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Christian Hebraism in the Reformation era (1500-1660) [electronic resource] : authors, books, and the transmission of Jewish learning /
by Stephen G. Burnett.
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, c2012.
xx, 344 p. : ill., map ; 25 cm.
9789004222489 (hardback : alk. paper)
More Details
Leiden ; Boston : Brill, c2012.
9789004222489 (hardback : alk. paper)
Licensed for access by U. of T. users.
contents note
Birth of a Christian Hebrew reading public -- Hebraist authors and their supporters: centers, peripheries, and the growth of an academic Hebrew culture -- Hebraist authors and the mediation of Jewish scholarship -- Judaica libraries: imagined and real -- The Christian Hebrew book market: printers and booksellers -- Press controls and the Hebraist discourse in Reformation Europe.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [305]-330)) and index.
A Look Inside
Introduction or Preface
IntroductionAndrew Melville escaped from Poitiers during the siege of 1569, leaving behind all of his books and other possessions except for a small Hebrew Bible, which he carried strapped to his belt. He took the Bible with him all the way to Geneva, where he briefly taught at the Academy, and then back to Scotland. On one memorable occasion in 1584, he used it to make a theological point before King James VI of Scotland and his Lord Chancellor in a session of the Privy Council. Melville thumped the Bible down on the table, declaring that it was his warrant and instructions to act as he did and asserting: with all ernestnes, zeall and gravitie, I stand for the cause of Jesus Chryst and his Kirk.That Melville made this statement using a Hebrew Bible underscores the connection between the Reformation and Hebrew study among Christians. Melville espoused the Protestant doctrine of sola scriptura, that the Bible was the sole judge of religious controversies, and that the most authoritative biblical texts were the original Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. At the beginning of the sixteenth century Christians could not routinely refer to the Hebrew Bible text, but by Melville's day Christian scholars throughout Europe knew Hebrew and could read the Hebrew Bible thanks to the transformative impact of the Reformation.Before the Reformation Christians regarded Hebrew first and foremost as the language of the Jews, and with good reason. For Jews Hebrew was the language of worship, tradition and study. Boys learned it from prayer books and from the Bible when young, and an elite progressed still further, adding the Hebrew of the Mishnah and commentaries to their other attainments while studying the Talmud at yeshivas. The Rabbinic elite wrote books in Hebrew, as did professionals such as doctors and intellectuals who studied philosophy, the natural sciences and other fields. While Jews always spoke the languages of the countries where they lived, their continued use of Hebrew marked them as Jews.At the beginning of the sixteenth century only a few Christian scholars studied the Hebrew language, the Hebrew Bible, or post-biblical Jewish texts. Biblical humanists such as Erasmus saw the study of Hebrew as a return to the sources of Christianity in order to facilitate church reform. A handful of Christian Hebrew scholars such as Johannes Reuchlin laid an important foundation for the growth of Hebrew scholarship that would come later by writing basic Hebrew textbooks, encouraging Christian presses to print Hebrew books, and pressing rulers and university authorities to fund chairs of Hebrew at universities. Yet these Hebraists persuaded few students to follow their example because there were no compelling intellectual or religious reasons for a Catholic scholar to learn Hebrew and little opportunity for them to do so without Jewish help.The Protestant reformers changed the Christian relationship to Hebrew decisively by using it as a tool in their attack on the authority of traditional Catholic doctrine. The Protestant need for Hebrew learning made it intellectually important for them and for their Catholic opponents to support the teaching of Hebrew. Protestants needed a cadre of experts who would read and interpret the Hebrew Bible text so that they could teach theology from the sources and also write apologetic works to fend off the attacks of rival churches. The post-Tridentine Catholic Church responded with greater efforts to educate their own scholars in Hebrew, above all through the efforts of the Jesuit order. These Protestant and Catholic Hebrew students together formed a new market for Hebrew books that grew by thousands of potential customers each decade after 1520.Since at least 1475, Jewish printers had been producing Hebrew books to support Jewish life and scholarship. They produced Bibles, tractates of the Talmud, and other halakic tools to support Jewish scholarship, and they sought to broaden their customer base by printing more popular works such as prayer books and texts of various kinds in Judeo-German, Judeo-Spanish and Judeo-Italian for Jewish women and for men who are like women in not having much knowledge. Shifra Baruchson-Arbib's pioneering study of the Jewish libraries of Mantua in 1595 provides a suggestive analysis of the purchasing tastes of that city's Jewish population. In that year the Roman Inquisition ordered that its delegates inspect the 430 libraries belonging to Jewish households and eight belonging to public collections, to look for banned books and to expurgate blasphemous passages from otherwise acceptable Jewish books. The book owners