Christian polemics and apologetics in the Middle Ages

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Christian polemics and apologetics in Europe during the Middle Ages were primarily directed inwards, either against "heretics," such as the Cathars, or between Roman Catholic and Byzantine Christianity. A subset of polemic and apologetic activity continued against Judaism and Islam, both openly in Christian Europe and more circumspectly in the pre-Ottoman and Ottoman lands.

Polemics against heretics[edit]

Given the absolute control of the state, and the lack of ethnic separation (such as protected to a degree and at some times Jewish communities in Christian Europe) military and police actions were generally used against Christian heretics, rather than polemics and apologetics. For example, the Cathars did not survive Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229) and massacre at Montségur (1244) to leave traces of Cathar apologetics.

Polemics against Islam[edit]

The Crusades also formed the background to medieval Christian criticism of Islam and medieval Islamic criticism of Christianity, resulting in conflicting responses from Christian authors of chivalrous epics and hostile theological polemics.[1][2] Peter the Venerable's commission of a Latin translation of the Qur'an, was followed by polemical writings from Pedro Pascual, Riccoldo da Monte di Croce Contra legem Sarracenorum "Against the Quran of the Saracens" (1300), and Ramon Llull.[3][4][5]

Polemics against Judaism[edit]

Virulent antisemitism in medieval Europe obviated the need for any debate or discussion in most periods and most countries. However, during the 12th Century converted Jews such as Petrus Alfonsi and Pablo Christiani, well versed in Jewish religion, initiated the Contra Iudaeos (or Adversus Iudaeos) literature either from missionary or polemic reasons. This was both an impetus to and response to Jewish apologetics answering Christians, and more robust polemical writings (where safe to publish) among the community as a guard against conversion.


  1. ^ John Victor Tolan Medieval Christian perceptions of Islam Page 420 2000 "For medieval Christians. Islam presented a series of disquieting challenges. Epic poets imagined Muslim ... either of demonic hostility or of chivalric ideals, while polemics wrote theological refutations, often defaming the Prophet."
  2. ^ Muslim-Christian polemic during the Crusades R. Y. Ebied, David Richard Thomas, Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Abī Ṭālib Dimashqī - 2005 "This edition and English translation of the fourteenth century correspondence between Cypriot Christians and the Muslim Ibn Ab lib al-Dimashq is a significant example of later medieval Christian-Muslim polemic that affords an invaluable "
  3. ^ David Richard Thomas Early Muslim polemic against Christianity: Abū ʻĪsá al-Warrāq's "Against the Trinity" Muḥammad ibn Hārūn Warrāq, - 2002
  4. ^ Oddbjorn Leirvik - 2010 "As a post-Christian religion, which has included much of the Christian heritage, Islam challenges Christianity by ... and argue against the reliability of the Christian sources, culminating in the medieval polemic of Ibn Hazm.
  5. ^ The ambivalence of interreligious experience: Riccoldo da Monte Page 147 Rita George Tvrtkovic, University of Notre Dame - 2007 "Medieval Theology of Islam: Method Amos Funkenstein describes four kinds of medieval Christian anti-Jewish polemic: the classic dialogi cum Judaeis argument; rationalistic polemic attempting to “prove” Christian doctrine; attacking the attacking the Talmud; using the Talmud to demonstrate the truth of Christianity.458 To an extent, these four methods of argumentation are similar to those used by medieval Christians against Islam. This should not be surprising, ...