Ibn Warraq: Jews and the Crusades (Part 4)
Posted by Robert on January 30, 2013 7:24 AM
PART TWO: THE MASSACRES OF 1096.
2.1. The Sources.
Our knowledge of the events of 1096 is derived from both Christian and Hebrew sources. However the Christian material on the persecution of the Jews is slight. “The only crusade chroniclers who mention the bands that devastated a number of northern European Jewish communities were Ekkehard of Aura and Albert of Aix”.  Ekkehard gives a brief description of the attacks of 1096, Albert gives a little more detail, and they corroborate to some extent the Jewish sources, but in all their accounts do not add up to much.
The Jewish sources, three in all, describe more fully the assaults on Jews and their responses. Robert Chazan , a Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University who has devoted some twenty years to this subject conveniently refers to them, in his European Jewry and the First Crusade, as L, the lengthy narrative, often attributed to Solomon bar Samson, and S, the shortest of the three, sometimes called the Mainz Anonymous. The third text, P, perhaps the least interesting, contains original elegiac poetry with the name-acrostic Eliezer bar Nathan and is ascribed to that twelfth-century Mainz rabbinic authority. However, there is considerable debate as to the reliablity of the Hebrew Chronicles of the First Crusade. While Robert Chazan is convinced of their reliability, Ivan Marcus , Professor at Yale University, heeding the advice of Salo Baron thinks far more basic work needs to be done before one can decide. Marcus writes, “Many scholars have dealt with the subjects treated here. The texts, are very problematic, and Chazan has not heeded Salo Baron's call over thirty years ago: ‘a renewed scrutiny of all the available sources might justify a new truly critical edition of these chronicles’ (A Social and Religious History of the Jews, 2nd rev. ed., 4 , 286). It is still a desideratum. Although they are relatively short - L is only twelve and a half folio pages - they are complex. Parallel passages are sometimes found in two or more of the texts, and some contain blank spaces due to omissions or erasures. Ultraviolet inspection might recover some of these, but that requires examining the manuscripts, not just the microfilms. Not only should the erasures be examined but several scholars' corrections and emendations must also be systematically evaluated. Thus, M. Brann published a detailed review of the Neubauer and Stern edition (Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentums 37 , 285-88), in which he noted several errors of transcription and unnecessary emendations. Dozens of additional corrections are in Nathan Porges's lengthy articles (Revue des études juives 25 , 181-201; 26 , 183-97). The corrections in these studies have been ignored here. Another scholar, also not mentioned, studied the way the three texts are related. Isaiah Sonne (Revue des études juives 96 , 123-24) concluded that the editor of L made use of P and S. He observed that when the blocks of text common to L and P refer to Christianity, the term tsahan ("stench") is used; when blocks common to L and S appear, the term tinnuf ("filth") is found, and when blocks parallel to all three texts occur, both terms appear. Chazan's contrary view that P is derived from L and that S and L are older does not account for Sonne's evidence, which is not discussed. And since P is just as important as L and S, a translation of it should have been included in a book basing itself on these three short texts…. Before a reasonably accurate translation can be made, we first need a new critical edition of the Hebrew texts that is based on a thorough consideration of the manuscripts themselves, all previous scholarly literature on them, and a careful appreciation for the characteristic features of Ashkenazic Hebrew. The Latin sources should also be translated and appended.”
There are further problems that are not addressed by Chazan. These so-called chronicles are not documentary records that can be taken at face value, rather “[t]hey are highly edited, rhetorically colored, and liturgically motivated literary reworkings of circular letters and oral reports, written for definite purposes. The narrators were concerned with praising and exonerating local pious Jew who felt compelled to kill their own families and then commit suicide. To make their case, they insisted on using a Temple typology: Jews are pictured as pure sacrifices who may not be touched by polluting, impure Christians. The martyrs acted justifiably as both Temple priests and as holy sacrifices. The narrators quantified only the martyrs and ignored or downplayed the Jews who did convert, as Baron noted. That these sources are literary texts, even though of a special type, is also clear from their obvious differences of style. In L, lengthy prayers frame the accounts of attacks on several towns, their Jews' defensive political reactions, and subsequent acts of martyrdom. In P, very brief descriptions of a limited number of episodes introduce liturgical poems. And in S, an attention to the Christian townsmen and other human factors also serves to interpret the events portrayed.” 
 Robert Chazan. European Jewry and the First Crusade. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987, p. 39.
 Ibid., pp. 38-50.
 Ivan G. Marcus. Review of European Jewry and the First Crusade by Robert Chazan in Speculum, Vol. 64, No. 3 (Jul., 1989), pp. 685-688.
 Ivan Marcus op. cit., p. 686.
To be continued.
Article printed from Jihad Watch: http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/01/ibn-warraq-jews-and-the-crusades-part-4.htmlURLs in this post: