Classics and Religious Studies


Date of this Version

January 2000


Published in Archive for Reformation History 91 (2000): 168-190. Used by permission of the author.


The majority of Christian Hebraists during the early years of the Reformation devoted their attention to studying the Hebrew text of the Old Testament and the Hebrew language itself. Heeding the humanist admonition to "return to the sources," Martin Bucer, Konrad Pellikan, and a number of other scholars used their new skills to create a plethora of new Bible translations, biblical commentaries, and linguistic helps. Greater knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish literature also made these scholars aware of Jewish anti-Christian polemics. Jewish biblical commentators such as David Kimhi and the authors of books such as Sefer Nizzahon and Toledot Yesu responded to stock theological arguments used by Christians against Judaism with verve, skill, and biting sarcasm. Christian Hebraists who were familiar with such works believed that they constituted a challenge to the legitimacy of Christian Old Testament interpretation, and some attempted to refute them with polemical works of their own. Sebastian Münster's Messiahs of the Christians and the Jews (1529/ 1539) was one of the most creative apologetic responses to these anti-Christian polemics.

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