Having examined the immediate and long-term impact of the new missionizing campaign, we should conclude by attending to some of the important ancillary meanings of this innovative effort. What are some of the implications of this unprecedented proselytizing program?
In the first place, the innovative assault on the medieval Jews serves to reinforce the generally accepted picture of the middle decades of the thirteenth century. The concerted effort reveals the depths of the Christian commitment to winning over the nonbelieving world, the sure sense of intellectual superiority that characterized the period, and the latent insecurities that stimulated the massive effort to find new lines of religious argumentation. The preaching campaign among the Jews shows us yet another facet of the central thrusts of this crucial epoch. Because we can trace some of this campaign in detail, we have an unusually rich portrait of the intensive effort to win over new adherents through a not altogether consistent combination of coercion and intellection, again—as argued convincingly by Kedar—so fully characteristic of the period.
Similarly, the new missionizing effort and the Jewish responses reflect accurately the material and spiritual state of mid-thirteenth-century Jewry in western Christendom. These Jews were still self-
confident and vigorous in their defense of Jewish beliefs. This confidence and vigor is a reflection of the continued material strength of these Jewish communities. The serious erosion of the Jewish situation was, at this point, under way but had not yet developed to the point of undermining Jewish resources and will. Moreover, Jewish intellectual leadership of this period was involved in battles on a number of fronts, most strikingly, the need to protect traditional Jewish beliefs against the assault of the philosophers. As Marc Saperstein has shown fully for the hitherto-unknown Issac ben Yedaiah, many of the creative Jewish figures of this epoch were fully committed to reexamining precisely the literature utilized by Friar Paul and Friar Raymond. While the focus of these efforts was to show that rabbinic teachings were not undermined by the pronouncements of the philosophers, it was only a small step to conduct a parallel investigation of the same kinds of sources in an effort to prove that they could in no way be utilized in the service of Christian truth. During the middle decades of the thirteenth century, the Jews of western Christendom were fully equipped to rebuff the new missionizing challenge.
It has recently been suggested that the innovative missionizing campaign of the mid-thirteenth century had an ominous implication, that it in fact formed an important component in a new view of Judaism and the Jews, a view that negated the traditional Jewish right to live within Christian society. In his important study, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism, Jeremy Cohen analyzes a number of developments that he believes reflect the emergence of this new and deleterious view of Judaism and the Jews. Both the Barcelona confrontation and the Pugio Fidei figure prominently in Cohen's case for a new ecclesiastical ideology concerning both. Let us examine carefully his use of the material related to the missionizing campaign.
Cohen builds an elaborate scheme with regard to the Barcelona confrontation. He begins by noting the four-part agenda advanced by Friar Paul, claiming that the first and last of these four items were crucial. More precisely, according to Cohen, the last item—that Jewish law was null and void—was the key to Christian success, with the first item—that the Messiah had already come—serving as the foundation for this last, decisive assertion. In Cohen's words:
If Pablo did in fact hope to convert the Jews through his missionary and forensic efforts, proving this final proposition constituted the key to his success. The Jews had to be shown that their religion had become obso-
lete. For even though a Christian polemicist could point to messianic allusions in biblical and rabbinic sources, he still had to define the significance and ramifications of these allusions for the Jews of his day–namely, that bespeaking the truth of Christianity, they invalidated contemporary Jewish observance—before the Jews would accept conversion.
This assumption—that the fourth item on the agenda was the truly crucial one—leads Cohen to argue that this last issue must have been raised, despite the ostensible lack of reference to it in both the Latin and Hebrew records. "One finds it hard to believe that a skilled debater like Pablo would have neglected to mention this most crucial issue throughout the four days of discussion. The only alternative is to show that the friar did indeed try to demonstrate the invalidity of current Jewish observance but that he did so subtly, so as to allow for no direct refutation from Nahmanides but to achieve the desired effect nonetheless." Cohen claims that the core of the confrontation was aimed at forcing Nahmanides to deny authoritative texts, thereby proving to all the distance between genuine Judaism and the contemporary deviation from it.
