< Back

Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus and the study of Jewish knowledge in medieval England

C. Philipp E. Nothaft

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 45, 2013 Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus and the study of Jewish knowledge in medieval England C. PHILIPP E. NOTHAFT In the spring or summer of 1294, a Franciscan friar named Robert of Leicester put the finishing touches to a lengthy treatise on time reckoning, which had been requested by Richard Swinfield, the bishop of Hereford ( 1282-1317).1 According to Robert's own introduction, his work was written "in a rough style" and intended to deal with the "calculation of time, so that knowledge of the flow of the ages may be obtained more readily and, as I suppose, more certainly, provided that God deems it worthy to guide my intention".2 At first glance, these words might give the impression that the present text is yet another medieval work on the computus (or compotus, as it used to be spelt in the thirteenth century), of whose kind one can still find thousands of preserved copies in European libraries. The principal subject of this rich and variegated genre was the date of Easter, which had to be cal culated anew for each year on the basis of a lunisolar cycle - a calendrical device that integrated the disparate lengths of the lunar month and the solar year. On top of this dry and technical base, the average computus tract piled juicy layers of further information, mainly culled from astronomy and arith metic, but also encompassing subjects such as theology, philosophy, etymol ogy and medicine. In the case of the most influential of all computus treatises, written in the eighth century at the monastery of Jarrow (Northumberland) This article presents some of the results of a two-year research project on "Medieval Christian and Jewish Calendar Texts", directed by Sacha Stern (University College London) and funded by the Leverhulme Trust. A full study and critical edition of Robert of Leicester's treatise, the principal topic of this article, will appear as part of my monograph Medieval Latin Christian Texts on the Jewish Calendar: A Study with Five Editions (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2014). The treatise is preserved in Oxford, Bodleian Library (hereafter, Bod.), MS. Digby 212 (s. XIV"2), fols. 2r~7v, 8v-iov; Erfurt, Universitáts- und Forschungsbibliothek, Bibliotheca Amploniana, qu. 361 (s. XIV [med.]), fols. 8orb-85rb. Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. 2r: "In nomine domini nostri Ihesu Christi qui est auctor temporum et ipsorum etiam plenitudo presens opusculum de temporum compoto ad decursorum seculorum notitiam promptius et, ut estimo, si tamen intentionem meam Deus dignetur dirigere, certius opti nenda stilo rudi conscripsi ac in 4 partículas . .. divisi." 63</page><page sequence="2">C. Philipp E. Nothaft by the Venerable Bede, the main text came in conjunction with a world chronicle, which gave readers a precise account of the numbers of years that had flown between important world historical events, from the creation of the world to the present.3 Even the title of Robert of Leicester's work, as given at the end of one of the two preserved manuscript copies,4 is reminiscent of Bede's work: De ratione temporum (Robert) vs. De temporum ratione (Bede), both of which may be translated as "on the method of time reckoning". What else, then, but Bede's model could Robert have had in mind when he prom ised to describe the "flow of the ages"? An altogether different story is hinted at in the other description the work goes by in the same manuscript: Tractatus de compoto Hebreorum aptato ad kalendarium ("treatise on the computus of the Hebrews, adapted to [our] cal endar"). As it turns out, the lunar calendar described by Robert of Leicester in this text was not that with which Christian scholars had been familiar for centuries, but the calendar used by medieval Jews to time their religious observances. Instead of familiar computistical devices such as 'epacts' and 'concurrents', readers of Robert's work could learn about exotic terms and concepts such as tekufot or the postponement of Rosh Hashana; where one might normally expect quotations from patristic authorities such as Augustine and Isidore, the treatise referred to the exegetical wisdom of Rashi; and in place of Easter cycles, the text contained no less than ten elaborate cal endrical and computational tables - some taken from Jewish templates, some apparently Robert's own invention - which were unusual enough to warrant a separate commentary (comment ariolus) of considerable length. In fact, even the "flow of the ages" described in its final chapters had more in common with the Seder olam rabbah than with the popular world chronicles of Bede or Jerome. In order to underline the groundbreaking nature of this text, it is enough to quote Robert's dedicatory preface, addressed to his patron Richard Swinfield, which has only been preserved in a single fourteenth-century man uscript: Father most distinguished in achievements, master and Lord, Richard, by the grace of God bishop of the Church of Hereford: if I should more properly esti mate it according to my powers, I would do my utmost to refuse the novelty of the work enjoined upon me, lest it should appear not so much the passing-on of faithful examination of chronology as the subversion of the ecclesiastical See Bede, The Reckoning of Time, trans. Faith Wallis (Liverpool University Press, 1999), which comes with a useful introduction to the genre. The computistical literature of the 12th and 13th centuries will be the subject of Jennifer M. Moreton (f), Compotus ecclesiasticus: A Thirteenth Century Calendar Treatise in its Context, forthcoming in the British Academy's series Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi (Oxford University Press). Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. -jx: "Explicit opusculum de ratione temporum." 