From Convert to Convert: Two Opposed Trends in Late Medieval and Early Modern Anti-Jewish Polemic

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Book chapter in Revealing the Secrets of the Jews: Johannes Pfefferkorn and Christian Writings about Jewish Life and Literature in Early Modern Europe, Ed. Jonathan Adams and Cordelia Hess (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2017), 219–244.
  Ryan W. Szpiech 12 From Convert to Convert:Two Opposed Trends in Late Medievaland Early Modern Anti-Jewish Polemic When Johannes Reuchlin sat down in 1510 to pen his  Ratschlag ob man den Juden alle ire bücher nemmen abthun vnnd verbrennen soll  (  Recommendation onWhether One Should Confiscate, Suppress and Burn All the Books of the Jews )in response to a series of four pamphlets published by the convert JohannesPfefferkorn between 1507–1509 ,  we know he had near him a number of impor-tant medieval books by Iberian authors. In his  Ratschlag  , which he publishedas part of his work  Augenspiegel  (  Eyeglasses ) a year later, Iberian sources werein fact among the most important tools that Reuchlin brought to his aid incountering Pfefferkorn and the Dominicans who supported him. 1 In discussingthe different types of Jewish books available to him, he concedes that somemight include errors or other fatuous material. However: But only very few will be found to contain mockery, slander, or blasphemy against ourDear Lord and God, Jesus […] I have read no more than two examples of them; one iscalled  Nizzachon  [  Ni  ẓẓ  a ḥ on ], and the other  Tolduth Ieschu ha nozri  [ Toledot Ye š  u ha-No  ẓ  ri ] . They are considered apocryphal even by the Jews themselves, as Paul of Burgos [Pablode Santa María] writes in the second part of   Scrutinium,  chapter six.aber gar wenig die/ ettwas spottword nachred oder lesterunng unßerm lieben herrn vnndgott Jesu […] z ů  legent/ Deren hab ich nit mer dann zway geleßen/ das ain wirt genantNizahon das ander Tolduth Jeschu/ ha nozri/ das auch von de n  iuden selbs für apocryphogehalten wirt/ alls Paulus Burgensis schreibt in secunda parte Scrutinij 2 This last reference is, as various scholars have noted, to the very widely distrib-uted Latin polemical dialogue  Scrutinium Scripturarum  ( Scrutiny of Scriptures ,finished 1432–1434) ,  by Pablo (Paul), bishop of Burgos (d. 1435), known in theCastilian canon as Pablo de Santa María and to Latin readers of the sixteenthcentury as Paulus de Sancta Maria, Paulus Burgensis, or simply Burgensis.Such references are not surprising or anomalous, because Pablo’s writingwas rather widely known in the early sixteenth century. Luther cites Pablo’sworks on numerous occasions, as do various others, including, as noted re-cently by Yosi Yisraeli, Denis the Carthusian (1402–1471), Alonso de Espina 󰀱  The best and most complete overview of the Reuchlin-Pfefferkorn affair is Price 2011. 󰀲  Reuchlin,  Augenspiegel , 1511, fol. B2r; Reuchlin 1999, 29; translation in O’Callaghan 2013,126–127. DOI 10.1515/9783110524345-018  220  Ryan W. Szpiech (d.  c . 1491), Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), Jacques Lefèvre ( c . 1455–1536), ThomasMore (1478–1535), Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466–1536), Konrad Pellikan (1478–1556), Luis de León (1527–1591), and Jean Bodin (1529/1530–1596). We knowJohannes Reuchlin had Pablo’s books near at hand, and many of his readersmay easily have had them as well, since of the ninety-nine manuscripts of the Scrutinium  – sixty identified by Reinhardt and Santiago-Otero and thirty-nineby Yisraeli – over a third are held in German libraries and many seem to havebeen copied in German-speaking areas. 3 Similarly, at least nine editions areknown, six already by 1478, including three from Strasburg (in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern) and one from Mainz. 4 His biblical exegesis, the  Additiones  (  Addi-tions , finished 1429–1431) appended to the biblical commentary (  Postillae ) of fourteenth-century Franciscan exegete Nicolaus de Lyra, was equally wide-spread, if not more so, being printed along with Lyra’s commentary in manyearly modern Bibles in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. 5 Pablo’sworks achieved very wide distribution among late medieval and early modernreaders of theology, polemic, and biblical exegesis, and it is thus no surprisethat his work would appear among the references marshalled by Reuchlin inhis  Ratschlag   and  Augenspiegel. Still, Pablo’s popularity notwithstanding, Reuchlin’s references to Pabloare more significant than they might seem. For not only was Pablo, like Johan-nes Pfefferkorn, a convert from Judaism, but also his writing about Judaismwas based very heavily on Jewish sources with which he was deeply familiar.Even more important is the fact that Pablo drew from earlier medieval writerson Judaism as well, some of them also converts – I will discuss these figuresbelow – and his writing served as an important point of transmission of medie-val discussions of Judaism and Jewish books to the early modern Christianworld. While Reuchlin’s references to Pablo have been identified and areknown by many scholars, the history and context of the ideas they express hasnot been fully considered, especially as they bear on the central issue at handin the conflict with Pfefferkorn: the value of Jewish books in Christian societyand the place of the Talmud in Christian history.In this article, I will consider a few of the passages in Pablo’s writing towhich Reuchlin makes reference, using them as a window back onto the later 󰀳  Reinhardt and Santiago-Otero 1986, 245–247; Yisraeli 2015a, 100 n. 176. 