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Peter of Blois:
Against the Perfidy of the Jews , before 1198

A treatise addressed to John Bishop of Worcester, probably John of Coutances who held that See, 1194-8.

Ch.  I .- Preface in which he shows that disputation with Jews and heretics is difficult and dangerous.

You have made long and anxious complaint in your letters that surrounded by Jews and heretics you are attacked by them and have not ready the authorities in the sacred Scripture by which you can refute their calumnies and answer their cunning sleights.   It is right, says the Apostle, that there should be heresies and schisms so that those who have been proved may be made manifest.  Wherefore life is allowed to the Jews of today, because they are our treasurers while they confirm the prophecies on our faith and the law of Moses.  We read the Passion of Christ, not alone in their books but in their faces. . . .  . .As for what you say that you desire to dispute with Jews so as to convert them and turn them to the faith, I commend you the less for that for you beat the air, exhausting yourself with foolish and vain zeal.  God indeed has placed a limit to them which they may not exceed.  Their hour is not yet come, but He has blinded them till the time when the heathen are converted to the Faith.  Hence it is what is said by Isaiah " Go and blind the heart of this people, &c." For when one of them receives the Faith the rest still persevere in their obstinacy.  It remains therefore that the multitude of the heathen shall enter into the Faith, and then the remnant of Israel shall be His.  It seems to me wiser for our Faith to conceal the injury done to it for the time rather than enter into discussion with a people stiff-necked and of a stubbornness truly bestial. . . But because you complain bitterly that you are beset by Jews and heretics and have naught at hand by which you can evade their machinations, I will not keep back from you what I know.

Ch. II.-Testimony of the Law and the Prophets of the Trinity and Unity in God.
III.-Testimony of Law and Prophets on the Father and the Son.
IV.-Testimony of the Holy Ghost.
V.-Testimony of the Trinity.
VI.-Reasons and authorities for the faith in the Holy Trinity.
VII.-Testimony of the Prophets that the Son was sent by the Father.
VIII.-Testimony that Christ came in the flesh.
IX.-Testimony that Christ was born of David.
X.-Testimony that Christ was born of the nations.
XI.-That Christ came in his own person.
XII.-That Christ was God and man of the seed of Abraham.
XIII.-Testimonies of the time and place of the birth of Christ.
XIV.-That the desires of the prophets were fulfilled by Christ.
XV.-Testimony that Christ was to come in humility.
XVI.-Testimony of the Prophets in reprobation of the legal sacrifices.
XVII.-Testimony to the Passion of Christ.
XVIII.-Testimony to the burial of the Lord.
XIX.-Testimony to the Resurrection of Christ.
XXI.-Testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord.
XXII.-Testimony to the mission of the Holy Ghost.
XXIII. -Testimony of Jewish and heathen histories to the Resurrection.
XXIV.-Testimony of Josephus the Jew to Christ.
XXV.-Testimony that the new covenant was preferred to the -old Law.
XXVI.-Testimony on Baptism.
XXVII.-On the sacrament of the Altar.
XXVIII.-Of the transference of the law to the Gentiles and the reprobation of the Jews.
XXIX.-Of the calling of the heathen to the Faith.
XXX.-Testimony of the Prophets that the remnant of Israel shall be convicted and saved.
XXXI.-Testimony on the glorious State of the Church.
XXXII.-Manifold authorities that the Scriptures cannot be understood literally.
XXXIII.-Testimony to the coming of Anti-Cbrist.
XXXIV.-Testimony to the final coming of Christ at the general resurrection.
XXXV.-Testimony to the Day of judgment.
XXXVI.-Testimony to the glorification of the Saints.
XXXVII.-Testimony to the damnation of the wicked.
XXXVIII.-Testimony of the Heathen to the Faith [Virgil, Siby1s].

Conclusion of  the Work: You have thus arms sent you for the defence of the Faith, use them warily.  For the Jew is always inconstant and shifty.  Now he says Yes, anon he says No, at one time he quibbles about the literal meaning, at another he refers all to the times of his own Messiah, i.e. of the Antichrist, and after the manner of his father the devil often changes into monstrous shapes.  If therefore you wish to catch him and destroy his shifts, place the library of the Spirit between you so that he cannot escape or turn tail but must be slain like Goliath with his own sword.

[Editor's note: The above table of contents of Peter of Blois' treatise Contra Perfidiam Judeorum will give some idea of the usual topics and tactics adopted in Christian disputes with Jews.  The contrast of tone between the twelfth and eleventh centuries is marked (cmp. Disputation of Gilbert Crispin). The Church had lost hope of conversion.  There is also a third treatise A1tercatio Judei cum Christiani addressed to the Bishop of Lincoln, c. 1130 (Loeb, Controverse religieuse 18n.).]


Source: Peter of Blois, "Against the Perfidy of the Jews," Opera, ed.   Giles, iii. 62, seq.
Joseph Jacobs, The Jews of Angevin England: Documents and Records (London, 1893), pp. 179-82.

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, January 1999


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