64</page><page sequence="3">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus reckoning hitherto used by very saintly and experienced men, and therefore the invention of a profane novelty. For how could it be deemed credible that the observations of the Hebrews regarding the lunar cycle or what the astronomers hand down about the length of the solar year or the agreement of the lunar orbit with that of the sun could have escaped the notice of the Venerable Bede and other calculators of the Church for all this time? On the contrary, I rather think that men of great standing in ecclesiastical matters, intent on more important church business, lest they should seem to have given occasion to simple persons for paying attention to Jewish teachings or entangling themselves in the vain enquiries of astrologers, remained throughout in the footprints of the holy men who went before, certainly simple as they were in such matters. Now, since the moderns do not consider occupying oneself with the computus a serious activity, but rather a childish game, even though it may perhaps be very laborious to stu dents in the schools, I have decided rather to obey your will, hoping that the novelty of this thing is easily excused by its being judged immaterial and my rashness by Your Dignity's command.5 Little is known about the precise nature of the relationship between Richard Swinfield and Robert of Leicester, nor do we have any other biogra phical details that would shed light on the background to this preface. From Swinfield's preserved household accounts for the years 1289 and 1290 it is known that he financially supported the studies of boys from poor families at Oxford6 and, judging from the way he addressed the bishop as his 'father' (pater mentis insignissime),7 it is worth conjecturing that Robert was one of Bod., MS. Digby 212, fols. 2r: "Opens iniuncti novitatem, pater meritis insignissime, magister ac domine, Ricarde, Dei gratia Herfordensis antistes ecclesie, rectius si id meis metirer viribus, sum mopere declinarem, ne non tam temporum fideliter examinandorum traditio quam ecclesiastice calculationis a sanctissimis ac peritissimis viris haetenus usitate subversio ac per hoc prophane novitatis adinventio videretur. Quo enim pacto credi posset usque ad hec témpora Hebreorum de cicli lunaris observantia aut astrononorum de anni Solaris quantitate sive lunaris cursus cum sole convenientia traditionem Venerabilem Bedam et alios ecclesiasticos calculatores latere potuisse? At magis puto magnos in ecclesiasticis rebus viros, maioribus intentos ecclesie negotiis, ne occa sionem dedisse viderentur simplicibus intendendi doctrinis Iudaicis, aut astrologorum se impli candi curiositatibus, sanctorum precedentium virorum, utique in talibus simplicium, per cunta vestigiis inhesisse. Quia igitur occupari circa computum non videtur modernis seriosum nego tium, sed magis puerile ludibrium, quamvis forte possit esse magni moliminis seminariorum stu diosis, magis vestre volúntate parere statui, sperans rei novitatem sue exilitatis iudicio, meamque temeritatem vestre dignitatis imperio faciliter excusari." I am grateful to Leofranc Holford Strevens for his help in translating this passage. See John Webb, ed ,,A Roll of the Household Expenses of Richard de Swinfield, Bishop of Hereford, during Part of the Years 128g and i2go, 2 vols. (London: Camden Society, 1854-55), vol. 1, 116-19. One might discern here an allusion to Quintilian, The Lesser Declamations (372), ed. D. R. Shackleton Bailey, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), vol. 2, 378: "Sed meritis pater eram, sed tu tamquam patrem cecideras." 65</page><page sequence="4">C. Philipp E. Nothaft those students. A Franciscan theologian named Robert of Leicester is known to have been active at the University of Oxford during the 1320s. His only preserved work is a treatise On the Poverty of Christ, which he wrote around 1322/23 during a stay at the papal curia in Avignon.8 All of this may suggest that Robert was still a relatively young man when he wrote on the Hebrew calendar in 1294, yet the identification is far more tempting than it is certain. To return to the work's preface, one can also wonder about the nature of the request to which Robert was responding when he penned De compoto Hebreorum. Given Robert's pusillanimous tone, it is conceivable that the finished treatise took certain liberties with the bishop's original request. Yet even if this dedication was simply one of those servile, ultimately meaningless captationes benevolentiae of which medieval authors were sometimes capable, it still acknowledged at least one very real and very alarming point: to deal with the medieval Jewish calendar at any length was to lay bare the design flaws under which the ecclesiastical calendar had been labouring for quite some time. For all the intricacies of the medieval Easter computus, the lunar cycle at its base was a relatively simple device, which made the new moons return to the same date in the Julian calendar after every nineteen years, with the result that the dates of Easter Sunday repeated themselves after just 532 years. The Jews, by contrast, determined the exact time of the molad or mean conjunction according to a system that took 689,472 years to reach full circle, because it assigned to each lunation the fairly exact value of 29d i2h 44m 3V3S.9 As a consequence of its relative simplicity, the ecclesiastical calendar lost track of the observable lunar phases at an alarming rate (by the year 1294, it was about three days behind), whereas the Jewish system continued success fully to predict the approximate time of the new moon on a monthly basis. In the wake of their initial encounters with this Jewish system in the twelfth century, Christian computists and astronomers were not only mindful of the deficits of their own calendar, but were typically also aware that their much loathed Jewish neighbours had recourse to a reckoning device that closely resembled the kind of accurate "natural" calendar for which they themselves were looking. Needless to say, this insight could be a disconcerting one, as can See Conrad Walmsley, "Two Long Lost Works of William Woodford and Robert of Leicester", Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 46 ( 1953): 458-70; Andrew Jotischky, "Leicester, Robert", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (hereafter, ODNB), doi:io.io93/ref:odnb/i6370; accessed 11 September 2013. Full documentation will be provided in my Medieval Latin Christian Texts, ch. 3. For useful descriptions of this calendar, see Sherrard Beaumont Burnaby, Elements ofthe Jewish and Muhammadan Calendars (London: Bell, 1901), 21-364; Nathan Bushwick, Understanding the Jewish Calendar (New York: Moznaim Publishing, 1989); Arnold A. Lasker and Daniel J. Lasker, "Behold, A Moon is Born! Flow the Jewish Calendar Works", Conservative Judaism 41, no. 4 (Summer 1989): 5-19. Note that the present-day Jewish calendar is identical to the medieval one described by Robert of Leicester. On the historical background, see Sacha Stern, Calendar and Community: A History of the Jewish Calendar, Second Century BCE-Tenth Century CE (Oxford University Press, 2001). 