Duking it Out in the Arena of Time: Chronology and the Christian–Jewish Encounter (1100–1600)

in Medieval Encounters
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


This article surveys the historical points of intersection between the study of chronology and the polemical encounter with Judaism in medieval Latin Christendom. Particular attention will be paid to the work of Roger Bacon, who viewed chronology as a tool that could furnish proof for Christianity, e.g., by supporting a Christological interpretation of the prophecies in the book of Daniel. A second focus will be on the reception and study of the Jewish calendar among Christian scholars and how it both influenced exegetical thought about the chronology of the Last Supper and informed efforts to improve the ecclesiastical calendar. With regard to the latter, it will be argued that the competition with Judaism and the Jewish calendar was an important motivating factor in the debates that led to the Gregorian calendar reform of 1582.

Duking it Out in the Arena of Time: Chronology and the Christian–Jewish Encounter (1100–1600)

in Medieval Encounters




TatianOratio ad Graecos (35–41), ed. M. Whittaker (Oxford: Clarendon Press1982) 65–77.


William Adler“Eusebius’ Chronicle and Its Legacy,” in Eusebius Christianity and Judaismed. H.W. Attridge and G. Hata (Leiden: Brill1992) 467–491; Anthony Grafton and Megan Williams Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen Eusebius and the Library of Caesarea (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 2006) 133–177.


Peter VerbistDuelling with the Past: Medieval Authors and the Problem of the Christian Era c. 990–1135 (Turnhout: Brepols2010); Nothaft Dating 69–112.


See Joachim WiesenbachSigebert von Gembloux: Liber decennalis (Weimar: Böhlau1986) 95–97 104–105; Verbist Duelling 88–104 258–277 for details.


BaconOpus tertium205–221. See also Roger Bacon Opus majus ed. John Henry Bridges 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1897–1900) 1:187–201. The chronology of the Israelite and Judean kings already occupied the minds of twelfth-century Victorine scholars. See Andrew of St Victor De concordia annorum regum Israel et Iuda (cccm 53A 137–144) and Richard of St Victor De concordia temporum regum conregnantium super Judam et Israel (pl 196:241–256) trans. in Frans Van Liere and Franklin T. Harkins Interpretation of Scripture: Practice (Turnhout: Brepols 2015). A very voluminous and sophisticated attempt to come to terms with chronological contradictions in Scripture and other historical sources is Giles of Lessines’s Summa de temporibus (1260–1264). On this work see Ferdinand M. Delorme “De auctore Compoti sub nomine Rogeri Baconis recenter editi” Antonianum 14 (1939): 313–322; C. Philipp E. Nothaft “Climate Astrology and the Age of the World in Thirteenth-Century Thought: Giles of Lessines and Roger Bacon on the Precession of the Solar Apogee” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 77 (2014): 35–60.


On this aspect see now Amanda PowerRoger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2013).


RashiCommentary on Daniel 9:23–27; Seder Olam: The Rabbinic View of Biblical Chronology trans. Heinrich W. Guggenheimer (Northvale nj: Aronson 1998) 240–246. See Franz Fraidl Die Exegese der Siebzig Wochen Daniels in der alten und mittleren Zeit (Graz: Leuschner & Lubensky 1883) 121–134; Günther Stemberger “Die jüdische Danielrezeption seit der Zerstörung des zweiten Tempels am Beispiel der Endzeitberechnung” in Europa Tausendjähriges Reich und Alte Welt: Zwei Jahrtausende Geschichte und Utopie in der Rezeption des Danielbuches ed. M. Delgado K. Koch and E. Marsch (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer 2003) 139–158.


Nicholas of LyraPostilla super totam Bibliam (Dan 9:24), vol. 2 (Strasbourg, 1492; repr. Frankfurt: Minerva1971) sig. DDD8va: “Item expositores iudeorum super locum istum nunquam fecerunt mentionem de annis lunaribus sed tantum de solaribus. Ex quo patet quod sunt accipiendi anni solares aliter non haberemus argumentum contra Iudaeos cum nullus eorum modo predicto accipiat.” For further details see Mark Zier “Nicholas of Lyra on the Book of Daniel” in Nicholas of Lyra: The Senses of Scripture ed. P.D.W. Krey and L. Smith (Leiden: Brill 2000) 173–193; Fraidl Die Exegese 140–147; Klepper The Insight 102–103. A relatively uncritical approach to the Jewish calculation is also taken by Andrew of St Victor Super Danielem 9 (cccm 53F 78–88 95–106).


