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Jewish Carnality in Twelfth-Century Renaissance Thought

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 March 2016

Anna Sapir Abulafia
Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge


Disagreement between Jews and Christians about the meaning of the words of the Hebrew Bible is as old as the emergence of a Christian sect in Judea. The perennial debate on hermeneutics was not a simple bandying of words between two competing parties. What was discussed really mattered, for it gave expression to the essence of what separated Jew from Christian.

Research Article
Copyright © Ecclesiastical History Society 1992

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1 For a full treatment of Christian biblical exegesis see H. de Lubac, Exégèse medievale. Les quatres sens Je l’Ecriture, 1.1-2.2 (Paris, 1959-64). Useful, too, is chapter 6, ‘The Exposition and exegesis of Scripture’, in G. W. H. Lampe, ed., The Cambridge History of the Bible. 2, The West from the Fathers to the Reformation (Cambridge, 1969), pp. 155-279.

2 On the school of Laon see H. Weisweiler, Das Schrifttum der Schule Anselms von Laon und •Wilhelms von Champeaux in deutschen Bibliotheken—Beitmge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Théologie des Miltelalters, 33.2 (Münster, 1936); and M. Colish, ‘Another look at the School of Laon’, AHDL, 5 3 (1986), pp. 7-22; but also V. I.J. Flint, ‘The “School of Laon”: a reconsideration’, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale, 43 (1976), pp. 89-110.

3 It was especially Beryl Smalley who did pioneering research in this area. See her The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd edn (Oxford, 1983), pp. 149–72.

4 Luscombe, D. E., ‘The authorship of the Ysagoge in theologiam ’, AHDL, 43 (1968), pp. 016.Google Scholar

5 A. Landgraf, Ecrits théologiques de l’école d’Abélard, textes inédits—Spicilegium Sacrum Lovaniense, 14 (Louvain, 1934) [hereafter Landgraf edn], pp. xliv-xlvi. The letter of dedication is printed as an appendix to the edition on pp. 287-9.

6 Luscombe, ‘Authorship’, pp. 0–16; contra Southern, R. W., Medieval Humanism and Other Studies (Oxford, 1970), p. 159 Google Scholar, n. 1.1 am grateful to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, for allowing me to examine the MS.

7 Luscombe, D. E., The School of Peter Abelard (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 198213 Google Scholar and’Authorship’, p. 13.

8 For a list of Odo’s sources see the relevant index in Landgraf’s edition, pp. 309-12. See also O. Lottin’s review of the edition in Bulletin de théologie ancienne et médiévale, 2 (1935), pp. 415*–16*. On Hermann, see Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard, pp. 158-64.

9 Southern, R. W., Saint Anselm and his Biographer (Cambridge, 1963). p. 91, n. 2.Google Scholar

10 A. Saltman, ‘Gilbert Crispin as a source of the anti-Jewish polemic of the Ysagoge in theologiam’ in P. Artzi, ed., Bar-Ilan Studies in History, 2: Confrontation and Coexistence (Ramat Gan, 1984), pp. 89-99, and ‘Odo’s Ysagoge—a new method of anti-Jewish polemic’, Criticism and Interpretation, 13-14 (1979), pp. 265-80 (in Hebrew). On Pseudo-William of Champeaux’s dialogue see my Jewish-Christian disputations and the twelfth-century renaissance’, JMedH, 15 (1989). pp. 105-25.

11 On this work see my ‘Christians disputing disbelief: St Anselm, Gilbert Crispin and Pseudo-Anselm’, in Conference proceedings of 25 Woifenbütteler Symposium, 11. bis 15. Juni 1989 (forth coming).

12 See Lottin’s review, cited in n. 8, above. On the dating of the Sentences see Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard, p. 262.

13 Landgraf edn., pp. 126-7.

14 Ibid., pp. 162-5.

15 Ibid., pp. 127-8.

16 The Hebrew characters used for the word ‘sheol’ on fol. 61r seem different from the Hebrew characters used in the biblical quotation the word comes from. It seems that someone other than the Hebrew scribe wrote the word.

17 Saltman argues that Odo and not a scribe is responsible for the system breaking down, in ‘Odo’s Ysagoge’, pp. 272 and 273, where he discusses Odo’s method of transliteration. J. Fischer argued the opposite in ‘Die hebraischen Bibelzitate des Scholastikers Odo’, Biblica, 15 (1934), pp. 52-3. Saltman (p. 266) points to the fact that the two existing fragments of the Ysagoge do not contain the Hebrew part of the text.

