Sacha Stern

The phenomenon of Christian calendars in Hebrew has largely been ignored in modern scholarship; yet it points to an important dimension of Jewish-Christian relations, and more specifically Jewish attitudes towards Christianity, in late medieval northern Europe. It is also evidence of transfer of religious knowledge between Christians and Jews, because the Hebrew texts closely replicate, in contents as well as in layout and presentation, the Latin liturgical calendars, which in many cases the Hebrew scribes must have used directly as base texts. Knowledge of the Christian calendar was essential to Jews for dating documents, especially (but not exclusively) those intended for Christians, for understanding dates in documents, for scheduling business or other meetings with Christians, and in short, for effectively coordinating their socio-economic activities with the rhythms and structure of Christian medieval life.

Sacha Stern

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Sacha Stern

In the year 921/2, the Jewish leaders of Palestine and Babylonia disagreed on how to calculate the calendar. This led the Jews of the entire Near East to celebrate Passover and the other festivals, through two years, on different dates. The controversy was major, but it became forgotten until its late 19th-century rediscovery in the Cairo Genizah. Faulty editions of the texts, in the following decades, led to much misunderstanding about the nature, leadership, and aftermath of the controversy. In this book, Sacha Stern re-edits the texts completely, discovers many new Genizah sources, and challenges the historical consensus. This book sheds light on early medieval Rabbanite leadership and controversies, and on the processes that eventually led to the standardization of the medieval Jewish calendar.