󰀴  Reinhardt and Santiago-Otero 1986, 247; Yisraeli 2015a, 101–102 n. 180. 󰀵  Gosselin 1970, 407–424; Reinhardt and Santiago-Otero 1986, 241–244; Yisraeli 2015a, 98n. 172, 99 n. 175. For a traditional overview of Pablo’s works, see Serrano 1942, 101–117, andCantera Burgos 1952, 349–345. Both works also contain biographical overviews of Pablo. How-ever, such works must be used with caution and weighed against more recent research inYisraeli 2015a.  From Convert to Convert  221 medieval debates about the Talmud and other rabbinical books. Reuchlin’s useof such material carried with it the implication that the use of Jewish booksfor Christian argumentation was already an old Christian habit, and that theconfiscation and burning of the Talmud was a tactic long since proven to becounterproductive in a polemical context, undesirable in intellectual terms,and unjustified in social terms. In considering some of his sources for thisargument in the  Ratschlag   and the  Augenspiegel , I will first show that a signifi-cant part of what Reuchlin takes from Pablo de Santa María was in fact notsrcinal to him, but constituted a set of arguments adopted by Pablo from theconvert Alfonso de Valladolid (Abner de Burgos, d.  c . 1347); and second, thatoverlooking Pablo’s use of Alfonso’s writing makes it difficult to understandthe former’s position vis-à-vis thirteenth-century polemicists like Pau Cristià(Pablo Christiani/Paulus Christianus, the converted Jew who was the Christianprotagonist at the Disputation of Barcelona in 1263) or Ramon Martí (Raymun-dus Martini, a thirteenth-century Dominican whose  Pugio fidei  [  Dagger of Faith ]developed Pau’s approach and sources at great length). Although Pablo hasoften been linked with these thirteenth-century figures, including by Reuchlinhimself, Pablo was also, in many ways, an outlier in the tradition of anti-Jewishauthors, even if he is one of its most widely disseminated (yet still most poorlyunderstood) writers. As Yisraeli has recently shown in a ground-breaking studyon Pablo’s Latin works, Pablo was much less of a critic of the Jews and theTalmud and much more of a  defender   of Jewish texts than he has been charac-terized as being. In fact, Pablo’s most bold and srcinal argument, and also hisleast understood and studied – an argument in defence of the ongoing placeof Jewish scholars and books in Christian salvation history not just as convertsor sources in Christian learning or polemic but  as Jews and Jewish books,  re-spectively – was something that Reuchlin did not make great use of, though itwould have served his arguments rather well.After establishing how Pablo’s ideas were drawn in part from his predeces-sor Alfonso de Valladolid, I will argue that the medieval background of theReuchlin-Pfefferkorn debate was actually made up of two, competing strandsof polemical argumentation. One of these was proffered by friars or their proté-gés (mostly Dominicans or those converted by them), including Nicolas Donin,Pau Cristià, Ramon Martí, Jerónimo de Santa Fe, and the Franciscan Alonso deEspina, all of whom attack and disparage the Talmud and post-biblical tradi-tion, even when attempting to use this tradition to prove Christian arguments.This tradition has been studied in detail by Jeremy Cohen and those buildingon his work. 6 I suggest, following Yisraeli, that there is a parallel but separate 󰀶  See Cohen 1982 and 1999.  222  Ryan W. Szpiech line of argumentation that was developed by converts who were not Domini-cans or under their direct influence, including Alfonso de Valladolid and Pablode Santa María, and to a lesser extent, we can include the Franciscan exegeteNicolaus de Lyra in this group as well. These authors argued for the value of rabbinical tradition in Christian belief and even defended rabbinical writingfrom attacks and censures on many occasions. By distinguishing between thesetwo competing polemical trends rather than conflating them as part of a single,anti-Jewish tradition, we can better understand the background of the Reuch-lin-Pfefferkorn debate in the early sixteenth century. While Pfefferkorn, a con-vert with the support of the Dominicans, argued for the confiscation and de-struction of the Talmud, Reuchlin, who was increasingly at odds with the Do-minican order despite its role in his early education, was caught between thesetwo competing medieval tendencies and sought to defend the Talmud and ar-gue against its confiscation and destruction even as he often condemned itsarguments. Pablo de Santa María’s reliance on Alfonso de Valladolid The first step in tracing the different strands in late medieval anti-Jewishthought is to show the deep debt Pablo seems to have owed to Alfonso deValladolid. Pablo refers directly to Alfonso in both of his major Latin works,the  Additiones  and the  Scrutinium.  