66</page><page sequence="5">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus be seen from the numerous references to Jewish ridicule and laughter - and the embarrassment caused by it - in Christian treatises on calendar reform, leading up to the introduction of the improved Gregorian calendar in 1582.10 Such anxieties do much to explain why Robert, in his dedicatory preface to the bishop, rejected the idea that Bede or other ecclesiastical authorities on time reckoning would have been completely ignorant of the Jewish calendar or of the true length of the solar year when they set up the present method of Easter calculation. Instead, he claims, they shunned Jewish teachings and "astrological" intricacies on purpose, busy as they were with matters pertain ing to the Church. As an additional means of exculpation, Robert portrays himself as a humble servant to the bishop, who merely carried out his master's order, while expressing his hope that the computus as a subject is too imma terial to cause any grief. Yet, although his treatise provided all the tools nec essary to calculate the rate at which the Christian calendar lagged behind the true motions of the sun and moon, as defined by the Jewish calendar, his main reason for investing in the calendrical wisdom of the "ancient Hebrews" was a different one. He wanted to provide his readers with a new method that would enable "a more certain description of the flow of the ages",11 or, to put it into modern English: a more reliable and precise way of dating events in the Old and New Testament. In accordance with this plan, the fourth and final part of his treatise contained extended discussions of six historical chronological problems, in which the chronological skills taught in the first three parts received their practical test: the first four of these (the creation of the world, the flood, the Exodus and the destruction of the First Temple) were common benchmarks in rabbinic chronology, while the remaining two (the year of the conceptions of Jesus and John the Baptist and the year and date of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection) were New Testament topics of particular interest to Christian computists. In each case, Robert used the avail able scriptural evidence to extract a definite or probable year according to the Jewish world era (which counted the years from October 3761 bce) as well as a corresponding date in the Jewish calendar. On more than one occasion, his interpretations of this scriptural evidence favoured Jewish-rabbinic over Christian-patristic techniques and tradition, as when he followed Rashi in reconstructing the chronology of the biblical flood and in calculating the exact flotation depth of the ark, concluding that Noah's boat was submerged in the waters by 11 cubits.12 The dates thus obtained had to be converted into For more on these various issues, see C. P. E. Nothaft, "Duking it out in the Arena of Time: Chronology and the Christian-Jewish Encouter (i 100-1600)", Medieval Encounters special issue, ed. Harvey Hames (forthcoming). A large-scale study of the history of calendar improvement during the Middle Ages is currently in preparation. See the citation in n. 2 above. Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. 5v. For the ark's flotation depth, see Rashi on Genesis 8:4; Seder Olam Rabbah 4; Genesis Rabbah 33.7. 67</page><page sequence="6">C. Philipp E. Nothaft the Christian calendar, using the complicated rules and tables introduced in earlier chapters. Although Robert's conversions were not always perfect, his technical understanding and the comprehensiveness of his description of the Jewish calendar - as well as his mathematical skill in applying it - are on the whole truly astounding and raise some tantalizing questions about the sources of his knowledge. The dearth of documentation is such that no detailed answer to these ques tions can be given, but a brief glance at English intellectual history assures us that Robert's expertise in the field of Jewish chronology, while certainly unusual, did not come out of nowhere. Indeed, his treatise De compoto Hebreorum can be seen as a relatively late outgrowth of a phase of heightened Christian interest in the Hebrew language and the exegetical techniques of Jewish sages, which had already begun in the twelfth century. As one would expect, the key motivator for medieval Christian Hebraism was an acute awareness that the original language of the Old Testament was Hebrew (an awareness enshrined in the term hebraica Veritas) and the hope that a study of the sacred language could clear up difficult passages and improve the general understanding of the historical-literal sense of scripture. In the British Isles, this way of thinking reached an early culmination point in the work of Herbert of Bosham (c. 1120-r. 1194), who is otherwise known as a close com panion and later biographer of Thomas Becket. In his commentary on the Psalter, written in about 1190, Herbert displayed an acquaintance with the Hebrew text and its grammar and a knowledge of rabbinic interpretations of its passages that was quite unprecedented at the time, and which reveals that he received help from a Jewish tutor.13 Herbert's curiosity fell on fertile ground during the following century, when southern England emerged as the foremost centre for the study of Hebrew among the lands of Christendom. Nothing demonstrates this fact more impressively than the more than two dozen "bilingual" Hebrew Latin manuscripts of English provenance that have been studied in recent years by Judith Olszowy-Schlanger.14 These manuscripts, a number of See Deborah L. Goodwin, "Take Hold of the Robe of a few": Hebert of Bosham's Christian Hebraism (Leiden: Brill, 2006); Eva de Visscher, "The Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Twelfth Century Western Europe: The Hebrew and Latin Sources of Herbert of Bosham's Commentary on the Psalms" (PhD diss., University of Leeds, 2003); eadem, '"Closer to the Hebrew': Herbert of Bosham's Interpretation of Literal Exegesis", in The Multiple Meaning ofScripture, ed. Ineke van't Spijker (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 249-72; eadem, "Putting Theory into Practice? Hugh of Saint Victor's Influence on Herbert of Bosham's 'Psalterium cum commento'", in Bibel und Exegese in der Abtei Saint-Victor zu Paris, ed. Rainer Berndt (Münster: Aschendorff, 2009), 491-502. See Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, "The Knowledge and Practice of Hebrew Grammar among Christian Scholars in Pre-Expulsion England: The Evidence of 'Bilingual' Hebrew-Latin Manuscripts", in Hebrew Scholarship and the Medieval World, ed. Nicholas de Lange (Cambridge University Press, 2001), 107-28; eadem, Les manuscrits hébreux dans l'Angleterre médiévale (Paris: 68</page><page sequence="7">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus them books of the Old Testament in Hebrew with facing Latin translations, reflect a remarkable openness towards Jewish post-biblical literature and sometimes even a mastery of Hebrew language and grammar on the part of their Christian users. The production of these manuscripts involved both Christian and Jewish scribes, who must on occasion have been working in tandem. Although these scribes remain anonymous, their work attests to the existence of an elite of Christian Hebraists in thirteenth-century England, some of them centred at Ramsey Abbey, Cambridgeshire, where scholars took time to study the Bible in its original language. One of their crowning achievements is a trilingual biblical dictionary encompassing 3,682 separate entries, which translated Hebrew terms into both Latin and Old French, supplemented by illustrative quotes from the biblical source texts.15 Where actual names can be attached to Hebraistic efforts in this period, they often belong to members of the Franciscan order.16 Two well-known examples are William de la Mare (fl. 1272-79), who tried to improve the text of the Latin Bible on the basis of the Hebrew,17 and the legendary polymath Peeters, 2003); eadem, "Robert Wakefield and the Medieval Background of Hebrew Scholarship in Renaissance England", in Hebrew to Latin, Latin to Hebrew, ed. Giulio Busi (Turin: Aragno, 2006), 61-87. See further Beryl Smalley, Hebrew Scholarship among Christians in XHIth Century England: As Illustrated by Some Hebrew-Latin Psalters (London: Shapiro, Vallentine &amp; Co, 1939); Raphael Loewe, "The Mediaeval Christian Hebraists of England: The Superscriptio Lincolniensis", Hebrew Union College Annual 28 (1957): 205-52; idem, "Latin Superscriptio Manuscripts on Portions of the Hebrew Bible other than the Psalter", Journal of Jewish Studies 9 (1958): 63-71; idem, "Alexander Neckam's Knowledge of Hebrew," Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 4(1958): 17-34; idem, "Jewish Scholarship in England", in Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History, ed. V. D. Lipman (Cambridge: Heffer, 1961), 125-48; idem, "Hebrew Books and 'Judaica' in Mediaeval Oxford and Cambridge", in Remember the Days, ed. John M. Shaftesley (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1966), 23-48; Malachi Beit-Arié, "The Valmadonna Pentateuch and the Problem of Pre-Expulsion Anglo-Hebrew Manuscripts - MS London, Valmadonna Trust Library 1: England [?], 1189", in idem, The Makings of the Medieval Hebrew Book (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1993), 129-51; Gilbert Dahan, "Deux psautiers hébraïques glosés en latin", Revue des Etudes juives 158 (1999): 61-87. Judith Olszowy-Schlanger, "A School of Christian Hebraists in Thirteenth-Century England: A Unique Hebrew-Latin-French and English Dictionary and Its Sources", European Journal of Jewish Studies 1 (2007): 249-77; eadem, éd., Dictionnaire hébreu-latin-français de la Bible hébraïque de l'Abbaye de Ramsey (XIIle s.) (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008). 1 See Deborah Copeland Klepper, "Nicholas of Lyra and Franciscan Interest in Hebrew Scholarship", in Nicholas of Lyra: The Senses of Scripture, ed. Philip D. W. Krey and Lesley Smith (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 289-311. See Gilbert Dahan, "La critique textuelle dans les correctoires de la Bible du XIIIe siècle", in Langages et philosophie: hommage à Jean Jolivet, ed. Alain de Libera, Abdelali Elamrani-Jamal and Alain Galonnier (Paris: Vrin, 1997), 365-92. On the general background, see now Cornelia Linde, How to Correct the Sacra Scriptural Textual Criticism of the Latin Bible between the Twelfth and Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, 2012). 69</page><page sequence="8">C. Philipp E. Nothaft Roger Bacon (d. 1292 or after), whose many works include a fragmentarily preserved Hebrew grammar.18 Throughout his great compendia on science and learning, the Opera majus, minus and tertium (1266/68) and his Compendium studiiphilosophiae (1271/72), there is a marked emphasis on the study of languages, in particular Greek and Hebrew, and their necessity for the advancement of biblical interpretation. In the Compendium, he claims that Jews willing to teach Hebrew to Christians could be found "everywhere", especially in Paris and France, thus indicating where he picked up his own knowledge of the language.19 The importance of friendly relations to Jewish scholars is also documented in a series of Hebraistic notes and excerpts, which are found adjoined to William de la Mare's biblical correctorium in two man uscripts from Toulouse and Florence (late thirteenth or early fourteenth century).20 Besides an etymological lexicon or glossary for Greek and Hebrew terms in the Bible, this collection also contains a remarkable series of extracts from an epistolary correspondence, in which an unnamed Christian Hebraist replies to queries from students, whom he refers to as his "brothers" (fratres), suggesting that they were members of a monastic order. The respondent, whom some modern scholars identify as Roger Bacon, was evidently acquainted with the works of Rashi and maintained personal contacts with Jews. At one point he claims that a learned Jew in Germany sent him Hebrew books on astronomical and calendrical matters, written by a certain Abraham, which he had been unable to obtain from his contact in Toledo.21 Among the numerous points of convergence that exist between the anony mous correspondence and Bacon's own works is the shared concern for Edmond Nolan and Samuel A. Hirsch, The Greek Grammar of Roger Bacon and a Fragment of his Hebrew Grammar (Cambridge University Press, 1902), 199-208. See further Hans H. Wellisch, The Conversion of Scripts: Its Nature, History, and Utilization (New York: Wiley, 1978), 154-61; Horst Weinstock, "Roger Bacon und das 'hebraische' Alphabet", Aschkenas 2 (1992): 15-48; Beryl Smalley, The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), 329 36. On Bacon's career more generally, see now Amanda Power, Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Roger Bacon, Compendium studiiphilosophiae, in Opera quaedam hactenus inédita, ed. J. S. Brewer (London: Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts, 1859), vol. 1, 434: "Doctores autem non desunt; quia ubique sunt Hebraei . . . Suntque homines Parisius, et in Francia, et ulterius in omnibus regionibus, qui de his sciunt quantum necesse fuerit in hac parte." Toulouse, Bibliothèque municipale, MS. 402, fols. 233ra-y8vb; Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (hereafter, BML), MS. Plut. 25 sin. 4, fols. i82ra-2i3vb. The glossary, without the correspondence, is also preserved in Einsiedeln, Stiftsbibliothek, MS. 28, fols. 488r-q5r. See Samuel Berger, Quam notitiam linguae Hebraicae habuerint Christiani medii aevi in Gallia (Paris: Hachette, 1893), 37-45; Etienne Anheim, Benoît Grévin and Martin Morard, "Exégèse judéo chrétienne, magie et linguistique: un recueil de Notes inédites attribuées à Roger Bacon", Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age 68 (2001): 95-154. The passage is found edited in Berger, Quam notitiam, 39, and Anheim, Grévin and Morard, "Exégèse," 118-19 n. 58. The latter three authors make a powerful argument for Bacon's authorship. 70</page><page sequence="9">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus biblical chronology and the structure of the Hebrew calendar. That chronol ogy would play a role in some of these Hebraistic writings is not surprising, given the Bible's penchant for providing calendrical dates and intervals of years between key events.22 The fact that this chronological information could often be imprecise or contradictory encouraged both Jewish and Christian scholars to try and find solutions to some of the more nagging puzzles. In the anonymous notes, this interest is reflected in passages that deal, for example, with the season of the Flood, the lives of the patriarchs Abraham and Caleb and the reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah.23 Similar evidence from English manuscripts is provided by the manuscript at Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS. 6, which contains the Hebrew text of Rashi's commentaries on the Prophets and Hagiographa. It was later furnished with corrections and vowel points by a Christian scholar, who also added Latin interlineary trans lations and marginal glosses. One of the more elaborate of these glosses offered the rabbinic solution to a chronological discrepancy of 14 years that existed between Jacob's own statement to the Pharaoh that he was 130 years old (Genesis 47:9) and the 116 years that can be found by adding up the indi vidual numbers found in Genesis.24 As Judith Olszowy-Schlanger has shown, the Latin gloss is in fact a literal translation of a Hebrew chronological text found on the flyleaves of the Bodleian Library's MS. Or. 62, which was anno tated by the same Latin commentator as Corpus Christi College 6.25 The two codices jointly confirm the same confluence of Hebraistic and chronological interests in thirteenth-century England that is also detectable in Bacon's work and in Robert of Leicester's treatise. When Bacon sent his Opus majus to the papal curia in Viterbo in about 1267, he made sure that it was accompanied by a Hebrew manuscript containing a calendar, which he praised as an "extraordinary work of astronomical art", On the background, see Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990). Other examples include a discussion of the date of the giving of the Law at Sinai based on the length of the Hebrew months, which resulted from a question posed to the master by one of his students. See Florence, BML, MS. Plut. 25 sin. 4, fols. i88rb-i88va, iqiva, I92va, 207vb, 209ra b, 2i3rb-vb; Anheim, Grévin and Morard, "Exégèse", 119-20, 152. On chronology in Bacon's writings, see C. P. E. Nothaft, Dating the Passion: The Life of Jesus and the Emergence of Scientific Chronology (200-1600) (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 155-96. Oxford, Corpus Christi College MS. 6, fol. ir (bottom of page), cited in Judith Olszowy Schlanger, "Rachi en latin: les gloses latines dans un manuscrit du commentaire de Rachi et les études hébraïques parmi des chrétiens dans l'Angleterre médiévale", in Héritages de Rachi, ed. René-Samuel Sirat (Paris: Éditions de l'Éclat, 2006), 137-50 (143). Olszowy-Schlanger, "Rachi en latin", 144-7. F°r images of the relevant MS. pages, see Olszowy Schlanger, "Christian Hebraism in Thirteenth-Century England: The Evidence of Hebrew Latin Manuscripts", Crossing Borders, ed. Piet van Boxel and Sabine Arndt (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 2009), 115-22 (118—19). On theMSS., see also Olszowy-Schlanger, Manuscrits hébreux, 229-33, 283-88. 7i</page><page sequence="10">C. Philipp E. Nothaft adding that its knowledge could be useful in the Church's ongoing efforts to "convince", that is, convert, the Jews.26 In his Opus tertium, written as a sup plement to the Opus majus, Bacon reinforced the importance of the Jewish calendar for Christians by stating that "our Lord and the Apostles were Hebrews, as were the Patriarchs and Prophets."27 His discussions of biblical chronology found in these two works, in particular his calculation of the date of Christ's passion, can be regarded as the first promissory notes for an entire programme of rectifying biblical chronology on the basis of the Hebrew cal endar. This programme, or so it seems, was put into practice in 1294 by Robert of Leicester, whose treatise De compoto Hebreorum, although not the only work of its kind, can easily qualify as the lengthiest and most sophisticated medieval Latin treatise on Jewish chronology that has come down to us. A good case in point is the final chapter of De compoto Hebreorum, in which Robert tries to determine the historical date of Christ's crucifixion. This was a hotly debated topic in medieval scholarship, to which Bacon had made an original and con troversial contribution by suggesting the date of 3 April 33 CE.28 Although Robert did not support Bacon's conclusion and also relied heavily on a work by the Franciscan Matthew of Aquasparta, there remain some striking simi larities between the two texts. Witness, for instance, the assembly of sources in the following parallel discussions (seefacing page) of why the Jewish day has to be counted from the preceding evening: In light of these and other affinities between the two Franciscan friars, it is worth speculating whether Bacon may have entertained a circle of students to whom he passed on his Hebraistic interests, including such pertaining to chronology (a question that could be answered in the affirmative, if it is accepted that the anonymous correspondent in the aforementioned Toulouse and Florence manuscripts is none other than Bacon himself). In such a case, it would be more than tempting to see in Robert of Leicester one of the English doctor mirabilis''s late students, who carried out a research project that Bacon had already outlined in his own writings. In any case, the similarities are strong enough to indicate a common intellectual milieu, which should not be too surprising, given that Roger and Robert were both Franciscans with likely ties to Oxford. As has been seen, it was not wholly uncommon for members of this milieu to study the rudiments of the Hebrew language or to familiarize themselves with the teachings of rabbinic exegetes, whether inde pendently or under the guidance of Jewish teachers. Unfortunately, the Roger Bacon, Opus tertium, in Opera quaedam hactenus inédita, ed. Brewer, 220: "Et in hac tabula est mirum artificium astronomiae, et summa legis intelligendae utilitas, et omnium festorum legalium, quam qui nescit numquam potest scire intellectum legis, ut oportet, nec cum Judaeis conferre de talibus, nec eis persuadere utiliter." See also ibid., 214-15, 320. Ibid., 213: "Nam Dominus noster et apostoli fuerunt Hebraei, sicut patriarchae et prophetae." On the background, see Nothaft, Dating the Passion. 