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Rennaissance Humanism and Christian Hebraism

The Renaissance revival of classical learning in Europe brought with it a renewed interest not only in Greek letters but also in the language of the Hebrew Bible. For Christian humanists the study of Hebrew was put on par with that of Greek and Latin. "Trilingual colleges", where the three "classical languages" were taught, were established in France, England, Germany, and elsewhere. Entire schools of Christian Hebraists emerged, often working in close contact with Jewish scholars or Jewish converts to Christianity. Nowhere was the contact between Jewish and Christian learning more evident than in the art of printing in the 16th century, when great Renaissance printers of classical texts - Estienne in Paris, Plantin in Antwerp, and Froben in Basel - ventured into Hebrew typography, often assisted by Jewish craftsmen and typesetters.

Melekh et ha- dikduk
Sebastian Münster, of Basel, 1489-1552

[ Melekhet ha-dikduk ]
Institutiones Grammaticae
in Hebraeam Linguam
Basel: Johann Froben, 1524.

More than simply a Hebrew grammar, this miscellany of Hebraic learning includes one of the first musical transcriptions (running from right to left) of the biblical cantillation, a discussion of Yiddish orthography, and the book of Jonah in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin.

Melekh et ha- dikduk

Shelosh esreh ikarim 1569
Moses b. Maimon [ Maimonides ],
of Spain and Egypt, 1135-1204

[ Shelosh esreh ikarim ]
Symbolum Fidei Iudaeorum ...
Paris: Martinus Iuvenis, 1569.

Maimonides' "Thirteen Principles of the Faith," included in his mishnaic commentary, were originally written in Arabic. In this rare edition the Hebrew text is accompanied by the Latin translation of the theologian Gilbert Génébrard, professor of Hebrew at the Collège de France.

Bible. New Testament. Syriac and

[ Diyatiki hedata ]
Novum ... Testamentum Syriacè.
Cum versione Latina
Cothena Anhaltinorum [ Cöthen,
Upper Saxony ] : s.n., 1621.

This Syriac New Testament, edited by the Christian orientalist Martinus Trostius, includes the Latin translation of the Syriac text by John Immanuel Tremellius, an apostate Jew. It is the first edition of the original text in Syriac characters to be accompanied by a Latin translation.

Biblia sacra polyglotta 1654 - 1657
Bible. Polyglot
Biblia Sacra Polyglotta ...
London: Thomas Roycroft, 1654-1657.

The last and most accurate of the great polyglot Bibles, "Walton's London Polyglot" was edited by the English churchman Brian Walton. It contains texts in nine languages, including Hebrew (and Samaritan), Aramaic, Greek, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, and Persian, with Latin translations of each version.

Biblia sacra polyglotta 1654 - 1657

Judah Halevi, of Spain, ca. 1075-1141

[ Kuzari ]
Liber Cosri
Basel: J. Buxtorf, Jr., 1660.

The Kuzari, originally written in Arabic, was translated into Hebrew in the same century by the Provençal scholar Judah ibn Tibbon. Johannes Buxtorf II, of the famous family of Christian Hebraists, prepared this Hebrew edition with a Latin translation, the first in a European language.

Bible. Hebrew

[ Esrim ve-arba kitvei kodesh ]
Biblia Testamenti Veteris ...
Fankfurt a.M.: Balthasar Christoph.
Wust, 1677.

For 50 years the Wust firm carried on Hebrew printing in Frankfurt on behalf of Jews, who could not obtain printing licences. Edited by the Lutheran David Clodius and proofread by a Jew, this "non-denominational" Hebrew Bible contains brief Latin summaries on the inner margin and wide outer margins for annotation.

Bible. Hebrew

[ Torah nevi'im u-ketuvim ]
Biblia Hebraica sine punctis
Oxford: E Typographeo Clarendoniano,
Typis et Sumptibus Academicis,

Edited by Nathaniel Forster, this Hebrew Bible of the Clarendon Press was the first published in England (apart from the Hebrew in Walton's Polyglot published nearly a century before). Printed without vowels as the Latin title indicates, this edition did not advance the cause of biblical scholarship.

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