German Christian Contributions to Jewish Law

Haim H. Cohn
1999 Israel Law Review  
I have chosen for my subject some of the contributions made to Jewish law — in its widest sense — by German Christian scholars of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Some sixty years or more ago I became acquainted with the writings of John Selden, the 17th century English lawyer, parliamentarian and antiquarian, whose books on the Uxor Hebraica and De successionibus ad legem Ebraeorum, and De synedriis, were a revelation to me: for a non-Jewish scholar of that period to be capable of delving
more » ... pable of delving into biblical, talmudical and post-talmudical sources and to compare them with other ancient systems of law, was an unexpected feat. It is not only the impeccable command of Hebrew and Aramaic that excites wonder: it is also a sincere and genuine endeavour to comprehend and describe the workings of Jewish law objectively and without religious bias. We shall see that not all theologians always succeeded in suppressing their innate prejudices; there were even a good many who conducted their Judaistic research for hostile purposes (and with those I shall not deal). Even of Selden it was said that he had voiced now and then some antisemitic remarks, but there is no trace of any personal animus in his books on Jewish law.
doi:10.1017/s0021223700016162 fatcat:x5hwvguwmnebjc2p3ni73e3sau