72</page><page sequence="11">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus [Roger Bacon, Opus majus IV]2 Et multi dicunt diem praecessisse noctem, et exponunt scripturam ut possunt. Sed secundum Hieronymum super Ionam et super Matthaeum, nox praecessit diem. Nam, ut ait Alfraganus in astronomia sua, "Omnes nationes, quae utuntur mensibus lunaribus, incipiunt diem ab occasu solis". Sed Hebraei et scriptura utuntur mensibus lunari bus et annis, sicut potest probari modis multis. Ergo Hebraei et scrip tura utuntur die naturali cuius nox praecedit diem. Et ideo tabulae Hebraeorum astronomicae, quibus Hebraei usi sunt in certificatione temporum, factae sunt ad occasum solis civitatis Ierusalem, sicut tabulae astronomorum Latinorum factae sunt ad meridiem civitatis Toleti vel alterius. Propter quod in lege deter minatur, ut a vespera dies incipiat. Nam Levitici xxiii dicitur "a vespere ad vesperum celebrabitis sabbata vestra". [Robert of Leicester, De compoto Hebreorum IV.6]30 Si autem dicatur ad hoc quod Christi Passio statim post cenam inchoata est quia factus est in agonia et comprehensus fuerit et ita immo latio eius 14. luna fuit inchoata licet non consummata, hoc nichil est, nam apud Hebreos ex determinatione etiam legis, Levi tico 23, dies incipit in vespera. Et hoc etiam docet Alfraganus quod nox diem precedit apud illos qui menses et annos com putant secundum lunam. Et cum ab initio seculi menses et annum secun dum lunam fuerint computad, semper diem nox precessit. Nox etiam in Genesi diem precessit, sicut Ieronimus exponitur super Ionam et illud dicit glosa super illud Math. 12, 'Sicut fuit lonas' etc. degree to which Robert of Leicester himself had access to Hebrew sources is left somewhat in the dark by his own treatise. In a postscript addressed to Roger Bacon, Opusmajus, ed. John Henry Bridges, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1897-1900), vol. 1, 195. The sources mentioned are al-Farghani, Il "Libro dell'aggregazione delle stelle"(i), ed. Romeo Campani (Città di Castello: Lapi, 1910), 57; Jerome, In Ionam (2.1.1), in Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. 76 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1969), 394; Glossa ordinaria on Matthew 12:40, in Patrología Latina, vol. 114 (Paris: Migne, 1852), col. 128. Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. 6v. The quaestio by Matthew of Aquasparta on which Robert relied for some of this chapter was edited by Christopher D. Schabel, Fritz S. Pedersen and Russell L. Friedman, "Matthew of Aquasparta and the Greeks", in Philosophy and Theology in the Long Middle Ages: A Tribute to Stephen F. Brown, ed. Kent Emery, Jr., Russell L. Friedman and Andreas Speer (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 813-53 (844-53). 73</page><page sequence="12">C. Philipp E. Nothaft Bishop Swinfield, Robert states that his first step had been to "translate" the Hebrew computus from "another" text,31 but the ambiguity of the Latin verb transferre/translatum makes it difficult to decide whether this meant that Robert had actually "translated" a Hebrew source or simply "copied out" an existing Latin text. Some evidence for the former possibility comes from Robert's occasional use of Hebrew terminology, such as thequfath for the equinoxes and solstices in the Jewish calendar, which he was able to distin guish from the plural thequfoth. Even more striking are his references to the calendrical wisdom of a certain Abraham, whose books, as mentioned above, were also looked for by the anonymous Christian Hebraist. This Abraham might be identified with Abraham bar Chiyya or his close contemporary Abraham Ibn Ezra, who both wrote treatises on the Jewish calendar entitled Sefer ha-Ibbur in the first half of the twelfth century.32 For his understanding of the biblical flood chronology in Genesis 7-8, Robert drew repeatedly on the glosa Hebraica on Genesis, which turns out to be Rashi's commentary on the Torah. He was also familiar with the principal work of rabbinic chronol ogy, the Seder olam, which he cited as ceder haholam and correctly translated as ordo seculi ("order of the world").33 Given these findings, there seems to be little reason to withhold from Robert of Leicester the epithet of a "Christian Hebraist". Robert's treatise was written in 1294 and thus only four years after the expulsion of 1290, which is perhaps the most momentous watershed in Anglo-Jewish history.34 Yet it would be impossible to get any inkling of these recent events just from reading his learned disquisitions, which are written in a neutral and dispassionate tone. His De compoto Hebreorum is as devoid of references to contemporary Jewish life as it is lacking any intention of anti Jewish polemic. Its objects of discussion were not the much-reviled Jews ( Judaei) of the present day, but the ancient 'Hebrews' (Hebraei) of biblical Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. 7V: "Ecce, pater reverende, vestra sancta benedictione ac monitis ani matus, Hebreorum compotum, quern prius ab alio translatum habui, sed tamen fere inutilem nostris sine augmento fore perspexi, per certas, ut puto, regulas kalendario Latinorum pro mee tenuitatis modulo coaptavi." Both works will become the subject of new critical editions by my colleagues liana Wartenberg and Israel Sandman. For the time being, see Abraham bar Chiyya, Sefer ha-Ibbur, ed. Herschell Filipowski (London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1851); Abraham Ibn Ezra, Sefer Ha'ibbur: A Treatise on the Calendar, ed. and trans. Mordechai S. Goodman (Jersey City, NJ: Ktav, 2011). Bod., MS. Digby 212, fol. 6r: "Durationem vero templi Salomonis per 410 annos supponunt ex probatione libri cuiusdam vocati 'ceder haholam', id est 'ordo seculi', nostri autem ponunt templum plus durasse per circiter 20 annos." See Chaim Milikowsky, Seder Olam: Critical Edition with Introduction and Commentary [in Hebrew], 3 vols. (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences, forthcoming). On the historical background, see Richard Huscroft, Expulsion: England's Jewish Solution (Stroud: Tempus, 2006). 