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Semitic Philology and the Wissenschaft des Judentums. Revisiting Leopold Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur (1818)

In: Philological Encounters
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The article begins with a brief sketch of the beginnings of Semitics and the Wissenschaft des Judentums, highlighting the theological roots of the former and the relation of each to Jewish emancipation in Prussia. The second section presents a close reading of Leopold Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur (1818), a text that initiates the Wissenschaft des Judentums, and highlights several aspects of the work: the tension Zunz grapples with between rabbinic rupture and Jewish continuity, the former of which dominates; the contemporaneous use of “our science” and the relation between knowledge and the power it asserts; and the theological foundations of the program he proposes. It then looks at Zunz’s later writings, emphasizing the continuity of his thought and how he revises some of his earlier views. In closing, the article speculates as to why Zunz did not engage the field of Semitics.

Abstract

The article begins with a brief sketch of the beginnings of Semitics and the Wissenschaft des Judentums, highlighting the theological roots of the former and the relation of each to Jewish emancipation in Prussia. The second section presents a close reading of Leopold Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur (1818), a text that initiates the Wissenschaft des Judentums, and highlights several aspects of the work: the tension Zunz grapples with between rabbinic rupture and Jewish continuity, the former of which dominates; the contemporaneous use of “our science” and the relation between knowledge and the power it asserts; and the theological foundations of the program he proposes. It then looks at Zunz’s later writings, emphasizing the continuity of his thought and how he revises some of his earlier views. In closing, the article speculates as to why Zunz did not engage the field of Semitics.

* An earlier version of this article was presented at the conference “Semitic Philology within European Intellectual History,” held in Berlin in 2013, and organized by the program “Zukunftsphilologie: Revisiting the Canons of Textual Scholarship” at the Forum Transregionale Studien, where I was a postdoctoral fellow at the time. I would like to thank the program for the opportunity and means to develop this piece. Additionally, I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided very thoughtful, critical feedback on an earlier draft and helped me to revise the essay.

I The Beginnings of Semitistik and the Wissenschaft des Judentums

The fields of Semitistik (i.e., the comparative study of Semitic languages) and the Wissenschaft des Judentums (Science of Judaism)—two nineteenth-century, historical-philological disciplines—are examples of the “new” or particularly “modern” science of philology, an attribute of the more recent age.1 What makes these fields modern? Do they connect to each other, and if so, how?

Among what distinguishes the modern field of Semitics as it took shape over the nineteenth century, is not the idea of a genealogical relationship between Hebrew, Arabic and Aramaic—Jewish grammarians had written on this in the Middle Ages, as had Christians in Europe from the sixteenth century—but, rather, how this newly named family becomes articulated, theorized, historicized, investigated, and compared to others, most notably the “Indo-European.”

Before “Semitic” languages were named as such, they were grouped together among “Oriental” languages. Hebrew, as a language of Scripture, was of long-standing importance to the Church. However, it was only from the late fifteenth century, in the context of Renaissance humanism, that Christian scholars began to take an increased interest in learning Hebrew.2 In the Reformation Era, the desire and need for Hebrew knowledge greatly increased as Protestant theologians returned to the biblical text in order to critique Church dogma and authority. University curricula quickly incorporated Hebrew study, and soon after its cognate languages (e.g., Arabic, Syriac, and Ethiopian languages), because these too could help clarify the “Old Testament.” In this way, learning Oriental languages became requisite for one’s pursuit of Christian theological studies. With the Age of Enlightenment and an increased interest in the Near East, the study of Oriental languages took shape as a field in its own right, and became no longer only ancillary to biblical studies. With this, Hebrew’s central position as the oldest or most paradigmatic member of the family was increasingly disputed, as was its antiquity and privileged proximity to the Ursprache. Other languages—both Oriental and European—were argued to be more ancient.3

Developments occurred as the nineteenth-century field of Semitics connected to eighteenth-century ideas about languages, nations, and the bible. In 1710, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) expressed a conception of the world’s language families that would become widespread a century later. Leibniz compared languages across Asia and Europe and concluded that these descended from a common source, which he then called “Japhetic.” He linked this tongue to one of Noah’s three sons, and distinguished it from what was spoken by the descendants of Shem and Ham, whose languages, he posited, formed a different family.4

By the mid-eighteenth century, the idea that languages shape nations and nations shape languages had become prevalent, as reflected in an essay competition from 1757 on the topic “What is the reciprocal influence of the opinions of a people on the language and of the language on the opinions?” The biblical scholar Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791) wrote the prize-winning essay, Dissertation on the Influence of Opinions on Language, and of Language on Opinions (1759), which treats language as a human archive. The Dissertation examines how a people’s characteristics contribute to the “relative richness or poverty” of its language, and presents a more perfect language as one better able to advance knowledge.5 Towards the last quarter of the century, Johann Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) challenged Michaelis’s hierarchical view in his On the Origin of Language (1772), which argues that no language is more or less natural, or more or less perfect, than any other. Responding to Michaelis’s view that language’s role is to advance universal knowledge, Herder claims language is “more than an instrument”; it is, first and foremost, an expression of a people’s inner spirit.6

