Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books
This study reconstructs the history of a significant crisis in Christian-Jewish relations: the attempt to confiscate and destroy all Jewish books in Renaissance Germany. This unprecedented effort to end the practice of Judaism throughout the empire was challenged by Jewish communities and also, in an unexpected move, by Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), the founder of Christian Hebrew studies. Reuchlin had revolutionized the Christian study of the Bible with his Hebrew grammar. In 1510 he published an extensive, impassioned, and successful defense of Jewish writings and Jewish legal rights against the book pogrom, later acknowledged by Josel of Rosheim, the leader of German Jewry, as a "miracle within a miracle." The fury that greeted Reuchlin's defense of Judaism resulted in a protracted heresy trial that polarized Europe, ultimately fostering a receptive environment for the nascent Reformation movement.
The legal and theological battle over charges that Reuchlin's opinions were "impermissibly favorable to Jews," a conflict that elicited intervention on both sides from the most powerful political and intellectual leaders throughout Renaissance Europe, formed a new context for Christian reflection on the status of Judaism. David Price offers insight into important new 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. His 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.