By placing Nahmanides in the position of having to deny classical rabbinic texts which supposedly proclaimed the advent of the messiah, those texts "authoritative among the Jews," Pablo endeavored to emphasize that Nahmanides and contemporary Jewry had broken with the faith of their ancient ancestors. . . . True Judaism would have dictated an acceptance of Jesus; the current Judaism of Nahmanides—the observance of Mosaic and rabbinic law—could thus not be orthodox. Simply by forcing Nahmanides to respond to his arguments—that is, to reject the textual evidence—for the first three propositions of the agenda, Pablo hoped cleverly to prove the fourth and most important: continued practice of the Judaism of rabbinic law now constituted doctrinal error for the most pious of Jews!
Let us examine closely the elements in Cohen's case. First, the argument that the fourth item was the crucial one is untenable. Cohen suggests that proving the advent of the Messiah alone would not have sufficed—that contemporary Jewish practice had to be proved superfluous or, better, misguided. He proposes to show this from Nahmanides' opening statement, which was discussed earlier. Cohen claims that, in his opening statement, the rabbi charged the friar with the task of proving the nullity of Jewish practice. To cite Nahmanides' formulation:
If these sages believed in the messianic role of Jesus, that he was truly the Messiah and that his faith and religion were true, and if they wrote these things from which Friar Paul intends to prove this, then how did they remain in the Jewish faith and in their former tradition? For they were surely Jews, remained in the Jewish faith, and died Jews.
Cohen understands Nahmanides to be saying, "If the rabbis of the Talmud knew the Messiah had come and still practiced Judaism, how did Pablo's fourth proposition follow from his first? Why should medieval Jews forsake their religious observances and convert to Christianity?" This, however, is clearly not what Nahmanides was saying. In fact, he stated the opposite. He did not grant that the rabbis might have believed in the advent of the Messiah and still remained Jews. Instead, he pointed to the unthinkable nature of that combination, arguing that there is no way that the rabbis could have believed that Jesus had been the promised Messiah and still remained Jews. Had the rabbis believed in Jesus as the Messiah, they would have had to abandon Judaism. The fact that they did not abandon Judaism is thus clear proof that they did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Rather than showing the centrality of the last item on the agenda, this passage shows the independence of the first item of the agenda (and, indeed, the second and the third items as well). Had Friar Paul been able to prove decisively that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, by convincing Jews that the Messiah had already come, or that the Messiah was intended to be both divine and human, or that the Messiah was fated to suffer and die, he would have thereby won the day. In a real sense, the fourth item was not necessary. If the case for Jesus as Messiah had been made convincingly, then the Jews should have left the fold. The fourth item was far from crucial; it was merely a further effort to discomfort the Jews, to sow seeds of doubt wherever possible.
If the fourth item on the agenda was not the crucial item, the question posed by Cohen concerning how the entire confrontation could pass without engaging the Jews on this crucial issue falls by the wayside as well. It is thus no longer necessary to seek the devious and subtle means by which this issue was allegedly joined, as Cohen does. In fact, Cohen's presentation of this approach fails as well. As we have seen, he argues that by forcing Nahmanides into the position of denying authoritative texts, Friar Paul succeeded in indicating a disparity between the Judaism of his epoch and classical Judaism. There are a number of problems with this argument. First, we have seen that de-
nial of rabbinic texts was not the only tactic employed by Rabbi Moses ben Nahman. Second, Rabbi Moses denied only a certain class of rabbinic texts (and that only under specific circumstances, as shown above); he certainly never denied biblical or halachic texts. Forcing Rabbi Moses to reject certain aggadic statements does not constitute proof that "Nahmanides and contemporary Jewry had broken with the faith of their ancient ancestors." Most important, the conclusion that Cohen reaches does not square with the agenda item as spelled out in the sources. To force the rabbi to deny Jewish auctoritates is hardly the same thing as proving that "the laws and ceremonials ceased and should have ceased after the advent of the said Messiah." In constructing his case, Cohen has distorted the meaning of the Barcelona agenda. Our analysis of Barcelona and the Pugio Fidei, which took cognizance of both the Christian thrusts and the Jewish counterthrusts, has indicated straightforwardly what was intended in the last agenda item: Friar Paul intended to show that rabbinic texts themselves spoke of annulment of the law with the advent of the Messiah. Basing his final argument on his (hopefully) successful first argument, he intended to prove to the Jews—as Friar Raymond subsequently tried to do—that Jewish law was now abrogated because of the advent of the Messiah. Again, as was true throughout this missionizing campaign, there is really nothing new in the substance of the claim; what is new is the means proposed for proving this age-old Christian contention.
