with an unpleasant scandal. According to information in the newspapers, a lawyer connected with the government of Liechtenstein had helped an Austrian ex-politician conceal details of his monetary activities. He did that by “borrowing” some documents already delivered to the court, restoring them only some weeks later. The main question was whether the lawyer had “revised” the documents while they were in his possession so that the facts they showed could in no way incriminate his client. A special commission was formed to find an answer to that...

  8. III Authority and Scripture between Jewish and Christian Readers

    • 7 Reconstructing Thirteenth-Century Jewish–Christian Polemic: FROM PARIS 1240 TO BARCELONA 1263 AND BACK AGAIN
      (pp. 115-127)
      Harvey J. Hames

      “And it was when he stood on trial before them, and our God, blessed be He, was zealous about His Torah … and He put in his heart, and the answers were in him, to give correct replies to those who speak falsely and incite.”¹ This is how the Hebrew account of the public disputation against the Talmud held in Paris in 1240 portrays the Jewish protagonist, Rabbi Yeḥiel of Paris, as he sets out to do battle with the Christian representative, the apostate Nicholas Donin. An account of the cut and thrust of the polemical encounter follows with Yeḥiel...

    • 8 A Christianized Sephardic Critique of Rashi’s Peshaṭ in Pablo de Santa María’s Additiones ad Postillam Nicolai de Lyra
      (pp. 128-141)
      Yosi Yisraeli

      Solomon Halevi of Burgos, or Pablo de Santa María (c. 1352–1435), is certainly one of modern historiography’s most famous Jewish converts to Christianity. His radical transformation from a rabbi and a Jewish scholar in his late thirties into a Christian priest, a high-ranking advisor at the Iberian courts, and eventually the bishop of Burgos, has turned him into a symbol of the sudden Jewish breakdown and the rise of the converso class in the Iberian Peninsula after the 1391 riots.¹ However, for a wide circle of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Christian scholars, the converted bishop was first of all known...

    • 9 Jewish and Christian Interpretations in Arragel’s Biblical Glosses
      (pp. 142-152)
      Ángel Sáenz-Badillos

      As is well known, in 1422 the Maestre de Calatrava, D. Luis de Guzmán, commissioned Rabbi Moses Arragel to make a new translation of the Bible with a commentary presenting side by side the views of Jewish and Christian interpreters.¹ The rabbi was well versed in Jewish exegesis, and the Christian interpretations would be provided to him by the friars designated by the Maestre. As Arragel explains, in Toledo, Fray Arias gave him the firstregistros(written notes) with Christian interpretations on Genesis. He also received additional Christian materials for the other biblical books, but it seems that the notes...

  9. IV Exegesis and Gender:: Vocabularies of Difference

    • 10 Between Epic Entertainment and Polemical Exegesis: JESUS AS ANTIHERO IN TOLEDOT YESHU
      (pp. 155-170)
      Alexandra Cuffel

      Until recently, making any kind of solid, textually defendable argument about the influence in the Middle Ages of the Jewish antigospel tradition, theToledot Yeshu(The Life Story of Jesus) has been hampered by the late provenance of any Hebrew manuscripts.¹ Instead, scholars have had to work with a very limited early Aramaic rendering, and then allusions to negative Jewish traditions about Jesus’s birth and career in medieval Christian texts.² Concrete evidence as to Jewish readership and use of this text during the Middle Ages has been scant indeed.³ The discovery by Yaaqov Deutsch of two versions of theToledot—...

    • 11 Sons of God, Daughters of Man, and the Formation of Human Society in Nahmanides’s Exegesis
      (pp. 171-186)
      Nina Caputo

      Jewish biblical exegesis in the Middle Ages was necessarily a fully dynamic process by which teachers and leaders announced their commitment to a worldview, a set of moral, philosophical, historical, or political principles that could be used to govern human society and individual actions. Yet it was also potentially a fraught project for Jews in medieval Europe. Any interpretation that tread too heavily on Christian views of scriptural truth could be—and indeed often was—seized upon by Jewish opponents as heretical and by Christian leaders as blasphemous. By design, exegesis makes claims intended to shape ethical and practical understandings...

    • 12 Late Medieval Readings of the Strange Woman in Proverbs
      (pp. 187-199)
      Esperanza Alfonso

      Representation of the feminine in two polarized ways is predominant in the Book of Proverbs. Essential to one of these poles is a figure commonly described as the “strange woman” (ishshah zarah). Conventionally, Proverbs 2:16–22; 5:1–23; 6:20–35, and 7:1–27 are associated with her. Coincidentally, descriptions of the wicked woman as a deep pit in 22:14 and 23:27 are seen as brushstrokes adding to her picture.¹ As described in these passages, theishshah zarahfurther shares a common profile with the personification of Lady Folly (eshet kesilut) in 9:13–18. At the opposite side of the spectrum...

    • 13 Exegesis as Autobiography: THE CASE OF GUILLAUME DE BOURGES
      (pp. 200-216)
      Steven F. Kruger

      Biblical exegesis is among the most impersonal of literary genres. Based firmly in the details of a preexisting text, and strongly respecting earlier interpretive efforts, medieval exegesis seldom values innovative reading for its own sake; rarely does the “I” of the exegete explicitly intrude into his text. Even when a particular piece of exegesis does make radical departures from its predecessors, its claim to value rests not on the fact of radical departure but rather on its correspondence to the truth of a tradition that has been ignored or buried and that now, through the exegete’s archaeological efforts, is brought...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 217-286)
    (pp. 287-318)
  12. List of Contributors
    (pp. 319-322)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 323-330)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 331-336)