B is for The Disputation of Barcelona

“The Jews were forced to listen to the sermons preached by the Dominican friars. “

DisputationHere’s something I’ve only known about for a few weeks.

“The Disputation of Barcelona (July 20–24, 1263) was a formal ordered medieval debate between representatives of Christianity and Judaism regarding whether or not Jesus was the Messiah.” Apparently, these disputations, over matters of faith, and other important topics, took place from time to time.

“Martin Luther opened the Protestant Reformation by demanding a disputation upon his 95 theses, 31 October 1517. Although presented as a call to an ordinary scholastic dispute, the oral debate never occurred.”

The Barcelona disputation “was held at the royal palace of King James I of Aragon in the presence of the King, his court, and many prominent ecclesiastical dignitaries and knights, between Dominican Friar Pablo Christiani, a convert from Judaism to Christianity, and Rabbi Nahmanides (Ramban), a leading medieval Jewish scholar, philosopher, physician, kabbalist, and biblical commentator.

“During the Middle Ages, there were numerous ordered disputations between Christians and Jews. They were not free and authentic debates (like modern ones), but were mere attempts by Christians to force conversion on the Jews. They were connected with burnings of the Talmud at the stake and violence against Jews. The Disputation of Barcelona was unique, in that it was the only occasion on which the Jewish representative was allowed to speak freely.”

So it sounded like respite from the general persecution of the Jews on religious grounds, and the rigging of the system. However, the aftermath, according to the Jewish Virtual Library:

The [Barcelona] disputation… prompted the Dominican Raymond Martini to devise a better method of providing christological interpretations to the aggadah. In 1280 Martini concluded his book Pugio Fidei (Paris, 1651), and henceforward it was used indiscriminately by every Christian controversialist wishing to invalidate Judaism.

The king cooperated with missionary activities throughout the realm and the Jews were forced to listen to the sermons preached by the Dominican friars. An order was issued by the latter between August 26 and 29 directing the Jews to erase from their copies of the Talmud any passages vilifying Jesus and Mary. Failure to do so was punishable by a fine, and books which had not been censored as required would be burned…

This was, functionally, a less bloody event of the centuries-long Inquisition, “one of the great blights on the history of Christianity.”

And what, you may reasonably ask, piqued my interest in this arcane topic? It was the death of the actor Christopher Lee at the age of 93 in early June 2015. A Facebook friend posted a reference to The Disputation, a 1986 TV movie starring Lee as King James of Aragon.

Better still, you can watch the hour-long drama here or here.
abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

22 thoughts on “B is for The Disputation of Barcelona”

  1. …and on it goes even today when people just can’t accept each others’ differences.

  2. Oh, yeah, I know I’m back when I can read bizarre history on Roger’s blog, lol. Will it ever cease, the religion-fueled need to “be right”? (A rhetorical question if there ever was one…) Chuckling. After errands, will settle in to read everyone else at ABC. Finally posting again. I got waylaid by fresh garlic, cutting boards, a new wok, and my sketch pad. Amy

  3. Arnaldo – not sure I’d agree that it started that late: “Historians use the term “Medieval Inquisition” to describe the various inquisitions that started around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). These inquisitions responded to large popular movements throughout Europe considered apostate or heretical to Christianity, in particular the Cathars in southern France and the Waldensians in both southern France and northern Italy. Other Inquisitions followed after these first inquisition movements. Legal basis for some inquisitorial activity came from Pope Innocent IV’s papal bull Ad extirpanda of 1252, which explicitly authorized (and defined the appropriate circumstances for) the use of torture by the Inquisition for eliciting confessions from heretics. By 1256 inquisitors were given absolution if they used instruments of torture.”

  4. Thank you Roger for enter ing my name. and post. You entry is interesting as always. I think it absolutely useless to quarrel about religious issues, because I believe that if God created the universe with all the stars, our insignificant little planet and people, He won’t be interested in the way we dress or speak. The only thing that counts is to respect other fellow human beings and other creatures.
    From Australia I great you all.
    Wil, ABcw team

  5. Interesting writing Roger,
    I agree with most of your commenters about the futility and the strife caused through religious differences.
    Why we can’t just respect each other and one’s religious beliefs ?
    Surely this is part of the creed of Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism ,Sikhism, Islam etc.
    Thought provoking writing,
    Best wishes,
    Di,
    ABCW team.

  6. I am sorry for the misunderstanding. I was referring specifically to the inquisition in Spain, which was not established until 1492, when Ferdinand II and Isabella I united the country. They were trying to “purify” the country. That’s when the forced conversions, bloody torturing, and the exodus of Jews and Muslims took place. (Many of them ended up in Mexico, especially Jews, where they practiced their religions in secrecy.) Prior to that, the Muslim’s were primarily in power. It was a period of enlightenment where Muslims, Christians, and Jews debated their differences peacefully overall. Blessings, my friend!

  7. True, Arnoldo, but that “purification, though most notorious in Spain, was hardly limited to there.

  8. Yes they liked to stack the odds in medieval times, nice bit of obscure knowledge Roger. Unfortunately on seeing the dispute subject I couldn’t get out of my head “He is not the Messiah, he’s just a very naughty boy” scene from the the Pythons Life of Brian.

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