Both Herder’s romantic position and Michaelis’s enlightenment one would influence nineteenth-century philologists. Of the two, Herder was the far greater influence on Leopold Zunz (1794-1886), a figure widely acclaimed as the founder of the Wissenschaft des Judentums, even if Michaelis’s own work arguably connects more directly to the beginnings of Semitics. It is no coincidence that Michaelis taught the two men who would give the field its name, the historian and polymath Ludwig Schlözer (1735-1809), and the theologian and comparative philologist Johann Gottfried Eichhorn (1753-1827). From as early as 1771, “Semitic” and “Semites” were used to refer to a people, but not yet to the language they spoke.7 In 1781, Schlözer suggested “die Semitische” as a name for what “Semites” spoke back when the nations that descended from Noah’s son Shem (e.g., Syrians, Babylonians, Hebrews, and Arabs) were still one people.8 As Leibniz had done before him, Schlözer derived the name from the table of nations in Genesis 10. “Semitic” gained greater acceptance as a technical, scientific term through Eichhorn’s extensive efforts, from his influential Einleitung ins Alte Testament (1787) to his essay on “Semitic Languages” (1795), in which he advocates using the new name.9 By the turn of the century its use was widespread.

Even though the “Semitic” language family was known long before the “Indo-European,” one cannot discuss nineteenth-century Semitics without also addressing Indo-European studies (or “Indo-Germanic” or “Aryan”—depending on time, place, and author). Both fields develop out of the early modern field of Oriental languages, with its roots in Christian Hebraism, and their trajectories remain connected, even when they diverge.10 In the nineteenth century, they shared a focus on origins, and used philological science to trace and reconstruct humanity’s language(s) and development back as far as linguistic data and the imagination could legitimate.11

At the turn of the century a romance with India was on the rise among German romantics, thanks in large part to Friedrich Schlegel’s (1772-1829) popular Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (1808).12 Schlegel’s work did two important things: first, it differentiated one group of languages with inflection, which originated in India and descended from Sanskrit (e.g., German, Latin, Greek, Persian, etc.,), from a second group with affixes (e.g., Arabic, Hebrew, Coptic, Chinese, etc.), whose grammar was “diametrically opposed” to those descended from Sanskrit. The oppositional structure of the two dominant language families would continue to characterize nineteenth-century notions of comparative grammar. Second, Schlegel urged his countrymen to research ancient India in service of “our fatherland,” suggesting that the common language of Germany and India is part of Germany’s national heritage.13

Returning more directly to the question of the Semitic, it should be pointed out that the issue of Jewish emancipation, arguably the driving force for the development of Wissenschaft des Judentums, arises in Prussia at the same time that Semitic, as a unifying name for a language family, takes hold. These two developments are related. Though Germany held no colonies abroad, emancipation, as Daniel Boyarin has shown, can be considered “functionally akin to a colonization.” The question of “civic improvement,” and whether or not the Jews can be regenerated and made into productive citizens able to contribute to the economy and self-sufficiency of the modern state, is a colonial question.14 Similarly, Jonathan Hess’s Germans, Jews and the Claims of Modernity shows how proposals by biblical scholars regarding the civil status of the Jews, whether in favor of granting them citizenship (e.g., Christian Wilhelm Dohm) or against (e.g., Johann David Michaelis), were formulated as colonial projects.15

More significantly, Hess’ work illuminates how discourse surrounding Jewish emancipation among German biblical scholars reflects a shift from “Orientalism” (or “Hebraism”) as a primarily theological discourse to its modern post-Enlightenment Saidian incarnation as a secular, scientific enterprise, using its intellectual authority to assert political authority over Jews and the Orient.16 Hess shows how both Dohm’s and Michaelis’s political proposals advising the “secular” state on how to deal with its Jews, connect to their scholarship on Jewish history and Mosaic law respectively. The shift to modern Orientalism, in the Saidian sense, appears especially pronounced in Michaelis’s investigations into Mosaic law, as well as in his polemic against emancipating Jews—both of which effect a division separating the Oriental Semite from Christian Europe. The subsequent increasingly racial responses that develop within discourse on Jewish emancipation reveal that “distinctly modern forms of antisemitism” should be understood “not as a reaction to the Enlightenment but as an integral part of it.”17 In this way, Hess’s work illustrates how Christian patterns survive “reconstituted, redeployed, redistributed” in and through secular Enlightenment universalism, as Hebraism transforms into modern Orientalism.18

