Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue: Essays in Jewish-Christian Relations

Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue: Essays in Jewish-Christian Relations


David Berger

Series: Judaism and Jewish Life
ISBN: 9781934843765 (hardcover) 
Pages: 452 pp.
Publication Date: May 2010

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Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue follows the interaction between Jews and Christians through the ages in all its richness, complexity, and diversity. This collection of essays analyzes antisemitism, perceptions of the "other," and religious debates in the Middle Ages and proceeds to consider modern and contemporary interactions, which are marked by both striking continuity and profound difference. These include controversies among historians, the promise and challenge of interfaith dialogue, and the explosive exchanges surrounding Mel Gibson’s film on the passion.  This volume will engage scholars, students, and any reader intrigued by one of the longest and most fraught inter-group relationships in history.

David Berger (PhD Columbia University) is a former president of the Association for Jewish Studies and the Ruth and I. Lewis Professor and Dean at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University.

Few bring to the subject of Jewish-Christian relations the singular blend of insight, erudition, and passion that characterizes David Berger’s Persecution, Polemic, and Dialogue; and few collections of essays constitute as coherent and accessible an introduction to a difficult subject as this volume certainly does. Professor Berger’s studies of the major issues in the encounter between Jews and Christians during the Middle Ages, in the way that modern writers have understood that encounter, and in that encounter’s enduring impact on Jewish-Christian interaction today reflect keen critical scholarship on the one hand, and a resolute commitment to Jewish tradition on the other. Without compromising either, Berger boldly addresses the thorniest, most sensitive of issues—from the Crusades to the blood libels to the supersessionism of the present pope—with candor, fairness, and wit. No reader, of whatever faith or critical disposition, will leave this book unrewarded.
— Jeremy Cohen, Tel Aviv University
This masterful collection of essays is vintage David Berger—thoughtful, erudite, engaged, broad and insightful. Trained as a medievalist, specializing in the Jewish-Christian debate, Prof. Berger demonstrates that to understand the present relation between the two religions, one must go back in history and see what lessons can be derived from the past. Published over the course of a long career, these articles have stood the test of time and retain their vitality and liveliness, providing a model of careful and independent thinking on oftentimes sensitive subjects.
— Daniel J. Lasker, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Written by a true scholar who demonstrates how to write medieval Jewish history without an agenda.
— Martin Lockshin, Canadian Jewish News
All the chapters are thoughtful, clearly-written, and persuasive when arguing a position. Even those whose titles or subject matter might seem daunting to the nonmedievalist (e.g., ‘From Crusades to Blood Libels to Expulsions . . .’ and ‘Mission to the Jews and Jewish-Christian Contacts in the Polemical Literature of the High Middle Ages’) are rewarding and surprisingly accessible. Every academic and seminary library should acquire this book, and any serious student of Jewish-Christian relations would profit from reading it.
— David P. Efroymson, La Salle University, in the Journal of Ecumenical Studies
This volume is a thought-provoking collection of research published by the eminent historian David Berger on historical and contemporary aspects of Jewish-Christian encounters, spanning a long and distinguished academic career (1956–2007), during which the field of medieval Jewish Studies has changed dramatically. . . . Despite the remarkable changes in the field of the study of Jewish-Christian relations in recent decades, Berger’s essays have aged well. There is much in this book that is challenging and stimulating, much of it is still topical and relevant and the book is permeated by a strong sense of intellectual fairness and balance. The historian’s passion for his subject is felt on every page.
— Maria Diemling, Canterbury Christ Church University, in the Journal of Modern Jewish Studies, vol. 12, issue 3 (December 2013)

Table of Contents


Spanning the Centuries
Anti-Semitism: An Overview
The Middle Ages
From Crusades to Blood Libels to Expulsions: Some New Approaches to Medieval Anti-Semitism
A Generation of Scholarship on Jewish-Christian Interaction in the Medieval World
Jacob Katz on Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages
Introduction to The Jewish-Christian Debate in the High Middle Ages: A Critical Edition of the Nizzahon Vetus with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary
On the Image and Destiny of Gentiles in Ashkenazic Polemical Literature
On the Uses of History in Medieval Jewish Polemic against Christianity: The Quest for the Historical Jesus
Christians, Gentiles, and the Talmud: A Fourteenth-Century
Jewish Response to the Attack on Rabbinic Judaism
Mission to the Jews and Jewish-Christian Contacts in the Polemical
Literature of the High Middle Ages
The Barcelona Disputation: Review Essay
Christian Heresy and Jewish Polemic in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries
Gilbert Crispin, Alan of Lille, and Jacob Ben Reuben:
A Study in the Transmission of Medieval Polemic
The Attitude of St. Bernard of Clairvaux toward the Jews
St. Peter Damian: His Attitude toward the Jews and the Old Testament
Modern and Contemporary Times
Religion, Nationalism, and Historiography:
Yehezkel Kaufmann’s Account of Jesus and Early Christianity
The “Jewish Contribution” to Christianity
Jewish-Christian Relations: A Jewish Perspective
Reflections on Conversion and Proselytizing in Judaism and Christianity
On Dominus Lesus and the Jews
Revisiting “Confrontation” After Forty Years: A Response to Rabbi Eugene Korn
Dabru Emet: Some Reservations about a Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity
Jews, Christians, and The Passion

Index of Sources