Ludwig Philippson (1811-1898) was an influential author, scholar and rabbi. One of his greatest projects, which fell into oblivion in the 20th century, was a Bible project that included nearly 4.000 pages and was published between 1939 and 1854 in three volumes. It contains the Hebrew text, a German translation and a detailed commentary with 500 illustrations. The contribution introduces the Bible project in connection with Ludwig Philippson’s lifework, elucidates his principles within the context of common translation practices. and designates the strength as well as the limits of his translation approach. The article discusses Philippson’s achievements in academic hermeneutics. The case of Israel’s slavery in Egypt is discussed as a representative example of the relationship between text and image in Philippson’s Bible edition.
Ehjeh asher ehjeh (Ex 3:14) is rendered “Ich bin das Wesen, welches ewig ist” (“I am the being which exists eternally”) in Moses Mendelssohn’s German translation of the Torah. Actually, this is rather a first-person philosophical definition of God’s essence as eternal existence than a proper translation of the biblical verse. Why the eternal and necessary being is an essential definition of God and why the tetragrammaton is rendered “der Ewige” (“the eternal”) throughout Mendelssohn’s translation of the Pentateuch is explained in Mendelssohn’s Hebrew Be’ur to Ex 3:14. The article provides a close reading of this explanation, thereby showing that for Mendelssohn the rabbinical interpretations and the philosophical doctrine of God’s essence are more important than a strictly literal translation of the Torah.
Inspired by Moses Mendelssohn’s endeavors to pave the way for a modern approach to bible interpretation, the Maskilim of the second and third generation sought to explore new directions in bible exegesis. In the context of Vienna’s Hebrew printing culture, especially in the printing house of Anton Schmid, and influenced by the Prague Haskalah, these efforts took on a distinct direction that we label the “Vienna Haskalah”. Juda Leib ben Ze’ev (1764-1811) and Juda Jeitteles (1773-1838), two Maskilim who had moved to Vienna from Prague and Berlin, have prominently shaped this new Jewish movement. The Bible edition Mincha Chadasha (later called Kitve Kodesh), issued in the printing house of Anton Schmid, provided the virtual meeting place between the two Maskilim. In 1810, ben Ze’ev published his Introduction into the Holy Scriptures (Mavo el- Mikra’e Kodesh) which appears to be the first systematic implementation of higher bible criticism into Jewish text tradition after Spinoza’s initial and scandalous steps in critical bible exegesis. Reading the biblical books of Nevi’im and Ketuvim mainly as historical sources implied a silent revolution in interpreting the holy Jewish scriptures. From the third edition onwards, Ben Ze’ev’s Mavo was added to the respective volume of Kitve Kodesh. Juda Jeitteles significantly shaped the fourth edition of the series that was designated as a textbook for Jewish children and - unlike the former editions - was supplemented by several traditional Jewish sources and a philological commentary of the respective editor. The article traces the intellectual models of ben Ze’ev and Jeitteles that convene in Anton Schmid’s Bible project which emerges as a unique meeting point of both higher Bible criticism and traditional Judaism.
Although the study of the Hebrew Bible never formed the center of formal Jewish education, it had always been part of it. In the Middle Ages, Masoretic Bibles as well as Masoretic compilations were studied and introduced in Jewish Medieval commentaries under a variety of names. Jewish commentators dealt differently with Masoretic notes. Whereas some of them made use of the Masorah in order to support rabbinic traditions that seemed to be tied to the biblical text only loosely, others dealt with the Masorah in the way modern scholarship would do, i. e., to take the Masoretic notes as a “fence around the written Torah”. Overall, the Masoretic Text was regarded as an essential component of the Bible although it was considered an offspring of later Jewish tradition. Still in the 18th century, Moses Mendelssohn in his introduction to the translation of the Pentateuch (1782) had argued that the oral tradition of the Masoretic text had served as a guarantor for the text’s purity, and had safeguarded the text from any later corruption. In contrast, the Protestant Bible scholar J. G. Eichhorn had argued that especially the oral transmission of the biblical text was the source of its corruption, and critical scholarship was obliged to emend the corrupt text. At the end of the 18th century at the latest, the Masoretic hyper-text was deprived of its embedment in Jewish tradition, since Protestant historicalcritical research on the Hebrew Bible sought to reconstruct a Biblical “Urtext” and was not very much interested in Masorah Studies as part of the “Niedere Kritik” (“Textkritik”). This development led to the result that Masorah studies by the representatives of the Wissenschaft des Judentums could not develop within the context of the academic Bible studies at the universities. Thus, the works of Salomon Frensdorff, Benjamin Wolf Heidenheim, or Seligmann Isaak Baer were neglected and were only recently rediscovered.
Jewish as well as Christian Biblical scholars of the 19th century were fascinated by the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. “The prophets” - who represented God’s will and were prepared to defy even those in political power - seemed to mirror the pioneer spirit of the time and its discourses of individuality. The scholarly dictum lex post prophetas gained not only historical, but also theological meaning. Based on a reading of passages from Wellhausen’s and Geiger’s works, this paper argues that both Jewish and Protestant Christian exegetes considered the prophets’ committed plea for human dignity and their ethical principles to be the original concepts of Israel. However, while the Protestant theologians did not leave their traditional anti-Jewish paradigms, the representatives of the Jewish reform saw the prophets as their advocates for their anti-ritualistic endeavors. Nevertheless, on a deep level the proponents of both views agree: They understand Judaism as based on a discourse of human dignity, of concrete and earthly ethical values. In Christian and in Jewish contexts this notion could become “dangerous knowledge” that challenged well-established theological concepts.
After attending a Yeshiva and studying at the universities at Marburg and Göttingen the German rabbi Salomon Herxheimer (1801-1884) was appointed “Landesrabbiner” (Chief Rabbi) of the Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg. His singular achievement was the publication of a translation of the Hebrew Bible into German with a commentary (1839-1848, a second edition of which appeared in 1854, a third edition in 1865) thereby emphasizing the common religious, ethical and moral basis of Judaism and Christianity. The decisions of the Protestant consistories of Bernburg (Saxony-Anhalt) and Sondershausen (Thuringia) to acquire Herxheimer’s Bible for all pastorates of the Duchy or to invite the clergymen to subscribe to this work is a unique undertaking in German Jewish history. It was celebrated in Jewish journals as a success of the emancipation process as well as an expression of a “human sense” in the majority culture. Apart from the consistorial decisions, Herxheimer’s effort only provoked rejection and harsh criticism in the majority culture - Protestant as well as Catholic, in which anti-Jewish stereotypes were articulated as much as a defamation of the consistories at Bernburg and Sondershausen.