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Jewish Philosophical Polemics Against Christianity in the Middle Ages: With a New Introduction$
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Daniel J. Lasker

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9781904113515

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781904113515.001.0001

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(p.135) Chapter Six Transubstantiation
Jewish Philosophical Polemics Against Christianity in the Middle Ages: With a New Introduction

Daniel J. Lasker

Liverpool University Press

This chapter assesses Jewish philosophical arguments against the Christian doctrine of transubstantiation—the dogma that the bread and wine used in the mass actually became the body and blood of Christ. For many Christians, the sacrament of the Eucharist and the doctrine of transubstantiation were mysteries that were not amenable to rational investigation. Yet the fact that mysteries were not rationally provable did not mean that Christian thinkers refrained from trying to give a philosophical underpinning to this doctrine. However, the Jewish use of specifically philosophical arguments against transubstantiation came surprisingly late. Whatever the reason for the late appearance of Jewish philosophical arguments against transubstantiation, it is certain that by the time of their appearance, some Jews already had a good idea of the internal Christian criticism of it. The first Jewish polemicist to offer a comprehensive, philosophical critique of the doctrine of transubstantiation was Profiat Duran. Duran claimed that the whole idea of transubstantiation ran counter to the principles of the rational sciences. Other Jewish polemicists, though relying upon Duran's arguments, used different frameworks to present their contentions. The Jewish philosophical arguments against transubstantiation can be divided into five categories: (l) the interpenetrability of bodies; (2) the concepts of number and place; (3) the concept of motion; (4) the problem of accidents; and (5) miscellaneous arguments.

Keywords:   Jewish philosophical arguments, Christian doctrine, transubstantiation, Eucharist, Jewish polemicists, Profiat Duran, Jews, Christians, sacrament

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