Alan of LilleDe fide catholica contra haereticos 3.10 (pl 210 410): “In Sehale [read: Scola Helye] etiam loquitur Elias quod mundus duraturus est per sex millia annorum et duo millia fuisse vanitatis quod refertur ad tempus quod fuit ante legem Mosaicam duo vero millia legis Mosaicae sequentia duo millia Messiae. Sed manifestum est plus quam quatuor annorum millia transiisse; ergo manifestum est legem transiisse et Messiam venisse.” See Marie-Humbert Vicaire “‘Contra Judaeos’ meridionaux au début du xiiie siècle: Alain de Lille Évrard de Béthune Guillaume de Bourges” in Juifs et judaïsme de Languedoc: xiiie siècle–début xive siècle ed. M.-H. Vicaire and B. Blumenkranz (Toulouse: Privat 1977) 269–293 (272–273 285 n. 13a).


Ramón MartíPugio fidei adversus Mauros et Judaeos (Leipzig: Lenckisch1687) 394–395. See also David Berger “Torah and the Messianic Age: The Polemical and Exegetical History of a Rabbinic Text” in Studies in Medieval Jewish Intellectual and Social History ed. D. Engel L.H. Schiffman and E.R. Wolfson (Leiden: Brill 2012) 169–187 and Harvey Hames’s introduction to this issue.


See Israel Jacob Yuval“Jewish Messianic Expectations towards 1240 and Christian Reactions,” in Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Wacoed. P. Schäfer and M. Cohen (Leiden: Brill1998) 105–121. A different version of this article appears in Israel Jacob Yuval Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Berkeley ca: University of California Press 2006) 257–295. Cf. Michael Oberweis “Jüdische Endzeiterwartung im 13. Jahrhundert—Realität oder christliche Projektion?” in Antichchrist: Konstruktionen von Feindbildern ed. W. Brandes and F. Schmieder (Berlin: Akademie Verlag 2010) 147–158.


For details see C. Philipp E. Nothaft“Between Crucifixion and Calendar Reform: Medieval Christian Perceptions of the Jewish Lunisolar Calendar,” in Living the Lunar Calendared. J. Ben-Dov J. Steele and W. Horowitz (Oxford: Oxbow Books2012) 259–267; Nothaft Dating 113–154; Nothaft Medieval Latin Christian Texts 43–68.


Georgij AvvakumovDie Entstehung des Unionsgedankens (Berlin: Akademie Verlag2002) 29–159; Brett Edward Whalen “Rethinking the Schism of 1054: Authority Heresy and the Latin Rite” Traditio 62 (2007): 1–24; Chris Schabel “The Quarrel over Unleavened Bread in Western Theology 1234–1439” in Greeks Latins and Intellectual History 1204–1500 ed. Martin Hinterberger and Chris Schabel (Louvain: Peeters 2011) 85–127.


Rupert of DeutzLiber de divinis officiis 2.22 (cccm 7 52–56).


Paul of MiddelburgEpistola apologetica ad doctores Lovanienses (Louvain: Johannes de Westfalia1488) sigs. A7r–8v. See also Paul of Middelburg Paulina de recta Paschae celebratione (Fossombrone: Petrucci 1513) sigs. Ar–2v D6v–8v and Nothaft Dating 224–232.


See most recently C. Philipp E. Nothaft“Johannes Keck, das Konzil von Basel und der vergessene Osterstreit des Jahres 1444,” Deutsches Archiv 71 (2015): 105–147 (123).


C. Philipp E. Nothaft“The Reception and Application of Arabic Science in Twelfth-Century Computistics: New Evidence from Bavaria,” Journal for the History of Astronomy 45 (2014): 35–60; Nothaft “Roman vs. Arabic Computistics in Twelfth-Century England: A Newly Discovered Source (Collatio Compoti Romani et Arabici)” Early Science and Medicine 20 (2015): 187–208.


The text is edited in NothaftMedieval Latin Christian Texts442–467. See also C. Philipp E. Nothaft “Me pudet audire Iudeum talia scire: A Late Medieval Latin School Text on the Jewish Calendar” in Time Astronomy and Calendars in the Jewish Tradition ed. S. Stern and C. Burnett (Leiden: Brill 2013) 327–365.


Giovanni Maria TolosaniCompendio di Sphera et machina del mondo nuovamente composto (Florence: Zucchetta1515) fol. 9v. The work’s dedicatory epistle is dated “8 idus ianuarii in Epiphania Domini anno eiusdem 1514.” Since the Florentine style is being used this corresponds to 6 January 1515. I follow Marzi’s rendering of these verses which is purged of printing mistakes. See Marzi La questione 139–40. For further references to the Jews in sixteenth-century literature on calendar reform see 25 94 97 105 173 177 184. See in addition the unpaginated chapter on the Easter date in Johannes Regiomontanus Kalendarium (Nuremberg 1474) and Johannes Stöffler Calendarium Romanum magnum (Oppenheim: Köbel 1518) fols. 73r–74v who turned the tables on the Jews by accusing them of frequently violating the Mosaic rules for fixing the Passover date.

Index Card

Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 45 45 5
Full Text Views 16 16 16
PDF Downloads 4 4 4
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0