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Drs. S. (Syds) Wiersma

Syds Wiersma (1963) is a member of the researchgroup Thomas Aquinas. He is currently working on a dissertation about the writings of Ramon Martí (Raymundus Martini, ca. 1220 - ca. 1285).

Martí, a Catalan Dominican friar, who may be considered as the first Christian Arabist and Hebraist in Latin Europe, composed a few polemical writings against Muslims and Jews. His 'Jewish' works, Capistrum Iudeaorum ('Muzzle for the Jews') and Pugio Fidei ('Dagger of Faith'), are the main subject of Wiersma's PhD research. Both works are distinguished by a large collection of quotations from Hebrew Scripture and rabbinic literature. According to Martí, the Christian truth could be found particularly in the veritas hebraica ('Hebrew truth') of the Bible. He adduced 'pearls' of rabbinic literature, as he called his favourite passages, in order to explain the Christian doctrine and did much effort to persuade Jews of the validity of it. Rabbinic statements that could not stand the test of his criticism were rejected as examples of Jewish 'unbelief' and 'perfidity'. Marti was the first Christian scholar and polemicist, who exploited Hebrew Scripture and rabbinic sources so intensively.

The Capistrum (ca. 1267) was written in the direct aftermath of the famous Disputation of Barcelona (1263), when Marti was a member of the royal Aragonese committee responsible for the censoring of rabbinic literature. The Pugio (ca. 1278) extended the Capistrum in its range of topics, arguments and sources. Whereas the main intention of both works obviously was to supply Christian preachers with arguments for discussions with and preaching to Jews (the Capistrum concerning the 'proof' in particular, that the Messiah had already come), the Pugio bears the marks of a scholastic manual and a schoolbook. It seems to have been composed in view of the studium hebraicum ('Hebrew school') in Barcelona, established there in the second half of the 1270s, Martí being its main lecturer. Students of the school, most of them Dominicans, were educated in Hebrew, Hebrew Scripture, and rabbinic literature, thus being prepared to challenge Judaism by preaching and discussion.

Wiersma's dissertation, forthcoming, approaches the work of Martí from different angles. It analyses his method and central parts of his theological argumentation; it discusses his theological position over against rabbinic Judaism and enters upon the question of his anti-Judaism; it describes the historical context in which his work originated; it examines, moreover, the development from Martí's first work, the Explanatio Symboli Apostolorum ('Explanation of the Apostolic Creed', ca. 1257), through the Capistrum to the Pugio. Certain aspects of the relationship between Martí and Thomas Aquinas are considered as well.

Publications
Wiersma published two articles on Martí so far:

- Aquinas' Theory on Dialogue put into Practice. Trinity in Raymond Martin, in: Jaarboek Thomas Instituut 2005 25 (2006) 9-41

- The Dynamic of Religious Polemics: The Case of Raymond Martin (ca. 1220-ca. 1285), in: M. Poorthuis, J. Schwartz, J. Turner (eds.), Interaction between Judaism and Christianity in History, Religion, Art, and Literature, Leiden/Boston 2009, 201-217

In addition to the dissertation, a third article is in preparation:
- Fear, Power, and Reason. The Creation of the Jew as an 'Icon of Evil' in the Writings of Raymond Martin (ca. 1220-ca.1285), edited paper delivered at the congress 'Icons of Sainthood and Sin', organized by NOSTER (Dutch School of Research in Theology and Religious Studies) in 2007