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Medieval Sourcebook:
An Israelite Bishop without Guile (ca. 1168)

The easy terms on which English Jews and Christian mingled gave rise to this anecdote.  Jacobs noted:  “Bishop” was the term applied in England to each of the three Dayanim or judges who constituted the Beth Din or ecclesiastical tribunal which decided cases between Jews.

And so too that well-known saying of Henry of London was heard by many.  For there were one day in the Church of St. Paul at London many bishops and abbots taking cognizance of certain ecclesiastical cases by order of our lord the Pope, and with them a great multitude of clergy, citizens, soldiers, and others.  There chanced to enter certain Jews of London, who mixed with these and others in seeking for their debtors if they might see them.  And among them comes a certain Bishop of the Jews. And to him Henry said in joke: " Welcome, Bishop of the Jews!  Receive him among ye, for there is scarcely any of the Bishops of  England that has not betrayed his lord the Archbishop of Canterbury, except this one. In this Israelite Bishop there is no guile."


Source: J. C. Robertson,  Materials for History of Thomas Becket, iv., 151; ed. Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records (London, 1893), p. 45.

Scanned by Elka Klein

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, November 1998


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