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Old Testament Judaism or Talmudic Judaism?
There are people who regard Rabbinic Judaism as a heresy against
the authority of the Old Testament. Rabbinic Judaism is also
known as Talmudic Judaism since it has seemed to some Christians
that the Talmud has come to rival and even overrule the authority
of the Old Testament.
Old Testament Judaism – whatever that means – had been
considered legitimate in the eyes of the Roman Church. This
was the Old Law that G-d had given to Moses in
writing at Mount Sinai. Within the hierarchy of the Church,
though, came the accusation that Jews ignore this Old Law in favor
of another Law. Concerning this "other Law," Jews learn how
G-d gave it, and they call a compilation of it
'Talmud', meaning 'Teaching' and 'Study'. However, this law
was, as Jews assert, given to Moses orally alongside the Written
Law. But, according to the Church, the Talmud had perverted
the ways of Jewish Old Testament life.
In order to study the Oral Tradition one must have a teacher. The
Talmud cannot be understood by reading it by oneself. There is a
methodology for studying the Talmud. The principles of the
studying the Talmud are several. A primary principle is that the
Talmud is always looking for proof-texts for earlier rulings of
Jewish law that were known to be normative Judaism.
Until recently, no account of how to study the Talmud had be
written that was practical for anyone except for existing Talmud
teachers and students who want to develop advanced skills and who
want a "portable" teacher.
The volume of material in the Talmud by far exceeds the text of
the Old Testament. According to Church officials, Jews
neglect the study of the Old Testament in favor of studying this
Talmud. Jews obstinately and criminally embrace this vast
Law and have thereby become a sect of heretics. *
Perhaps you, the reader, believe that the Judaism of the Talmud
is not authentic. If so, you have already made up your mind
about this, so you find no reason to listen to me. After
all, in your eyes there could not be any Noahide
Commandments. These Commands – so you believe –
only appear in the Talmud which invented them. In your eyes,
my intentions are to deceive and mislead you. Accordingly,
you won't listen to me. You have already made up your mind,
and nothing I say or write will budge you. So be it, and
Accusations against Talmudic Judaism
To the best of our knowledge, Church accusations against the
Talmud began in the thirteenth century.
are people who regard Rabbinic Judaism as a heresy . . .
and have thereby become a sect of heretics -
Adapted from a letter by Pope Gregory IX (c.1170-1241;
Pope from 1227-1241) that "was sent to all the kings
of Christendom . . ." (Maccoby,
• Judaism on
Trial: Jewish-Christian Disputations in the Middle Ages.
Edited and translated by Hyam Z. Maccoby (1924-2004)
A new introduction reviews the relevant literature that has been
published since the original edition appeared.
Includes notes, a bibliography, and indexes
Series: The Littman Library of
Oxford, U.K.; Portland, Oregon: Littman Library of Jewish
Civilization, 1982, 1993.
Subject Terms: Disputations, Religious
Hyam Maccoby's now classic study focuses on the major
Jewish-Christian disputations of medieval Europe: those of
Paris (1240), Barcelona (1263), and and Tortosa (1413-14).
It examines the content of these theological confrontations with a
sense of present-day relevance, while also also discussing the use
made of scriptural proof-texts.
Part I provides a general thematic consideration of the three
disputations and their social and historical background.
Part II is a complete translation of the account of the Barcelona
Disputation written by Nahmanides, one of the greatest figures in
the history of Jewish learning, and Jewish spokesman at the
Part III contains Jewish and Christian accounts of the Paris and
-- from the back cover
This important study provides a
paraphrase of the Christian accounts of the meetings between
rabbis and clerics, and a complete translation of the Hebrew
accounts of the disputations at Barcelona and Tortosa (the latter
from the Hebrew book Shevet Yehudah
fully describes the historical and social background, giving
insight into the use by both sides of scriptural proof-texts.
-- from Barnes &
The late Hyam Maccoby was Emeritus Fellow of the Leo Baeck
College, London, and Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at the
University of Leeds from 1998 until his death. He published
many books and articles on rabbinic literature, Jewish-Christian
relations, Christian origins, and the origins of antisemitism.