Thus, on close inspection, Cohen's case based on the Barcelona confrontation dissolves. The fourth item on the agenda was in no sense the crucial item; it is fully plausible that this issue was never raised at Barcelona. Friar Paul's intention was not to prove that present-day Judaism was a deviation from classical Judaism; his last goal was to prove the age-old Christian contention that Jewish law had been abrogated by the coming of the Messiah but to do so on the basis of rabbinic texts. There is, therefore, no evidence in the Barcelona confrontation of a new ideological view of Judaism and the Jews.
Cohen attempts to buttress his case for a new view of contemporary Judaism and Jews through an examination of Friar Raymond's Pugio Fidei as well. Once again, the effort is unsuccessful. After reviewing aspects of the preaching of Friar Raymond and the broad contents of the Pugio, Cohen proceeds to his arguments for a new
view of Jewish history, present-day Judaism, and the Jews. According to Cohen,
Martini distinguishes three different genera of expressions of Jewish belief. First, he speaks of the law and prophecies of the Old Testament, which along with their correct interpretations would, albeit prefiguratively, establish the truth of Christianity. These interpretations or traditiones were preserved by the Jews of the Bible as part of their oral tradition, which eventually came to be recorded by the rabbis of the Talmud. Such correct interpretations of Scripture must be extracted from rabbinic literature "like pearls out of a very great dungheap." Second, in contradistinction to these select few traditiones, the vast majority of talmudic teachings are described as the aforementioned dungheap, the head of a dragon or toad, or the venomous sting of the bee. This body of literature, replete with "absurdities," propagates the false beliefs "regarding the messiah and so many other matters which the Jews have believed from the time of Christ." Third, Martini identifies his present enemy, "the perfidy of the modern Jews," which expresses itself as both "impudence" and "evil." It is against this third brand of Judaism that he intends to direct the Christological traditiones of the first.
Cohen's description of the first two categories is excellent. It is a concise and accurate summation of Friar Raymond's introductory statement of the two sets of traditions reflected in talmudic literature. Cohen's third category, however, does not exist. To put the matter a bit more sharply, the purported third set of beliefs is simply the sum total of the first two, with the scales heavily weighted in favor of the second.
Cohen proceeds to argue that, for Friar Raymond, the three sets of expressions of Jewish belief correspond to three groups in Jewish history. (1) "The first group consisted of the Hebrews of the Old Testament." (2) The second group consisted of "the Jews of the Talmud, who lived during and after the life of Jesus." (3) "The third group of Jews in history, the Iudei moderni of Martini's own day, maintained the perverse beliefs of the rabbis who preceded them, inheriting and persisting in all the vices and insanities of talmudic Judaism." Once again, the tripartite scheme means nothing. There are really only two groups for Friar Raymond (and all mainstream Christian theologians): pre-Christian Jews and post-Christian Jews.
More significant than the futility of this tripartite scheme is Cohen's failure to show any significant innovation in Friar Raymond's view of rabbinic Judaism. While he quotes copiously and well the friar's harsh denunciations of the Talmud and the rabbis, at no point
does Cohen show us how this view deviates from prior conceptions of Judaism and the Jews. That Friar Raymond's formulation was unusually vituperative can be readily agreed; that it was in any way theologically innovative is not demonstrated. For, after all, prior Christian views of the Jews are hardly laudatory with regard to Jewish law and lore. The traditional assumption was that the Jews of Jesus' lifetime had misread their Scriptures and had, as a result, failed to acknowledge Jesus as the promised Messiah. Rabbinic literature—poorly known, to be sure—was assumed to be the continuation of Jewish misunderstanding of the covenant. Once more, Friar Raymond is introducing no new notion here. Rather, as stressed repeatedly throughout this study, his contribution lay in a knowledge of rabbinic literature far richer than that generally available and in creative utilization of that knowledge for Christian missionizing purposes. Friar Raymond, like Friar Paul, made no break with prior conceptions of Judaism and the Jews; they both argued that Judaism and the Jews had not been understood in sufficient detail. More specifically, the extent of harmful and intolerable Jewish teaching had not, according to the mid-thirteenth-century Dominicans, been properly assessed, and the potentially useful talmudic exegesis and dicta had not been sufficiently exploited.
