10. “As If the First Martyr of Hebrew Letters”

David H. Price

in Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394214
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894734 | DOI:
10. “As If the First Martyr of Hebrew Letters”

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This chapter demonstrates that the 1520 papal verdict, which was handed down two years before the scholar's death, did not stymie Christian Hebrew studies or tarnish Johannes Reuchlin's reputation, as can be seen in tributes published by Erasmus and the Hebrew printer Daniel Bomberg. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of Jewish theology and scholarship, Reuchlin laid a permanent foundation for modern Christian biblical philology with his Rudiments of Hebrew and also initiated the controversial discipline of Christian Kabbalah with his Art of the Kabbalah. Among Reuchlin's accomplishments was his contribution to stabilizing the legal status of Jews against powerful historical forces that nearly eliminated Judaism from the empire. The chapter concludes that Reuchlin developed his unprecedentedly benign views of Judaism through direct scholarly engagement with Jewish writings and anti-Jewish polemics. We can assume that he was not the only Christian of his generation who esteemed Jewish books and acquaintances, but he was the first to represent Judaism and Jews themselves with admiration, sometimes unqualified admiration, in public discourse.

Keywords: Daniel Bomberg; Christian Hebrew studies; Erasmus; Hebrew; Hebrew philology; Judaism; Kabbalah; Johannes Reuchlin

Chapter.  2767 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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