18 The MS is written in more than one hand.

19 Landgraf edn, pp. 142; 282. For Fischer’s comments on fol. 109v see Landgraf edn, p. 282n, and his article ‘Die hebräischen Bibelzitate’, pp. 55, 81.

20 Saltman, ‘Odo’s Ysagoge’, p. 268.

21 K. B. Dobson, The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March 1190 (York, 1974), pp. 3-5; R. Loewe, ‘The Medieval Christian Hebraists of England: Herbert of Bosham and earlier scholars’, TJHSE, 17 (1953), pp. 234-5.

22 Loewe, ‘The Medieval Christian Hebraists’, pp. 240-5; Smalley, The Study of the Bible, pp. 186–95. See also Saltman, ‘Odo’s Ysagoge’, pp. 267–9.

23 Fischer, ‘Die hebraischen Bibelzitate’, pp. 84ff.

24 C. Peters, ‘Aussermasoretische Überlieferung in den Zitaten des Scholasrikers Odo?’, Muséon, 51 (1938), pp. 137-49; see also Loewe, The Medieval Christian Hebraists’, pp. 245-6.

25 Saltman, ‘Gilbert Crispin’, pp. 94-5.

26 Landgraf edn, p. 132; Summa Sententiarum [hereafter SS] IV, 2; PL 176, col. 120.

27 Landgraf edn, pp. 134-5; Gilbert Crispin, Disputatio Iudei et Christiani, 155-6, ed. A. Sapir Abulafia, in A. Sapir Abulafia and G. R. Evans, eds, The Works of Gilbert Crispin. Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi, 8 (London, 1986) [hereafter Disp. lud], pp. 51-2. Odo and Crispin do not use exactly the same references.

28 Landgraf edn, p. 136; SS IV, 4: PL 176, col. 122. In Odo’s numbering of the commandments what would be the two initial commandments according to Jewish tradition is counted as commandment one. Commandments nine and ten according to this reckoning are what is the last commandment according to Jewish tradition. Later on Odo refers to the torments Christ would have suffered at the hands of the Jews (Landgraf edn, p. 149).

29 Landgraf edn, p. 149.

30 Ibid., p. 138; SS IV, 5: PL 176, col. 123.

31 Landgraf edn, pp. 153-4; Disp. Iud., 162, p. S3. Gilbert does not mention the trek to Jerusalem. His work was probably composed a few years prior to the First Crusade. See my comments in The Works of Gilbert Crispin, pp. xxvii—xxx.

32 Disp. Iud., 85, 130, pp. 28-9; 43-4. Saltman was the first to notice this, see ‘Odo’s Ysagoge’, pp. 276-80. The translation I give of biblical passages comes from the 1914 official English translation of the Vulgate. Where the Hebrew reference differs from the Vulgate it is given in brackets.

33 Landgraf edn, p. 143.

34 Disp. Iud., 122, pp. 40-1.

35 Landgraf edn, p. 143.

36 Saltman, ‘Odo’s Ysagoge’, pp. 273-80.

37 Landgraf edn, p. 155.

38 Abelard, Commentaria in Epistolam Pauli ad Romanos, Il (iii, 26) ed. E. M. Buytaert, Petri Abaeìardi opera teleologica, I, CChr.CM, 11 (1969) [hereafter Comm. in Rom], pp. n3-17: Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time: that he himself may be just and the justifier of him who is of the faith of Jesus Christ.’

39 PL 178, cols 1730-2.

40 Landgraf edn, pp. 155-8.

41 Cur Deus homo I.3 and passim, ed. F. S. Schmitt, S. Anselmi opera omnia, 2 (Edinburgh, 1946), p. 50 and passim. See also Luscombe, The School of Peter Abelard, pp. 238-40.

42 Landgraf edn, p. 155. The title is given in a rubric of the MS (fol. 58v) and in the table of contents (fol. 37r).

43 Landgraf edn, p. 158: ‘Quoniam et hec et his similia, que ex adverso sub persona infidelis induximus, non mediocrem movent de nostra redemptione questionem, incarnationis et mortis Christi rariones a patribus traditas afferendo frustra arguentem refellamus.’ The relevant sentence in Abelard is in Comm. in Rom. II (III.26), p. 117: ‘Haec et similia non mediocrem movere quaestionem nobis videntur, de redemptione scilicet vel iustificatione nostra per mortem Domini nostri Jesu Christi.’

