The Healing Power of the Hebrew Tongue

An Example from Late Thirteenth-Century England
  • Mark Zier

Abstract

The study of the history of medicine has largely been undertaken as a part of the larger scope of the history of science, and for good reason. Yet both notions, of medicine and of science, could have rather different significations in the Middle Ages, and in this paper I would like to pursue one of the dimensions of medieval science that is not normally associated by historians of science today with the science of the health of the body: namely, the science of the Bible.

Keywords

Burning Settling Reformer Avenge 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England (London 1971), p. 45.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Adolf Neubauer, Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and in the College Libraries of Oxford… (Oxford 1886), no. 117. The other MSS (three in number) are: a miscellany with a Hebrew-French vocabulary from Exeter Cathedral, now Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley Or. 135; the Hebrew dictionary of R. David Kimhi, Sepher ha Shorashim, together with an abridgement, from Norwich Priory, now Cambridge, St. John’s College, MS. 218; and a fragment of a prayerbook of penitential hymns found in another codex from Bury St. Edmunds. Cecil Roth grudgingly concedes that there are a few other MSS that could have been in the possession of Anglo-Norman Jews before the Expulsion, but there is nothing to confirm these few cases; he cites four possibilities, three of which are biblical codices: see his Intellectual Activities of Medieval English Jewry, British Academy, Supplemental Papers 8 (London n.d.), pp. 10–11, esp. nn. 1–4 (p. 10) and 1–3 (p. 11). Beryl Smalley discusses Laud. Or. 174: The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd rev. ed. (Oxford 1983), p. 342.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    “hoc psalterium ebraycum est de bibliotheca venerabilis monasterii sancti eadmundi acomodatam fratri Ricardo bryngkelei ordinis minorum sacreque theologie humilimo professor. 1502°” (see fig. 7.2). A.B. Emden reports that Richard entered the Cambridge convent of Franciscans in 1489, the same year in which he incepted as a bachelor in theology. He was regent master during 1505–06, and prior provincial between 1518 and 1526. From various inscriptions, he is known to have had in his possession nine MSS that are still extant, among them two copies of the Greek New Testament, a Greek Psalter, and the Hebrew Psalter under discussion here. See Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500 (Cambridge 1963), p. 103.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    C. H. Talbot and E. A. Hammond, The Medical Practitioners in Medieval England (London 1965), pp. 127–28.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Biblia Hebraica, ed. Rudolf Kittel (Stuttgart 1937, repr. 1968); so, e.g., at Ps 48:15; 77:1, 19; 79:6, 7; 88:15.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    See, e.g., C.H. Talbot, Medicine in Mediaeval England (London 1967), pp. 127–31. I have not, however, seen the practice described in conjunction with the term almuchantarath, as it would seem to be in the present case.Google Scholar
  7. 16.
    But there is evidence that some Jewish settlers came from other towns in France as well. See H.G. Richardson, The English Jewry under Angevin Kings (London 1960), pp. 1–5.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Two prominent Christian Hebraists of the period have connections with the west country: a certain Odo, whose Ysagoge in theologiam (written ca. 1138) exists in a MS of the priory of Cerne, a dependency of St. Peter’s, Gloucester, and Andrew of St. Victor, who was abbot of Wigmore in Shropshire not far from Hereford for several years between 1150 and 1175. Richardson discounts earlier claims for a school in Bristol that would have functioned as something of a domus conversorum in the middle of the 12th century, but see Michael Adler, Jews of Medieval England (London 1939), pp. 183 and 281.Google Scholar
  9. At p. 183 Adler cites the description of this institution as given in F.B. Bickley, The Little Red Book of Bristol (Bristol 1900), p. 208: “scholae pro Iudeis et aliis parvulis informandis”.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    Richardson, English Jewry, pp. 8–19. At expulsion: Bedford, Bristol, Canterbury, Colchester, Hereford, Lincoln, London, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Stamford, Winchester, and York. For our purposes here it is important to note that the community at Cambridge was suppressed in 1275, and the Jews living there were to resettle in Norwich. Richardson paints a much more conservative picture of the presence and numbers of Jews in medieval England than does Cecil Roth; see, e.g., Roth’s History of the Jews in England (Oxford 1964), esp. pp. 1–90.Google Scholar
  11. 20.
    See V. D. Lipman, The Jews of Medieval Norwich (London 1967), pp. 36–38. Lipman suggests that the Jewish population at the Expulsion was roughly half of its greatest number.Google Scholar
  12. 24.
    Published by A. Landgraf in Ecrits théologiques de l’école d’Abélard, Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense, Eludes et documents 14 (Louvain 1934), pp. 63–285.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    See Jeremy Cohen, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism (Ithaca 1982);Google Scholar
  14. and most recently, Robert Chazan, Daggers of Faith: Thirteenth-Century Christian Missionizing and Jewish Response (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1989). Clearly the Dominicans of Aragon took the lead in this endeavour, and whatever form it took in Paris, as well as in England, it derived from southern approaches.Google Scholar
  15. 28.
    Smalley, Study, pp. 342–44. The MSS primarily include Oxford, Corpus Christi College, MS. 10, and Cambridge, Trinity College, MS. R.8.6. See also R. Loewe, “The Mediaeval Hebraists of England: The Superscriptio Lincolniensis”, Hebrew Union College Annual 28 (1957) 205–52; and “Latin Superscriptio MSS on Portions of the Hebrew Bible other than the Psalter”, Journal of Jewish Studies 9 (1958) 63–71.Google Scholar
  16. 33.
    For a good, recent, synoptic view of Roger Bacon, see Jeremiah Hackett, “Bacon, Roger”, Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. II (New York 1983), pp. 35–42.Google Scholar
  17. 36.
    Opus tertium 20, in Fr. Rogeri Bacon opera quaedam hactenus inedita, vol. I, ed. J.S. Brewer (London 1859), p. 65. It must be added that he had no illusions about how long it might take to master the language (Opus tertium 24, Brewer, p. 94). See S.A. Hirsch, “Roger Bacon and Philology”, in Roger Bacon: Essays Contributed by Various Writers on the Occasion of the Commemoration of the Seventh Centenary of his Birth, ed. A.G. Little (Oxford 1914).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto 1992

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  • Mark Zier

There are no affiliations available

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