It is within this colonial context, and amidst the corresponding struggle of German Jews to obtain equal rights, that the Wissenschaft des Judentums begins to take shape in Berlin at the end of the second decade of the nineteenth century. Significantly, it emerges among the first generation of German Jews to attend universities, and is concentrated at the University of Berlin (1810), the first German university to claim to sever “the centuries-old tie between confessionally defined Christianity and university education.”19

Leopold Zunz begins the Wissenschaft des Judentums in 1818 with his Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur, a text hailed as inaugurating the Science of Judaism, though one which precedes the term’s first use.20 The program Zunz proposes in 1818, which he and others take up, is philological and historical, and influenced by his classical studies with Philipp August Boeckh (1785-1867) and Friedrich Wolf (1759-1824) at the University of Berlin.21 Zunz calls this program “our science,” and identifies its object of research as “the entire literature of the Jews, in its greatest extent,” which he argues needs to be systematically, objectively, and diachronically investigated.22 He does not claim to found a new science, but rather calls for “reawakening a study, which although with quite a misguided direction, formerly blossomed more than now, when it is abandoned by everyone” (23).

It is not surprising that Hebraism served Christian interests, and made Judaism function “as the other whose negation confirms and even constitutes Christianity.”23 It is with this background in mind that Zunz writes his Etwas, responding to Christians’ appropriation of rabbinic literature over the past 300 years, and critiquing how over the past century “European [literature] gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the [rabbinic].”24 It is significant that German Jews enunciate a program rebelling against the Christian Hebraism of recent centuries only after they have already begun to be “civilized” through processes of emancipation. Theirs may be a “revolt of the colonized,” but their rebellion is bound up with and enabled by their colonization.25

II Reading Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur

Below is a three-part reading of Zunz’s programmatic essay, which highlights tensions present at this beginning moment, and clarifies the state and use of the science Zunz attempts to “reawaken.” The last part draws attention to theological undercurrents of Zunz’s conception of science.

Rabbinic Literature: Its Birth and Disappearance

There are two aspects to Zunz’s portrayal of rabbinic literature that are frequently overlooked in discussions of his essay: the causes of its emergence and the multiple factors indicating its present-day disappearance.26 These omissions have resulted in neglect of certain dimensions of Zunz’s program, an over-emphasis on others, and misreadings of important points. An example of the latter is the repeated statement that Zunz views Jewish history as ending, when in fact what he announces—and aims to effect—is the closure of “rabbinic literature,” one period in the Jews’ long and continuing history.27 In fact, a central aim of Zunz’s tract is to propose and explain a program precisely in order to prevent the Jewish people’s disappearance.

From the essay’s opening paragraph, Zunz engages and critiques contemporary Christian scholarship. He begins from a place of commonality, namely the Hebrew bible, which Christians and Jews both hold in esteem. From there, however, he quickly turns and counters the common Protestant view that separates biblical Hebrews (exhibiting a purity of faith) from rabbinic Jews (who degenerated Judaism into a dry legalistic religion). Christian theologians typically dated this rupture to the first exile, and used it to connect Jesus and Christianity to the pure faith of the Hebrews, instead of a corrupted Judaism.28 Zunz’s terminological choices subtly critique this view by naming “the Jewish people” as those who produced the Hebrew bible, before proceeding to describe “the later products of the Hebrew nation” (i.e., rabbinic literature), which Christian scholars have failed to appreciate highly (3, emphasis added).

Zunz does not linger on the biblical writings, but quickly turns to focus on the topic at hand. He explains:

As the shadows of barbarism gradually lost ground from the darkened earth, and light spread over everything, likewise over the Jews who were dispersed everywhere, a new foreign learning [Bildung] tied itself to the remains of the ancient Hebrews; minds and centuries both worked into that literature that we call rabbinic.29 (3, original emphasis)

This excerpt emphasizes how the Jews precede the rabbinic, and consequently may survive its disappearance. Second, it explains how the rabbinic resulted from a profound transformation, impelled by a coming together of two elements, both of which—i.e., the foreign and the Jewish—were transformed through their interaction and shaped into what was produced. Zunz’s use of the word “Bildung” to describe the non-Jewish entity in this past cultural encounter resonates with his present, where Jews are for the first time enrolling in universities, and encountering German Bildung. Zunz describes this past encounter because he sees, and hopes for, a similarly profound transformation in the Jews’ present.

When Zunz first uses “rabbinic,” he inserts a footnote instructing his reader that this may not be the best name for what he describes. He suggests, “Why not neo-Hebraic or Jewish literature” instead (3n1, original emphasis)? Zunz poses this question, but then throughout the essay continues to employ “rabbinic” with far greater frequency than either alternative he suggests.30

Why does Zunz propose these alternatives and then rarely use them? This connects to what he attempts to describe and accomplish through this particular essay. As the above quote shows, “Jewish” as a qualifier is inaccurate, since in Zunz’s own description the Jews precede the emergence of rabbinic literature. “Neo-Hebraic” is likewise ill-suited to what he describes, for not only does Zunz provide numerous examples of “rabbinic works” written in languages other than Hebrew, he also argues that recent writings in Hebrew exist, which are most definitely not rabbinic.