Let me conclude these comments on Cohen's analysis by drawing together the two seemingly divergent tendencies just now noted—condemnation of the Talmud and exploitation of the Talmud—in a fashion different from that proposed by Cohen. At the end of his discussion of Friar Raymond, Cohen contends that his understanding of Friar Paul and Friar Raymond
facilitates the solution of a problem that has long intrigued historians of this period: how could the Church in general and the friars in particular, who had begun to condemn the Talmud to the stake in the 1240s, suddenly begin, only a few decades later, to argue from the Talmud against the Jews ?
Cohen's solution to this seemingly vexing problem is to argue that both approaches reflect the underlying new position with regard to Judaism and the Jews. My analysis has led in a different direction. I propose that neither campaign reflects a new understanding of Judaism and the Jews. Rather, to use the terminology of Friar Raymond, one might legitimately distinguish three types of rabbinic teaching: incorrect but innocuous; incorrect and intolerable; correct (i.e., Chris-
tological). The first were and remained lamentable but tolerable; the second would have always been unacceptable; the third should have always been exploited. The innovation of the mid-thirteenth century lay not in adumbrating new positions but in gleaning newly detailed information with regard to the materials in the second and third categories. On the basis of the old theory and the new information, the Dominicans set out to do what had to be done—eliminate harmful teachings and exploit the correct and useful ones.
Thus, it seems to me that the proofs adduced for the alleged new ideological view of the Jews from the missionizing campaign, and indeed from the assault on the Talmud as well, do not sustain the argument. In fact, the deleterious activities of the mendicants can be readily understood without recourse to a new ideological stance with regard to Judaism and the Jews. The prior Augustinian tradition presented and analyzed by Cohen was somewhat more flexible than he allows. All the negative activities of the friars (negative from the Jewish perspective) can be readily understood within the context of this earlier ecclesiastical view. For the prior Augustinian stance in no sense afforded the Jews carte blanche with regard to religious and social behaviors. The clear understanding always was that the Jews must behave in ways that would entail no harm to the Christian society that had extended hospitality to them. To cite the most famous formulation of this theory, "Just as the Jews ought not enjoy license to presume to do in their synagogues more than permitted by law, so too in those [privileges] conceded to them they should not suffer curtailment." What this traditional formulation does is to emphasize equally Jewish rights and responsibilities. The major responsibility was always understood as the duty to live in a manner that would entail no harm to the Christian majority. Thus, as the mendicant orders, charged with the core task of ensuring the doctrinal purity of Christian society, began to function, it was almost inevitable that Jewish teachings perceived as harmful to the Christian faith and to Christian society would come under the scrutiny of these orders. The mendicant assault on the Talmud requires for its understanding no appeal to a new ideological stance on the part of the Church. The old ideology made ample provision for an attack on any teachings that could be construed as a breach of conduct on the part of the Jewish minority.
There was a second elastic clause in the traditional view of the Jewish place in Christian society. That clause involved the issue of conversion of the Jews. While forcible conversion was eschewed (indeed, Co-
hen suggests no alteration of this traditional stance in the purported new view) and total conversion of the Jews was pushed off to the time of the Second Coming (in fact, it was to serve as one of the signs of the dawning of the age of full redemption), Christian responsibility to convert individual Jews through rational persuasion and generous behavior was never denied or abandoned in theory. To be sure, there was little serious pre-thirteenth-century effort to carry out this mandate, as we have seen. As a more mature, self-confident, and aggressive Christian society emerged in thirteenth-century western Christendom and as that society began to reach out and address its message more and more intensely to its own membership and to its major monotheistic rival, the world of Islam, it is not at all surprising that part of this new energy should be directed at the older monotheistic sister community, the Jews. To the extent that the mendicant orders bore primary responsibility for the preaching effort in general, it was inevitable that they should shoulder the burden of missionizing among the Jews specificially. Again, no new theory is called for; the old Augustinian view made ample provision for such proselytizing efforts.
In both these areas—scrutiny of Jewish self-expression and missionizing efforts among the Jews—there is no need to posit a new theory. The old theory fully justified and indeed required such activities. As noted, the traditional theory always had to be seen against a particular societal backdrop. An earlier, less mature, and less aggressive age allowed the Jews of western Christendom more latitude in selfexpression and confronted them with far fewer conversionary efforts. The new spiritual ambience of the mid-thirteenth century produced a new set of pressures, fully comprehensible within the old theoretical framework but actualized by the new circumstances of European civilization. The mendicants, in their general activities and in their specifically anti-Jewish programs, reflected this newly aggressive ambience and, at the same time, reinforced it considerably.