themselves were given a month to inventory their libraries to assist the three delegates of the Inquisition who would examine them. Baruchson-Arbib profiled the holdings of these libraries by subject, providing a revealing analysis of Jewish book ownership in Mantua. The four most popular classes of books were Liturgy (34.7%), Bibles and Commentaries (22.2%), Halakah (10.7%), and Ethics (6.2%). All other genres of Jewish books combined, including Kabbalah, Philosophy, Science, Midrash, or Mishnah and Talmud, made up about a quarter of library holdings; each of these categories amounted to less than 5% of all titles.While Christian printers had been printing a trickle of Hebrew books since 1501, the growth in Hebrew learning induced them to become more involved in producing them. Christian presses usually printed Hebrew books as a sideline, no more than a tenth of their overall production to serve a niche market. Nonetheless, this niche market grew by leaps and bounds over the course of the sixteenth century and well into the seventeenth century.The Reformation turned Christian Hebraism from the pastime of a few hobbyists and theologians into a broad based intellectual movement that involved students and professors, printers, and patrons of many kinds living throughout Europe. Christian Hebraist authors were the central actors in this movement. The lion's share of their publications (around 80%) involved either books focused on the Hebrew language itself or on the Hebrew Bible, but these scholars forged a linguistic key that allowed other Christian Hebraists to study a wider variety of Jewish books. They also wrote books utilizing Jewish works in other genres such as Kabbalah and History, which further enriched humanist learning. This book will explore how the Reformation made it possible for a Christian academic culture of Hebrew learning to take root within the Christian world of learning.The relationship of Christian Hebraism and the Reformation has not been fully addressed in recent scholarship. Since 1960, the vast majority of research in the field has focused upon the life and work of particular Hebraists. Scholarly biographies of Hebraists such as Johannes Reuchlin (1454-1522), Sebastian Münster (1488-1552), Immanuel Tremellius (1510-1580), Johannes Buxtorf (1564-1629), Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614), John Selden (1584-1654), and Constantine L'Empereur (1591-1648) and many others have provided welcome insight into the motives and achievements of these scholars. François Secret's Les kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964) opened the contemporary discussion of Christian Kabbalah, which has attracted considerable scholarly attention. Robert J. Wilkinson tied the kabbalistic interests of a circle of Catholic scholars, including Andreas Masius and Guillaume Postel, to two major milestones in sixteenth century biblical scholarship: the first printing of the Syriac New Testament and the Antwerp Polyglot. More recently political Hebraism has emerged as an area of scholarly discussion. Scholars in this field of research focus on the books of a few Christian Hebraists such as John Selden and Peter Cunaeus and consider how their work informed legal discussions on how early modern societies ought to be structured. Jerome Friedman's Most
First Chapter
Chapter 1: Birth of a Christian Hebrew Reading Public In the year 1500, Hebrew was an unimportant language to the vast majority of Christian scholars in Europe. They had little to gain by studying it, and they had almost no chance of doing so without Jewish help. A few theological experts or humanist eccentrics such as Pico della Mirandola were willing to learn it, but they were the exceptions that proved the rule. The Protestant Reformation changed this situation by creating a motive and providing the means for a much larger number of scholars to learn Hebrew. Hebrew study came to hold a place of honor within Protestant universities, and since the Ratio studiorum required Hebrew instruction in Jesuit colleges, the language enjoyed greater standing within post-Tridentine Catholicism as well. In the wake of Hebrew’s new prominence Aramaic, Syriac and Arabic learning gained importance, and there was a small but dedicated group of scholars who also studied these languages. The efforts of university, governmental, and ecclesiastical officials to found and fund positions first for Hebrew and later for other Semitic languages in universities throughout central and western Europe made it possible for a greater number of Christian students to learn Hebrew. While universities were not the only places where Christian scholars could learn Hebrew, the presence of Hebrew within university curricula was an important indicator of official commitment to Hebrew learning in all of the Christian confessions. University professors of Hebrew, together with instructors who taught the language in monasteries or in Latin schools, educated a substantial number of Christians, creating a reading public for Hebrew books and thus the possibility of a serious Christian encounter with Jewish thought. Why Hebrew? Since the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Old Testament, was written in Hebrew, and Christians shared this sacred text with Jews, there had always been an implicit motivation for Christians to learn Hebrew. Not only did they wish to understand individual passages within the Old Testament better, but they also had an apologetic need to justify their interpretations in the eyes of Jews and if possible to convert them to Christianity. Until the early sixteenth