Jewish and Christian relations in the life and thought of Hugh of St. Victor
The life and thought of Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141) have meaning and significance for those today who are interested in the on-going relationship between Jews and Christians. A twelfth-century canon in northern France, Hugh remains a man of his day, and a product of a millennium of Christian theologizing about Jews and Judaism. He thus presupposes the triumph of Christianity over Judaism, and develops a plan of salvation based upon this presupposition. Although the sacraments of the natural law and the written law were given by God and were fully efficacious in their own day, Hugh sees the fullness of God's plan of restoration in Christianity. As a result, Judaism no longer adequately serves God's plan of restoring humanity to its original perfection once Christ comes.
Hugh nevertheless tries to address the issue of the oneness of God's people throughout time. He sees Jews and Christians, as well as righteous pagans, united in a single army under the kingship of Christ, and allied against a common enemy, the devil. The point of his major work, Sacraments of the Christian Faith, is that Jews and Christians are one in their God, their faith, and their sacraments. They are a single people united in Jesus Christ.
Hugh comes to this universalizing view through his contacts with living Jews, who influence his interpretation of the bible. He respects their knowledge of scripture. In addition, unlike some of his Christian contemporaries, he does not believe that Jews should live in degradation. But neither does he come to their defense, except by legitimizing their practices before the coming of Christ.
Hugh does open up the possibility of on-going legitimacy, however, by arguing that God can redeem people without the sacraments. What is important, he claims, is what the sacrament represents, not what it is materially. By recognizing the freedom of God, Hugh creates the possibility for an inclusive Christian doctrine of Judaism which allows for the flourishing of Jews as Jews.
0581: Middle Ages