While I have disputed Cohen's assertion of a new theological view regarding Judaism and the Jews implicit in the missionizing campaign that we have examined, I agree with his sense of deteriorating Jewish circumstances and of an ecclesiastical—or more narrowly mendicant—role in this deterioration. In a number of ways, the missionizing campaign certainly contributed to the increasingly negative perception of the Jews that developed in thirteenth-century western Christendom.
Both Reuven Bonfils and Cohen have focused on the viciously negative portrayal of Jews and Judaism in the Pugio Fidei, the former in an independent study of the book and the latter as part of his broad reassessment of the thirteenth-century Church and its stance toward the Jews. In the course of our examination of the missionizing argumentation presented by Friar Raymond, we too have had ample opportunity to note in passing some of the harshness of Friar Raymond's formulations. What precisely is the meaning of this harshness ? Unfortunately, we possess little else from the pen of Friar Raymond than his proselytizing manuals. Evidence from other figures from the period suggests that the same individual could on different occasions make statements that were remarkably harsh or strikingly moderate. The most obvious example is the late-thirteenth-century Raymond Lull. Lull has left a vast corpus of writings, and, as a result, it is possible to note the use of a variety of tones for different circumstances. In his novel Felix, Lull has a harsh passage on the Jews. The passage speaks of a hermit who
went all through the city so that he could feel joyful whenever he saw God was loved and known, and so that for any contrary thing he could weep and beg God's mercy in order that God ordain that he be loved and known. One day it came to pass that this hermit entered the synagogue of the Jews, where he heard them cursing Jesus Christ, without giving the hermit a thought, since they assumed he was a Jew. This holy man felt great displeasure at the thought that the Christian king allowed people to remain in his city who were against the king's religion and dishonored that Lord who was the king's Lord.
Balanced against this harsh depiction is his Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men, in which the three sages—a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim—treat each other with unusual respect. At the end of the lengthy discussion, in which each sage presents the case for the truth of his faith, the three leave the gentile prior to the announcement of his choice of religion, so that they might continue unobstructed in their own discussions of truth and error. This is a remarkable ending, since, in general, the tendency is for the author of such dialogues to award the palm of victory to the spokesman for his faith. What I suggest, then, is that we must examine carefully the context and implications of Friar Raymond's harshness.
As we have already noted, the Pugio Fidei was composed as a lengthy and technical manual for missionizers; it was certainly not intended directly for the Jews or for a popular Christian audience either.
What, then, would be the point of the recurrent vituperation that characterizes the book? The simplest answer would be that these were the genuine views of Friar Raymond himself, which he wished to communicate to his readers. While that is a possibility, it is far from a certainty. Are there any conceivable utilitarian purposes to this vituperation? In fact, there are a few. One is to discourage any Christian reader from being attracted to the Jewish materials that Friar Raymond had gathered. Friar Raymond's broad sense is that there are true and false, beneficial and vicious rabbinic teachings. The true and beneficial correspond to Christian truth; the false and vicious are those doctrines that dissent from Christian truth. One of the values of the recurrent vituperation is to forcefully remind the potential Christian reader-missionizer that he is not to be overly drawn to the positive teachings and that he is to recollect constantly the larger context of error in which the positive teachings are, according to Friar Raymond, embedded. Moreover, as we have emphasized throughout this study, effective missionizing always involved both a positive and a negative thrust—proving the truth of one's own faith and the error of the opposing system. The negative sallies against Judaism may also have been intended to remind the missionizer of the purported absurdity of the Jewish position and the need to drive home to the Jewish audience precisely that absurdity. Thus, the negativism may be more than the author's simple pique with the Jews; it may in fact be traceable to the very purpose of the work as a missionizing manual. If the work had been intended directly for Jewish eyes, then the harshness might well have been counterproductive. Since it was intended essentially for potential Christian proselytizers, the harshness did have a number of roles to play.
