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Debating Truth The Barcelona Disputation of 1263 by Nina Caputo

Debating Truth The Barcelona Disputation of 1263

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Debating Truth The Barcelona Disputation of 1263 by Nina Caputo

In the summer of 1263, Nahmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman, ca 1195-1270), who was Aragon (1213-1276) to debate with a Dominican Friar named Paul about specific claims concerning the Messiah in Judaism and Christianity. Friar Paul had converted from Judaism to Christianity as an adult, so he brought with him some knowledge of rabbinic texts, which he used to challenge the faith of Jews in Provence and northern Spain. His strategy was entirely innovative. Using passages from the Talmud, a foundation of Jewish life in the diaspora claimed that Jewish leaders recognized that Jesus was the messiah. The Barcelona dispuation was an officially sanctioned opportunity for Friar Paul to perform this kind of argument. it was conducted in a public forum at the roayal palace before an audience of Jewish and Christian dignitaries The two disputants, each thoroughly convinced of the indisputable truth of his own religious faith and theological interpretations, argued for his position before a panel of judges headed by James I himself. Nina Caputo's new graphic history tells the story of the Barcelona Disputation from Nahmanides' perspective. By combining the visual power of graphics with primary sources, contextualizing essays, historiography, and study questions, Debating Truth explores issues of the nature of truth, interfaith relations, and the complicated dynamics between Christians, Jews and Muslims in the medieval Mediterranean.


-Nina Caputo's marvelous reconstruction of the Barcelona Disputation is much more than a traditional narrative history. It is a laboratory permitting her readers to sift and weigh the evidence for themselves. She presents the dossier of primary sources that past historians have drawn from and their range of conclusions; but even more valuably, she lets us into the historian's workspace, allowing us to use the tools that she and Liz Clarke have assembled for the occasion, inviting us to share in the uncertainties, lacunae, and forking paths of which real historical interpretation is made. Too often when reading history books we passively consume narrative information about the past. This book invites readers to participate actively in rethinking it.---Marina Rustow, Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East and Professor of History, Princeton University -It is a rare treat to encounter a work of such historical, and aesthetic, probity. Erudite, thoughtful, and imaginative, Nina Caputo has put together and created a new and searching range of documents with which to read and reconstruct the 1263 Barcelona Disputation--a major event in the old asymmetric conflict that opposed Christians to Jews and to Muslims. Debating Truth is an exemplary perspectival account of the characters and plots, the broad contexts and settings, and the meanings and aftermaths of this layered contest. Attentive to law, culture, religion, and politics--and to narrative and interpretation--Caputo and Clarke have produced a striking book, a visual and intellectual feat that demonstrates that there is indeed much to debate still about truth and representation.---Gil Anidjar, author of 'Our Place in al-Andalus': Kabbalah, Philosophy, Literature in Arab Jewish Letters -Debating Truth treats a timeless subject in a new way. How should believers in different faiths dispute the convictions that divide them? The Barcelona Disputation provides a famous medieval example of that question, now made available in a graphically novel and compelling way.---David Nirenberg, author of Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today -A visual delight and a narrative tour de force, Debating Truth uses the conventions of the graphic novel to unearth an authentic sense of the drama and danger that infused Christian-Jewish relations in the Middle Ages. In tandem with the source collection and Caputo's historical overview, it provides both an engaging and lucid introduction to medieval Spain and a chance for students and scholars alike to meditate on how we remember the past and how we tell our stories about it.---Jay Rubenstein, University of Tennessee -As a hybrid graphic history and academic work, Nina Caputo's Debating Truth not only offers an attractive and engaging book for classroom use but opens up welcome perspectives on the Barcelona Disputation. The graphic form forces the reader to contemplate the many gaps left in Nahmanides
account and in the historical record more generally

.---Jonathan Decter, Brandeis University

About the Author

Nina Caputo is an Associate Professor in the Department of History. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the UCLA, and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Caputo is a scholar of medieval Jewish history and interfaith relations in medieval Europe. She has received fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Judaic Studies, and the American Philosophical Society. Her first book, Nahmanides in Medieval Catalonia: History, Community, Messianism (2007), explores the history of encounters between Jewish and Christian interpretations of history and redemption. She has also co-editied Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity (Cornell, 2014) with Dr. Andrea Sterk. She is currently working on a book that uses Petrus Alfonsi to explore the figure of the convert and conversion in the Christian middle ages and a collection of essays.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th July 2016


Nina Caputo

More books by Nina Caputo
Author 'Like for Like'


Oxford University Press Inc


256 pages


European history
Early history: c 500 to c 1450/1500
History of religion



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