The Innovative Argumentation
As is generally the case for the Middle Ages, the innovative argumentation of the mid-thirteenth-century Christian missionizing effort among the Jews was strongly linked to the legacy of the past. It is, in fact, tempting to accept the medieval view and disavow any genuine innovation. Yet, as the materials are studied and evaluated, a sure sense of something new and different is inescapable.
The heart of this innovation lay in an unwillingness to remain comfortable with the earlier lines of argumentation and a desire to penetrate the Jewish community and its psyche. The commitment to addressing the Jews as they actually lived and thought is what distinguishes the new missionizing and its leaders. The key to this direct assault on the Jewish mentality lay in a growing Christian awareness of the highly developed postbiblical literature of the Jews, its importance to them, and some of its contents. Given the idea that the most efficacious route to missionizing among the Jews lay in scriptural exegesis and given the new awareness of a Jewish tradition of exegesis that ran counter to that of the Church, a sensible procedure was to scrutinize in detail this Jewish exegetical tradition in the hope of neutralizing it or—even better—utilizing it. These important insights clearly reflect the enhanced seriousness of midcentury Christian missionizing. This effort was no longer satisfied with mounting arguments that Christian tradition had found meaningful but that Jews had consistently rejected; it was committed to a better understanding of the Jewish audience and a search for arguments carefully adapted to it.
Utilization of Jewish exegesis itself was a useful ploy from many perspectives. First of all, it promised a better impression on Jewish listeners than most of the earlier approaches. Moreover, beyond its intellectual advantages, it offered psychological benefits as well. The first of these was simply the impact of novelty on audiences long inured to standard and readily rebuffed argumentation; the second was
the distress occasioned by Jewish awareness of Christian knowledge of rabbinic literature and utilization of it. Finally, this new approach offered significant tactical advantages as well. By utilizing Jewish exegesis of the Scriptures, the Christian missionizers in effect obviated any threat of genuine give-and-take, of an assault on Judaism that might turn into a counterattack on Christianity. By focusing on rabbinic exegesis, the new missionizing created the following options: either Jewish exegesis corroborated Christian claims—which would be a positive result from the Christian perspective—or it did not corroborate Christian claims—a circumstance that would in no sense be harmful to Christian truth. Whereas arguments on biblical, philosophic, or empirical grounds could be turned against Christianity, use of rabbinic materials could never result in anti-Christian conclusions. For all these reasons, this innovative turn in missionizing argumentation had to be seen, from the Christian perspective, as a promising and foolproof approach.
Indeed, the notion of utilizing Jewish exegesis led inevitably in another direction. Once awareness of rabbinic literature surfaced, there was no reason to use only Jewish exegesis of the Scriptures; it was possible and sensible to marshal freestanding rabbinic dicta as well and to argue that they also reflect Christian truth. This is a still more innovative approach, which created a wholly new basis for Christian argumentation. In addition to claims drawn from the Bible (with Jewish exegesis), from reason, and from empirical observation, Christian missionizing could now also use arguments drawn from the independent religious literature of the Jews themselves. This new approach had all the advantages associated with utilization of Jewish exegesis. Indeed, the two sets of arguments are intimately related and represent for the Christian side a breakthrough of sorts and for the Jews a serious new challenge.
As we begin our investigation of this new line of missionizing argumentation, it must be borne in mind that such innovations do not appear full-blown. Inevitably, we should anticipate experimentation, trial and error, and increasing refinement of these valuable new missionizing tacks. A set of arguments advanced first in the 1240s and 1250s will require some time before assuming polished form. The same will be true for the Jewish responses. It will take the Jews of western Christendom time before they assess properly the seriousness of the new argumentation and develop a set of effective counterarguments.
The Milbemet[*] Mizvah[*] shows a number of rudimentary references to Christian awareness of rabbinic literature and law. In most instances, these references are neutral; Jewish law is cited and questioned but not attacked in the violent and abusive manner of Nicholas Donin.
The priest asked: "Why do you not place purple thread on your fringes, as is written in your Torah: 'Let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner.' "
The priest asked: "It is written in your Torah: 'From the day after the sabbath . . . you must count fifty days.' Why do you go to great lengths to explain this verse and to remove it seemingly from its simple meaning, saying that there are only forty-nine days and that the fiftieth day is not included in the reckoning."
Indeed, in one interesting instance, knowledge of rabbinic sources is harnessed to a missionizing thrust.
Although this is not a very penetrating thrust, it is early evidence of the new argumentation.
