For the past ten years, I have been engaged in the study of the crusading assaults of 1096 on major northern European Jewish communities and the remarkable Jewish responses these attacks triggered, and in the analysis of the polemic interchanges between Christians and Jews in twelfth- and thirteenth-century western Christendom. As my work on the events of 1096 drew to a close, I increasingly began to see a connection between the two projects. One of my conclusions with regard to the anti-Jewish violence associated with the First Crusade was that it represented the first stage in the development of a dangerous exclusionist tendency in maturing western Christendom. To be sure, the radical stance of the popular German crusading bands, that is, the effort to efface Jewishness either by forcible conversion of the Jews or by liquidating those who refused, was repudiated by Church leadership and was vigorously combated during the subsequent crusades. Nonetheless, the tendency these radical crusaders represented—the desire to provide a more homogeneous Christian environment by removing the Jews—manifested itself in more legitimate fashion in an increasingly serious drive to convert the Jews of western Christendom by the force of reasonable argumentation. In this sense, then, this study is directly linked to my investigation of the anti-Jewish violence associated with the First Crusade.
The title of this volume, Daggers of Faith: Thirteenth-Century Christian Missionizing and Jewish Response, is an adaptation of the title of Friar Raymond Martin's landmark work, the Pugio Fidei (The Dagger of Faith), which is the most innovative and comprehensive medieval Christian manual for conversionist efforts among the Jews. I have transformed Friar Raymond's singular dagger into the plural to reflect the focus of this study on both the Christian thrust and the Jewish parry. As was the case for my investigation of the First Crusade, my intention here is to analyze more than the majority assault on the
Jewish minority; I am equally concerned with the creative response of the Jewish minority to the pressures exerted on them.
Once I committed myself to the study of thirteenth-century Christian missionizing and the Jewish response, it became clear that there were additional important dimensions to the project. This missionizing effort affords considerable insight into the spiritual climate of the middle decades of the thirteenth century and into the increasingly powerful Church organization as well. At this juncture, the drive toward a more homogeneous Christian society emerged in broad segments of European society. The techniques for achievement of this homogeneity varied, as is indicated convincingly in Benjamin Z. Kedar's excellent study of the alternative tactics of crusade and mission. Equally important at precisely this point, the Roman Catholic Church had developed the means, both organizational and intellectual, to spearhead an ambitious program for the conversion of European Jewry. The study of thirteenth-century missionizing among the Jews thus provides yet another perspective on the climate of mid-thirteenth-century western Christendom, a period during which vigorous self-confidence combined with uncertainty and insecurity moved the leadership of western Christendom to press for enhanced homogeneity within and for expansion of the borders of Christian domination without. The findings of this study certainly break no new ground in the understanding of Christian Europe during the middle decades of the thirteenth century; however, they do provide, from an unusual vantage point, corroboration for the general consensus on the salient characteristics of this important period.
The two initial thrusts of this study—analysis of the accelerating pressures mounted against thirteenth-century European Jewry and reflections on the general environment of western Christendom at that critical juncture—result in some overlap with Jeremy Cohen's important work, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism. Our subtitles indicate a substantial difference in focus, however. Cohen essays an analysis of the emergence of what he sees as a new and deleterious anti-Jewish ideology during the middle decades of the thirteenth century. His own formulation is as follows:
The prime concern of this book is with the hitherto unappreciated substance of the friars' attack upon the Jews, the basic ideas and theological considerations that underlay their anti-Jewish activities and polemics. I shall argue that the Dominicans and Franciscans developed, refined, and
sought to implement a new Christian ideology with regard to the Jews, one that allotted the Jews no legitimate right to exist in European society.
My study, by contrast, is devoted to an investigation of the mid-thirteenth-century missionizing effort as such. It attempts to understand the new thrusts of this proselytizing campaign and the creative responses that were engendered from the Jewish side. In the final chapter, in a discussion of the implications of this innovative effort, I do subject Cohen's utilization of the materials studied to careful scrutiny, finding the conclusions he draws from the new Christian proselytizing unwarranted.
Yet another field that this analysis illuminates is the history of Christian missionizing among the Jews. This important topic is generally extremely difficult to study: the limited source materials fail to provide a sufficiently solid base for reliable conclusions. Given the data available for discussion of mid-thirteenth-century Christian missionizing among the Jews, it is possible to arrive at conclusions that are interesting in and of themselves and that, at the same time, shed considerable light on prior and subsequent Christian efforts to convert the Jews. What emerges most strikingly is that this mid-thirteenth-century effort breaks new ground in the seriousness of the commitment to win over Jews to the Christian faith. Indeed, I have been led to conclude that it constitutes the first truly serious Christian proselytizing campaign among the Jews. The intensity of this endeavor, defined in terms of allocation of significant resources, establishment of regularized methods of confronting the Jews with Christian claims, and development of argumentation that is sensitive to the Jews and their world view, sets a standard by which prior and subsequent Christian missionizing campaigns might be judged. The mid-thirteenth-century campaign constitutes a significant element in the history of Christian missionizing among the Jews and, beyond that, establishes important guidelines for study of the entire field of Christian proselytizing endeavors among them.
