CANCELLED: The Quest to Learn Hebrew: From Robert Wakefield (d. 1537/8) to Johann Buxtorf the Elder (1564-1629) - 12.5.2020

Workshop with BGSH-Fellow Joanna Weinberg (Oxford)

In this workshop, we will examine how and why Christians were propelled to study Hebrew in early modern Europe. Though understandable that Christians wishing to follow the invocation “ad fontes” undertook the task of engaging with the Old Testament in its original language, it is not self-evident why they also would study rabbinic texts and medieval and post-medieval Jewish literature. We will study this phenomenon through the works of one of the first English “professors of Hebrew” Robert Wakefield, and those of, arguably, the most distinguished Hebraist of the early modern period, Johann Buxtorf of Basel. In the course of our scrutiny of their works we will necessarily have to consider how their study of Hebrew affected or was affected by their notion of Jews and Judaism. I will provide specimen texts in Latin, German and English translation on which to base our discussions.

All participants are also cordially invited to attend the lecture by Joanna Weinberg at the colloquium "History of the Pre-Modern" on the topic "Church Father or Rabbi: The Debate Over Philo of Alexandria in Early Modern Europe" on 6 May 2020, 6:15 - 8:00 pm, in Seminar Room 3 of the Department of History, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel.


Joanna Weinberg is a professor emerita in early modern Jewish history and Rabbinics at the University of Oxford. Her extensive research and work are devoted to the study of the intellectual life of Christian and Jewish scholars during the Renaissance period. Together with Anthony Grafton (Princeton University) she is currently working on a book on Basel’s foremost early modern Hebraist Johannes Buxtorf the elder. Also in collaboration with Grafton, she has already published a detailed analysis of Buxtorf’s reading practices (2016) as well as an elaborate study of Isaac Causabon (2011). Further published works include numerous books and articles on various aspects of scholarly life and practices and an annotated translation of Azariah dei Rossi’s pioneering work The Light of the Eyes (1574f.; 2001). Joanna Weinberg will spend two weeks in Basel as a visiting fellow of the BGSH in May 2020.

When and where?

Tuesday, 12 May 2020, 2 - 6 pm (followed by a small dinner)

Departement Geschichte, Hirschgässlein 21, 4051 Basel, Seminar Room 4


Please register via this form no lather tha 1 May 2020.