IMC 2013: Sessions

Session 108: Jews and Christians: Identities and (Self)Perceptions

Monday 1 July 2013, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Tamás Visi, Cabinet of Jewish Studies, Palacký University, Olomouc
Paper 108-aHebraica veritas = Iudaeorum caritas?: Christian Hebraism in the Middle Ages and the Attitude towards Judaism
(Language: English)
Ari Geiger, Department of History, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan
Index terms: Biblical Studies, Ecclesiastical History, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Religious Life
Paper 108-bHandsome Gentiles, Ugly Jews: The Role of Images in Jewish-Christian Polemics
(Language: English)
Markéta Kaburková, Faculté de Théologie / Foundation for Interreligious & Intercultural Research & Dialogue (FIIRD), Université de Genève
Index terms: Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Mentalities, Theology
Paper 108-cLacan in Ashkenaz: Fatherhood and Identity in a 13th-Century Hebrew Folk Narrative
(Language: English)
David Rotman, Department of Literature, Tel Aviv University
Index terms: Folk Studies, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Language and Literature - Semitic, Mentalities

Paper -a:
Since the time of Jerome, who coined the term Hebraica veritas and followed the concept related to it in his works, one can discern in Christian scholarship a stream of intellectual interest in Hebrew texts and Jewish traditions, mainly in the context of the study of the Bible. Following this path required much courage, especially in late Middle Ages, when Christian hostility towards Judaism became stronger.

This paper will deal with the question whether medieval Christian Hebraists’ interest in Jewish sources influenced their religious identity and their attitude towards Jews and Judaism. Examining the works of Hebraists such as Jerome, Andrew of St Victor and Nicholas of Lyra, I will also try to indicate the ways taken by them to express their loyalty to Christian doctrine against potential accusation of Judaizing.

Paper -b:
‘Why are most Gentiles fair-skinned and handsome while most Jews are dark and ugly?’ asks a passage from Sefer Nizzachon Jashan, a Hebrew anti-Christian polemical compendium (Northern France, mid-13th century). We are given several answers to this question, including an empiric remark that non-Jews are prone to have sexual intercourse during the daylight ‘when they see the faces on attractive pictures […]’, as it is written: ‘And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods’ (Gn 30: 39). The questions I would like to deal with are: What is the role of visuals, imagination, and aesthetic values within Jewish-Christian discourse? How did the Jews perceive difference between them and the Gentile majority? And what is the role of ‘graven images’ in religious polemic?

Paper -c:
The proposed paper is part of a larger project that concerns the high Middle-Ages European Jews’ perceptions of the marvelous according to their folk narratives. It is devoted to the Hebrew tale of ‘Rabbi Johanan and the scorpion’, found in a single manuscript (Ox heb. 135) from 13th-century Champaign. At the heart of this story are marvelous creatures who serve, it seems, to mediate between nature and culture, past and present, fathers and sons. Combining psychoanalytic, folkloristic and sociological tools, this paper suggests that these creatures can also be understood as part of a minority’s strategy to cope with a cultural heritage deemed limiting and problematic relative to the majority culture.