Fashioning Jewish Identity in Medieval Western Christendom by Robert Chazan

By Robert Chazan

5 12th- and thirteenth-century polemicists from southern France and northern Spain are the 1st recognized Jewish polemicists from western Christendom, who pointed out significant Christian demanding situations, in addition to acceptable responses for fellow Jews below ever-increasing spiritual strain.

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Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 2 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1991–94); and Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999). Two sets of essays edited by James H. Charlesworth are most useful in locating Jesus within the context of first-century Palestinian Jewry – Jesus within Judaism (New York: Doubleday, 1988) and The Messiah (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992). 25 26 Backdrop Palestinian Jewish matrix. 4 Paul, one such Diaspora Jew and a former persecutor of the young community, became an important figure in the movement, disagreeing on key issues with Jesus’ more immediate followers.

The chief priests and scribes are portrayed as echoing that denigration: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the king of Israel, come down now from the cross. ”21 Here the opposition is to Jesus’ seeming lack of power at this critical juncture. Implicit here is the sense that a miracle worker who cannot save himself is surely no miracle worker. Even more significant than the wonders performed by Jesus are the miracles performed on his behalf. Every major milestone in Jesus’ life is accompanied by what are for his followers unmistakable signs of direct divine intervention.

49 A second factor that has strengthened the sense of intellectual sterility is the traditional nature of much of the aggressive Christian and Jewish argumentation. These two highly traditional communities naturally drew upon classical texts and the prior lines of argumentation adumbrated therein. 50 Indeed, as new patterns of thinking made their way slowly into pre-modern Western consciousness, they were inevitably garbed in older terminology, since innovation at this time was feared, rather than prized.

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