Debating Truth The Barcelona Disputation of 1263, A Graphic History

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2016-07-15
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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In the summer of 1263, Nahmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman, c. 1195-1270) traveled from his home in Girona to Barcelona at the behest of King James I of Aragon (1213-1276) to debate with a Dominican Friar named Paul about specific claims concerning the Messiah in Judaism and Christianity. The two disputants, each thoroughly convinced of the indisputable truth of his own religious faith and theological interpretations, argued their positions before a panel of judges headed by James I himself. Nina Caputo's new graphic history tells the story of the Barcelona Disputation from the perspective of Nahmanides.

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 and Jews in the medieval Mediterranean.

Author Biography

Nina Caputo is Associate Professor of History at the University of Florida. She is the author of Nahmanides in Medieval Catalonia: History, Community, Messianism (2007), and coeditor, with Andrea Sterk, of Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religion, and the Challenge of Objectivity (2014).

Liz Clarke is a professional illustrator based in Cape Town, South Africa.

Table of Contents


Part I: Graphic history
Chapter 1."Our lord king ordered me to debate Friar Paul..."
Chapter 2. "We have three types of books..."
Chapter 3. "Jesus never walked with the righteous in the Garden of Eden..."
Chapter 4. "Moses, called master, having been summoned by the lord king..."
Chapter 5. "I write this letter to you from Jerusalem..."

Part II: The Primary Sources
Document I: Nahmanides' Hebrew Account of the Barcelona Disputation
Document II: The Latin Account of the Barcelona Disputation
Document III: A letter from King James I permitting the Dominicans to compel Jews to attend public sermons and protecting the property and freedoms of those who convert
Document IV: A letter from James I calling for the burning of copies of one of Maimonides' books on charges that it contained statements blaspheming Jesus
Document V: Letter from James I to the Jewish communities of the Crown of Aragon instructing them to attend Friar Paul's sermons
Document VI: Letter from James I limiting the friars' freedom to compel Jews to attend their sermons
Document VII: James I's report of tribunal investigating charges that Nahmanides had blasphemed
Document VIII: Letter of reprimand from Pope Clement IV to James I
Document IX: Letter from Nahmanides to his son describing the physical landscape of Palestine. This document includes important demographic and political information as well as details about daily life in late thirteenth-century Palestine
Document X: Selected canons from the Fourth Lateran Council concerning the statement of the Catholic creed,
definition of heresy, a call for regulations governing Jewish business and public conduct, and a statement of privileges and rewards for those who participate in renewed military campaigns to the Holy Land

Part III: Context
1. Reconquista and the Boundaries of Christendom
2. King James the Conqueror (1213-1276)
3. The Jews of Spain
4. Disputation in Medieval Society and Culture

Part IV: Historiography
Modern and Medieval Traces of the Barcelona Disputation
Making This Book: Sources, Historical Narrative, and Visual Media

Part V: Resources for Further Research
Sources for Additional Reading
Maps and Figures

Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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