Michaelis and the Dead Hebrew Language

Michael C. Legaspi

in The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195394351
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199777211 | DOI:


                   Michaelis and the Dead Hebrew Language

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This chapter begins with Michaelis’s program for the study of Hebrew philology. His ideas on Hebrew are important because they show that, for him, the Bible had to be embedded in a deep and dead past before it could be operated on and, ultimately, revivified. Michaelis believed that a scientific understanding of Hebrew, for example, was only available by separating it from its afterlife in a living, rabbinic Judaism and by shedding the theological exceptionalism that had made Hebrew a divine or primeval language to many. Michaelis relativized religious interpretive frameworks, severing the connection between Hebrew and Judaism. In doing so, he argued that Jewish and Christian confessional notions of Hebrew were actually a hindrance to a true understanding of the Bible.

Keywords: Michaelis; Hebrew; philology; Judaism; Bible

Chapter.  11551 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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