century, however, very few Christian scholars felt any need to learn Hebrew for themselves. Nonetheless, both the intellectual justifications for Hebrew learning offered by the church fathers and the example of Christian Hebraists of earlier times inspired early modern Christians to follow their admonitions and example. The Church Fathers Jerome, Origen and Augustine all commended Hebrew study for a variety of reasons. Both Augustine and Jerome believed that Hebrew was the oldest of all languages, the mother of all languages, the only language created before the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11). The Old Testament was composed in Hebrew, and therefore, in Jerome’s words, it was the spring (fons) while Greek and Latin translations of it were mere streams (rivuli) flowing out of it. Jerome asserted the absolute primacy of the Hebrew Bible text over both the Septuagint and the various Latin versions of the Old Testament, while Augustine was more inclined to ascribe greater authority to the Septuagint. Yet Augustine too believed that recourse to the Hebrew text was valuable. Christian scholars needed to know both Hebrew and Greek, he asserted, in order to establish the correct meaning when Latin translations were unclear. Jerome and Augustine both believed that Latin Bible translations contained errors and that they could be corrected by comparing them with the original Hebrew. More broadly, many of the church fathers believed that the Hebrew intellectual tradition was the oldest in the world, predating both Egyptian and Greek civilization. They asserted that since both of these civilizations derived their ideas from the Jews, studying Hebrew and reading Hebrew texts made possible a return to the sources of secular as well as sacred learning.. Familiarity with Hebrew and with the Hebrew Bible was also important for Christians who wished to debate with Jews. Part of Origen’s motivation in composing the Hexapla was to provide information on the discrepancies between the various Greek translations and the Hebrew original in order to save Christians from being charged with ignorance of the original text in disputes with Jews. While Augustine was content to commend the study of Greek and Hebrew to those who had the leisure and the ability to do so, Origen and Jerome set an example for later scholars by actually learning Hebrew themselves. Origen learned it when he was already an old man against the natural inclination of his age and race. A small number of medieval Christian theologians pursued Hebrew studies, focusing their efforts on correcting the received text of the Vulgate, biblical exegesis, and composing missionary treatises of various kinds. The pioneering work of Beryl Smalley drew attention to the sporadic but intriguing efforts of some medieval Christian Hebraists to integrate Jewish learning into theological discourse. Alcuin and Theodulf were among the earliest correctors of the Vulgate, the latter employing a (converted?) Jew to compare the Latin text with the Hebrew. Both Dominican and Franciscan Hebraists, working during the thirteenth century, created the correctoria Bible, an apparatus whose authors compared the Latin Old Testament to the Hebrew. The aim of these scholars, from Carolingian times to the thirteenth century, was to cleanse the Latin text of accretions that were not present in the Hebrew Bible, providing the best Latin text. The most important Christian medieval exegete to employ Hebrew in a biblical commentary was Nicholas of Lyra (c.1270-1349). Nicholas’ use of Rashi’s biblical commentary, translating substantial parts of it into Latin and incorporating it into his discussions of specific biblical passages in his Postillae, provided an example of how Christians could benefit from the study of Jewish texts. Klepper asserts that Nicholas was able to do this through a deft combination of exegetical sifting and occasional anti-Jewish polemic, demonstrating for his readers the extent to which Jews could be trusted to understand the literal interpretation of a passage and where they were blind to its meaning. Paradoxically Nicholas did such a fine job that he may have created a disincentive for others to follow in his footsteps. What after all was there left to do that Nicholas had not already done? While Nicholas of Lyra stands out among medieval Christian Hebraists, he was hardly the only one of his kind. For example, Herbert of Bosham (d. ca. 1194) wrote an intriguing Psalms commentary at the end of his life that reflected not only his fine Hebrew skills but also a close engagement with Rashi’s commentary. A number of medieval bilingual Hebrew manuscripts (with Latin translation included) written in England provide further evidence of Christian Hebrew learning there. Christian Hebrew exegetes in the Middle Ages were often isolated figures. The same cannot be said for Christian Hebraists who specialized in anti-Jewish polemical works or missionary efforts. Medieval Spain with its large populations of Jews and Muslims became the focus of intense missionary efforts after the founding of the Franciscan (1209) and Dominican orders (1216). Robert Chazan identified the disputation of Barcelona (1263) as a turning point in the history of Christian missionary strategy, since the Christian spokesman Pablo Christiani constructed his argument against the validity of Judaism using quotations from the Talmud and other Jewish sources. The most important book to emerge from this new approach to Jewish polemic was Raymond Martin’s Pugio fidei, an encyclopedic work that was intended to serve as a source of