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Title: Jews and miracles in tales from the Legenda Aurea
Author: Kay, Karen A.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2006
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The medieval Christian attitude towards Jews cannot be easily characterised. Legend often portrayed Jews as hostile, grotesque and murderous. Yet close reading of medieval Christian stories about Jews reveals a more complex picture. The Legenda Aurea, compiled by Jacobus de Voragine in the thirteenth century from earlier sources, includes among its recitals of saints’ lives, miracles and related religious themes a number of tales in which Christian miracles are brought forth, albeit perhaps unwittingly, by the agency of Jews. Christian theological and social ambivalence toward Jews (discussed in Chapter One) developed from the Pauline doctrine of the Jews as the first, though undeserving recipients of Christianity, and the Augustinian concept of Jews as outcast and subjugated, but still crucial witnesses to Christian truth. This truth was attested to in early and medieval rhetoric about miracles (Chapter two); miracles involving saints, icons and Christian symbols were cited to affirm divine sanction for Christ and Christianity, and could be instrumental in converting Jews. Following this discussion of Jews and of the miracle, the three final chapters discuss tales from the Legenda Aurea that depict miracles being enabled by Jewish actions. These could be hostile Jewish attacks on Christian images or personages (Chapter Three). However, other tales depict Jews inviting miracles by behaving as if they had some belief in, or secret knowledge of, Christ or the cross (Chapter Four). Finally, the ‘Silvester’ legend (Chapter Five) depicts Jews disputing with Christians and turning to magic when rhetoric fails, but being vanquished by a Christian miracle that they themselves have challenged the saint to perform.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
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