Petrus Alfonsi’s Dialogus (ca. 1109) is a fictitious disputation between Petrus, who represents the author as a Christian convert, and Moyses his former Jewish self. For the first time non-biblical Jewish literature is presented in some detail to a Latin audience and the religious practices of Muslims are discussed. Petrus bases his claim for the superiority of Christianity on its rationality and compatibility with scientific learning, for which he draws upon elements of Arabic natural philosophy.
Many aspects of this text are still poorly understood. The essays in this volume try to shed new light on Petrus’s intellectual background and on the cultural and political context in which the Dialogus was written. One group of articles studies the scarce biographical information we possess about the author, like his possible connections to Anselm of Canterbury’s school or to Adelard of Bath, another one focuses on the treatment Islam receives as a possible conversion alternative for the author, while a third group of contributions studies the work’s reception: variations of the text in its numerous manuscripts, its use as a source in later works of religious polemics and its literary influence on later authors.