Another mid-thirteenth-century source gives us a better early sense of the new argumentation. Rabbi Isaac ben Yedaiah's Commentary on the Aggadot of the Talmud includes the following:
Now I shall indicate further explicitly and openly concerning their [the rabbis'] words that which I responded to one of the Christian sages with regard to the questions which he posed to me. [He asked me] and disputed with me as to why we remain obstinate concerning the King Messiah, who came, in their view, to lead the new faith that has been initiated for them. They argue strenuously through their [the rabbis'] words and all similar statements that they [the rabbis], of blessed memory, foresaw their faith and gave testimony that the Messiah had come and that he led them in the city of Rome, which is a great city devoted to their deity whom they worship. That fellow asked what else their [the rabbis'] intention was and what else they proposed to teach us when they said, concerning the Messiah, that he was created in their days and went to Rome, if not that they foresaw that the Messiah came in their days and inno-
vated for them a new religion and faith, the religion of the Christians. Thus in vain do we anticipate that another will come in his stead to extricate us from this lengthy exile, for we have fallen as a result of the sins of our ancestors and we shall not rise again.
This is a primitive formulation of a case that will be made with increasing sophistication.
The evidence from Rabbi Meir ben Simon and Rabbi Isaac ben Yedaiah reflects the new approaches in a tentative fashion. It is obvious that the decisive figure in the early development of these two new lines of Christian argumentation was Friar Paul Christian. Born a Jew, he converted to Christianity, eventually joined the Dominican Order, played an extremely active role in a number of anti-Jewish programs during the middle decades of the thirteenth century, and introduced major innovations in Christian missionizing argumentation. Because Friar Paul will play such a dominant role throughout this discussion, it seems wise to begin with a few brief remarks concerning this shadowy figure.
It must be noted at the outset that we possess no single source that flows directly from the pen of Friar Paul; all evidence derives from observations about him and his activities made by fellow-Christians or—more frequently—by Jews ranged in opposition to him. These sources are rather extensive. They include (1) royal edicts supportive of his activities enacted by the kings of France and Aragon, along with a letter of papal concern written by Pope Clement IV; (2) recurrent references to Friar Paul in Latin records of the period; (3) a fascinating Hebrew letter ostensibly written to the friar by a Jew who was related to him and tried (clearly unsuccessfully) to convince him of the error of his ways; (4) extensive Hebrew rebuttals of the missionizing argumentation of Friar Paul, the most important of which are the lengthy report of Rabbi Moses ben Nahman of the Barcelona confrontation of 1263 and Rabbi Mordechai ben Joseph's Mahazik[*]Emunah;' and (5) a number of Hebrew reports of his activities. The volume of this material alone suggests that Friar Paul was a man of considerable influence and significance. This conclusion is supported by his success in winning the support of the highest authorities of both church and state for his programs.
Friar Paul was born in southern France, probably in Montpellier, and in all likelihood was a scion of a prominent Jewish family. He undoubtedly studied in one or more of the major academies of the re-
gion; he is identified in a fourteenth-century source as a student of Rabbi Eliezer of Tarrascon. The circumstances of his conversion are unknown. Subsequent to this conversion, he became deeply immersed in activities related to his former fellow-Jews. Some of these involved efforts to impose on them the limitations that he—along with others at this time—felt to be mandatory; in these efforts, he operated along the lines of the slightly earlier apostate, Nicholas Donin. More innovative was his concern with missionizing among his former coreligionists, an endeavor in which he exhibited originality, turning the mid-thirteenth-century missionizing effort in creative new directions. More specifically, according to the letter of his relative, he occupied himself with five particular areas of anti-Jewish activity: (1) an assault on the Talmud, which is documented in other sources as well; (2) an attack on Jewish moneylending, undocumented elsewhere for Friar Paul but well known for this period; (3) an attack on the Jewish prayer service, again undocumented elsewhere for Friar Paul but common during this period; (4) missionizing among the Jews, which was his most significant endeavor; and (5) provoking the disinterring of Jewish corpses. To this must be added involvement in the institution of the Jewish badge in a number of areas of western Christendom. The range of these activities suggests that he saw himself, and was seen by others, as a general expert in Jewish affairs; his success in eliciting support from the highest authorities made him a very problematic figure for the Jews of this period.
Despite the wide range of Friar Paul's activities, it was his missionizing that was probably most significant; in any case, it is the activity directly of concern to us. Our earliest solid evidence for his proselytizing activities comes from the famed Barcelona disputation of 1263. However, at the outset of Nahmanides' report on this crucial confrontation, Rabbi Moses indicates that Friar Paul's use of the new lines of argumentation antedated 1263. In the preliminary sparring that seems to have preceded the actual discussion, Nahmanides notes prior missionizing efforts "in Provence and in many places." The Barcelona confrontation was clearly not the opening expression of the new missionizing argumentation. It had been utilized earlier by Friar Paul and perhaps others as well; Barcelona was, if anything, a testing ground for a rapidly maturing new set of Christian claims.