Zunz takes the term “rabbinic” from Christian scholarship. He continues to use “rabbinic literature,” despite reservations, because it is particularly well-suited to two interconnected aims of this work: by focusing on the “rabbinic” he can challenge Christians’ attacks upon a literature that they have defined and denigrated, and he can simultaneously claim that the rabbinic no longer describes, or need not describe, the Jews’ present. Zunz uses this name because he wants to defend and rebel against the “rabbinic” at the same time.

In a passage that speaks quite directly, if cursorily, to the topic of Orientalists’ study of Hebrew, Zunz describes a two-stage process whereby European literature came to flourish as the rabbinic declined. He dates this from the Protestant Reformation:

With the Reformation, inevitably brought about through the flowering of classical learning, a lively study of the biblical books began, to which was joined a, may we say, curious zeal for rummaging through the Orient. As a result, for [the past] century one passionately attacked rabbinic wisdom, which—while the fatherland’s richer and more amiable products occupied and enlivened the minds—suddenly, and perhaps forever, has ceased. But also rabbinic literature declined to the extent that the European flourished, and the Jews began connecting themselves to [the European]. Even what still belongs to the former from the last fifty years, has borrowed only the language from [rabbinic literature] as an accessible learned garment for ideas that must prepare for a time when rabbinic literature will have ceased to live.31 (4)

Zunz’s critique of Orientalists from the past hundred years resonates with Said’s argument in Orientalism that “European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient.”32 Before a modern “secular” Orientalism exercised its knowledge of and over the Orient as part of the colonial ventures Said describes, Zunz observes how Orientalists were studying and denigrating post-biblical literature to serve first their religious needs in the Reformation era and then the awakening of national consciousness in the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment periods.

Significantly, the passage above doesn’t only critique Christians’ actions but also those of Jews. From the time of the Reformation, Jews’ productions also began changing. Elsewhere in the essay, Zunz notes that the decline of rabbinic literature began with the rise of the “accursed [Talmudic] polemics, or the so-called pilpul” in the sixteenth century, and states that he “warmly stand[s] behind the weaning out of such Talmudism and vulgar rabbinism” (29n1). Given rabbinic literature’s decline, alongside attacks on it and the flourishing of European literature, Zunz suggests that it is not surprising that more recently many Jews have turned against rabbinic literature and embraced the European instead.

One additional point from the lengthy passage above deserves comment, namely Zunz’s observations on the Hebrew of the last 50 years. By this he refers to the language since the time of Mendelssohn and his followers, the maskilim (“Enlighteners”).33 Zunz claims that maskilic writings, despite resembling rabbinic literature because they are in Hebrew, are in actuality so different from what came before them that they foretell the end of the rabbinic. Zunz does not mourn this ending. In fact, he later admiringly notes how Hebrew has obtained “a more pure and more beautiful form” in the last hundred years, and cites many excellent Hebrew prose writers as illustration (18). Zunz uses the distinction between rabbinic and maskilic Hebrew as a way to draw the Jews’ present and future toward a new Hebrew, while breaking with their more immediate rabbinic past.

Zunz suggests there are at least two paths that the closure of rabbinic production could take. The first he hopes to prevent, while the latter is what he aims to effect: Zunz claims that either Jews could choose to participate in European literature and simultaneously forego any attachment to rabbinic literature, and with it their connection to the people who produced that literature, or Jews’ attempts to engage the European—and the impact of that upon them, and importantly vice versa—may effect their productions such that “rabbinic” no longer describes what Jews produce. Much as the rabbinic first emerged through a coming together of two cultures—one Jewish and one non-Jewish—so too does the present seem ripe for such collective transformation.

Zunz’s optimism regarding the Jews’ collective change, however, is tempered by the alarming observation that at the same time that some Jews are beautifying and purifying the Hebrew language, a far greater number of German Jews are abandoning it:

… precisely because in our time we are seeing the Jews—limiting this to the German ones—with greater seriousness seizing upon the German language and German learning, thereby—perhaps often without wanting to or suspecting—carrying the neo-Hebraic literature to the grave, science steps forth and demands an account of [that literature] which has closed.34 (4, original emphasis)

Zunz does not fear the closure of the rabbinic; the rabbinic is ending and he argues it needs to and should end. However, this closure also presents a very serious danger: the burial of neo-Hebraic literature. This is Zunz’s one and only use of “neo-Hebraic literature” in the body of the essay, presented here for its juxtaposition against the German language, whose wholehearted embrace—when at the expense of Hebrew—Zunz claims, threatens to cut Jews off from their own literature and history. While “rabbinic literature” refers to a multi-lingual, geographically and temporally diverse corpus of texts, Hebrew, Zunz argues, occupies a special, defining place within it. If Jews give up Hebrew, Zunz fears they will sever themselves from the people that has been tied together through their common language over millennia.35 Fear of this existential loss drives the program he lays out.

