IMC 2007: Sessions

Session 1609: The Christian Work of Jewish Conversion

Thursday 12 July 2007, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Frans van Liere, Department of History, Calvin College, Michigan
Paper 1609-aExempla and the Dissemination of Ideas about Jews and Muslims in 13th-Century Europe
(Language: English)
Sarah Elaine Lamm, Downing College, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Ecclesiastical History, Sermons and Preaching
Paper 1609-bAquinas on the Forced Conversion of Jews: Belief, Will and Toleration
(Language: English)
Jennifer Hart Weed, Department of Philosophy, Tyndale University College, Toronto
Index terms: Philosophy, Theology
Paper 1609-cVisual Polemics in 14th-Century Toledo: Anti-Jewish or Pro-Converso?
(Language: English)
Tom Nickson, Department of History of Art, University of York
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - General, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Sermons and Preaching

Paper a: The 13th-century Latin Church waged an ideological battle of increasing intensity against both Muslims and Jews. While polemics made the most obvious contributions, a vast range of sources helped to form medieval Christians’ attitudes towards their foes. This paper explores the role of one such source – collections of moralized sermon stories called exempla – in disseminating ideas about the non-Christian other beyond school and monastery into the city. These exempla present contrasting views of Jews and Muslims, which may have influenced their audience to conceive of each as a distinct and separate threat. Evidence from several 13th-century authors, including Jacques de Vitry and Stephen of Bourbon, is presented.
Paper b: Thomas Aquinas opposes the forced conversion of Jews, but for a surprising reason. Rather than arguing against forced conversion based upon theological or political principles, Aquinas opposes the practice on the basis of his view of human nature. Specifically, Aquinas claims that belief depends on the will and thus belief cannot be forced without inhibiting the ability of the will to act freely, thus nullifying the validity of any forced conversion. In this paper, I will outline Aquinas’s account of belief as a matter of the will and show how this view entails his opposition to forced conversions. I will conclude with a brief discussion of how Aquinas’s view might contribute to contemporary debates about inter-religious dialogue.
Paper c: This paper examines the visual strategies employed in the 14th century in and around Toledo’s cathedral. Iconographies, programmes and visual modes long-established in Gothic France are adapted to address the city’s sizeable Jewish and converso communities. Though to some extent a visual counterpoint to anti-Jewish polemic in contemporary legislation and popular preaching, these visual strategies demonstrate a highly sophisticated response to contemporary Jewish sentiment in their adaptation of rabbinical interpretations, their Messianic emphasis, and their implicit response to iconophobic tendencies. They aim less to distinguish than to persuade and embrace, and subtly endorse and promote the baptism of Jewish converts.