Before undertaking our analysis of the 1263 confrontation, we must briefly note the sources available for its reconstruction. Two widely divergent sources have survived. The first is a fairly brief Latin
report, whose author is unknown; the second is a lengthier Hebrew account from the pen of the Jewish spokesman Rabbi Moses ben Nahman. While there is important information that is common to both reports, they disagree sharply on many issues, particularly in overall tone and in assessment of the outcome of the confrontation. For the Christian author, the confrontation was a stunning success for the Dominican friar; for the Jewish writer, the friar's ignorance and the rabbi's vastly superior abilities were evident at every turn, and even Christian observers were forced to appreciate the Dominican failure and the Jewish victory.
Not surprising, modern historians, Christian and Jewish, have polarized along the same lines. Christian accounts have tended to adopt the tone of the anonymous Christian report, and Jewish reconstructions have leaned heavily on, and sound much like, the Nahmanidean narrative. In the light of such polarization, one recent investigator has suggested that the event in its entirety ought not to be seen in theological or spiritual terms but must be viewed as a complex political maneuver. In fact, however, it is not necessary to shift the focus of analysis. What must be done is to abandon the polarized views presented in the two conflicting sources and present the events in a more realistic and natural context.
This context is a fairly simple one—the new missionizing techniques and argumentation of the mid-thirteenth century. A new-style argumentation, based on Christological utilization of rabbinic texts, had been introduced into western Christendom. This approach seemed most promising for effective missionizing among the Jews. At a certain point, it seemed useful to afford the new approach a rigorous test. Such testing meant a public confrontation with authoritative Jewish spokesmen, who would be compelled to confront the issues raised by the new Christian claims. At best, such a public confrontation would show that the Jews lacked any serious response to the new challenge and that the new weapons for missionizing were virtually foolproof; at worst, the confrontation might expose a fatal flaw in the new approach, necessitating its abandonment. Somewhere in between best and worst, the public confrontation might support the basic viability of the new tack, with evidence of a need for improvement and refinement. The exaggerated claims of both sources tend to obscure this realistic context, but this is surely the setting of the important Barcelona convocation. For one side—the powerful and aggressive—it represented the testing of a potentially effective new
weapon for missionizing; for the other—the weak and defensive—it meant the development and presentation of adequate responses to a dangerous new challenge.
Any attempt to understand critically the confrontation at Barcelona must begin with recognition of the disparate roles of the Christian and Jewish participants. The former are clearly the initiators and the aggressors; the latter are limited by and large to defending themselves against Christian thrusts.
This discrepancy in roles is revealed first in the convoking of the meeting in Barcelona. Both the Latin and Hebrew accounts emphasize that the discussion was not negotiated by the two parties; it was engineered by the Christian side and foisted on the Jews. More specifically, it resulted from powerful pressures exerted by the Dominicans on King James I of Aragon. Had the king refused to order Jewish participation, the clash would never have taken place. This is indicated succinctly by the Latin text:
Moses the Jew, called "rabbi," was summoned from Gerona by the lord king at the urging of the Dominicans and was present there [at the royal palace in Barcelona] along with many other Jews, who seemed and were reputed among other Jews most learned.
The Hebrew narrative by Rabbi Moses ben Nahman agrees. Rabbi Moses introduces his report by quoting a Talmudic passage that depicts claims and counterclaims on the part of the disciples of Jesus and the Jews. The point of this story is that, because these disciples of Jesus were allegedly supported by the political authorities, the Jews were forced to respond to their pointless questions. Nahmanides concludes:
In the same way I am transcribing those things which I said in reply to the errors of Friar Paul, who exceeded all bounds before our lord the king, his sages, and his advisors, may his glory increase and his reign prosper.
Rabbi Moses then proceeds to a description of the events, beginning, "Our lord the king ordered me to dispute with Friar Paul in his palace in Barcelona, before himself and his advisors." Thus, neither account attributes any measure of initiative to the Jews; to the contrary, both agree that the clash was the result of clerical instigation and royal command.
According to the Latin record, the same disparity carried over to the structuring of the confrontation.