“The Complicated Question of the Jews’ Fate” and “Our Science”

It is in response to this existential crisis that science “steps forth and demands an account of what has closed.” How is its demand to be met? The answer comes through the first mention of one particular science in the text: “our science.” Before explaining what “our science” is, Zunz jumps to describe a use for it:

Now, we believe, working on our science on a grand scale becomes an obligation, and an even weightier one, because the complicated question about the fate of the Jews seems to be able to be answered, in some areas, through it.36 (4)

Emancipation had been widely and heatedly debated in German states beginning from 1781 and the publication of Dohm’s famous Über die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Juden. Zunz argues that such proposals aiming to answer the “question about the Jews’ fate” have been fundamentally flawed due to misunderstandings regarding the nature of the Jewish people. It is for this reason that “our science”—a field open to Jews as well as Christians and benefiting both, albeit differently—may be able to contribute towards a just resolution of this question.

Zunz explains that considerate and effective reforms can only come about through thoughtful and serious investigation. Zunz instructs:

In order to know and to classify the old as useful, the antiquated as harmful, and the new as desirable, we must thoughtfully and seriously commence with the study of the people and its history, of the political as of the moral. Precisely what produces the greatest harm is that the matter of the Jews is handled just like their literature. One pounces upon both with biased ardor, and has them assessed either too low or too high.37 (5)

“Our science”—here suggested to be “the study of the [Jewish] people and its history”—would contribute towards effective reforms by enabling the identification of what from the Jews’ political and moral history is useful (the old), harmful (the antiquated), and desirable (the new). The last sentence of the quotation points to the two parties Zunz identifies as responsible for furthering misunderstandings about the Jews through incorrectly judging their literature: rabbis, who rate the Jews’ literature too high, and Christians, who assess it too low. The problem, as Zunz describes it, is not that “the Jews’ matter” and the “Jews’ literature” are handled in the same way, but that incorrectly knowing and appraising the latter results in misunderstanding of the former. Because effective reform requires accurate, thorough knowledge of the people and its history, we must investigate the people’s literature scientifically, and not treat it theologically.

It is only after presenting this urgent use for “our science” that Zunz takes up the task of explaining what giving “an account of [that literature] which has closed” requires. He begins by asking why, in this age of reason and advancement, “when a magnificent complete view spreads its clear rays over all sciences” does “our science” alone languish? He continues: “What prevents us from knowing entirely the contents of rabbinic literature, from properly understanding, successfully explaining, correctly judging1) and comfortably surveying it?” (5) At the word “judging” Zunz inserts a footnote, further defining the object of “our science” and how to treat it:

We do not fear being misunderstood: here the entire literature of the Jews, in its greatest extent, is assembled as an object of research, without our caring whether its entire contents should or could also be a norm for our own judgment.38 (5n1, original emphasis)

In this note, Zunz emphasizes that “rabbinic literature” should not be understood as only Talmudic or theological, as Christians have defined it, but includes any text written by a Jew. Rabbis are not the guardians of this vast corpus, nor should or could they be, for their concern is precisely with norms. In this aside directed at his Jewish readers, Zunz no longer limits himself to the rabbinic period, but takes on the whole of “Jewish literature,” of which the rabbinic should be viewed as but one long and significant periodization.

It is only following Zunz’s detailed and heavily footnoted bibliographical survey of the “literary products of the Jewish people” (7-21), highlighting deficiencies of previous investigations and identifying areas for fruitful research, that he turns to directly answer (23-26) his earlier question: “how is it that our science alone languishes?” (5). While all sciences suffer “the misfortune of human imperfection,” “our science” also faces “completely peculiar prejudices” which contribute to its decline and defects (23). Specifically, both Christians and Jews have erred when it comes to the scientific ideal of objectivity, though they do so differently.39 He deplores how Christians have approached this study not out of love, but rather hate, and celebrated everything that could be used against the Jews and Judaism, describing how Christian “scholars culled together half-understood scraps from the corners, in order to publicly shame their eternal adversary” (24).40 Jews, however, were no better at achieving objectivity, for there exists also “a domestic (einheimischer) fanaticism.” Carelessness due to familiarity has “robbed otherwise good minds of their impartiality,” preventing them from viewing “their material with just eyes” (24).41 Even the best intentioned have still fallen short, for among Jews, where there was good will, there lacked “classical learning,” and among Christians, where scholars were learned, they failed to make themselves “native in the Hebrew spirit” and learn how to “feel with the author” (25).42 Zunz proclaims that thankfully “such times are past” (24) due to the “greater culture” (4). In this “more liberal age” (15), he hopes that both Jews and Christians can overcome their theological and cultural biases and investigate “our science” fairly.

