In the scholastic system of education of the Middle Ages, disputations (in Latin: disputationes, singular: disputatio) offered a formalized method of debate designed to uncover and establish truths in theology and in sciences. Fixed rules governed the process: they demanded dependence on traditional written authorities and the thorough understanding of each argument on each side.
A significant category of disputations took place between Christian and Jewish theologians as a form of both theological and philosophical debate and proselytization. Often, the Christian side was represented by a recent convert from Judaism. The only way for the Jewish side to ‘win’ was to force a draw by drawing the Christian side into a position in which it was necessary to deny the Old Testament to win, committing heresy. According to Michael J. Cook, "Since ‘winning’ a debate could well jeopardize the security of the Jewish community at large, political considerations certainly entered into what Jewish disputants publicly said or refrained from saying. … Official transcripts of these proceedings, moreover, may not duplicate what actually transpired; in some places what they record was not the live action, as it were, but Christian polemical revision composed after the fact
1240 – the Disputation of Paris during the reign of Louis IX of France (St. Louis) between a member of the Franciscan Order Nicholas Donin, who earlier converted from Judaism and persuaded Pope Gregory IX to issue a bill ordering the burning of the Talmud, and four of the most distinguished rabbis of France: Yechiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry. The commission of Christian theologians condemned the Talmud to be burned and on June 17, 1244, twenty-four carriage loads of Jewish religious manuscripts were set on fire in the streets of Paris.
1263 – the Disputation of Barcelona before King James I of Aragon: between the monk Pablo Christiani (a convert from Judaism) and Rabbi Moses ben Nachman (also known as Nachmanides). At the end of disputation, king awarded Nachmanides a monetary prize and declared that never before had he heard “an unjust cause so nobly defended.” Nevertheless, the Dominicans claimed the victory and Nachmanides was exiled and his report of the proceedings was condemned and burned. A committee appointed by the king censored the passages from the Talmud they deemed offensive.
1375 – public disputations held at Burgos and Avila by Moses Cohen de Tordesillas with converts from Judaism John of Valladolid and Abner of Burgos. Another disputation was held at about the same time in Pampeluna by Shem-Tob ben Isaac Shaprut of Tudela with Cardinal Don Pedro de Luna, afterward Avignon Pope Benedict XIII, the disputations being made the subjects of the books “'Ezer ha-Emunah” (by Moses) and “Eben Boḥan”.
1413 – the Disputation of Tortosa in Spain, staged by the Antipope Benedict XIII. As a result, the Pope gave instructions by which all books of the Talmud would be handed over to his functionaries for censorship.