74</page><page sequence="13">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus times, whose feasts, customs and calendar dates one had to take into account when trying to get a firm grasp of what the Sacred Scriptures related. And yet, it remains the case that Robert was writing at a time when the English realm had just rid itself of the very Jews whose books and insights had been instrumental in making this kind of study possible. The stifling impact that this development had on the study of Jewish knowledge - be it calendrical, linguistic or otherwise - is not difficult to detect: while the Hebrew-Latin manuscripts produced before the expulsion continued to be used during the following two centuries, the impetus that had given rise to an English "school" of Hebraists in the decades previous to Robert of Leicester soon began to weaken considerably.35 The two most prominent fourteenth-century outliers of this "school" were Nicholas Trevet (1257/65-r. 1334), a Dominican regent master at Oxford, and Henry Cossey (d. 1336), who taught theology to the Cambridge Franciscans. Both men authored commentaries on the book of Psalms, for which they frequently relied on rabbinic interpreters, most of which were found cited in the biblical Postillae written by Nicholas of Lyra in 1322-32.36 One of the more unusual sources mentioned in Henry Cossey's work is a certain "master John, recently converted" (MagisterJohannes dudum conver sas), who may have been the teacher from whom Henry learned what knowl edge of Hebrew is evident from his text.37 It is tempting to suppose that this John was identical to John of Bristol, the Jewish convert who was paid by funds procured by the bishops in the Canterbury province for teaching Hebrew and Greek at Oxford during the 1320s. This teaching post was set up, for a brief time at least, in accordance with a decree issued by the Council of Vienne in 1312, which demanded that Oriental languages be taught at the papal court and at four major universities (Paris, Oxford, Bologna and See Olszowy-Schlanger, "Robert Wakefield", 74-80. The only complete copy of Robert of Leicester's work that is extant (Bod., MS. Digby 212) can be located at Merton College in the first half of the fourteenth century, where it was used by the astrologer John Ashenden for his Summa astrologiae iudicialis de accidentibus mundi (1347/48). See Keith Voltaire Snedegar, "John Ashenden and the Scientia Astrorum Mertonensis, with an Edition of Ashenden's Pronosticationes" (PhD diss., Oxford University, 1988), 112. More documentation will be provided in my Medieval Latin Texts. On Nicholas of Lyra, see now Deeana Copeland Klepper, The Insight of Unbelievers: Nicholas of Lyra and Christian Reading of Jewish Text in the Later Middle Ages (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007); Ari Geiger, "A Student and an Opponent: Nicholas of Lyra and His Jewish Sources", in Nicolas de Lyre: francise an du XlVe siècle, exégète et théologien, ed. Gilbert Dahan (Paris: Institut d'Etudes Augustiniennes, 2011 ), 167-203. Montague Rhodes James, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts in the Library of Christ's College, Cambridge (Cambridge University Press, 1905), 33; Arduin Kleinhans, "Heinrich von Cossey O.F.M.: Ein Psalmen-Erklàrer des 14. Jahrhunderts", in Miscellanea Biblica et Orientalia, ed. Adalbert Metzinger (Rome: Herder, 1951), 239-53 (249). See further Smalley, Study of the Bible, 344,348-52; Klepper, Insight of Unbelievers, 121-22. 75</page><page sequence="14">C. Philipp E. Nothaft Salamanca).38 When Cossey wrote his Exposotio super psahnos, he could already rely on the earlier Psalms commentary by Nicholas Trevet, which was written between 1317 and 1320. Like Herbert of Bosham before him, Trevet based himself on Jerome's Hebraica rather than the more common Gallican version of the text, which had been translated from the Greek.39 Moreover, some of his linguistics remarks on the original Hebrew titles of individual Psalms, but also his references to the opinions of thçjudaei and to the work of Gamaliel, which was a commonly used Christian moniker for Talmudic lore, suggest that Trevet possessed at least a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew.40 The aforementioned Henry Cossey confirms this when he states that Trevet consulted a Jewish scholar, in all likelihood a convert, about the Hebrew text.41 Although a neglected work today, Nicholas Trevet's Psalter commentary was sufficiently well regarded in his time to have a copy go to the curia in Avignon, at the personal request of the pope (John xxil).42 In fact, this is only one example of the Dominican scholar producing texts to satisfy the reading interests of wealthy and influential patrons. His impressive oeuvre includes commentaries on all the tragedies of Seneca the Elder, initially requested by Nicholas of Prato, the cardinal bishop of Ostia ( 1303-21 ), and a commentary 38 Cecil Roth, "The Jews in the English Universities", Jewish Historical Society of England: Miscellanies 4(1942): 102-15 (104); Roth, "Jews in Oxford after 1290", Oxoniensia 15 (1950): 63 80 (63); Robert Weiss, "England and the Decree of the Council of Vienne on the Teaching of Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and Syriac", Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance 14 (1952): 1-9. 39 Most of the research on this commentary is still unpublished. See Bruce P. Shields, "A Critical Edition of Selections from Nicholas Trivet's Commentarius literalis in Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos sancti Hieronymi" (PhD diss., Rutgers University, 1970); Hubert M. Stadler, "Textual and Literary Criticism and Hebrew Learning in English Old Testament Scholarship, as Exhibited by Nicholas Trevet's Expositio litteralis Psalterii and by MS Corpus Christi College (Oxford) 11" (MLitt thesis, Oxford University, 1989). See further Arduin Kleinhans, "Nicolaus Trivet O.P. Psalmorum Interpres", Angelicum 20 (1943): 219-36; Friedrich Stummer, "Zwei Bruchstücke aus einer Handschrift des Kommentars des Nicolaus Trevet 2um Psalterium iuxta Hebraeos Hieronymi im Archiv des Juliuspitals zu Würzburg", in Festschrift Hans Vollmer zu seinem 70. Geburtstag am ç. Februar igqi (Potsdam: Athenaion, 1941), 153-63. 40 On medieval Christian references to "Gamaliel", which mostly come from England, see Frans van Liere, "Gamaliel, T welfth-Century Christian Scholars, and the Attribution of the Talmud", Medieval Perspectives 17, no. 2 (2002): 93-104; Olszowy-Schlanger, "School of Christian Hebraists", 263. 