information for missions to both the Jews and Muslims. Pugio fidei would be used by many Christian polemicists both in the later Middle Ages and in the great age of Christian Hebraism. It would be printed twice, in 1651 and 1667. The missionary concerns of the medieval church are reflected in the famous decree of the Council of Vienne (1311-1312) that called for the creation of university chairs in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, and Arabic at the universities of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, and Salamanca. One unintended effect of this decree was its use by later scholars to justify the return to the sources. While the universities largely ignored the council decree, the Dominican order supported schools so that its own members could learn Hebrew and Arabic. The Christian encounter with Jewish texts during the Middle Ages was limited to the studies of a small number of experts, some of whom, such as Paul of Burgos, were Jewish converts. Very few Christian scholars could read the Hebrew Bible for themselves, let alone more complicated books written in Hebrew or Aramaic. The authority of church fathers such as Augustine and Jerome provided a rationale for Hebrew learning and indeed some encouragement to do so. Christian society, however, had little need for the services of Hebrew experts. Nicholas of Lyra and Raymond Martin had written commendable books that other scholars could consult should they need Hebrew-related information. Only during the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries did Christian scholars find compelling reasons to learn Hebrew for themselves. Renaissance humanism proved to be a powerful motivating force for scholars to learn Hebrew and for patrons to support their studies. The humanist desire to explore old texts for insight and information manifested itself in three ways: a yearning for the new wisdom that kabbalistic learning offered, a desire to return to the source texts of the Christian faith including the Hebrew Bible, and the theological imperative to dispute with Jews. Count Giovanni Pico della Mirandola introduced the Christian world of scholarship to Kabbalah through his 900 Theses (1486), at least forty-seven of which referred specifically to kabbalistic ideas. Pico himself had learned rudimentary Hebrew, but he also hired Flavius Mithridates, a Jewish convert, to translate the known corpus of Jewish kabbalistic writing for him. Pico believed that kabbalistic literature was even older than classical Greek literature and that it could to be mined for information and for insight into what he and Marsilio Ficino termed the Prisca theologica. Schmidt-Biggemann described the Prisca theologica as an inclusive form of Neoplatonic philosophy that sought to harmonize Christian, Jewish, and Muslim thought within a theistic framework that assumed the existence of one God, the created world, and the Last Judgment. Proponents believed that God created the world in two stages, first by conceiving the ideas of things he was planning on creating in his own mind, and then realizing them in creation itself. As a consequence of this two-step process, all created things carried a kind of divine signature that could teach theological truths. These truths were thought to be accessible to pagans as well as to Christians, and therefore wisdom could be found in a variety of ancient sources. A number of the church fathers, including Clement of Alexandria and Origen, espoused this position concerning classical literature, but Pico was the first to incorporate kabbalistic writings into the mix. Yet Pico’s greatest influence on the growth of Christian Hebrew learning came not through his own kabbalistic studies, but by persuading Johannes Reuchlin to study the Kabbalah. Johannes Reuchlin was a jurist and diplomat who pursued his passion for Hebrew and Greek learning as a side interest. When he traveled to Italy on a diplomatic mission in 1490, he had the opportunity to meet Pico in Florence. On his second trip to Italy, Reuchlin stayed in Rome from 1498-1500, and he was able to study Hebrew with Obadiah Sforno. Reuchlin’s two books on the Kabbalah, De Verbo Mirifico (1494) and De Arte Cabalistica (1517), served to popularize kabbalistic learning. His book De Rudimenta (Pforzheim, 1506), which contained a Hebrew grammar and lexicon, provided both biblical humanists and would-be kabbalists with a means of learning Hebrew themselves. It was Reuchlin who would also provide a humanistic justification for studying Jewish literature more broadly in his Gutachten über das Jüdische Schriftum (1510), written for an imperial commission that was summoned to study Johann Pfefferkorn's proposal to confiscate Jewish books. Reuchlin argued that the Talmud contained information valuable to the most important university-level disciplines (theology, law, and medicine). [I]t contains many good medical prescriptions and information about plants and roots, as well as good legal verdicts collected from all over the world by experienced Jews. And in theology the Talmud offers in many passages arguments against the wrong faith. This can be seen from the bishop of Burgos's books concerning the Bible, which he has written in a praiseworthy and Christian manner and in the Scrutinium Scripturarum, in which he clearly protects our faith on the basis of the Talmud. Reuchlin noted that Paul of Burgos quoted Talmudic passages more than fifty times in the latter book. He concluded that, with the exception of a few blasphemous books such as Toledot Yesu and Sefer Nizzahon, the Jews indeed had the legal right