Abstract

The twelfth-century Jewish traveller, Benjamin of Tudela and his Book of Travels has attracted widespread attention since the Middle Ages. The narrative, however, has largely been read and studied in the context of what it can tell scholars about the medieval world. This article shifts the approach away from the Book of Travels’ content to its reception. Under discussion is Constantijn L’Empereur’s 1633 Latin edition. This article reveals how L’Empereur elevated the Book of Travels from a travelogue into a work of rabbinic literature to undermine the text’s authority. It argues that by attacking the veracity of the account, L’Empereur employed the narrative in anti-Jewish polemics against the cunning, and theologically blind Jews to illustrate the errors of their beliefs. By illuminating L’Empereur’s engagement with the text, the article also situates L’Empereur’s use of rabbinic literature in the wider early modern debate about the utility of Hebrew language study and rabbinic literature for Christian scholars.

in Erudition and the Republic of Letters