41 Smalley, Hebrew Scholarship, 5. 42 On Trevet's life and works, see Ruth J. Dean, "The Life and Works of Nicholas Trevet, with Special Reference to His Anglo-Norman Chronicle" (PhD diss., Oxford University, 1938); J. I. Catto, "Theology and Theologians 1220-1320", in The History of the University of Oxford, vol. I, The Early Oxford Schools, ed. J. I. Catto (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 471-517 (513-17); Hester Goodenough Gelber, It Could Have Been Otherwise: Contingency and Necessity in Dominican Theology at Oxford, 1300-1350 (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 62-3 (with a list of further liter ature); James G. Clark, "Trevet [Trivet], Nicholas", ODNB, doi:io.i093/ref:odnb/27744; accessed 11 September 2013. 76</page><page sequence="15">Robert of Leicester's treatise on the Hebrew computus on Livy's histories, written for John XXII.43 Another high mark in Trevet's literary career was when Aymeric of Piacenza, the Master General of the Order of Preachers, personally wrote to him in about 1307, commending him for his expositions of Genesis and Exodus and requesting a commentary on the rest of the Pentateuch. Trevet complied by writing an exposition of the book of Leviticus, which is uniquely preserved in a contemporary manuscript at Oxford's Merton College.44 The commentary is accompanied by a supple mentary Compotus Hebreorum, written in 1310, which introduces the Christian reader to the rudiments of the Jewish calendar. As Nicholas made clear in the introduction to this work, biblical exegetes needed to know at least the basic structure of this calendar, if they wanted to grasp the meaning, season and date of the many feasts that were mentioned by Moses in the Pentateuch. The treatment that followed centred on a set of tables, which enabled their user to find the corresponding weekday for every Jewish feast within a 247-year cycle. Similar tables, which can also be found in Hebrew manuscripts, had already been described by Roger Bacon and were included in Robert of Leicester's De compoto Hebreorum. In addition to the feasts men tioned in the book of Leviticus, Trevet also made sure that his readers under stood the significance of Purim, Chanukkah and some of the annual fasts such as Tisha B'Av, Gedaliah, 10 Tevet and 17 Tammuz.45 Although of a much more basic and less technical quality than Robert of Leicester's demanding treatment in De compoto Hebreorum, Trevet's work tells us something about the continuing relevance of Hebrew to fourteenth century biblical scholarship and the interest a subject like the Jewish calendar could still generate among Christian exegetes. Yet in spite of such individual efforts, it remains true that the strong current of Christian Hebraism on the British Isles petered out during this period, impacted no doubt by the lack of Jewish intellectual life after the expulsion of 1290. A new regional stronghold was eventually established in Germany, where a number of students of the Hebrew language were active during the second half of the fourteenth and the fifteenth centuries, paving the way for the celebrated scholarship of Ruth J. Dean, "Cultural Relations in the Middle Ages: Nicholas Trevet and Nicholas of Prato", Studies in Philology 45 (1948): 541-64; eadem, "The Earliest Known Commentary on Livy Is by Nicholas Trevet", Medievalia et Humanística 3 (1945): 86-98; Robert Weiss, "Notes on the Popularity of the Writings of Nicholas Trevet, O.P., in Italy during the First Half of the Fourteenth Century", Dominican Studies 1 (1948): 261-65. Oxford, Merton College, MS. 188, fols. 2r-2i5va. See Rodney M. Thomson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts ofMerton College, Oxford (Cambridge: Brewer, 2009), 138— 39. The text of Aymeric's letter and Trevet's reply are edited in Dean, "Life and Works of Nicholas Trevet", 437-39. See further Dean, "Cultural Relations", 548, 557-8. Oxford, Merton College, MS. 188, fols. 2i5va-i8r. The text will be edited as part of my Medieval Latin Texts, ch. 4. On Trevet's chronological pursuits, see also C. P. E. Nothaft, "Nicholas Trevet and the Chronology of the Crucifixion", The Mediaeval Journal 2, no. 2 (2012): 37-51. 77</page><page sequence="16">C. Philipp E. Nothaft Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), Sebastian Münster (1488-1552) and Johann Buxtorf (1564-1629).46 In England, the study of Hebrew only fully recovered in the sixteenth century, led by Robert Wakefield (d. 1537), who was appointed to the new post of King's reader in Hebrew at Cambridge. At the beginning of his programmatic inaugural lecture, held in 1524, Wakefield, somewhat hyperbolically, announced that he would talk about "subjects on which no one else has commented, as far as I know, since the founding of the Church - though I would not deny that an attempt has been made."47 Although he was dimly aware of certain precedents, such as the papal decree of 1312, Wakefield's lecture is on the whole a testimony to the fact that the high tide of Jewish-Christian knowledge transfer that had characterized English scholarship in the thirteenth century had already faded from memory by his day - and would remain in this state until very recently.48 This holds true a fortiori for Robert of Leicester, whose remarkable work on the Jewish calendar is yet to be fully rediscovered. See Bernhard Walde, Christliche Hebraisten Deutschlands am Ausgang des Mittelalters (Miinster: Aschendorff, 1916); Stephen G. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (1¡00-1660): Authors, Books, and the Transmission of Jewish Learning (Leiden: Brill, 2012). Outside Germany, some notable Hebraists from this period include Giannozzo Manetti (1396—1459) in Italy, Jacques Legrand (r. 1360-1415) in France and Antonio de Nebrija (1444-1522) in Spain. See Christoph Dróge, Giannozzo Manetti als Denker und Hebraist (Frankfurt: Lang, 1987); Evencio Beltrán and Gilbert Dahan, "Un Hébraïsant à Paris vers 1400: Jacques Legrand", Archives juives 17 (1981): 41-49; Carlos del Valle Rodríguez, Corpus Hebraicum Nebrissense: la obra hebraica de Antonio de Nebrija (Madrid: Aben Ezra Ediciones, 2000). See further David Gonzalo Maeso, "La enseñanza del hebreo en las antiguas universidades españolas", Miscelánea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos 14/15, no. 2 (1965-66): 3-23. Robert Wakefield, On the Three Languages [1524], ed. and trans. G. Lloyd Jones (Binghampton, NY: Renaissance Society of America, 1989), 44. See, however, Olszowy-Schlanger, "Robert Wakefield", 80-87, w'10 shows that Wakefield had some awareness of the work of the 13th-century Hebraists and studied some of their manuscripts. 78</page></plain_text>