Deliberations were undertaken with the lord king and with certain Dominicans and Franciscans who were present, not that the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ—which because of its certitude cannot be placed in dispute—be put in the center of attention with the Jews as uncertain, but that the truth of that faith be made manifest in order to destroy the Jews' errors and to shake the confidence of many Jews. . . . Friar Paul proposed to the said rabbi that, with the aid of God, he would prove from writings shared and accepted by the Jews the following contentions, in order: that the Messiah, who is called Christ, whom the Jews anticipate, has surely come already; also that the Messiah, as prophesied, would be divine and human; also that he suffered and was killed for the salvation of mankind; also that the laws and ceremonials ceased and should have ceased after the advent of the said Messiah.
According to this report, the truth of Christianity was not to be put in question; rather, the Jews were to be refuted and shaken in their faith. The agenda, as here depicted, was indeed ordered in such a way as to make this possible. This is reflected first of all in the utilization of Jewish sources. As we have noted, this meant that, in fact, the truth of Christianity could not be impugned. Were Friar Paul successful, the Jews would have had to acknowledge Christianity on the basis of their own accepted religious literature. If he were unsuccessful, Christianity would not have been disproved. Only the effort to substantiate Christian truth from Jewish sources would have failed. This tack, through which the Christian side stood to lose nothing while the Jews were profoundly threatened, can only indicate Christian control. In addition, the four specific points chosen for the discussion likewise reflect a Christian point of view. They involve issues through which the truth of Christianity might be proved. No Jewish spokesman, given freedom of choice, would have selected such items for debate. Again, we emerge with a clear sense that the agenda was designed by the Christian side and forced on the Jews.
This image of Christian control of the agenda is altered somewhat in the account of Rabbi Moses. After indicating that he had been ordered to dispute publicly with Friar Paul, Nahmanides attempts to soften the portrait to some extent and to show himself in a less passive light. He recounts the following give-and-take:
I replied and said: "I shall do as the king commands, if you give me permission to speak as I wish. In this matter I request the permission of the king and of Friar Raymond of Penyafort and his associates who are here." Friar Raymond of Penyafort replied: "So long as you do not speak
disrespectfully." I said to them: "I do not wish to stand before your judgment in this matter. However I do ask to speak as I wish concerning the disputation, just as you say what you wish. Indeed I do have the sense to speak properly, but it must be as I wish." They all then gave me permission to speak as I wished.
Then I responded and said: "The dispute between gentiles and Jews concerns many matters of tradition which do not involve the essence of faith. In this honored court, I wish to dispute only about matters that involve essentials." They all responded and said: "You have spoken well." Then we agreed to speak about the matter of the Messiah—whether he has already come, as is the belief of the Christians, or if he is yet to come, as is the belief of the Jews. Afterward we would speak of whether the Messiah is actually divine or if he is fully human, born of man and woman. Afterward we would speak of whether the Jews observe the true law or whether Christians do.
Thus, while acknowledging that he was commanded to appear and debate, Nahmanides tries to picture himself as active in securing freedom of expression and establishing the agenda to be pursued. It should be noted that Rabbi Moses does not actually claim to have suggested the items for the discussion; he merely describes himself as setting the principle that essentials should be disputed. When speaking of the specific agenda, he says only, "Then we agreed to speak about. . . ." However, the items for discussion, while close enough to the Latin report to be recognizable, are couched in terms that mitigate the sense of Christian initiative. Thus, for example, it is one thing to prove, on the basis of Jewish texts, that the Messiah has already come; it is another to debate whether the Messiah has come or not. Moreover, Rabbi Moses omits entirely, at this juncture, the crucial matter of utilization of Jewish texts as proof. As a result, the agenda he describes seems to presage a rather open discussion. The protagonists were to discuss whether the Messiah had come or not and whether Christians or Jews observe the true law. As Nahmanides presents the items of debate, it would seem that either side could win and either side could lose.
On this issue, however, it must be concluded that the Latin account is rigorously correct, while Rabbi Moses has, for a variety of reasons, blurred the reality. This is clear from the rest of his narrative. In the first place, Rabbi Moses blatantly contradicts himself. In the abovecited opening remarks, he insists that only essential matters be debated, and he indicates that, in the light of this principle, it was agreed
to begin with the matter of the Messiah. Yet, in his depiction of the proceedings of the second day, he is objecting vigorously to focusing on the issue of the Messiah, claiming that it is not really the heart of the Christian-Jewish conflict. More important still, while omitting any mention of the reliance on Jewish texts in his description of the agenda, Nahmanides does emphasize this crucial ploy as soon as the discussion is launched. As noted, the use of this strategem radically transformed the nature of the confrontation: the Christian side had everything to gain and nothing to lose. That this device was in fact built into the very foundation of the discussion is reflected at every stage of Rabbi Moses' extensive depiction of the proceedings. From all this, it is clear that the Latin report of the agenda is the accurate one and that the Hebrew account is distorted. Again, the firm sense is Christian initiative and control.