On “Science” and “Sciences”

Zunz denotes different entities by the one term “science.” There is: 1. universal science; 2. the sciences of people’s literatures, of which “our science” is one example; and 3. the sciences that exist within and across the sciences of people’s literatures (e.g., theology, jurisprudence, astronomy, mathematics, etc.). This section presents the relationships between these different “sciences” and shows how their relation mirrors Zunz’s vision for the integration of the study of Jewish literature among European academic disciplines, and with it the place of Jews in European society.

Zunz explains that research into “our science” must start from investigating its parts (i.e., its constituent sciences), because each part must be tended, “so that the whole should not become disfigured by substantial flaws” (7). This structural relation between the sciences of the third and second categories furthers Zunz’s arguments in two important ways: first, the presence of “sciences” within rabbinic literature legitimizes it as an object worthy of research. Second, the relation between the two, namely that the whole must be investigated through its parts to prevent errors, foretells the universal implications regarding the state of “our science” and humankind’s cognizance of the knowledge connected to the science.

The crux of Zunz’s argument is the relation between the science and sciences of peoples’ literatures, which are strikingly contrasted, one eternal, the other human. Only the singular universal science is fixed. No action effects a change within it, though humans’ perception and awareness of it may increase or decrease. The universal is the only category of science which acts, for it “steps forth” and “demands” an intervention at the moment rabbinic literature disappears (4). This singular and universal science serves as a goal and as a foundation, and “survives exalted above (überleben erhaben) all earthly pettiness, lands and nations,” which produce the materials that particular sciences treat (27).

“Our science,” in contrast, is affected through its treatment. Like all sciences, it is located among the “stomping ground of human activity” (27). It is created by humans’ attempts to treat rabbinic literature in accord with the ideal of science. Works may “enrich” it by important discoveries, or may “reform” it through new perspectives (6). In contrast to the physical and temporal location of the singular universal, outliving all earthly matters and elevated above all human activity, “our science” languishes (literally, “lies on the ground,” daniederliegen), its unfortunate state the result of humans’ mistreatment and imperfection (5).

And yet, these two contrasting categories are intimately connected. Taking “our science” as an example, Zunz explains that “apprehending the intellectual magnitude of the people and rendering what is discerned” (a goal of sciences of people’s literatures) may contribute to “the knowledge of man, which alone is the most worthy aim of all research” (27), for the only path to approach that sublime universal is through investigating people’s literatures. However, while the “knowledge of man” may be research’s most worthy aim, it is not the final one. Zunz explains that “only [this higher view] can one day lead to a true history of Jewish philosophy, in which the minds’ course of ideas is determined and understood” (27-28). In other words, as knowledge of universal man increases, we will become better able to perfect research into particular sciences. In this way, each science of the second category matters both to universal science and to every other science of a people’s literature.

The model Zunz presents, while grounded in “science,” is heavily imbued with religious imagery, where a singular “Wissenschaft” reigns supreme and everlasting in Europe’s emerging present. In place of religions, which have led to division and hostility, Zunz turns peoples and nations into the means through which to apprehend knowledge of the sublime universal. In this model, no one people has a more or less privileged relation to the divine, and all peoples share their access and knowledge with each other. In this way, Zunz argues for the merits of “our science,” both to Jews and to society in general, and he intimates that the Jews are fundamentally as much a part of Europe as any people and should be valued within it for their historical and philosophical contributions.

III Consistency and Revision in Zunz’s Later Works

A great many consistencies run throughout Zunz’s subsequent works: as he calls for research to do in 1818, his major works (Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden (1832), Zur Geschichte und Literatur (1845), Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters (1855), Die Ritus des synagogalen Gottesdienstes (1859), Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie (1865)) contain a wealth of detailed, thorough, bibliographical research. As he advocates in 1818, his research gives attention to the most minute details, and situates these within a greater whole, aiming to expose the unity of what he would come to unequivocally call “Jewish literature.” He repeatedly makes the case that Jewish literature has universal importance, that the state and its academic institutions need to support and develop its study, and that the Jews are a part of Europe’s history. He maintains that so long as knowledge of the Jews and their literature is biased, society will treat Jews unfairly. He accepts rabbinic decline, and continues to date it from the sixteenth century. He asserts that science is the present’s ideal and what researchers must strive for first and foremost. Much as he did in 1818, he continues to express political hopes for the outcomes of objective, thorough, critical research, emphasizing however that politics must be subservient to science and not the other way around. At the same time, many of his works have undeniably pragmatic aims, and use research to redress present-day injustices.43 All these characteristics are evident in his Etwas, and persist in his later works.

