Christians vs. Jews
in the 15th century
Jews incapable of defending
their most sacred writings
PART ONE OF A CONTINUING SERIES
OF INDETERMINATE LENGTH
By John Kaminski
Excerpted from The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit by E. Michael Jones, chapter 4, False Conversion and the Inquisition, pp. 144-146
Led by Rabbi Vidal ben Veniste de la Cavalleria, a team of 14 rabbis met for debate at the pope’s palace on February 7, 1413, under the supervision of (Pope) Benedict. The following day, the pope laid down the ground rules. The disputation was not a debate between equals; it was rather a form of instruction, according to which the Jews were allowed to defend themselves against charges Geronimo de Sancte Fide would raise. De Sancte Fide, a genius in dividing his opponents, according to Baer (see below), opened the disputation by pitting the writings of the Old Testament against the Talmud.
The Jews, Baer claims, had little time to prepare, although they had been in Tortosa for a month preceding the disputation. On the second day of the disputation, Rabbi Joseph Albo “got entangled in self contradictions … and the Jewish multitude present laughed at him and considered him defeated.51
The discussion involved the Messiah. Some of the rabbis brought up the Aggada of the Palestinian Talmud that suggested the Messiah had been born on the day the Temple had been destroyed and that he had remained alive since then in an earthly Paradise, and that occasionally he would appear at the gates of Rome. When the pope asked whether it was possible for the Messiah to live such a long time, Rabbi Astruc Halevi snapped back that it was no less plausible than Christians believed about their Messiah.
Rabbi Astruc then claimed the Jews didn’t need a Messiah for the salvation of their souls — “because their souls would be saved even if the Messiah never came” — but rather for the restoration of their political kingdom.52 The pope reminded the rabbi, if that were the case the Jews needed no Messiah at all, and Rabbi Astruc had to apologize.”53
The disputants demonstrated very different notions of what the Messiah was supposed to do.
The gentiles longed for release from the bondage of sin and for the salvation of their souls; the Jews “await(ed) a Messianic king who will build the earthly Jerusalem.”54 The Talmudic Messiah was “a lofty personage, a man born of a human being, and his act of redemption will be to brings the bodies out of slavery into freedom, to raise the Jewish people to a state of enduring prosperity to build the Temple and to maintain it in splendor. All admit that such a Messiah has not yet arrived.”55
If nothing else, the disputation showed that the Jews were seeking a Messiah different from the one whom the Christians said had already arrived. The Christians saw the Messiah as “a God-man, while the Jewish definition is that of a superior human being. The function of the Christian Messiah is to save souls from Hell, which the Jewish Messiah is to keep the Jewish bodies out of servitude.”56
The Jews were handicapped by the ground rules of the debate, which took place in “an irksome atmosphere of political pressure and moral coercion.”57 But the Jews faced internal difficulties too. Virtually all the fundamental difficulties revolved around the Talmud. The Talmud was an esoteric text, written by rabbis solely for rabbis, and never intended to be the object of public debate. As a result, when the Talmud’s more embarrassing passages were dragged into the light by converts who were former rabbis, the Jews didn’t know what to say. The Disputation of Tortosa thus followed the same pattern as Donin’s attack on the Talmud a century and half before.
On June 15, 1414, Geronimo de Sancte Fide read “some Talmudic passages which should have been censored,” and asked the Jews if they were ready to defend them.”58 The Jews, who probably decided to maintain silence beforehand, gave no reply. Geronimo took the Jews’ silence as proof they were “dumbfounded and bewildered.”59 Baer does not dispute this claim, but adds as justification “it was naturally not pleasant for the Jews to have to discuss such passages before the tribunal.”60 The Jews, quite simply, could not defend their own sacred texts. In the minutes of July 7, 1414, the are recorded as saying:
The Jews here assembled from all the communities in the kingdom … declare that because of their ignorance and lack of enlightenment, they are unable to rebut the arguments of Hieronymus [de Sancte Fide] against the talmudic sayings cited by him, and do not know how to defend those sayings. They are, nevertheless, firmly convinced that, were the authors of those sayings now alive, they would have known how to defend them because, as wise and good men, they could not have uttered any unseemly statements.61
The may be sly irony, but it was hardly convincing apologetics. The rabbis then petitioned the pope to allow them to go home “inasmuch as the did not have among them a champion competent and worthy of defending the Talmud,”62 but it certainly seemed that way.63
Jerome of the Holy Faith was aided by another rabbi convert, Andreas Betrandi, a scripture scholar in the employ of the pope. When the two former rabbis reminded the Jews that one false statement in the Talmud would disqualify the entire book, and that when they reminded them that this was the criterion used to condemn the writings of Maimonides, Rabbi Astruc Halevi responded:
Taken literally, the Talmudic passages quoted by Magister Andreas and Magister Hieronymus seemed to be heretical, inconsistent with good morals and fallacious. According to the traditional view taken by his teachers, however, these passages were to be interpreted in another sense. He himself admitted that he did not know the correct interpretation and did not intend to defend the passages; he therefore withdrew all his previous statements.64
Baer says it is “most unlikely that the Jews had nothing more to say,” and they “were eager to hurry back to their communities no matter what, so as to try to save them from impending disintegration and collapse,” but their eagerness could also be interpreted as discomfort at not knowing what to say.”65
Before long it became clear that the Jews had lost the battle. They were incapable of defending their most sacred writings. The Jews had written the Talmud to support their religion; they had then turned that religion into a manifestation of the Talmud by claiming that it was “more binding than the Torah itself,” but for the second time in as many centuries, the most learned Jews could not defend their writings in the court of reason.”66
(end of excerpt)
FOOTNOTES 51 through 66 all derive from various pages of Yitshak Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1966) p. 1093.
The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit by E. Michael Jones is a monumental book (1200 pages) which scoops 2000 years of troublesome relations between Christendom and the Jews, and endeavors to connect strategies of permanent revolution with the permanent Jewish rebellion against Christ.
—Israel Shamir, author of Flowers of Galilee and Cabbala of Power
E. Michael Jones is a world renowned Catholic author, lecturer, and the editor of Culture Wars magazine and Fidelity Press. You can find him and his work below
John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida, constantly trying to figure out why we are destroying ourselves, and pinpointing a corrupt belief system as the engine of our demise