In his commentary on Psalm 58, he namesa number of Jewish converts in the “sixth age”, i.e. the entire Christian era thatcommenced with the Resurrection. After mentioning various such convertsfrom Spain including Petrus Alfonsi and others, he names Alfonso, calling him“Alfonso of Burgos”: Similarly there was Alfonso of Burgos, the great philosopher and biblical scholar, who inabout his sixtieth year took up faith in Christ and was baptized. He then, as sacristan of the church of Valladolid wrote numerous works for the confirmation of the faith and theconfutation of Jewish perfidy.Similiter et magister Alfonsus Burgensis magnus phylosophus et biblicus qui in LX (sexa-gesimo) etatis sue anno fere fidem Christi, et sacrum baptismum suscepit. Et consequen-ter cum esset sacrista ecclesie Balisoletanensis plura opuscula ad confirmationem fidei etconfutationem Iudaice perfidie edidit. 7 󰀷  Biblia Latina cum Postillis Nicolai de Lyra , 1497, vol. 2, fol. 154rb. This passage is also quotedand discussed in Yisraeli 2015a, 307.  From Convert to Convert  223 Pablo repeats this passage in very similar words at the end of his  ScrutiniumScripturarum,  but does not speak of the converts as pertaining to the “sixthage” . 8 He states in part two (6.14): There was in this region in the time of King Alfonso X a certain Master Alfonso of Burgos,a great biblical scholar and metaphysical philosopher who in about his sixtieth year re-ceived the true faith of Christ and holy baptism. And after that when he was a sacristanin the Church of Valladolid he composed in the Hebrew language a beautiful little workabout the confirmation of the faith and the confutation of Jewish perfidy, vernaculartranslations of which can be found today in the house of the [order of] preachers in Val-ladolid.Fuit etiam in hac regione tempore Regis Alphonsi X quidam magister Alphonsus Burgen-sis magnus Biblicus Philosophus et Methaphisicus qui in sexagesimo anno aetatis suaefere fidem Christi et sacrum baptismum suscepit. Et consequenter cum esset sacrista Ec-clesiae Vallisoletanensis pulchra opuscula ad confirmationem fidei et confutationem Iu-daicae perfidiae, in Hebraica lingua aedidit quorum translationes in vulgari in domo Predi-catorum Vallisoletanen<si> hodie reperiri possunt. 9 We can logically identify this “little work” mentioned by Pablo as the  Sefer  Mil ḥ amot ’Adonai  (  Book of the Wars of the Lord ) written by Alfonso in Hebrewjust after his conversion around 1320 and then translated by him to Castilianat the behest of Blanca, Lady in the Convent of Las Huelgas in Burgos. Al-though lost today, a Castilian copy of this work was seen in 1572 in the libraryof the Benedictine monastery of Valladolid by traveller Ambrosio de Morales. 10 󰀸  In the  Additiones,  Pablo follows Augustine in calling the post-resurrection period the “sixthage”, but in his earlier Romance poem “Siete edades del mundo” (Seven Ages of the World),he calls this period the “seventh age”, a position that, as I have argued elsewhere, he madein response to Jewish chronologies. In the  Scrutinium,  he describes the Jewish model of theages, which he attributes to Na ḥ manides, seeing the seventh age as after “pure Sabbath” afterthe coming of the Messiah. For Pablo’s views of the “seventh age” in  Scrutinium  1.8.14, seePablo de Santa María,  Scrutinium , 1591, 279. On Pablo’s views in  Siete edades  and his use of Jewish theories of history, see Szpiech 2010, 126–136. 󰀹  Pablo de Santa María,  Scrutinium , 1591, 533. See also Yisraeli’s comments on this passagein Yisraeli 2015a, 339–340. “Vere” emended to “fere” following various manuscripts and cf.p. 222 above. 󰀱󰀰  Morales describes “a book on parchment of very old handwriting, with this title:  This isthe Book of the Battles of God, which Master Alfonso, convert, who used to have the name Rabbi Abner when he was a Jew, composed. He translated it from Hebrew to the Castilian language by order of the Princess Blanca, Lady of the monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos ” (un libro enpergamino de letra harto antigua, y tiene este titulo:  Este es el Libro de las Batallas de Dios,que compuso Maestre Alfonso, Converso, que solia haber nombre Rabbi Abner, quando era Judio,è trasladolo de Hebraico en lengua Castellana por mandado de la Infanta Doña Blanca, Señoradel monasterio de las Huelgas de Burgos ), Ambrosio de Morales 1977, 9. Morales (1977, 11) alsomentions “a big book in Hebrew, on parchment, in rather old handwriting” (un libro grandeen Hebreo, en pergamino, de letra algo antigua), which I am tempted to see as a possible
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