Finally, this same sense emerges from Nahmanides' detailed narrative. While he quotes himself at far greater length than his opponent, he also reports faithfully that he was always in the position of respondent to the thrusts of Friar Paul. At a number of points, Rabbi Moses depicts his efforts to assume a more active role and acknowledges total failure. At the beginning of the second day's discussion, he records the following significant exchange:
I said to our lord the king: "My lord, hear me." He said to me: "Let him speak first, for he is the interrogator."
A bit later on the same day, when Friar Paul complained of the rabbi's lengthy replies, the king admonished: "Be silent, for he is to pose the questions." On the fourth and last day of the clash, after his efforts to halt the proceedings had failed, the Jewish spokesman made his most determined effort to take the initiative, claiming that "justice requires that I pose the questions one day and Friar Paul answer me, since he posed questions which I answered for three days." King James's reply was curt and peremptory: "Nonetheless you must respond to him." Thus, in every way, the picture is clear and consistent. The Dominicans and Friar Paul instigated the confrontation, set a carefully contrived agenda, and maintained the initiative throughout.
What were the strategies employed by Friar Paul in this confrontation? The key was the use of rabbinic literature. As we have seen, Barcelona was not the beginning of such utilization of the Talmud; it was in a sense the end of the first phase of this use. Its use by Friar Paul involves, as we have already suggested, rabbinic exegesis of important
biblical verses, on the one hand, and rabbinic traditions independent of biblical moorings, on the other. Let us examine the early stages of the discussion for examples of each.
Friar Paul opened the formal proceedings at Barcelona by quoting Genesis 49:10. To be sure, this verse had, over the ages, been a source of lively Christian-Jewish polemical exchange. It was not Friar Paul's ultimate intention to become lost in this morass. According to the report of Nahmanides, Friar Paul opened by citing the wellknown verse and drawing its normal Christological implication:
Thus the prophet says that Judah shall forever exercise power, until [the advent of] the Messiah, who will come from him. Therefore, today, when you lack the scepter [of political power] and the ruler's staff, the Messiah, who is of the seed of Judah, must have already come, and he possesses authority.
Rabbi Moses rebuttal was traditional and predictable. He argued that Jacob did not specify continuous kingship for Judah; instead, he foretold that it would never be totally withdrawn.
The intention is that, at all times when kingship will exist among the entire Israelite people, it will be reserved for Judah. If, because of our sins, kingship will be abolished, it will [eventually] return to Judah.
All this is the norm predicted by Jacob. In fact, pre-Christian history, according to Rabbi Moses, already showed a number of exceptions to the rule.
The proof of my views [lies in the fact that] prior to Jesus, there were many periods during which kingship was annulled for Judah and not for [all] Israel and many periods when kingship was annulled for both Judah and [all] Israel. For, during the seventy years of Babylonian exile, there was no monarchy in Judah or [all of] Israel whatsoever. During the period of the Second Temple there reigned from Judah only Zerubbabel and his sons briefly. For three hundred and eighty years thereafter, until the destruction, there reigned the priests of the Hasmonean family and their servants.
Thus, argues Nahmanides, Jacob was foretelling ideal circumstances. Real Jewish history showed gaps in kingship and periods of monarchy in which Judah did not play its predicted role. Therefore, the contemporary reality of lack of kingship was in no sense a testimony to the coming of the Messiah.
It is at this point, in the wake of Rabbi Moses's fairly predictable response, that Friar Paul turns the attack in a new direction by introducing a rabbinic text:
In all those periods [to which you referred], even though there weren't kings, there was political authority. For thus they explained in the Talmud: " 'The scepter shall not depart from Jacob'—these are the exilarchs in Babylonia, who rule the people with a scepter. 'Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet'—these are the descendants of Hillel who teach Torah publicly." Today, you lack the ordination known in the Talmud, you have lost that authority, and you have among you no one worthy of being designated "rabbi."
Introduction of the talmudic passage allows Friar Paul to reject Nahmanides' contention that the Jews had suffered a series of lapses of political authority, for the talmudic statement seems to suggest unbroken Jewish political power. Thus, the obvious lack of such authority in the days of the disputants must point to the intervening advent of the Messiah.