However, Zunz does modify certain positions in later writings. The emphasis Zunz places on rabbinic rupture in 1818 is missing in his first major work, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden, historisch entwickelt (1832). In the Vorträge there is no clear separation between the biblical and the rabbinic. In fact, Zunz’s survey of midrashic literature begins from Chronicles, a biblical text. Through the use of careful philological analysis, Zunz argues that several biblical texts (Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and parts of Psalms) are from the Second Temple period, and that all of these incorporate midrash, thereby integrating “rabbinic” literature into the biblical canon itself.44

As shown above, Zunz’s Etwas advocated Jewish reform, a position that persists in his Vorträge.45 However, Zunz’s attitude towards Reform changes in the mid-1840s in response to leaders’ actions in the burgeoning movement. In the early 1840s, in the context of increased attacks on emancipation, some Reform leaders publicly renounced the authority of the Talmud, kashrut, and messianic hopes.46 Zunz opposed these articulations. In 1843 he published a sermon affirming the wearing of tefillin, and the following year published an essay defending circumcision at a time when some more radical reformers were advocating eliminating the practice. His “Gutachten über die Beschneidung” (1844) sharply criticizes Reform’s renunciation of the Talmud and the Messiah, and likens abolishing circumcision to cutting the life of Judaism in two, adding “suicide is not reform.”47 Zunz’s Zur Geschichte und Literatur, published in 1845, finalizes his break with Reform. In its first chapter, “Jewish Literature,” he rebukes present-day Jews who offer to sell their antiquity in exchange for emancipation.48 His attack continues in the work’s second chapter, “On the Literature of the Jewish Middle Ages in France and Germany,” where he accuses Reform historians of distorting the past through selective investigations, claiming that they either neglect Jewish life in France and Germany or treat it cruelly because they are biased against the specifically Jewish, even though this period and locale form a basis for contemporary life.49 Though his works continue to provide historical precedents for Jewish reform, from the mid-1840s he remains critical of the movement.

Zunz’s chapter “Jewish Literature” reads as a revision of his 1818 tract. He devotes roughly half the chapter to a much more extensive examination and critique of Christian Hebraism than what he had largely relegated to footnotes in 1818.50 Towards the end of the chapter Zunz critiques the very term “rabbinic literature,” and with it his own choice for the title of his earlier work. He identifies “rabbinic literature” as a Christian misnomer for “Jewish literature,” used by theologians to whom Jews only ever appear as Church material, either as a witness or an adversary. This emendation should not be read to mean that what Zunz calls “rabbinic literature” in 1818 is the same thing as what he calls “Jewish literature” in 1845. In 1818, Zunz struggled with what to name the object of “our science”. He most often uses “rabbinic” because in that essay he sought to overthrow what the rabbinic had degenerated into, and “rabbinic literature” was an object he could make suit that particular purpose. By 1845, his strategy has changed and he is more concerned with emphasizing Jewish continuity.

Zunz’s final series of major works is a trilogy devoted to the history of Jewish liturgical poetry (1855-1865).51 These investigations establish Zunz as “the premier historian of the synagogue.”52 The first of the series provides precedent for linguistic reform in a way that amends the attitude Zunz took towards Hebrew in 1818. In Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters (1855), Zunz defends the great medieval liturgical poet Elasan ben Kallir against the charge that he spoke “talmudisch” and used incorrect expressions, and identifies such accusations as evidence of a “strict purism” that amounts to voluntary poverty.53 In 1818, Zunz had highly praised maskilic Hebrew, which was modeled on the biblical language and was critical of rabbinic innovations and “corruptions.” In this text, however, Zunz is explicit that “no language lives without new forms”, and even asserts that “many a Kallir creation deserves to be returned to the [Hebrew] language.”54 The work includes a series of 26 appendices, totaling over 100 pages, sorting and listing vocabulary appropriated and modified by the poets.55 Later that year he published another essay calling for the compilation of a new Hebrew dictionary which would include the vocabulary of its entire literary corpus, from biblical times through to the present.56 While in 1818 Zunz had suggested that it would be useful to investigate and differentiate post-biblical from biblical Hebrew, he now proposes a singular “Hebrew” dictionary covering the language from the Jews’ entire literary corpus. This shift reflects the emphasis he comes to place on the unity and continuity of “Jewish literature,” against the Christian appraisal that separated and denigrated the rabbinic, even though in 1818 he adopted aspects of that view.