The missionizing context of Friar Raymond's harsh statements must be constantly borne in mind. It seems unwise to extrapolate from the missionizing context a general position vis-à-vis the Jews. The missionizing context is, after all, inherently aggressive. While the traditional Christian stance toward the Jews asserts that they are in error but that their errors can be—and, in fact, should be—temporarily tolerated, the missionizing stance, while not formally repudiating that toleration, does emphasize the errors rather than the toleration. Every effort to missionize among the medieval Jews bent the system in the direction of an emphasis on error rather than toleration, and the massive campaign of the mid-thirteenth century is no exception. In making the case for the conversion of the Jews, the organizers and spokesmen of this campaign necessarily came down hard-
est on the shortcomings of the Jews and the need to highlight these shortcomings to the Jewish audience. In the process, there was an inevitable emphasis on this element in the complex mix that constituted ecclesiastical policy with regard to the Jews. This emphasis should not be overstated. It need not be taken to signal a thoroughly new policy on Judaism; it might better be seen as a time-honored thrust that inevitably skewed the fragile balance in Church stance toward the aggressively negative. In this regard, I again find myself in disagreement with Cohen's broad reading of the missionizing campaign as the sign of a new Church position that in effect overturned the prior tradition of toleration. I suggest, rather, that this missionizing campaign merely reflects an inherent instability in the traditional and fragile Church position with regard to the Jews. At the moment that the missionizing endeavor was set into motion, the tenuous combination that characterized the Church's view of Judaism and the Jews—the ambiguous combination of toleration and repudiation—was destabilized in the direction of repudiation. This is not a new doctrine; it is realization of some of the negative potential inherent in the old and traditional and complex Church doctrine with respect to Judaism and the Jews; its implications are seriously harmful to the Jews.
There is more. Every serious effort to proselytize among the Jews had as a concomitant the potential for arousing significant ancillary hostility against the Jews. Such serious efforts, after all, always began with a sense of the obvious truth in Christian teaching (underlying insecurity notwithstanding). Given the fact that substantial resources were marshaled in order to bring this perceived Christian truth to the Jewish masses and that these efforts achieved little success, the result had to be a sense of disappointment and frustration and, not surprisingly, a deepened sense of what Christians often perceived as the fundamental irrationality of the Jews. To put matters in the context of this study, after long resisting Christian truth claims based on the Scriptures, on rational considerations, and on empirical evidence, the Jews were confronted with massive argumentation from their own postbiblical literature. The missionizers' sense was that this new line of argumentation could hardly fail to break through Jewish resistance. When, in fact, it did fail, the inevitable by-product was a hardening of Christian attitudes toward the Jews. These people, so long viewed as recalcitrant, revealed themselves once more—to Christian eyes—as incapable of seeing the obvious truth.
In this sense, of course, every serious missionizing effort was ultimately bad news for medieval Jewry. One of two things had to eventuate: either Jews would convert in some numbers or Christians would be reinforced in their negative views of the Jews. The most massive effort at winning over Jews ever undertaken had inevitably to produce a significant level of anger and frustration with its failure. For the Jews, then, the essential problem lay not in a specifically anti-Jewish thrust to the new missionizing but rather in the aggressive environment that turned Christian sensitivities to the missionizing endeavor. Once this missionizing effort was set into motion and achieved only minimal results, inevitably the image of the Jews had to suffer further in the eyes of those who had committed themselves to the campaign. In this sense, then, the proselytizing of the mid-thirteenth century had deleterious results for the Jewish image in western Christendom. Old stereotypes of Jewish blindness and obtuseness were inevitably reinforced. This occurred not out of a specifically anti-Jewish hue to the missionizing or out of an initially negative disposition on the part of the missionizers. The culprit was ultimately the new environment that spawned conversionist ardor. Just as the aggressive thrust of eleventh- and twelfth-century crusading almost ineluctably brought in its wake harmful implications for European Jewry, so too the not unrelated inclination to heightened missionizing that made itself manifest during the thirteenth century bore similarly baneful implications. An already negative European image of the Jews was deepened; in yet one more way, the Jews were perceived as incapable of comprehending and assimilating obvious truths.
Neither the initial missionizing campaign nor the ancillary negative stereotyping constituted the most serious impingement on Jewish life during the middle decades of the thirteenth century. In a variety of ways—economic, political, and social—the circumstances of the Jewish communities of western Christendom deteriorated badly during these years. While not the harshest blow suffered at this juncture, the proselytizing effort and its inevitable concomitants further exacerbated an already difficult situation. To be sure, while they are only two of many destructive developments that characterize this unstable epoch, they are factors of considerable significance in the obvious decline of western Christendom's Jewries during the middle years of the thirteenth century.