Fashioning Jewish Identity in Medieval Western Christendom

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Five twelfth- and thirteenth-century polemicists from southern France and northern Spain are the first known Jewish polemicists from western Christendom, who identified major Christian challenges, as well as appropriate responses for fellow Jews under ever-increasing religious pressure. This analysis suggests that the Jewish polemicists ultimately attempted to offer their followers a significantly contrasting portrait of Christian and Jewish society: the former as powerful but irrational and morally debased; the latter as weak, but profoundly rational and morally elevated.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful synthesis of recent scholarship in early Jewish-Christian relations and a provocative basis for discussion of the future of modern Jewry in officially tolerant states." Speculum

"highly readable and straightfoward" An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies Herbert W. Basser, Queen's University

"Fasioning Jewish Identity is clearly written and well conceived, and it provides a cogent portrayal of the religious ideas, polemical techniques, and general social context informing these works that will be useful for both beginner and expert readers. Chazan's exploration of the conceptual disagreements underlying what have often been perceived as sterile scriptural ebates is particularly helpful, and he successfully retrieves this type of exegetical argumentation as a meaningful locus of discussion. The work is also valuable for its presentation of two little-known and previously untranslated texts, Meir ben Simon's Milhemet mitzvah and Nahmanides' Sefer ha-ge'ulah." - Eve Krakowski, Chicago, Illinois

"Chazan has written an incredibly well-organized, well-argued book. Each piece of evidence presented is laid on a solid foundation created in previous chapters, and his progression from antiquity to the middle ages is well thought out." - Melissa Bruninga-Matteau, History, UC Irvine

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521831840
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2003
  • Pages: 396
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Chazan is Scheuer Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University.

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Table of Contents

Foreword; Short titles for frequently cited texts; Introduction; Part I. Backdrop: 1. Jesus and the Jews: the gospel accounts; 2. Post-Gospel Christian argumentation: continuities and expansions; 3. Pre-twelfth-century Jewish argumentation; Part II. Data and Foundations: 4. The Jewish polemicists of southern France and northern Spain; 5. Scriptural and alternative lines of argumentation; Part III. Jesus as Messiah: 6. Biblical prophecy: messianic advent; 7. Biblical prophecy: the Messiah reviled and vindicated; Part IV. Rejection of the Messiah and Rejection of the Jews: 8. Biblical prophecy and empirical observation: displacement of the Jews; 9. Biblical prophecy: redemption of the Jews; 10. Biblical prophecy and empirical observation: Christian failures; Part V. The Messiah Human and Divine: 11. Biblical prophecy: the Messiah human and divine; 12. Human reason: the Messiah human and divine; Part VI. Jewish Polemicists on the Attack: 13. Christian Scripture and Jesus; 14. Comparative behaviors: Jewish achievement and Christian shortcoming; Part VII. Underlying Issues: 15. Techniques of persuasion; 16. Fashioning identities: other and self; Bibliography; Index of subjects and proper names; Scripture index.

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