Exploring a late medieval chapter in the long history of interpenetration between Jewish and Christian representations of martyrdom, this study seeks to contextualize Jewish accounts of the willing death in 1264 of a Christian convert to Judaism named Avraham ben Avraham avinu of Augsburg. According to the Nuremberg Memorbuch and two piyyutim, Avraham of Augsburg courted death at the stake in an exceptionally dramatic and confrontational way. He destroyed Christian devotional objects, publicly blasphemed against Christianity, and proclaimed his Jewish identity in explicit opposition to Christianity. This study analyzes these Jewish accounts in light of roughly contemporaneous Jewish and Christian sources that may be divided into three categories: first, Jewish texts about the willing deaths of other individuals who converted to Judaism or who returned to Judaism after having converted to Christianity; second, Christian accounts of the willing deaths of individuals who converted or returned to Judaism; and third, Christian descriptions of the willing deaths of Christians who returned to Christianity after having converted to Islam. In the process, this study demonstrates that the story of Avraham of Augsburg partook of a “cultural repertoire” that late thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Jews and Christians shared. It suggests also that converts and returnees to Judaism—and in particular Dominican and Franciscan friars who converted to Judaism—may have played a key role in the development of this repertoire.


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pp. 500-533
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