What has happened here is quotation of standard biblical prophecy, eliciting of anticipated Jewish responses, and then introduction of rabbinic exegesis that—it is claimed—substantiates the Christian case and repudiates the traditional stance of the Jews. While rooted in the venerable tradition of Christian use of prophetic predictions, this new tactic is creative, innovative, and challenging. It imposes a second layer of authority on the initial Jewish reverence for the Bible; it suggests to the Jews that their own esteemed teachers read the biblical text in a Christological mode.
Let us adduce yet a second example, again involving a biblical passage long disputed by Christians and Jews. On the first day of the confrontation, not long after the discussion of Genesis 49:10, Friar Paul introduced the famous passage in Isaiah which speaks of the suffering servant of the Lord and suggested its standard Christological interpretation, ending with the question, "Do you believe that this passage speaks of the Messiah?" Rabbi Moses's response was again predictable.
According to its true sense, [this passage] speaks only of the people of Israel in the aggregate, for thus the prophets always designate them—Israel my servant, Jacob my servant.
Friar Paul's response is reported only briefly by Nahmanides, but the point is clear.
But I shall show you from the words of your sages that it [the passage] speaks of the Messiah.
The approach is the same—introduction of standard biblical passages, eliciting predictable Jewish responses, with Friar Paul then arguing that the traditional Jewish objections are in fact belied by rabbinic tradition itself. The authoritative literature of the Jews supported Christological lines of exegesis.
The second pattern of utilization of talmudic literature involves rabbinic dicta unrelated to the Bible. Let us cite two early examples from Barcelona, both adduced in support of the initial Christian claim that the Messiah has already appeared. The first involves one of the aggadic statements that connect the advent of the Messiah with the destruction of the Second Temple.
A certain man was plowing when his ox lowed. An Arab passed by and said: "Jew! Jew! Unhitch your ox; unhitch your pair; unhitch your plow; for the Temple has been destroyed." He unhitched his ox, unhitched his pair, and unhitched his plow. The ox then lowed a second time. The Arab said to him: "Hitch up your ox; hitch up your pair; hitch up your plow; for your Messiah has been born."
Friar Paul argued here, in utmost simplicity, that this rabbinic statement reflects overt rabbinic recognition of the advent of the Messiah.
Let us cite a second instance of similar use of freestanding rabbinic dicta. Friar Paul adduced a second aggadah to prove that the Messiah had already come.
That fellow [Friar Paul] returned and said that, in the Talmud, it is said explicitly that Rabbi Joshua ben Levi asked Elijah when the Messiah would come. Elijah answered him. "Ask the Messiah himself." Rabbi Joshua ben Levi said: "Where is he?" Elijah said: "At the entrance of Rome, among the ill." Rabbi Joshua ben Levi went there and found him. . . . Thus he has already come and is in Rome.
The argument is a simple one. Friar Paul claims that the rabbis themselves—in their better moments—gave expression to views that in effect substantiated the truth of Christianity.
Having described the methodology of Friar Paul's argument, let us now turn our attention to its substance. To do so, let us cite once more the agenda as depicted in each of our two sources:
Friar Paul proposed to the said rabbi that, with the aid of God, he would prove from writings shared and accepted by the Jews the following con-
tentions, in order: that the Messiah, who is called Christ, whom the Jews anticipate, has surely come already; also that the Messiah, as prophesied, should be divine and human; also that he suffered and was killed for the salvation of mankind; also that the laws and ceremonials ceased and should have ceased after the advent of the said Messiah.
Then we agreed to speak about the matter of the Messiah—whether he has already come, as is the belief of Christians, or if he is yet to come, as is the belief of the Jews. Afterward we would speak of whether the Messiah is actually divine or if he is fully human, born of man and woman. Afterward we would speak of whether the Jews observe the true law or whether the Christians do.
We have already suggested that, on this issue, the Christian account is more accurate. In any case, what is reflected here of the substance of the discussion? We have earlier noted that, in mounting missionizing argumentation, the twin goals were normally to present a case for the truth of one's own religious faith and to raise claims against the validity of the religious tradition of the opponent group. The agenda adumbrated in the Latin protocol reflects clearly these two purposes—proofs that Jesus was truly the Messiah and argument against the central pillar of Jewish religious tradition, the law.
Friar Paul's first goal was to prove that Jesus was the Messiah promised in biblical revelation. If that assertion could have been proved to the Jews, then those Jews would have had to acknowledge that Christianity, based on belief in Jesus as Messiah (and more), was true. The choice of the messianic role of Jesus as the central positive contention to be argued was an intelligent one. First, the messianic doctrine was one that Jews shared with Christians; it involved none of the inherent problematics of such tenets as Incarnation or the Trinitarian nature of the deity. It was the simplest issue to argue with Jews. In addition, proof of the messianic role of Jesus included eo ipso a negative assertion with regard to the Jews and their fate. If, in fact, Jesus was the promised Messiah, then all the messianic predictions had been fulfilled with his coming (or comings), leaving the Jews bereft of messianic hopes for the future. In this sense, the positive thrust of the argumentation included a powerfully negative corollary.
