As part of its evangelistic efforts, the Catholic Church sought to win the beliefs of the Jews through debate. Western Christianity in the 13th century was developing its intellectual acumen and had assimilated the challenges of Aristotle through the works of Thomas Aquinas. In order to flex its intellectual muscle, the Church sought to engage the Jews in debate, hoping that they would see what it considered the intellectual superiority of Christianity.
Paul Johnson cites a significant difference between the Jewish and Christian sides of the debate. Christianity had developed a detailed theological system; the teachings were clear and therefore vulnerable to attack. Judaism had a relative absence of dogmatic theology; it did have many negative dogmas to combat idolatry but did not have a developed positive theology. "The Jews had a way of concentrating on life and pushing death—and its dogmas—into the background."