A Detective Story: Unveiling Identities in Medieval Manuscripts using Philology and an Astrolabe
12.05.2022 | 12.05.2022
Dr. Josefina Rodriguez-Arribas, Institute for the History of Science, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
I will present in my talk the case study of a twelfth-century Hebrew text that discusses whether the use of astrology is licit among Jews. This text will serve to show how the traditional tools of philology combined with in-depth knowledge of medieval practical astronomy can be used to produce something other than a good critical edition. The three main characters in the text under consideration — which presents the literary form of a letter addressed to a rabbi — are: the author of the letter, who is a Jewish astronomer; the objector who caused the bitter controversy reflected in the letter; and the addressee of the letter, the religious authority of the Jewish community where the letter was written. Current research keeps identifying the objector with the addressee, 800 years after this letter was written. By using two methodological approaches: philology and knowledge of medieval astronomy and astronomical instruments, I will prove this long tradition wrong.