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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  December 2000

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION December 2000

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Subject:

Re: jews and xns ca. 1000

From:

Richard Landes <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 20 Dec 2000 14:06:20 -0500

Content-Type:

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At 12:11 PM 12/20/00 -0500, you wrote:
>In a message dated 12/20/00 10:21:45 AM Eastern Standard Time, [log in to unmask]
>writes:
>
> > >In art history, the year 1000 is usually regarded as the beginning of the
> >  >Romanesque period, with much attention to millennial ideas that were in
>the
> >  >air at the time.
> >
> >  any references? because the "regular" historians have so much trouble
> >  imagining apocalyptic expectations that i had to write a piece called "the
> >  fear of an apocalyptic year 1000" with reference not to the
> contemporaries,
> >  but modern (augustinian) historians.
>
>A good introductory art history text is Janson, History of Art. Don't, as you
>did, lump Romanesque and Gothic togetehr.They're two distinctly different art
>historical periods (the churches look very different), with the beginning of
>the Gothic usually traced to Sugar's work at S. Denis (c. 1137).

i'm fully aware of the differences.  my point is that, starting in ca.
1000, a wave of church building that seeks to enclose the largest and
brightest space begins, that, riding a continuous wave of technological
improvement and economic growth, passes thru two distinct but closely
linked stylistic phases.

>I don't know
>what a "regular" historian is, or what it is you had to say to save them from
>error.

regular historian in that context is someone trained in a history (rather
than art-history or literature) dept who works on political, social, and
economic history with an interest in religion because, as someone put it,
it's hard to do medieval without studying religion.

>But for a good popular book on millenial expectations, see Norman
>Cohen, The Pursuit of the Millenium. He taught history, I believe at SUNY.

he's english.  he is the pathbreaker in looking at popular millennial movts
in the MA, but missed 1000 entirely.  no mention of either the apostolic
heresies of the day, nor of the pilgrimages and the peace of god.

>The fact is that there was a great upsurge in church building after the year
>1000, and you can find the much-quoted remarks of Raul Glaber (a monk of the
>time) on the ORB site. You may find it thin to assume that Europeans were
>greatful that the world had not come to an end in the millenial year, and the
>churches were being built in gratitude. But at least in art history, that's
>one posibility put forward.

i am neither of the "everyone quaked in their boots in 999 and then built
the west out of gratitude in 1000" school (Focillon et al.) nor of the
"year like any other, they didn't even know it was 1000" school which
dominates (apparently unbeknownst to some art historians) the "regular"
historians.  for more, and a read of an early draft of the article that
appeared in the January 2000 issue of speculum on this matter, come to
http://www.mille.org/scholarship/1000/1000-pg.html
overall, i'd attribute the churchbuilding to the enormous increase in
social solidarity and commitment to xnty that followed in the wake of a
more demotic xnty (vs. hierarchical) coming out around 1000, especially in
the regions of france where the peace of god assemblies took place.  this
does not argue against "gratitude" -- on the contrary.  but it gives that
gratitude a more socio-cultural basis than theological
alone.  millennialism is a form of social mysticism.

>It would be interesting to know what parallels,
>if any, exist between the history of church building and the history of
>synagogue building.

stylistically there are interesting combinations.  the prague synagogue of
the Maharal (14th cn) is gothic secular.  but jews were few in number and
forced to keep a low profile, so the embrace of space and light that the
xns engaged in probably had little counterpart.

> >  >I'd assume that Jews too could have been caught up in the
> >  >question of whether the millenial year of the Christians would be
>"special,"
> >  >and if so how.
> >
> >  not likely, altho they may have responded to changes in xn behavior -- for
> >  better or for worse from their point of view.
>
>You're agreeing with me, which may be more clear if I restate. Jews could
>have been caught up in the question through observing changes in the behavior
>of Christians.

yes.  i suspect that the jews may have been among those groups who, while
they didn't attend the peace assemblies (relics there), they did take (some
form of) the oaths afterwards, thus participating in the new social contract.

> >  there is evidence of apoc expectation among karaites in this period...
>
>But what I suggested finding out was exactly why the Karaites rejected
>rabbinical authority and the Talmud.

big debates about it.  seems to be a significant split btwn the motivations
of the early leaders and the later communities.  perhaps one cd contrast
why babylonian-palestinian jews develop ca. 900 an anti-talmudic community
and the western european jews ca. 1000 develop a highly talmudic
community.  all to be looked at from the lense of Brian Stock's "textual
communities"

> >  i mean the franco-german jews.  gershom of mainz and koln, rashi of
> troyes,
> >  his sons.  this produces a large school of commentators on the bible and
> >  the talmud which remains to this day the core of talmudic study, even
> among
> >  sephardim.  there is no venitian school of commentary as far as i know
> >  (soncino, a printing house in the 16th and 17th cns), and i am unaware of
> >  jews sending their children to the yeshivas of venice.  my point cd be
> >  stated simply in the notion that in 950 a northern european jew who wanted
> >  his son to become a rabbi wd send him either east (byzantium, palestine,
> >  babylon) or south (north africa).  by 1050, he'd send him to study
> with the
> >  students of gershom in a variety of northern european (lotharingian)
> >  cities.  so in under a cn, northern european jewry goes from being a
> >  marginal frontier settlement to being a cultural center.
>
>We tend to be talking at cross purposes because you're equating Jewish
>culture with study of the Talmud and nothing more.

i wd neither underestimate the centrality of the study of the talmud to
jewish community survival and continuity, nor the range of things involved
in sustaining talmudic study (education, legal systems [responsa
literature], community legislation, liturgical innovation).

>I'm seeing it as much

careful with the use of such words as "much more"... it's like saying
"merely"... it shows a lack of understanding of what you are minimizing.

>more
>than just the study of the Talmud. Venice is important, for example, for the
>study of Kabbala,

for that, southern provence is a much more impt site for "origins".

>as the site of the first ghetto (the very word "ghetto" is
>of Venetian derivation),
>for Hebrew printing,

all of this is 15/16th cn.

>because the Jewish community
>there goes back to the 5th century,

and, as far as i know, have very little impact on the rabbinic culture of
the intervening period (no venetian rashi or rambam)

>because in my opinion there are
>Kabbalistic influences in the evolution of the Tarot pack (the oldest extant
>packs come from Venice), because many of the Jews expelled from Spain went to
>Venice, and for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the
>training of rabbis.

this is all well and good, but do we have any evidence of venice's role in
the issues of the 11th cns?

>Maybe check to see if your understandable enthusiasm for
>your chosen subject (the contribution of Ashkenazic Jews to study of the
>Talmud?) is leading you to suggest that no other subject is of importance.

i cited the contribution to talmudic study of ashkenazic jewry as an
illustration of the way of illustrating the emergence of this northern
european culture as a cultural foyer which in fact included a great deal of
other stuff as well.  there are plenty of subjects of importance that are
not related to this question of the origins of northern european jewry ca.
1000.  if you have some evidence of venetian activity around that time,
fine.  but 16th issues seem of limited relevance.

>pat

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