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Judaica Online Exhibitions

THE STUDY OF HEBREW gained rapid and fervent popularity among Christian scholars from the 16th to the 18th century.  The Christian Hebraists undertook studies of the classical Jewish literature, biblical and rabbinic, in their attempt at arriving at the Hebraica Veritas:  the truth of Christianity as seen through the original literature of the Jews.  The scholarship could aim to understand, demystify, defend, or even vilify Judaism, as well as to elucidate or distort rabbinic literature.

Christian Hebraism was responsible for the production and publication of more than seventy works of rabbinic lexicography.  Many of the innovations came through direct contacts between Christian and Jewish scholars, and a vast network of scholarship that encompassed all of Europe. All were ultimately dependent on the ‘Arukh of Nathan ben Jehiel and the Shorashim of Kimḥi.


Alfonso of Zamora.
Vocabularium hebraicum atque chaldaicum totius veteris testamenti cum alijs tractatibus prout infra in prefatione continetur in academia complutensi nouiter impressum.
Alcalá de Henares : Arnao Guillén de Brocar, 1514-1517.
Frontispiece signature Viiii verso,  עלם or ‘LM "almah"
Jewish Hebrew speakers remaining in Spain after the Expulsion, Ximénez comissioned several Jewish converts to Christianity to translate the Hebrew Bible into Latin and assist in the editing of the Hebrew text.  Among these were: Alfonso, son of Juan de Zamora, baptized in 1506 and professor of Hebrew at Salamanca; Paul Nuñez Coronel (d. 1534), originally instructed for the rabbinate, baptized prior to1492, and also professor of Hebrew at the University of Salamanca; Diego López de Zúñiga (d. 1530). In addition to his work as translator and editor, Alfonso compiled this alphabetically arranged Hebrew-Latin dictionary, appended as volume 6 to the polyglot.
Sante Pagnini.
Thesaurus linguae sanctae: ex R. Dauid Kimchi Sefer ha-Shorashim.
Paris : Robert Estienne, 1548.
Titlpage Pages 924-925, on עלם "almah"

Pagnini, whose initial formation began under the tutelage of Girolamo Savonarola in Florence, is an emblematic figure of Renaissance Christian Hebraism in Italy. His commentaries, grammars and translations were hailed by Christians and Jews alike, and his erudition.  His industry so impressed Pope Leo X that he assumed the expenses of Pagnini's Veteris etNovi Testamenti nova translatio (Lyons, 1527). The Thesaurus linguae sanctae is Pagnini's translation of and exposition on Kimḥi’s Sefer ha-shorashim.


Sebastian Münster.
Dictionarium Chaldaicum [‘Arukh].
Basel : Froben, 1527.
Sebastian Münster. Dictionarium Chaldaicum. Frontispiece Sebastian Münster. Dictionarium Chaldaicum. 1r, first entry "Abba"
Sebastian Münster.
Sefer ha- shorashim `im nigzarim = Dictionarivm Hebraicvm.
Basel : Froben, 1564.
Sebastian Münster. Dictionarivm Hebraicvm. Commentary on עלם "almah"

The collaboration of Sebastian Münster and Johann Froben left a permanent mark on Christian Hebraism, transplanting its center to Basel.  Born in Germany, Münster studied with Elijah Levita and translated his works into Latin, adding to the fame and reputation of the Venetian Levita.  Johann Froben’s family, proprietors of the press at the University of Basel had begun printing in Hebrew in 1516, in a beautiful and characteristic Ashkenazic typface. On display are Münster’s translation of Kimhi’s Shorashim and Nathan ben Jehiel’s ‘Arukh. By the time of their printings, and in part thanks to Münster and Froben, these works became  canonical to the practice of rabbinic lexicography by Christian Hebraists.


Philippe d' Aquin.
Ma’arikh ha-ma’arakhot = Dictionarium Absolutissimum Complectens.
Paris : A. Vitray 1629.
Ma’arikh ha-ma’arakhot. Titlepage

Philippe d'Aquin was born Mardochée Cresque in the city of Carpentras in southern France.  His family had long resided in the Comtat Venaissin, where Jews had been permitted to settle from the time of the Avignon Papacy.  While in the central Italian city of Aquino—the native city of Thomas Aquinus—he converted to Christianity and assumed the name Philippe. In 1610 he went to Paris, where he was appointed professor of Hebrew by Louis XIII.  Among other works, he published both Latin and Italian translations of Pirke Avot, a treatise on Hebrew roots (Primigenae Voces, seu Radices Breves Linguae Sanctae) , and participated in the production of the Paris Biblia poliglotta (1629-1645), the “Third Great Polyglot”, a French endeavor to update Plantin’s polyglot Bible (Antwerp, 1575, the “Second Great Polyglot”, successor to Completensian Bible.

The Ma’arikh ha-Ma’arekhot (“Dictionary of Dictionaries” a play on the title ‘Arukh) was issued in Paris in 1629, and is another Latin translation of Nathan ben Jehiel’s chief work.


Johann Buxtorf.
Lexicon chaldaicum, talmudicum et Rabbinicum.
Basel, Ludwig König, 1639.
Page 2, Aazerkha to Abba

Johann Buxtorf, considered the principal founder of rabbinical study among Christian scholars, was born Christmas day, 1564, at Kamen, Westphalia. He studied at Marburg and afterward at Herborn, where Johann Piscator persuaded him to study Hebrew. He continued his studies at Basel in 1584 and graduated as doctor of philosophy in 1590.  The following year he was appointed professor of Hebrew at the University of Basel, a position he continued to fill until his death there on September 13, 1629.  Buxtorf's work as a lexicographer began with the Epitome Radicum Hebraicarum et Chaldaicarum (Basel, 1607), afterward published in numerous. As especially important was his Concordance, based upon the older work of Isaac Nathan ben Kalonymus (14th-15th century) and published after Buxtorf’s death by his son, Johann Buxtorf the younger (Basel, 1599-1664). Buxtorf began work on his Lexicon chaldaicum, talmudicum et rabbinicum in 1609; it was also completed by his son in 1639, after nine years of indefatigable labor. This lexicon became an indispensable guide to specialists, and was published as late as 1866.