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ODO OF CHATEAUROUX, On the Jewish Talmud (1247, 1248) Print E-mail
Written by Odo of Chateauroux   
[From Jacob R. Marcus, The Jew in the Medieval World, pp. 146-149. Bracketed notes modified from Marcus.]

Odo was the papal legate to France.


Odo to Pope Innocent IV, 1247

To the most holy father and lord, Innocent, high priest by the grace of God, from Odo, by divine goodness Bishop of Tusculum, legate of the apostolic throne. . . . :

Recently [in 1247] it pleased your Holiness to order me to have the Talmud and other books of theJews displayed before me, to inspect them, and, after having inspected them, to show tolerance to theJews with regard to those books which may seem worthy of tolerance because they are not injuriousto the Christian faith, and to return these to the Jewish teachers.

In order that the proceedings which at one time took place about the said books may not be hidden from your Holiness, and lest it happen that anyone be fooled in this affair by the shrewdness and falsehoods of the Jews, let your Holiness know that at the time of the holy Pope Gregory [IX] of happy memory, a certain convert, by the name of Nicholas [Donin, about 1239], related to the said Pope that the Jews, not satisfied with the ancient Law which God had transmitted in writing through Moses, and even completely ignoring it, assert that a different Law, which is called "Talmud," that is "Teaching," had been given by God; and, they say, that it was handed down to Moses verbally and was implanted in their minds.

It was thus preserved unwritten until certain men came whom they call "sages" and "scribes," who, lest this [Talmudic] law disappear from the minds of men through forgetfulness, reduced it to writing the size of which by far exceeds the text of the Bible. In this are contained so many unspeakable insults that it arouses shame in those who read it, and horror in those who hear it. This too is the chief factor that holds the Jews obstinate in their perfidy [rejection of Christianity].

When he heard of these things, the Pope saw fit to write [June 9, 1239] to all archbishops of the kingdom of France, as follows: . . .

Wherefore, since this [Talmud] is said to be the chief cause that holds the Jews obstinate in their perfidy, we thought that your Fraternity should be warned and urged, and we herewith order you by apostolic letters, that on the first Saturday of the Lent to come [March 3, 1240], in the morning, while the Jews are gathered in the synagogues, you shall, by our order, seize all the books of the Jews who live in your districts, and have these books carefully guarded in the possession of the Dominican and Franciscan friars. For this purpose you may invoke, if need be, the help of the secular arm; and you may also promulgate the sentence of excommunication against all those subject to your jurisdiction, whether clergy or laity, who refuse to give up Hebrew books which they have in their possession despite your warning given generally in the churches, or individually. ..."

In the same manner he [Pope Gregory IX] wrote to all the archbishops of the kingdoms of England, Castile, and Leon. He also sent his letter to the King of Portugal. . . . Likewise [June 20, 1239] he sent orders to the Bishop and the Prior of the Dominicans and to the Minister of the Franciscan friars of Paris, as follows: ...

Wherefore, since this [Talmud] is said to be the most important reason why the Jews remain obstinate in their perfidy, we, through apostolic letters, order your Discretion to have the Jews who live in the kingdoms of France, England, Aragon, Navarre, Castile, Leon, and Portugal, forced by the secular arm to give up their books. Those books, in which you will find errors of this sort, you shall cause to be burned at the stake. By apostolic power, and through use of ecclesiastical censure, you will silence all opponents. You will also report to us faithfully what you have done in the matter. But, should all of you be unable to be present at the fulfillment of these instructions, someone of you, none the less, shall carry out its execution. . . .

All books that had been intercepted were put under stamp and seal, and much more was found in the said books in the presence of Gautier, Archbishop of Sens of happy memory and of the venerable fathers of Paris, of the Bishop of Senlis and of the Friar Geoffrey of Bleves, your chaplain, then regent of Paris, and of other teachers of theology, and even of Jewish teachers who, in the presence of these men, confessed that the above-named things were contained in their books. [On the contrary, Jehiel of Paris in 1240 denied that the Talmudic statements in question referred to Christians.] A careful examination having afterwards been made, it was discovered that the said books were full of errors, and that the veil covers the heart of these people to such a degree, that these books turn the Jews away not only from an understanding of the spirit, but even of the letter, and incline them to fables and lies. From this it is clear that the Jewish teachers of the kingdom of France uttered a falsehood to your Holiness and to the sacred fathers, the lords cardinals, when they said that without these books, which in Hebrew are called "Talmud," they cannot understand the Bible and the other precepts of their laws, in accordance with their faith. After the said examination had been made, and the advice of all the teachers of theology and canon law, and of many others, had been taken, all the said books which could then be gotten hold of, were consigned to the flames [probably in 1242] in accordance with the apostolic degree [of 1239].

It would therefore be most disgraceful, and a cause of shame for the apostolic throne, if books that had been so solemnly and so justly burned in the presence of all the scholars, and of the clergy, and of the populace of Paris, were to be given back to the masters of the Jews at the order of the pope-for such tolerance would seem to mean approval. . . .

All this have I recounted to your Holiness in these presents in order that the whole truth about the said books may be revealed to your Holiness. I have moreover asked the Jewish masters to show me the Talmud and all their other books; and they have exhibited to me five most vile volumes which I shall have carefully examined in accordance with your command.


Condemnation of the Talmud by Odo, May 15, 1248

Odo, by the Grace of God, Bishop of Tusculum, Legate of the Apostolic Throne, to All Whom these Presents May Reach, Greetings in the Lord:

Know ye all, that in Paris, on the Ides of May [the 15th] in the year of our Lord 1248, we inspected certain Jewish books called Talmud, and, in the presence of the Jewish masters and of those called for this purpose, we pronounced definite judgment as follows:

In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, amen!

Certain books by the name of Talmud having been presented by the Jewish masters to us armed with apostolic authority, we have examined these books and caused them to be carefully examined by men of discretion, expert in these matters, God-fearing, and zealous for the Christian faith.

Whereas we found that these books were full of innumerable errors, abuses, blasphemies, and wickedness such as arouse shame in those who speak of them and horrify the hearer, to such an extent that these books cannot be tolerated in the name of God without injury to the Christian faith, therefore, with the advice of those pious men whom we caused to be gathered especially for that purpose,

We pronounce that the said books are unworthy of tolerance, and that they are not to be restored to the Jewish masters, and we decisively condemn them.

We are also possessed of full knowledge as to the place and time of other books not shown to us by the Jewish masters nor by us examined, although we have often made demands for them; and we shall do what there is to be done with regard to them. . . .