Finally, this investigation treats important aspects of Jewish life during this period. It reveals a Jewish community subjected to increasingly damaging pressures. It is fairly obvious that the missionizing campaign that is the subject of this study did not constitute the most oppressive of the anti-Jewish initiatives undertaken at this time. Clearer awareness of this thrust, however, enables us to perceive more
fully how difficult the circumstances of Jewish life were and how strong the pressures were which would eventually sap the vigor of once-flourishing European Jewry. Further, it is apparent that the Jewish community of western Christendom—under severe pressure, to be sure—had not yet lost its vitality and resilience. As we examine the various Christian thrusts and Jewish parries, we will gain a sense of Jews still very vigorous in their thinking, capable of analyzing the innovative arguments of their foes, identifying weaknesses in these new claims, and mounting wide-ranging counterarguments. Perhaps equally significant, we will find these Jews able to resist the subtler psychological thrusts of the new Christian argumentation and unwilling to succumb to the underlying notion of the hopelessness of the Jewish position. This understanding of still-powerful mid-thirteenth-century Jewry will afford a useful basis for contrast with developments in late-fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Jewish life, when this vigor and resilience gave way to a sense of substantial hopelessness and despair.
It is appropriate to define the temporal and geographic boundaries of this study. The chronological limits of my investigation are from 1240 to 1280. I begin with the edict of King James I of Aragon ordering forced Jewish attendance at conversionist sermons and conclude shortly after the completion of Friar Raymond's magisterial handbook, the Pugio Fidei. Of course, historical process does not operate within such clearly defined boundaries. I therefore devote considerable attention to the backdrop against which the new missionizing must be understood. Nonetheless, the middle four decades of the thirteenth century do constitute a remarkably coherent period for this campaign. Earlier, we can discern little in the way of precursors; by 1280, a fully developed set of techniques and arguments was firmly in place.
This study was initiated with no assumptions regarding geographic boundaries. Indeed, it is obvious that the key figures in the proselytizing campaign saw it as pan-European. Friar Paul Christian, in all likelihood the originator of the effort, began his preaching in southern France, then proceeded into Catalonia for his most important confrontations with the Jews, and eventually won the support of King Louis IX of France for conversionist sermons in Paris and elsewhere in northern France. As the study progressed, it became clear that the geographic center of this unprecedented campaign and thus of the study
as well was the Iberian Peninsula, more specifically, the expanding realms of Aragon. This is not surprising. As an increasingly vigorous western Christendom struck out at its historic enemy, the world of Islam, it was Spain, situated at one of the key points of contact between the two civilizations, that was the scene of some of the most intense military engagements as well as some of the most innovative spiritual battles. The combination of Spanish sensitivity to the external Muslim enemy and Spanish awareness of a large internal community of Muslim and Jewish dissidents put the Spanish Church into the forefront of thirteenth-century efforts to win over—in a variety of ways—the nonbelievers. In the introduction to his translation of Raymond Lull's Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men, Anthony Bonner pinpoints the uniqueness of the realms of Aragon with respect to missionizing ardor.
In the space of twenty-two years (1226–48), Muslim possessions were reduced from a third of the entire Iberian peninsula to the area covered by the petty kingdom of Granada. This sudden absorption of new lands had a different effect on the crown of Aragon than on Castile. In the latter, a nation of 3 million conquered some 300,000 people in Andalusia, with the resultant increase of only 10 percent in population; whereas Aragon and Catalonia, with a combined population of half a million, found that in Valencia alone they had taken on 150,000 people, representing an increase of 30 percent.
Bonner suggests that this background is essential for understanding Lull's early and unremitting commitment to the missionizing enterprise; for our purposes, it also indicates why so much of the activity depicted in this study centers in the realms of Aragon. The focus on Aragon is not exclusive, and it has not resulted from an a priori assumption on my part. As the investigation proceeded, it became increasingly apparent that Spain—more specifically, the realms of Aragon—was in fact the scene of much of the innovation that characterizes the new missionizing of the middle decades of the thirteenth century.
A brief comment on the vexing problem of presentation of personal names and placenames. For a variety of reasons, I have decided wherever possible to use accepted English forms of both, for example, Raymond rather than Ramon and Moses rather than Moshe. Where such recognized English forms are not available, I have used the ap-
propriate contemporary spellings, utilizing accepted forms of transliteration from Hebrew.
An emphasis on the innovativeness of the new missionizing campaign of the mid-thirteenth century means that we must inevitably begin with some sense of what came before. We therefore turn our attention first to the earlier patterns of Christian missionizing among the Jews.