contributor.author: Prof. Michael Toch

title.none: Signer and Van Engen, eds., Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe (Prof. Michael Toch)

identifier.other: baj9928.0209.004 02.09.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Prof. Michael Toch, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, toch@h2.hum.huji.ac.il

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2002

identifier.citation: Signer, Michael and John Van Engen, eds. Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. Pp. iv, 400. 24.95. ISBN: 0-268-03254-8.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 02.09.04

Signer, Michael and John Van Engen, eds. Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. Pp. iv, 400. 24.95. ISBN: 0-268-03254-8.

Reviewed by:

Prof. Michael Toch
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
toch@h2.hum.huji.ac.il

This volume originated as a conference held at the University of Notre Dame in October 1996. As noted by John Van Engen in his "Introduction: Jews and Christians Together in the Twelfth Century" (pp. 1-8), the volume and authors take as their point of departure a "sense of complementarity, of interaction or action and reaction, which needs to better inform the medieval story. The essays in this volume, therefore, intentionally highlight areas of common or parallel activity." This stand or stance is clearly a reaction: to earlier generations of scholarship, to the essentialist bent of most of historical writing of European origin. As evident from many an aspect treated in the different essays, such an stand is at least superficially at variance with the broad thrust of the 12th century experience, which accentuated and re-drew lines of demarcation, in some instances invented them from scratch. The volume with its contributions thus stands squarely at the crossroads of a number of current debates both on the place of Jews in medieval society and of Jewish history within general history. A slight but telling indication of the long way ahead before the two can be truly integrated is supplied by the page on Abbreviations (p. XI). The Corpus Christianorum, Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiasticorum Latinorum, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Patrologia Latina and Rolls Series are all sufficiently well known to be designated by abbreviation. None of the source collections on Jewish history can aspire to such renown.

The various articles are important enough to be mentioned in full. After Van Engens's Introduction (mentioned above), Jeremy Cohen uses the Hebrew accounts of the persecutions of 1096 in order to uncover the way medieval and modern Jewish memory is constructed (pp. 9-26). Ivan Marcus in "The Dynamics of Jewish Renaissance and Renewal in the 12th Century" (pp. 27-45) finds that "an increase in individual choice among religious groups, including those not in one's own culture, and an intensification of group solidarity played upon each other" (p. 41). Robert Chazan (pp. 46-62) compares the different redactions of the previously mentioned Hebrew accounts of 1096 to point to a "mellowing" of Jewish attitudes, which contrasted with a hardening Christian stance. Indirectly, he takes issue with Israel Yuval's thesis, which had been at the forefront of the scholarly debate in the nineties. A number of essays, by Jonathan Elukin (pp. 63-76), William C. Jordan (pp. 77-93), and Alfred Haverkamp (pp. 255-310) treat the highly prominent topic of Jewish conversion to Christianity. They all do so by perusal of Christian sources, a method which has now been complemented by Elisheva Carlebach in her book "Divided Souls. Converts from Judaism in Germany", 1500-1750 (New Haven, 2001). Exegesis of Christian sources, in painting, sculpture, polemics, bible commentary and French vernacular literature, and the concerns of Christians producing these genres, inform the essays by Walter Cahn (pp. 94-109), Jan Ziolkowski (pp. 110-122), John van Engen (pp. 150-170), and Maureen Boulton (pp. 234-254). They are balanced, so to speak, by articles drawing on Jewish Biblical exegesis and the writings of the "Pious of Ashkenaz", by Michael Signer (pp. 123-149) and Eliot Wolfson (pp. 171-220). One single essay by Susan Einbinder, the shortest of the volume, seeks to draw the two cultures together in a comparison of twelfth-century Hebrew and Christian prose (pp. 221-233). Two sketches of the main line of developments in France and England (Gerard Nahon, pp. 311-339; Robert Stacey, pp. 340-354) and a Conclusion by Michael Signer (pp. 355-360) complete the volume. This is an important collection of studies, reflective at the same time of the current state and directions of scholarship.