Abelard and heloise on jews and hebraica veritas

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Abstract

In any account of relationships between Jews and Christians in twelfth-century Europe, Peter Abelard’s description of the situation of a Jew in his Collationes, also known as the Dialogue of a Philosopher with a Jew and a Christian, is frequently quoted as unusually vivid in its insight: Whoever thinks that we shall receive no reward for continuing to bear so much suffering through our loyalty to God must imagine that God is extremely cruel. Indeed, there is no people which has ever been known or even believed to have suffered so much for God - we have borne so much for him without cease, and it should be granted that there can be no rust of sin which is not burnt up in the furnace of this affliction. Dispersed among all the nations, without a king or earthy ruler, are we not alone encumbered with such taxes that almost every day we pay an intolerable ransom for our wretched lives? Indeed, we are thought by everyone to be worthy of such hatred and contempt, that whoever does us any injury believes it to be the height of justice and a supreme sacrifice offered to God. For they say that the disaster of our being made such captives would not have occurred unless God hated us enormously, and both pagans and Christians reckon whatever savagery they inflict on us as being done justly in revenge. The pagans, indeed, remembering the conquests by which we first took over their land and the long-lasting persecutions with which we then wore them down and wiped them out, count whatever they do to us as deserved revenge; whilst the Christians seem to have greater cause for persecuting us, since (as they say) we killed their God…Sleep itself, which more than anything cherishes and restores human nature in relaxation fills us with such disturbing anxiety, that even when we sleep we may think of nothing but the danger of being murdered. Nowhere but heaven may we enter safely, and even our own homes are places of danger for us. When we travel to anywhere in the neighborhood, we must pay a high price to a guide in whom we have little trust.1

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChristian Attitudes Toward the Jews in the Middle Ages
Subtitle of host publicationA Casebook
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Pages83-108
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)0415978270, 9781135866419
ISBN (Print)9780415978279
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006

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