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Religious Encounters between Jews and Reformed Christians

The Case of Hizzuk Emunah

Hebrew anti-Christian polemical literature represents a rather rigid genre, most of the texts being written as polemical compendia where repeating exegetical arguments ranged according to the order of biblical books. Hizzuk Emunah of Isaac ben Abraham of Troki may serve as a popular and widely read example of such source tradition. Nevertheless, the polemical activity of the author documents multifarious religious milieu of the Renaissance Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth where different denominational branches flourished, developing their theology and communal life.

The Biblicism of the book thus does not mirror solely the usual organization of polemical arguments, yet it also results from the Karaite background of the polemicist with its emphasis on literal and historical interpretation of the Biblical text, and at the same time it reflects theological interests of various reformed sects present in the area similarly putting stress on the return to the uncorrupted Scripture and its exegesis. Hizzuk Emunah documents the author’s awareness of the Christian theology with its denominational nuances; apparently, the second part of the book focusing on the critique of the New Testament uses the translation of Symon Budny published in 1572, the fourth chapter of the first part is based on disputation with “an eminent disciple of Martin Luther”, while other passages document vivid contacts with Polish Nontrinitarian Protestants.     

The present project aims at closer look on the polemical work of Isaac ben Abraham, both on the basis of the textual analysis of the book and deeper examination of the historical context of the multi-religious coexistence in the Sixteenth-Century Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth.