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In: Medieval Encounters

Gad Freudenthal and I disagree as to the relationship between Jewish anti-Christian polemics and philosophy in the cultural transfer of Andalusian rationalism to Provence. Freudenthal believes that the Jewish need to confront Christianity was one of the factors that led Provençal Jewry to adopt philosophical reasoning that theretofore had been foreign to them. I have argued that Iberian Jewish immigrants to Provence sought out Christian colleagues because of the latter’s interest in philosophy; in order to make sure the boundaries between the religions were maintained, these Jewish intellectuals were motivated to polemicize against Christianity. A central example of our disagreement is the case of Jacob ben Reuben, author of Wars of the Lord (1170), who describes his encounters with a Christian sage who tried to convert him. Freudenthal believes that Jacob learned philosophy in order to find answers to the Christian; but I contend that from Jacob’s description, it is obvious that he had first gone to the Christian’s house to learn philosophy before he was urged by his teacher to convert. Unlike Freudenthal who believes polemics led to philosophy, I argue that philosophy led to polemics.

In: Medieval Encounters