Dialogue against the Jews

Dialogue against the Jews

Translated by IRVEN M. RESNICK
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 316
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Dialogue against the Jews
    Book Description:

    Never before translated into English, this work presents to the reader perhaps the most important source for an intensifying medieval Christian-Jewish debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1640-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxvi)
    (pp. 3-36)

    Petrus Alfonsi’s Dialogus contra Iudaeos,¹ composed ca. 1109, continues a long history of Christian anti-Jewish polemic.² When written, it could draw on nearly one thousand years of literary attacks on Jewish religious life and practice written in Greek, Latin, and Syriac, which collectively constitute what is known as adversus Iudaeos literature. Nearly every important Christian theologian seemed compelled to write an attack on Judaism that was also simultaneously a justification of the claims made by Christianity. Indeed, one should not assume that these texts were written primarily in an effort to convert Jews to Christianity, since in most cases they...

      (pp. 39-47)

      The proemium of petrus alfonsi, an illustrious man and [converted to] a Catholic Christian from a Jew, begins.

      To the one and first eternal omnipotent creator of all things who is without beginning and without end, knowing all, who accomplishes all that he wills, who placed humankind, endowed with reason and wisdom, above every animal, so that with these two powers he may desire with understanding things that are just and flee from those that are contrary to salvation, [to him be] honor and glory, and may his marvelous name be blessed forever and ever. Amen.

      The prologue by the...

      (pp. 48-96)

      Moses: let us construct this first heading, then, so as to contain the arguments with which you have inveighed against us and against our sages, namely, that we attribute form and body to God and that we add such things to his nature as the truth of reason abhors. Therefore, let us discuss this matter carefully, until, by reason and argument, we arrive at its investigation.¹

      Petrus: I praise what has been said.

      Moses: In the first place, then, I want you to show me where our sages have said that God has a form and a body and how...

      (pp. 97-119)

      Moses: since you have demonstrated by the light of incontestable arguments that whatever our sages apply, unworthily, to the divine majesty cannot stand either on the authority of Scripture or on the power of any sort of reason [ratio], let us turn now to the second part of our proposed project, in which you have spoken of our captivity, if it is agreeable to you. Indeed, if I remember correctly, you have said we can never escape from captivity in such a way as we hope. Now then I ask you whether on account of this you accept that we...

      (pp. 120-138)

      Moses: you have demonstrated with the most clear and indisputable arguments what pertained to the present heading, namely, what the cause of our very long captivity was, or in what way are we able to escape it, and all the things necessary to be said about it. Nor do I see that there is anything further that should be investigated or doubted concerning it. As a result, I eagerly desire that we pass over to the other matters, just as they were listed above. Therefore, I entreat you to explain why you said in the beginning of the book that...

      (pp. 139-145)

      Moses: not undeservedly, I give thanks¹ to the one who illuminates hearts and drives away the darkness of such great blindness from our mind, even if only very late. Not unjustly I also repay you with the greatest thanks, you who have lifted the error of infidelity from me with the light of the clearest and most unconquerable arguments. Now, if it please you, following the order already established, explicate the next part of our proposed tasks. For you said that we observe hardly any of the law’s precepts, and that that is not itself pleasing to God. Eagerly I...

      (pp. 146-163)

      Moses: up to this point, you have shown how worthless and inconsistent the faith of the Jewish nation is in every respect, and how irrational and unwelcome is its service to God; or you have demonstrated and disclosed, with the clearest arguments, why you have withdrawn from the faith of this same nation, and you have shown me the extent to which I have remained in error up to now. But I wonder why, when you abandoned your paternal faith, you chose the faith of the Christians rather than the faith of the Saracens, with whom you were always associated...

      (pp. 164-176)

      Moses: enough has been argued up to this point against our sect and the sect of the Saracens. You have confounded both, from reason as well as from authority. Now, however, explain what sort of faith yours is and distinguish the nature of your belief [credulitas] under [various] chapters.

      Petrus: At the beginning of my book I proclaimed the nature of my belief to you under headings. Now, then, investigate my disputation under any heading and, if it please you, defeat what I said, if you are able.

      Moses: I do desire to do so, if I will be able...

      (pp. 177-184)

      Moses: now i want you to explain about Mary: how you believe that she gave birth without a union with a man, and I will oppose you, if I am able.

      Petrus: Clearly we believe that with the Holy Spirit coming upon her and with the power of the Most High overshadowing her,¹ the powers from its members² combined in one, as was pleasing to God, so that she conceived without a union with a man.

      Moses: It is an amazing and difficult thing to understand that in some way a son could be engendered from a mother without a...

      (pp. 185-195)

      Moses: up to this point, you have treated the generation of the child from authority, and the explanation [ratio] allows well enough that it could have happened in this way. But more amazing than all of these things is how the deity, which is simple, could have been joined and united to a human body, which is composite. Therefore, I beg you to explain fully by reason, as you promised, how that could be done.

      Petrus: Certainly, what was accomplished by the goodness and solely by the will of God did not have to occur for any necessary reason. For...

      (pp. 196-219)

      Moses: since then, using many authorities, you show that the one whom you call Christ could be both God and man, with what authority, I ask you, can you show that he has already come, as you believe? For perhaps he has not yet come, but will only come at some future time.

      Petrus: There are actually several, O Moses, which clearly demonstrate that he has already come. For both the time when the prophets predicted that he would come has passed, and we know that he appeared during it, and besides this there are many other things we recognize...

      (pp. 220-238)

      Moses: i want you to return to the subject matter and, I beg you, explain to me the other parts of your faith. Since you believe, then, that Christ was both God and man, why did he allow himself to be crucified and why did he not release himself from the hands of the Jews? How was the power of his omnipotence so diminished?

      Petrus: He could have protected and safeguarded himself well enough, if he had wished, but he endured this of his own free will for the sake of the salvation of his own, although it was unwelcome...

      (pp. 239-248)

      Moses: up to this point, it has been shown well enough that that man accepted death of his own free will to redeem the human race. Now, however, I want to discuss with you how he was resurrected on the third day, just as you said in the exposition of your faith. And indeed it could very well be that, since (as you say) the fullness of divinity dwelled in him,¹ and he restored other dead people to life, that he revived himself. But in this regard I ask you whether he was both God and man after he was...

      (pp. 249-274)

      Moses: up to this point, we have debated sufficiently individual parts of your faith, but you mentioned one thing more in the beginning of the debate, namely, that at the hour of your baptism you believed the apostles. I require that that belief be explained to me: namely, what it is; whether you believe merely that they were good and saintly men, or that what they preached was true; and whether you believe what they themselves believed.

      Petrus: In fact, I believe both that they were saintly men and that all that they preached was true, and I struggle to...