Skip to content
IUScholarWorks Journals
19.10.06 Hasselhoff/Fidora (eds.), Ramon Martí’s Pugio Fidei

19.10.06 Hasselhoff/Fidora (eds.), Ramon Martí’s Pugio Fidei

Like so many graduate students looking for a research topic on medieval interfaith relations, I remember being fascinated with the person of Ramon Martí and his imposing Pugio fidei adversus Mauros y Judaeos, which appeared to raise a potentially endless supply of research questions. His background, education, and command of so many languages depicted such a fascinating figure, and his enigmatic work offered so many possible approaches to the text, its context, and the Dominican author's intentions for the work. However, also like so many students, I remember having my hopes frustrated because the massive work was only available in the cumbersome seventeenth-century edition. The lack of an edition, combined with the sheer size of the work, made beginning research on Martí a daunting proposition. The current volume described here is a "pilot study" (9) of a much-needed edition of thePugio fidei that will be published later. It consists of nine articles that demonstrate the many ways in which Martí and his work can be studied and offers intriguing observations that will lead to many future projects.

The first article by Görge Hasselhoff is a facing translation of preface to the Pugio fidei, which appears at the beginning of Book I as often as it appears in the beginning of Book II. For this reason, the editors provide it here rather than decide where it should appear in the edition. Martí's intention for the work is a consistent theme throughout this collection, and the inclusion of this preface is an excellent entrée into this discussion. The next article, also by Hasselhoff, provides the rationale behind the proposed edition and astemma codicum. The copies of this work are relatively few with ten medieval and two early modern manuscripts, the latter of which served as the exemplar for two printed editions. However, they are notorious for their diversity and so the stemma and a brief discussion of their various provenances are welcome additions. The most important of these manuscripts is Ramon Martí's thirteenth-century autograph, which contains Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic texts with Latin translations. All of the manuscripts will be examined, but the edition will adhere to the autograph with references to early print versions that became the most widely available in the seventeenth century.

Philippe Bobichon discusses the all-important thirteenth-century autograph and what it can tell us about the intriguing author. He supplies a thorough description of the manuscript's construction and layout, as well as its marginal notes in Latin and Hebrew, which point to considerable correction and cross-referencing. His description of transliteration of the Hebrew and the Aramaic and interlinear translations will be of particular interest to scholars of Latin morphology, since Bobichon's treatment reveals that the Dominican author was painstaking in his attempts to render the language according to the Hebraica veritas with only a few variations. He argues that the author's use of Hebrew indicates that Ramon Martí was a converso or perhaps came from a family of conversos.

Syd Wiersma interrogates the motivations and goals behind the Pugio fidei. Though the work at first glance appears to be written against the Jews, Ramon intended for the work to combat Judaism's influence on the faithful and to provide clerics and even princes with reliable information on Judaism. There is a consistent emphasis on preaching, reflecting the special charge of the Dominicans, though the planned audience appears to be Christians with the conversion of Jews and later Muslims as secondary concern as Ramon added chapters. The goal of this work as a guide for the faithful raises questions about the violent title of the work, which Wiersma contextualizes within the wider theological use of the term pugio as a weapon first to be taken from the infidel, rather than to be used against. Thus, pastoral care is a repeated theme throughout the Pugio fidei and its structure, mimicking the concerns of Ramon's contemporary, Thomas Aquinas and his Summa contra Gentiles.

Following closely on this argument, Ann Giletti describes Ramon's use of works by his contemporaries, including Thomas, Albert the Great, and Peter of Tarentaise. While the connections between the Pugio fidei and the Summa contra Gentiles have been studied, Giletti examines Ramon's use of these Latin authors to demonstrate how the Dominican applied the same care to reproducing the arguments and words of his contemporaries as he did with his translation and transliteration of Hebrew and Aramaic texts. The only changes that he made were practical in nature in order to expand upon his point and understood well the current arguments of his fellow Dominicans.

Ryan Szpiech adds to his existing research on Martí's use of the New Testament, demonstrating that the Dominican author did not use an existing Hebrew translation, but supplied his own renderings of the Christian scriptures in Hebrew. This not only furthers the importance of Martí as a transcultural scholar, but it also offers insight into his goal for the work. Szpiech notes that Martí chose to translate some passages and not others in different parts of the Pugio fidei, which signals that he may have had various intentions for the work itself. The clearest indication of this variety is his translation of certain passages that pertain to essential Christian doctrines (i.e. the incarnation, virgin birth, calls to repentance, the Holy Spirit, etc.). Thus, Szpiech balances the scholarship within this collection that emphasizes the Pugiofidei as a work for the faithful by revealing how presented Christian ideas in a "pseudo-Jewish garb" (164) in hopes of achieving conversion or offering refutations for potential Jewish objections.

Görge Hasselhoff's third entry switches the focus from scripture to Martí's use of rabbinical scholarship, or iudei moderni in the Pugio fidei. The Dominican displays more of his erudition by referring to a wide variety of scholars as well as make an impressive number of references to their works. Hasselhoff's contribution here consists of an inventory of authors and an appendix that outlines Martí's citations of four Jewish scholars. Yosi Yisraeli continues this theme in his article by examining the use of Abraham Ibn Ezra, who was hardly known in Latin Christendom in the thirteenth century. The Pugiofidei thus serves as the Latin world's introduction to the author, whom Martí treats with his trademark degree of care. However, Yisraeli points out that Martí's treatment is selective, if not reductive, and one would have to go elsewhere to understand Andalusi scholar's philosophy. He adds an appendix of Martí's excerpts from Ibn Ezra's works.

The final entry by Alexander Fidora delivers a fascinating look at a fourteenth-century Castilian translation of a small portion of Hebrew from the Pugio fidei. The fragment treats verses from the Book of Kings and highlights the growing importance of the vernacular in polemical discussions, but also demonstrates how the author made use of the medieval Castilian Bible rather than the Vulgate. The inclusion of this fragment translation alongside a copy of the Pugiofidei reinforces the hybrid nature of Martí's project and offers a clear example of a reader using the work for one of its intended purposes.

The editors, Hasselhoff and Fidora, are to be commended for creating such a thoughtful collection of works centered on Ramon Martí's intentions and the reception of the Pugio fidei, both in matters of codicology and readers. The many detailed appendices provided by several of the authors reveal the depth of this extraordinary Dominican's erudition, which touches so many fields of study. I raise only a small matter as a criticism. The author's name is spelled differently in different chapters (Ramon Martí, Raymond), which proves especially distracting when discussing both the author of the Pugio fidei and Ramon de Penyafort. However, this certainly should not detract from this excellent collection. Instead of cordoning off and ending the conversation about Martí, this volume only increases the need and expectations for the new edition in order to exercise all of the questions that arise while reading it.