A Man of Three Worlds
Pertus Alfonsi (1062 – after 1116) was born a Sephardi Jew under the name of Moses. The date of his birth and death are largely unclear. He was bilingual knowing both Hebrew and Arabic. There are some theories that he was a doctor and involved in Spanish courts (al-Andelus at the time). Petrus has made a huge impact in scientific, literary, and astronomical history. He translated astronomical tables into Latin which helped many to be able to understand the rotations of the planets and out solar system.
Petrus converted to Christianity in 1106 while he lived in the capitol of Aragon. It is unclear why he decided to convert but it was likely because he moved to a more catholic dominated country and worked under catholic reign. This is when he took the Christian name of St. Peter and the second name of his grandfather, King Alfanso I. In the following decade he moved to England which is when he began the journey leading him to make such a large impact on scientific, literary, and astronomical history.
Petrus lived in both England and France. It is believed that he worked under the court of King Henry I and the Duke of Normandy. Because of Petrus’s status and location, he was well connected to various scientists and philosophers all of whom would set a foundation for scientific learning and a revival of Aristotelianism. Petrus’s location and history gave him an advanced level of knowledge in Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faiths which
The Diciplina Clericalis and the Dialogi Contra Ludaeos (Dialogues against the Jews) were Petrus’s most major works. The Dialogi Contra Ludaeos is written as a dialogue between Petrus and his “old self” Moses before he was converted to Christianity. The dialogue covers three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and the Muslim faith and which is the better faith to be. Petrus displays a high amount of knowledge of all three.
The Scholars Guide
Diciplina Clericales (The Scholar’s Guide) is also a dialogue. This dialogue is between a father and a son. It is more of a warm and wise mood as oppose to the confrontational mood of the previous work. The relationship of the father and son is a lot like a student and teacher.
This was also the first frame-tale narrative to make its way through the Indian, Persia, and Arabic people. This work is full of fanciful animal tales, wisdom, and humor. And creative settings like Baghdad, Babylon, and Mecca. Also, more mundane settings like a home or a store.
Diciplina Clericales has been translated into many different languages. There are medieval versions and prose versions. There are also versions in French, Spanish, Catalan, Gascon, Italian, German, English, and Icelandic. The reason these stories were so well liked and thus translated into many different languages and forms is because they could appeal to many readers. They gave illustrations of morals, could be used in preaching, or just enjoyed as a story. Some of these stories were even put into tale collections like Aesop’s Fables.
Two complimenting pieces in Petrus’s Scholars Guide are The Parable of The Half Friend and The Parable of The Whole Friend. The Parable of The Half Friend is a dialogue between the father and son. The father asks the son how many friends he has. The son says he has hundreds to which the father responds he has no real friends if he thinks he has this many. The son is perplexed and asks how he can find out if his friends are true or not.
The father gives the son the advice to stage a crime of murder and ask his friends to help him hide the body. One by one he goes to each of his friends with a bloody bag and they all turn him away. The son asks his father if there are any true friends to which the father says, “He who helps you when the world fails you is a true friend.”.
I think this fable can apply to many of us today in the world of social media. For example, on Instagram I have 500 friends but how many came to my aid when I was going through a hard time? Only a handful and only about three out of those opened their homes to me. You can have many, many half friends but only a true friend would go as far as to give you all they have which brings us into the next fable, The Parable of The Whole Friend.
The Parable of The Whole Friend is the parable the father tells the son next to explain what a whole friend would do for another. In this parable there are two friends who try to accept the blame for a horrible crime which would result in them getting killed. The fact that they would accept punishment of death just to save the other shows how true of friends they are. When I read this tale even, I struggled to think of who I might do this for. The only person that came to mind is my own broth