Polemics, Jewish

Polemics, Jewish.

The friendly relation which existed at first between the Church and the Synagogue could not always last, and a separation became a matter of necessity. The result was that the non-identification of Christianity with Judaism gave rise to bitterness and enmity, and some of the fiercest persecutions were instigated and encouraged by the Jews. The Christians were no more called so, but "Minim," or heretics. So great became at last the enmity, that a celebrated Jewish sage (Tarphon) declared that, although the Gospels and the other writings of the "Minim" contained the sacred names of the Deity, they ought to be burned; that heathenism was less dangerous than Christianity; that heathens offended from ignorance, while Christians did so with full knowledge; and that he would prefer seeking shelter in a heathen temple rather than in a meeting-place of the "Minim" (Tarph. Sabb. 116 a). Another and more moderate rabbi (Ishmael) also recommended the burning of every copy of the Gospels, as in his opinion inciting to rebellion against God, and to hatred against the commonwealth of Israel (Aboda Sara, 43). By and by all friendly relations between the two parties entirely ceased, and the mutual estrangement was such that the ordinary civilities of life were not to be exchanged, and the bread. wine, oil, and meat used by Christians were declared polluted.

One of the earliest polemics against Christianity is that of R. Simlai, of the 3d century, who became famous for his virulent opposition to Christianity.

His polemics were especially directed against the doctrine of the Trinity (comp. Genesis Rubba, c. 8; Jerus. Berach. 9, 11 d, 12 a). It has been suggested. and with apparent probability, that he had been chiefly engaged in controversy with Origen. Another polemic was R. Abbahu, of the 4th century, who likewise attacked the Trinity and the ascension of Christ (Jerus. Taanith, 2, 65 b; Genesis Rabba, c. 29; Exodus Rabba, c. 29). Of this R. Abbahu, we also read (Abodah Sarah, fol. 4 a) that he recommended a certain R. Saphra to a noble Christian. At this recommendation the Christian permitted R. Saphra an exemption for thirteen years. When the Christian asked R. Saphra about the meaning of the passage in Am 3:2, and perceived his ignorance, he asked R. Abbahu about its meaning. Having received a satisfactory answer, the Christian asked, "Why is R. Saphra, whom you recommended to me as a great man, so ignorant in the Scriptures, which thou didst explain right away?" To this R. Abbahu answered, "We, who come in contact with you Christians. are obliged, for our self-preservation, to study the Scriptures, because you dispute so often with us from the Scriptures, and because we know that you study the Scriptures: but the other Jews, who live among Gentiles, have no need of that, since they do not dispute with them concerning the Scriptures." What a gloomy picture! The Jews read the Bible, not because they are concerned about the "one thing needful," but only for the sake of controversy! Next in order are those passages of the Talmud which speak of Jesus, and have been expurgated in the earliest editions. Eisenmenger has collected a great many of these passages in his Neuentdecktes Judenthuim, and also Meelführer, in his Jesus in Talmude (Altorf, 1699, 2 vols.).

We now give an alphabetical list of such as wrote against Christianity, and who, for the most part, have been treated upon in this Cyclopedia, to which reference is made:

Abendana, Jacob (q.v.), carried on a controversy with Hulsius (1699), and translated the Cusari into Spanish.

Abrabanel, Isaac (q.v.), whose commentaries contain the strongest invectives against Christianity; and so likewise his משמוע ושועה and ישועות משיחו.

Albo, Joseph, who died in 1444, took part in the conference held with Jerome de Santa Fe, which took place at Tortosa in 1413-14 under the presidency of Peter de Luna, afterwards Benedict XIII. He is the author of the Sepher lkkarim, ספר עקרים, i.e. "the Book of Principles." "This book," says R. Wise, "was the first, and for a long time the only one which attacked the dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church. His opponents spoke, wrote, and argued so much against him that he became quite popular in Christian circles, and thus also a forerunner of the Reformation." This effusion of the Cincinnati rabbi is of course only to be taken cum grano salis, for a personal acquaintance with the work would have told him that only the last division contains what can be called antichristian.

