The early sixteenth century saw a major crisis in Christian-Jewish relations: the attempt to confiscate and destroy every Jewish book in Germany. This unprecedented effort to end the practice of Judaism throughout the empire was challenged by Jewish communities, and, unexpectedly, by Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), the founder of Christian Hebrew studies. In 1510, Reuchlin wrote an extensive, impassioned, and ultimately successful defense of Jewish writings and legal rights, a stunning intervention later acknowledged by a Jewish leader as a ''miracle within a miracle.''
The fury that greeted Reuchlin's defense of Judaism resulted in a protracted heresy trial that polarized Europe. The decade-long controversy promoted acceptance of humanist culture in northern Europe and, in several key settings, created an environment that was receptive to the nascent Reformation movement. The legal and theological battles over charges that Reuchlin's positions were "impermissibly favorable to Jews," a conflict that elicited intervention on both sides from the most powerful political and intellectual leaders in Renaissance Europe, formed a new context for Christian reflection on Judaism.
David H. Price offers insight into important Christian discourses on Judaism and anti-Semitism that emerged from the clash of Renaissance humanism with this potent anti-Jewish campaign, as well as an innovative analysis of Luther's virulent anti-Semitism in the context and aftermath of the Reuchlin Affair. This book is a valuable contribution to study of an important and complex development in European history: Christians acquiring accurate knowledge of Judaism and its history.
"Richly detailed yet lucid and eminently readable...Price's study is refreshingly balanced in its judgements. He has painstakingly researched original sources and the voluminous previous scholarship in several languages, and has compressed a thorough analysis of the complexities of the topic into a mere 230 pages...Price's penetrating study is an outstanding book with much to offer historians of humanism and the Reformation."--Times Literary Supplement
"The reader looking for a fresh 'take' on the German Renaissance and Reformation is well advised to grab Price's deeply researched and lucidly written book: a surprising story of the first Christian Hebraist to embrace and defend Jewish religious culture. Set against the background of late medieval anti-Semitism, he appears as a modern progressive when compared to the more famous Erasmus and Luther, who disparaged the Jews."
--Steven Ozment, author of A Mighty Fortress: A New History of the German People
"This book represents heroic labor and genuine concern to elucidate one of the most readily acknowledged but imperfectly understood moments in the relationship between Diaspora Judaism and Christianity. . . Based on thorough knowledge of the published literature and new research in archives in Germany and elsewhere, Price provides an impressively authoritative account of anti-Judaism on the eve of the Reformation. This carefully-organized work has much to
offer to historians in Jewish Studies and in early-modern Christianity, as well as the advanced student of that brand of humanism usually associated with Erasmus."--Ralph Keen, Schmitt Professor of
history, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago
"Price's monumental study is well-researched...Price convincingly refutes Heiko A. Oberman's attempt of thirty years ago to shatter Reuchlin's progressive image as friend of the Jews. One may fully agree with the endorsers on the back dust jacket that Recuhlin appears as a modern progressive, set against the background of late medieval andi-Judaism (Steve Ozment). Based on thorough knowledge of the published literature and new research in archives, Price
provides an impressive account of anti-Judaism on the eve of the Reformation. The book has 'much to offer' (Ralph Keen). Indeed!"--Sixteenth Century Journal
1. ''Impermissibly Favorable to Jews?''
2. Humanist Origins
3. Humanism at Court
4. Discovery of Hebrew
5. Johannes Pfefferkorn and the Campaign against Jews
6. Who Saved the Jewish Books?
8. Trial at Rome and the Christian Debates
9. The Luther Affair
10. ''As If the First Martyr of Hebrew Letters''