The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240

By Jordan, William Chester | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2013 | Go to article overview

The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240


Jordan, William Chester, The Catholic Historical Review


The Trial of the Talmud: Paris, 1240. Hebrew texts translated by John Friedman, Latin texts translated by Jean Connell Hoff, historical essay by Robert Chazan. [Mediaeval Sources in Translation, Vol. 53 ] (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. 2012. Pp. ix, 182. $19 95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-88844-303-8.)

In 1240 the efforts of Nicholas Donin, an apostate from Judaism, to persuade Christian authorities to condemn the Talmud came to a head. Denounced as a collection of fables about God, as a repository of slurs of Christianity and of the central figures of Jesus and Mary, and as the book that displaced Jewish scripture (indeed, was even longer than the Old Testament), the Talmud was put on "trial," stimulated by Pope Gregory EX's concerns.The trial took place in Paris because it was the French ruler, Louis IX, and his mother, Blanche of Castile, who actually followed up on the pope's initiative. All of this is well known to specialists, as Robert Chazan, the author of the historical essay in the book under review, readily admits. The essay recapitulates what experts know and think they know about this event-its prehistory, biographical details on those who played a role, the trial itself, the substance of the second thoughts some Christian ecclesiastics had about the appropriateness of the whole thing and how these were resisted, and, finally, the long-term implications of the decision ultimately taken in the wake of the trial to burn all the examples of the Talmud that French authorities could get their hands on. …

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