Arama, Isaac, one of the Spanish exiles, impugns Christianity in his חזות קשה, i.e. "'the Heavy Vision."

Bechai ben-Ashel's attacks upon Christianity can only be found in the earliest editions of his commentary on the Pentateuch.

Farrissol, Abraham (q.v.), is the author of אברהם מגן, i.e. "the Shield of Abraham," written against Christianity.

Isaac-Jacob ben-Saul, of the 18th century, wrote his Buch der Verzeichnung. Fine Unterweisung wie man seine Religion gegen die Angrife des Christenthums, und wie man überhaupt den Einwüfen der Polemik antworten soil (Amsterdam, 1693).

Jechiel ben-Joseph (q.v.), author of וכוח, was a member of the conference held at Paris between Nicolaus Donin and some Jewish savans. Jechiel would not admit that the Jesus mentioned in the Talmud is Jesus of Nazareth, but another, a discovery which was copied by later writers. But Jews themselves acknowledge the failure of such an assertion; for, says Dr. Levin, in his prize essay, Die Religions disputation des R. Jechiel von Paris, etc. (published in Gratz's Monatsschrift, 1869, p. 193), "We must regard the attempt of R. Jechiel to ascertain that there were two by the name of Jesus as unfortunate, original as the idea may be." Jehudah ha-Levi ben-Samuel (q.v.) is the author of the famous Cusari. Joseph ben-Shemtob (q.v.), the commentator on Profiat Duran's (q.v.) Epistle.

Joseph bu-Jachm (q.v.) attacks Christianity in his commentary on the Hagiographa.

Kimchi, David and Joseph (q.v.), made their commentaries the arena of attacks. Lipmaumm, Yonmtob (q.v.), is the author of the well known Nizzachon. Luppercio, Isaac, defended Judaism against a monk of Seville in his Apolojia. (Basle, 1658).

Machir of Toledo is the author of an eschatology of Judaism in three sections; the first Hulsius translated into Latin, with a refutation.

Monalto, Elias (q.v.), wrote an apology of Judaism in his Livro FIato.t

Mortera, Saul (q.v.), the teacher of Spinoza, was so virulent in his תורת משה that it could not be printed.

Nachmanides, Moses (q.v.), speaks against Christianity in more than one of his works.

Ofenlhausen, Smrl. Zewi (q.v.), wrote his Jewish Theriaca against Brenz.

Olquenira, Isaac (q.v.), is the pretended editor of an antichristian work written by Joseph Nasi of Naxos.

Orobio, Isaac (q.v.), wrote his Israel Venye and Scripta adversus Christianam Religionem.

Profiat Duran (q.v.) is the author of the well-known satirical epistle entitled אל תהי כאבותי, "Be not like thy Fathers," which R. Isaac Wise, of Cincinnati, published in English for the readers of his paper, under the pompous heading, "A Relic of Great Significance," respectfully inscribed "to religion peddlers." This last expression puts R. Wise on the side of these Jewish polemics, but with the difference that "quod licet Jovi, non licet bovi."

Roman, Abraham, showed his animosity by publishing antichristian works (Constantinople, 1710).

Saadia, Gaon (q.v.), devotes the second and eighth chapters of his philosophical work to attack Christianity.

Toki, Isaac ben-Abraham- (q.v.), is the author of the famous חזוק אמונה, which has been made use of by critical writers upon the New Testament from Voltaire to Strauss. Some years ago it was published, with a German translation by R. David Deutsch (2d ed. 1875), under the patronage of M. Rothschild (!).of Paris. In English some chapters were published by a New York rabbi.

In the same year in which the second German edition of Toki's work appeared, a similar work in five volumes was published at Warsaw, under the title Zerubbabel, written by Lebensohn, under the patronage of Sir Moses Montefiore, of London; a work which, as reviewer says, by far surpasses the author of the Chizuk l'Emrunath. It is characterized by coarse vituperation.

The literature on this subject is very meager. For the older literature, we would refer to De Rossi, Bibliotheca Judaica Antichristiana (Parmse, 1800); Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, p. 122 sq., 211 sq. (B. P.)

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