Jewish Philosophical Polemics Against Christianity in the Middle Ages: With a New Introduction

Daniel J. Lasker

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ISBN: 9781904113515

Publication: April 26, 2007

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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Thorough and meticulously researched, this study is based on a comprehensive reading of philosophical arguments drawn from all the major Jewish sources, published and unpublished, from the Geonic period in the ninth century until the dawn of the Haskalah in the late eighteenth century. The core of the book is a detailed discussion of the four doctrines of Christianity whose rationality Jews thought they could definitively refute: trinity, incarnation, transubstantiation, and virgin birth. In each case, Daniel Lasker presents a succinct history of the Christian doctrine and then proceeds to a careful examination of the Jewish efforts to demonstrate its impossibility. The main text is clearly written in a non-technical manner, with the Christian doctrines and the Jewish responses both carefully explained; the notes include long quotations, in Hebrew and Arabic as well as in English, from sources that are not readily available in English. At the time of its original publication in 1977 this book was regarded as a major contribution to a relatively neglected area of medieval Jewish intellectual history; the new, wide-ranging introduction prepared for this paperback edition, which surveys and summarizes subsequent scholarship, re-establishes its position as a major work.

Daniel J. Lasker is Norbert Blechner Professor of Jewish Values at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, and is chair of the Goldstein-Goren Department of Jewish Thought. His books include Jewish Philosophical Polemics Against Christianity in the Middle Ages (1977), The Refutation of the Christian Principles by Hasdai Crescas (1992), and, with Sarah Stroumsa, The Polemic of Nestor the Priest (1996).

Introduction to the Second Edition 1 Introduction General Principles Philosophical Arguments Exegetical Arguments • Historical Arguments • Rational Arguments Procedure to the Followed 2 Sources The Various Methods of the Polemicists Exegesis of the Hebrew Bible • Exegesis of Rabbinical Literature • Attacks on Christianity • Comparisons of Christian Doctrines with the New Testament • Attacks on the Articles of Christianity • Comparisons of Christianity with the Principles of Philosophy The Literary Style of the Polemics Other Sources of Jewish Philosophical Arguments The Christian Sources 3 The Use of Reason in Religious Debates Explanations of Christian Belief in Irrational Doctrines Maimonides’ Guidelines The Polemical Approach of the Jewish Averroists Criteria for Determining Logical Impossibility Conclusions 4 Trinity Trinity Implies Matter The Divine Attributes Are Not Persons Jewish Kalamic Refutations of the Trinity • Aristotelian Refutations Generation Disproves Unity The Specific Generation of Jesus • Eternal Generation of the Son Syllogistic Logic Refutes the Trinity Images of the Trinity Conclusions 5 Incarnation God is Incorporeal God’s Incorporeality Precludes Incarnation • God Cannot be Limited in Place God is Immutable God’s Simple Unity Precluses Incarnation A Union of Divinity and Humanity is Impossible Types of Physical Union • The Person of Jesus Conclusions 6 Transubstantiation The Interpenetrability of Bodies How Could the Body of Jesus Enter Bread? • How Could Jesus’ Large Body Fit into Smaller Dimensions? • How Could Jesus Pass Through the Heavens Without Damaging Them? The Concepts of Number and Place Simultaneity of Jesus’ Body on Many Altars Remaining One • Simultaneity of Jesus’ Body Being in Many Places The Concept of Motion Motion in No Time is Impossible • One Body Cannot Be in Motion and Rest at the Same Time The Problem of Accidents How Can Accidents be Without Subjects? • The Senses Must Not Be Deceived • Substance Cannot become Accident, nor Accident Substance Miscellaneous Arguments Conclusions 7 Virgin Birth The Interpenetrability of Bodies Images of the Virgin Birth Conclusions 8 Conclusions Jewish Knowledge of Christianity The Sources of Jewish Arguments The Role of Philosophy in Jewish–Christian Relations The Significance of the Medieval Jewish Philosophical Polemics Against Christianity List of Abbreviations Notes Bibliography Index of Citations General Index

'A valuable contribution to this field of research because of its very precise, detailed, and competent study of the themes involved in the disputation and the polemics.'  European Journal of Jewish Studies

'Has acquired the status of a classic. A great deal of new work has been published, however, in the past thirty years. The book is now reprinted by the Littman Library, with a new introduction by the author summarizing these more recent contributions to the subject, which include critical editions of classic texts as well as specialized studies and overviews ... A substantial new bibliography completes the introduction. Thanks are due to the Littman Library for placing this important book before a new generation of readers.' Nicholas de Lange, Journal of Jewish Studies

Format: Paperback

Edition: 2nd

Size: 234 x 156 x 17 mm

318 Pages

ISBN: 9781904113515

Publication: April 26, 2007

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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