to own their own religious books, including the Talmud. It was Reuchlin’s misfortune that his enemies interpreted his humanist interests as favoritism for Jews. When Emperor Maximilian I refused to act on the recommendation of his own commission and instead ordered the return of the confiscated books to their Jewish owners, Pfefferkorn and his backers in the Dominican order, above all Jacob Hoogstraten, were furious. They blamed Reuchlin for the failure of their campaign and sought revenge against him. Johannes Pfefferkorn published Handspiegel (1511), in which he condemned the Talmud and blamed Reuchlin for saving it from destruction, citing Reuchlin’s report to the emperor and raising doubts about his honor and integrity. Reuchlin shot back with his Augenspiegel (1511), where he sought to set the record straight by publishing his Gutachten über das Jüdische Schriftum. Reuchlin’s conflict with Pfefferkorn and his backers, which continued through 1521, proceeded along two tracks. The first battle took place in the courts, culminating in an appeal to a papal court in 1516, a case that Reuchlin formally lost and was fined to pay for court costs. The other track was a battle for public opinion that in many ways overshadowed the legal one. Many of Reuchlin’s fellow humanists in Germany understood the controversy as an attack on biblical humanist learning and responded with both serious and satirical attacks on Reuchlin’s foes. The most famous of the latter was Letters of Obscure Men (1514). While the kabbalistic interests of Pico and Reuchlin aroused the curiosity of a smallish number of devoted followers, above all Petrus Galatinus and Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, Kabbalah by itself would not have motivated large numbers of Christians to learn Hebrew. Like the medieval scholars who used Hebrew in their exegetical or polemical books, they probably would have remained a tiny group of experts. Reuchlin’s kabbalistic study alone would also not have evoked such a spirited response to the attacks of Pfefferkorn and his Dominican sponsors. It was Reuchlin’s prominence as a humanist scholar and his interests in biblical studies that aroused such a furious defense by fellow humanists. Biblical humanism was the single most important factor that contributed to the growth of widespread Hebrew learning among Christians before the Reformation. Erasmus was not the first Renaiss
Review Quotes
a fascinating excursus on the evolution of a major cultural movement … learned and meticulously written.Abraham Melamed, University of Haifa. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 3 (fall 2012), pp. 951-953. Burnett's book updates the scholarship on Christian Hebraism, successfully providing the evidence crucial to the study of book history. It also, and most importantly, provides the literary critic and intellectual historian with a firm basis for the development of his or her own disciplinary interests. What is more, Burnett's summarizing conclusions about the theological and political aspects of the printing and dissemination of Christian Hebraic scholarship provoke much thought for scholars of the different disciplines, and will certainly make this book a key text in their own, modern libraries.Chanita Goodblatt, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In: SHARP News, Vol. 21, No. 4 (autumn 2012), pp. 4-5.
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Bowker Data Service Summary
This title places Christian Hebraism in a larger context by discussing authors and their books as mediators of Jewish learning, printers and booksellers as its transmitters, and the imapct of press controls in shaping the public discussion of Hebrew and Jewish texts.
Description for Reader
All those interested in Reformation history, Jewish history, and the history of the book trade in early modern Europe.
Main Description
Christian Hebraism in early modern Europe has traditionally been interpreted as the pursuit of a few exceptional scholars, but in the sixteenth century it became an intellectual movement involving hundreds of authors and printers and thousands of readers. The Reformation transformed Christian Hebrew scholarship into an academic discipline, supported by both Catholics and Protestants. This book places Christian Hebraism in a larger context by discussing authors and their books as mediators of Jewish learning, printers and booksellers as its transmitters, and the impact of press controls in shaping the public discussion of Hebrew and Jewish texts. Both Jews and Jewish converts played an important role in creating this new and unprecedented form of Jewish learning.
Main Description
Reformation, Jewish history, printing, censorship. libraries, Hebrew books, history of universities
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Abbreviationsp. xiii
List of Tables and Mapsp. xvii
Mapsp. xix
Introductionp. 1
Birth of a Christian Hebrew Reading Publicp. 11
Hebraist Authors and their Supporters: Centers, Peripheries, and the Growth of an Academic Hebrew Culturep. 49
Hebraist Authors and the Mediation of Jewish Scholarshipp. 93
Judaica Libraries: Imagined and Realp. 139
The Christian Hebrew Book Market: Printers and Booksellersp. 189
Press Controls and the Hebraist Discourse in Reformation Europep. 223
Conclusionp. 271
Christian Hebraist Authors, 1501-1660p. 279
Christian Hebrew Printers and Publishers, 1501-1660p. 298
Christian Hebrew Book Production: Typesetting and Typep. 302
Bibliographyp. 305
Indexp. 331
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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