The effort to prove Jesus' messianic role was of course not new to Barcelona; it was the oldest element in Christian argumentation against the Jews. Now, how did Friar Paul, through use of rabbinic literature, hope to mount an argument for Jesus' messianic role? By proving the truth of a series of three independent statements that,
when combined, afforded unshakable evidence of Jesus as Messiah. If he could successfully argue that the Messiah had already come, that the Messiah was prophetically predicted to be both divine and human, and that the suffering and death of the Messiah were likewise prophetically predicted, then only one figure could possibly demonstrate these three major characteristics. That figure would be Jesus of Nazareth. I have elsewhere designated this tactic "deliberate abstraction." In arguing that the Messiah had already come, Friar Paul did not wish to introduce the historical figure of Jesus. He wished to deal with all three assertions independently and abstractly, only at the end combining the strands into irrefutable proof for the truth of Christianity. This tactic of deliberate abstraction was artificial and problematic. As we shall see, Nahmanides attacked it vigorously and Friar Raymond Martin abandoned it completely.
Let us look more closely at the three individual assertions. The first is clearly the decisive one. If the Messiah has already come, then it is likely to have been Jesus, and, in any case, the Jews have lost all hope for the future. Nahmanides quotes himself as saying that "there has been no one who has claimed or concerning whom it has been claimed that he is the Messiah, except for Jesus." The Latin source quotes Nahmanides in much the same way.
Then in the palace of the lord king, the said Jew was asked whether the Messiah, who is called Christ, has come. He responded with the assertion that he has not come. He added that the Messiah and Christ are the same and that, if it could be proved to him that the Messiah had come, it could be believed to apply to none other than him, namely, Jesus Christ, in whom the Christians believe, since no one else had come who has dared to assume for himself this title nor has there been anyone else who has been believed to be Christ.
In effect, Rabbi Moses would have been willing to concede the truth of Christianity if it could be proved that the Messiah had already come. The other two assertions, that the Messiah was predicted to be both divine and human and was fated to suffer and die, served a dual purpose. They reinforced the identification of Jesus as the Messiah, which would have flowed in any case from the initial assertion of the prior advent of the Messiah, and, at the same time, they served to diffuse two major traditional Jewish objections to Christianity—the doctrine of Incarnation and the notion of an ignominious death for the Messiah.
The fourth and final item on the agenda is difficult to discuss with certainty, since the issue was never truly joined during the confrontation. Using the sketchy information provided in our two extant sources and the further development of this argumentation, we are justified, I believe, in identifying this item as an attack on the central commitment of the Jews, that is, the commitment to their law. Just as the first three assertions attempted to prove a central Christian contention—that Jesus was the promised Messiah—the fourth sought to obliterate the core of Jewish faith—assurance of the validity of Jewish law. The projected tactic was the same as that used in the previous arguments. Jewish literature itself, both rabbinic exegesis of the Bible and freestanding rabbinic dicta, were to be adduced to prove that Jewish law had lost its validity and should no longer be observed. What precise texts Friar Paul intended to utilize in proving this point cannot, of course, be known. In any case, this fourth point was to serve as a complement to the pro-Christian conclusion of the first three items on the agenda. Friar Paul intended to prove the truth of central Christian beliefs and the nullity of key Jewish commitments.
Our examination of the strategies and substance of the Barcelona confrontation leads inevitably to the question of results (for now, from the Christian perspective). In attempting to answer this question, I begin with a negative observation. Neither the Latin nor the Hebrew report mentions a formal body of judges who were to decide the outcome of the deliberations. Indeed, this notion makes no sense. Since the ultimate purpose of the confrontation was to influence Jewish thinking, Christian judges and their view of the events would have meant nothing.
Having removed imaginary judges from consideration, we are in a position to build on our earlier observations and ask realistically how the Christian protagonists saw the outcome of the proceedings. For the Dominican instigators of the clash, a decisive victory would have entailed convincing the Jewish spokesmen of the truth of the majority faith and of the nullity of Judaism. This obviously was not achieved. A decisive setback would have involved the exposure of a flaw in Friar Paul's approach so basic as to force him and his supporters to end this line of missionizing altogether. This too did not happen. In fact, a prolonged discussion took place. Neither side won decisively; both sides could savor a measure of satisfaction. Thus, the confident assertions of both the Latin and Hebrew reports are exaggerated, but they are
not false. The results were sufficiently ambiguous to allow both parties to claim success. At the same time, to be sure, both parties had to feel a measure of dissatisfaction as well. But this rarely shows up in written records left for posterity.
