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Nicholas Donin (Nicolas Donin) of La Rochelle, a Jewish convert to Christianity in early thirteenth-century Paris, is known for his role in the 1240 Disputation of Paris, which resulted in a decree to publicly burn all available manuscripts of the Talmud.
In 1225, Donin was excommunicated from the ghetto of Paris by Rabbi Yechiel of Paris in the presence of the whole community and with the usual ceremonies. Having for ten years lived in the state of excommunication, though still clinging to Judaism, he was baptised into the Roman Catholic Church and joined the Franciscan Order. Some say, however, that he converted well before meeting Rabbi Yechiel of Paris.
Donin's first act of retaliation as a Franciscan was to stir up some Crusaders to the bloody persecutions in Brittany, Poitou, and Anjou, in which 3,000 Jews were killed, 500 accepting the alternative of baptism.
Authority of Pope Gregory IX
In 1238 Donin went to Rome, presented himself before Pope Gregory IX, and denounced the Talmud. Thirty-five articles were drawn up, in which Donin stated his charges of virulent attacks on the Virginity of Mary and the divinity of Jesus.
The Pope was persuaded that the accusations were true and dispatched to the authorities of the Church, transcripts of the charges formulated by Donin, accompanied by an order to seize all copies of the Talmud and deposit them with the Dominicans and Franciscans. If an examination corroborated the charges of Donin, the scrolls were to be burned.
Authority of King Louis IX
This order was generally ignored, except in France, where the Jews were compelled under pain of death to surrender their Talmuds (March, 1240). Louis IX ordered four of the most distinguished rabbis of France -- Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry—to answer Donin in a public debate. In vain, however, did the rabbis argue against the charges of blasphemy and immorality which were the main points of Donin's arraignment. The commission condemned the Talmud to be burned. In 1242, fire was set accordingly to twenty-four carriage loads (ten to twelve-thousand volumes) of written works.
Alexander Kisch: Pope Gregory the Ninth Article indictment against the Talmud and its defense by Rabbi Jachiel and Rabbi Joseph ben Judah ben David from Saint Louis in Paris . Leipzig in 1874.
Isidore Loeb: La controverse sur le Talmud sous saint Louis, Paris: Baer, 1881.
Judah M. Rosenthal: The Talmud on Trial: The disputation at Paris in the Year 1240 . In: The Jewish Quarterly Review, 47/1 (1956), pp. 58–76, 47/1 (1956), pp. 145–169.
Bernhard Garland: Jewish and Christian converts in the Judeo-Christian religious discussion of the Middle Ages . In: Miscellanea Medievalia 4 (1966), pp. 264–282.
Jeremy Cohen, Friars and the Jews: Evolution of Mediaeval Anti-Judaism . Ithaca, 1982, ISBN 978-0801414060.
Kurt Schubert : Apostasy from identity crisis - Nicholas Donin . In: Cairo. Journal of Jewish Studies and Religious Studies, 30/31 (1988/89), pp. 1–10.
Israel Jacob Yuval : Two nations in your womb. Mutual Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages . Göttingen 2007. ISBN 978-3-525-56993-1.
Judah M. Rosenthal: Donin, Nicholas in Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd Edition, Volume 5, Detroit, New York etc. 2007, ISBN 978-0-02-865933-6, p 750.
- Solomon ibn Verga, Shevet Yehudah, ed. Wiener, p. 114;
- A. Lewin, in Monatsschrift, 1869, pp. 9 et seq.:
- Isidore Loeb, in Rev. Et. Juives, i. 247 et seq.;
- Johann Christoph Wagenseil, Tela Ignea Satanæ;
- Heinrich Graetz, Geschichte vii. 94 et seq.
- Hyam Maccoby, Judaism on Trial (1981, Littman Library of Jewish Civilisation)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- James Carroll Constantine's sword: the church and the Jews : a history
- Reading Medieval Religious Disputation: The 1240 "Debate" Between Rabbi Yehiel of Paris and Friar Nicholas Donin, Eisenberg, Saadya, R.