44 Landgraf edn, p. 157.

45 On Southern’s views on the relationship between the Jews and Anselm’s Cur Deus homo see his Saint Anselm. A Portrait in a Landscape (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 198-202; for my own position see my ‘St Anselm and those outside the Church’, in D. Loades and K. Walsh, eds, Faith and Identity: Christian Political ExperienceSCH.S, 6, pp. 11-37.

46 Landgraf edn, pp. 160–1.

47 Disp. Iud., 97-9, p. 33. It is closer to Crispin than to a similar passage in Pseudo-William of Champeaux, Dialogus inter Christianum et ludeum (PL 163, cols 1050-1), where an interesting discussion follows on what the actual position of the saints of the Old Testament was in hell.

48 Landgraf edn, pp. 170, 177.

49 Ibid., pp. 179-219. Marriage is one of the sacraments Odo lists. He is not particularly positive about it, seeing it more as an indulgence and a remedy for evil than as something good for its own sake. The manner in which an exposé on the sacraments follows an analysis of the Incarnation reminds us of Pseudo-Anselm, Dialogus inter Gentilem et Christianum. This twelfth-century dialogue is a recasting of Anselm’s Cur Deus homo into a debate between a Christian and a pagan. Once the pagan converts to Christianity, the Christian, taking on the role of a master, instructs him in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. See my ‘Christians disputing disbelief’ (forthcoming).

50 Landgraf edn, p. 279.

51 I discuss Gilbert’s attitudes towards the Trinity in my ‘Christians disputing disbelief.

52 See, for example, Gregory, T., ‘The Platonic Inheritance’, in Dronke, P., ed., A History of Twelfth-century Western Philosophy (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 5760.Google Scholar

53 Landgraf edn, p. 282. On Odo’s alleged knowledge of Aramaic see Fischer’s comment, Landgraf edn, pp. 142-3.

54 Landgraf edn, p. 284. Landgraf says that he was unable to trace the reference. The transliteration given is ‘Togatos nois cosmoisiche, apaz chaidis epichena usia’ (‘nois’ seems to have been added by the scribe who wrote the Greek [fol. 111r]); the first three words are also given in painstakingly artificially-drawn Greek characters (fol. 110v): M. R. James suggested that ‘Togatos nois cosmoisiche’ is a corruption of and ‘apaz chaidis epichena usia’ a corruption of : The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, 1 (Cambridge, 1900), pp. 433–4. Because ‘cosmoisiche’ of the transliteration is closer to . it would seem that what remains of the Greek is even more corrupt than the transliteration. But the fact that the transliteration itself is such a mess would seem to indicate that Odo had little Greek. His Hebrew was obviously much better. I am very grateful to Dr John Vallance of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, for his advice on this passage. He assures me that the words are not Plato’s own. I have not yet been able to trace where exactly Odo got the Greek for this Abelardian reading of the Timaeus. See n. 52, above, for Abelard’s references to Plato’s alleged knowledge of the Trinity.

55 Landgraf edn, pp. 281-2. Odo has indeed used the triple ‘yod’ for ‘God’ in the Hebrew quotations he gives prior to this passage, e.g. p. 135 in the edition.

56 V. Aptowitzer, Das Schriftwort in der rabbinischen Literatur (Vienna, 1906-15, repr. New York, 1970), p. 10, indicates that older MSS exist where the triple ‘yod’ is used.

57 Landgraf edn, p. 127.

58 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, p. 192. Herbert speaks about his doubts in his Devita S. Thomae, III.3, ed. J. C. Robertson, Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, 3, RS (1877), pp. 212-15.

59 Smalley, The Study of the Bible, pp. 149-72, 110–11; Loewe, ‘The Medieval Christian Hebraists’, pp. 238–40.

60 On use of the Talmud in the Jewish-Christian debate see A. Funkenstein, ‘Basic types of Christian anti-Jewish polemics’, Viator, 2 (1971), pp. 381-2. Funkenstein makes the important point that the increase in Christian knowledge of Judaism served to strengthen their stance against Jews. It did not make them more tolerant of Jews.

61 The term ‘infidelis’ as used in this passage (Landgraf edn, p. 279) certainly includes Jews.

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