Given these ambiguous results, the important issue is no longer victory or defeat; it is the reactions of both sides in the wake of the public debate. The Christian camp reveals its positive assessment of the proceedings in its determination to press the new campaign. There is certainly no sense that Friar Paul and his strategies for proselytizing among the Jews had been discredited. Nahmanides' own account of the aftermath of the debate illustrates this clearly. Hearing rumors in the royal court that the king and the Dominicans were planning to visit the synagogue of Barcelona shortly after the termination of the disputation, Rabbi Moses postponed his planned return to Gerona in order to be present. Both King James and Friar Raymond of Penyafort preached before the Jews. Although they did not utilize Friar Paul's new argumentation, their immediate visit to the synagogue of Barcelona reflects the Christian sense of achievement and determination to press the perceived advantage.
More revealing yet is the ongoing support for Friar Paul in his missionizing endeavors. Had his approach been convincingly rebutted, neither ecclesiastical nor secular authorities would have wished him to continue. The Christian perception of the proceedings at Barcelona and their outcome is reflected in the series of royal edicts enacted at the end of August 1263, a scant month after the Barcelona confrontation. The most important of these, for our purposes, is the order to the Jews, dated August 29, 1263. As we have seen, King James I commanded his Jews to make themselves available for the missionizing sermons of Friar Paul Christian. Particularly noteworthy is the king's insistence that the Jews show Friar Paul those of their books he might require to make the truth known to them—precisely the strategem that was so crucial in his encounter with Rabbi Moses ben Nahman.
It is widely agreed that the Latin account of the disputation at Barcelona is intimately linked to the royal orders of late August 1263. Specifically, it must be seen as the rationale for the expanded preaching campaign sanctioned by the monarch. This brief record was intended to show the main lines of Christian achievement at Barcelona and thus provide the basis for the new royal edicts. While the Latin account has been extensively analyzed by Baer, a few brief remarks
are in order. Clearly, this is not—and was not intended to be—an exhaustive description of the debate at Barcelona. Nor was it intended to serve as a debater's manual; such a detailed guide was not necessary, since the Christian protagonist in the Barcelona proceedings was to be the central figure in the new preaching campaign. What the Christian author intended was simply to sketch out the main lines of what he perceived as a Christian victory and thus provide justification for the further missionizing of Friar Paul. While the Latin account does precisely this, it is uneven in its treatment of the debate. As we have seen, its depiction of the convening of the confrontation and its description of the agenda is accurate. Its portrait of the proceedings is often quite weak. As Baer has noted, the references to the issue of the title "rabbi" and to an earlier consideration of the Trinity are woefully misplaced. When the Latin report of the debate itself is compared to the Hebrew narrative, the sketchiness and arbitrariness of the former is apparent. These weaknesses must, however, be seen in context. The author's intention was a brief and compelling statement of the Christian "victory," which is just what was provided.
Thus, Friar Paul's performance at Barcelona must have been seen in a positive light, given the continued support of his efforts. Indeed, at the end of the 1260s, his field of activity was substantially expanded, as he brought his missionizing campaign to northern France, operating under the aegis of the pious Louis IX. We have already noted an edict of 1269 that commanded Jewish presence at the missionizing sermons of Friar Paul and random evidence indicating that the edict was carried out. While the evidence for his preaching in France is far skimpier than our information for Barcelona, it seems that the same basic approach was still in use. Thus, there is no evidence of an alteration of tactics on his part or for withdrawal of support by the authorities.
As we shall see, however, key figures in the Dominican Order were not fully satisfied with Friar Paul's performance. While they were not disenchanted with his innovative approach, they were convinced that a more closely argued—and thus more effective—case could be made on the basis of the rabbinic literature that Friar Paul had begun to exploit. Such sentiments underlay the massive research and analysis that resulted in Friar Raymond Martin's Pugio Fidei, which we shall study more closely in chapter 7. In a sense, Friar Paul had convinced these colleagues of the fundamental viability of the approach but had left
them with the feeling that there was much to be done in perfecting it. His innovative efforts thus clearly reflect the enhanced commitment to serious missionizing among the Jews, represent a major breakthrough in such missionizing efforts, and pose for the Jews of western Christendom a serious new challenge.