'But Following the Literal Sense, the Jews Refuse to Understand': Hermeneutic Conflicts in the Nicholas of Cusa's De Pace Fidei


In the midst of the De pace fidei’s imagined heavenly conference on the theme of the possibility of religious harmony, Nicholas of Cusa has Saint Peter acknowledge to the Persian interlocutor that it will be difficult to bring Jews to the acceptance of Christ’s divine nature because they refuse to accept the implicit meaning of their own history of revelation. What is peculiar about this line in the dialogue is not merely that it flies in the face of what Cusanus scholars tend to regard as an ecumenical spirit in Nicholas’ call to interreligious dialogue and mutual toleration. Rather, the statement reveals a peculiar hermeneutic principle at work in Nicholas’ understanding of the tension between truth and doctrine and the way that this tension informs human practice. Accordingly, by grappling with Nicholas’ portrayal of an imagined failure of Jews to practice interpretation correctly, I hope to shed light on Nicholas’ philosophy of religion in a way that neither ignores his anti-Judaism nor reduces the significance of his views to one of its most unpleasant manifestations.

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Jason Aleksander
San Jose State University

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