Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance


This volume deals with the friars, especially the Franciscans and Dominicans, in their writing and preaching about Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The articles deal with such issues as Jews and Judaism in theology, biblical exegesis, apocalyptic thought, preaching, economics and art. Building on the pioneering work of Jeremy Cohen, this volume shows the complexity of Christian-Jewish relations in the life and writings of the mendicants on the eve of the modern world. It will be a useful volume for understanding medieval interreligious understanding and how Christians thought of Jews during the era in question.


On October 26–28 of 1997, a conference was held at St. Louis University with the title “The Friars and Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.” the idea for a conference originated in a conversation between Darleen Pryds, Deeana Klepper, and Steven McMichael at the Newberry Library in Chicago a year prior to the event. They were reflecting on the number of studies that had come out during the previous two decades on the theme of the friars and Jews, and how important it would be to gather some of the major scholars in this area of research in a conference form.

Clearly, gratitude should be extended to Jeremy Cohen, whose book The Friars and the Jews: the Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982) became the foundation and catalyst for further research into the subject. His book asserts that the friars took an innovative approach to the question of the role of the Jews in Christendom in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

The enclosed articles represent the major areas in which scholars are working with regard to the friars’ preaching to and writing about the Jews in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. These articles span the time between the early years of the mendicant orders (around the turn of the thirteenth century) to the sixteenth century. They cover a wide range of topics, including preaching, theology, exegesis, economics, popes and papal legislation, and literature.

The volume begins with an examination of the career and exegesis of the late twelfth-century Abbot Joachim of Fiore. E. Randolph Daniel traces what can be known of the abbot’s life, and addresses the charge made by Gaufrid of Auxerre, contemporary of Joachim and secretary to Bernard of Clairvaux, that Joachim had been born a Jew but concealed this fact throughout his life. Daniel rejects the charge, but suggests that Gaufrid’s conclusions were reached in part by his knowledge of Joachim’s exegesis of the Hebrew Scriptures. Although Joachim is critical of Jews as “carnal” and believes they are blind to the correct, spiritual understanding of the scriptures, he saves his sharpest criticisms for “carnal” Christians who are desirous of tilings of the world. Unlike others in the late twelfth century, Joachim did not demonize Jews but held out the hope that Jews would be converted to Christianity at the end of time, according to God’s plan. Daniel’s essay draws attention to . . .

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