Christianity and the Jewish People
ROME. The 13th century. In his disputational work, The Testimony of the Lord Is Faithful, Solomon ben Moses cautions his readers:
I have advised my friends . . . not to argue or debate with…Christians. They should avoid disputing with them on matters of religion…. If the Jew be victorious he will provoke wrath upon himself for belittling and refuting their faith. But if he is defeated and shamed and if on his account and through ignorance truth is silenced, his punishment is twofold. Yet if the Jew be forced to debate, let him not do so with ignoramuses for that is forbidden by the authorities…. Neither should he dispute with his enemies and those who are of ill will toward him, for they will inform on him and on us….
Master Solomon was clearly not an advocate of dialogue. Nor were most medieval Jews. Joseph Kimhi, the 12th-century author of the first European Hebrew polemical work, tells us he is writing to refute “the children of the impudent of our people,” apostates from Judaism. His son, David, whose polemics became famous and widely quoted, seems also to have been more concerned with renegades than with born Christians. It was also a common phenomenon for apostates to write polemical works against their former co-religionists, trying to convince them to join the new faith. Thus, Petrus Alphonsi in the 11th century writes a dialogue in which he persuades his old self, Moyses, of the justice of his conversion.
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