-- from Amazon
Maccoby was librarian of Leo Baeck College in London. In
retirement he moved to Leeds, where he held an academic position
at the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Leeds.
-- from Wikipedia
, "Hyam Maccoby
Retrieved July 30,
Table of Contents --
List of Abbreviations
Part I - The Three Disputations: General Considerations
- The Paris Disputation, 1240
- The Barcelona Disputation, 1263
- The Vikuah: *
- Biographical Notes on the Chief Persons Present at Barcelona
- The Tortosa Disputation, 1413-14
Part II - The Barcelona Disputation: Texts
- Introductory Note on the Vikuah
- The Vikuah of
Nahmanides: Translation and Commentary
- The Christian Account of the Barcelona Disputation
Part III - The Paris and Tortosa Disputations: Texts
- The Vikuah of R.
Yehiel of Paris: A Paraphrase
- The Christian Account of the Paris Disputation
- A Hebrew Account of the Tortosa Disputation
- The Christian Account of the Tortosa Disputation
Index of Quotations
ahkh) is Hebrew for debate, disputation.
Reviews on the Back Cover:
'A superb work of committed scholarship . . . Judaism on Trial is a work
full of interest to those already familiar with the material it
contains, and compelling reading for those who are not.
Maccoby has done a fine job in recapturing the intellectual and
social drama of the confrontations . . .
Altogether an impressive addition to the already outstanding
Littman Library of Jewish Civilization.'
-- Jonathan Sacks, Jewish
Journal of Sociology
'Prefaced by a most competent introduction . . .
should be obligatory reading for both the student of Jewish
history and the intelligent layman not only because of its
literary and expositional merits, which are considerable, but
because it highlights an important stratagem of the medieval
Church in its attempts to convert contemporary Jewry to the
-- Sydney Leperer, Le'ela
'Maccoby has rendered an important service in making their salient
features available in English . . . certainly not
only for scholars in that Maccoby has blended this learning with
an exposition of the issues involved that is accessible to the
layman. Both Jew and Christian will learn much from the
records of these confrontations, which are important in Jewish
-- Lionel Kochan, Jewish
Reviews on Amazon's Web Site:
'A classic text of three famous
disputations. . . . When the book first
appeared in 1982, it received much praise, and it certainly
deserves the new paperback edition which has now been brought
-- European Judaism
'For those coming to this book for the first time, Judaism on
Trial is a fascinating and gripping account; for students,
it has enough material to bear re-reading and
studying in depth. Its strength is not only that it is a
most scholastic and erudite work, but that it makes compulsive
reading. We await his further works with anticipation and
-- Alan Orchover, Jewish Book
News & Reviews
Posted on a Blog:
By Michael Lewyn "vine
During the Middle Ages, kings and popes would
sometimes force Jews to engage in "disputations" with
Christian scholars, in the hope that the Jews would thereby be
converted (or at least embarrassed). In some of these
disputations, the Jews were treated somewhat fairly, in others
Maccoby describes three separate
disputations: one in Paris in 1240, a second in
Barcelona in 1263 (perhaps the fairest, and the most notable
from the Jewish point of view because of the involvement of
Nachmanides, one of the more well-known Jewish
scholars of the medieval period), a third in Tortosa in 1413-14.
In addition, he provides more-or-less
contemporary summaries of the latter two disputations.
After reading Jaccoby's book, I was surprised
how sophisticated both sides were by modern standards.
The Christian "debaters" (often converts from Judaism) were
much more sophisticated about Judaism than today's missionary-on-the-street;
while the latter focuses solely on a few Biblical passages
that he or she alleges shows Jesus to be Messiah, the former
focused on Talmud and Midrash as well.
Christians took two very different lines:
first, that the Talmud was a corruption of Biblical Judaism,
and later that the Talmud actually supported
Christianity. As to the latter, Christians relied
heavily on Midrashic stories -- for example, one which
suggested that at the time of the Temple's destruction, the
Messiah had already been born.
In response to the latter claim, Nachmanides not
only attacked the Christian interpretations of the Midrash,
but bluntly pointed out that this story "is either not true,
or has some other interpretation derived from the secrets of
the Sages" (p. 110). In other words, such Midrashic
stories are fables designed to make a theological point,
rather than literal truth.