Closing Remarks: Some Thoughts on the “Semitic” and Zunz’s Wissenschaft des Judentums

It seems highly likely that Zunz, in 1818, would have been well aware of the “Semitic,” for its use was then widespread, as noted above. Additionally, he was familiar with pioneers in the field of Semitic languages. For example, his diary mentions a visit to Eichhorn in Göttingen in 1818, and his contributions to the Verein’s journal (1822-23) make use of both Herder’s and Schlözer’s work.57 Additionally, his Etwas is up-to-date on developments in linguistic research, and he cites and critiques (19n3-6) Wilhelm Gesenius’s Geschichte der hebräische Sprache und Schrift (1815), a text that opens with a discussion of the general character and classification of Semitic languages.

However, Zunz makes no use of the term Semitic in 1818, nor does he engage the concept or field in later writings. In all of Zunz’s works I have found only one instance in which he uses “Semitic” in relation to languages, and he once uses the noun “Semites” (Semiten) in an essay on the geographical literature of the Jews, when listing the nations known to the relator of Genesis x.58 Neither of these instances engage the field, and I have found no other mention of Semites or Semitics in any of his other writings.59

Why doesn’t Zunz engage the Semitic? After all, the Wissenschaft des Judentums is not unrelated to Semitics as shown above, and consequently one might expect some degree of response. Though Zunz does not state his views on this matter, we can identify key ideas in the field that seem incompatible with his own. For example, Zunz points out and critiques the “curious zeal” of Protestant theologians “for rummaging through the Orient.” What makes this so peculiar, in Zunz’s eyes, is that rabbinic literature is not of the Orient, and yet this is how Protestant theologians, and later Orientalists and Semitists, treat it. Semitists in particular would emphasize how the geography of the Orient, especially the vast, monotonous desert, shaped the Semites’ language and their monotheism or religious “instinct.”60 Counter to this, Zunz maintains that Jews are and have been a part of Europe, and their literature forms a part of world literature. At the same time, however, he does accept that what the rabbinic has degenerated into is entirely incompatible with Europe’s present and future, and must be reformed. In places, he even adheres to the juxtaposition between a backwards Asia and a progressive Europe, and identifies the rabbinic he abhors as belonging to Asia even when situated in Europe.61 For Zunz then, the “Orient” would seem to be a changeable mindset representing regression, while Europe represents hope for progress, justice, and a future grounded in universal science, not divisive religions.62

However, Zunz’s view of universal science as an immortal ideal towards which humans strive resembles a liberal Protestant vision of universal religion. At times, he seeks to expose the Christian undercurrents still coursing through scholarship and informing state policy, though he definitively asserts that any lingering Christian elements are corruptions of “science” and that the universal ideal is not tied to any one religion. The question is, however, is it possible to maintain a singular, religious universal that puts Europe at the center of progress, which is not also “Christian”?63 I would say no. Though Zunz does amend his conception of Jewish history emphasizing rupture, and his preference for biblical Hebrew over rabbinic (both of which were aligned with Protestant conceptions of the Jews’ development), he continues to legitimize his main assertion that Jewish literature is a part of world literature through a theological conception of universal Wissenschaft.

Semitics is interested in an origin preceding the Jews, and seeks to investigate and understand the Semitic collectively, which has its own characteristics and origin, different from the Aryan or Indo-European. Semitics seeks a “scientific” alternative to biblical origins, and emphasizes the essential and oppositional differences between the Indo-European and the Semitic. Zunz’s conception of the relation between peoples, on the other hand, is grounded in connection. Peoples together represent a singular humankind, and improving our knowledge of any one people contributes to what we understand about humankind in general and vice versa. The knowledge he seeks to uncover is not oppositional, but cumulative.

The Semitic origin does not interest Zunz, who focuses instead on the more recent historical development of the Jews and Judaism, and whose orientation is very much directed towards the Jews’ present in Europe. He insists that accurate, complete knowledge of Jewish literature and integrating Jewish literature into Europe’s academic disciplines will benefit Europe’s present and future. So long as theologians still dictate who and what the Jews and Judaism are, Jews will continue to face biases and oppression in European society. Zunz writes directly about a relation between knowledge and power, and the resulting practical uses for scientific knowledge. On the other hand, nineteenth-century Semitists and Orientalists do not address this relation, even though their linguistic and racial formulations reflect present concerns with very real consequences. After all, it is no coincidence that the “Semitic,” which identifies all Semites with the Orient, takes hold of the European imagination at the same time that the “Jewish” question arises.

Zunz works to build an academic field aiming to reveal knowledge that could rectify the wrongs Jews presently suffer in European society. Righting these wrongs requires purging the academic disciplines and society of their lingering Christian biases. Consequently, Zunz focuses his criticism where those biases are most apparent, which to him does not appear to be the Semitic, even though that field is also afflicted by Christian undercurrents. Semitics, perhaps, appears too far removed from this issue due to its focus on primordial origins. Consequently, Zunz directs his criticism against biblical scholarship and not Semitics, since the former seems more responsible for promulgating misinformation about the Jews. It’s possible too that for all Zunz’s insight about the past, his education and acculturation make it difficult for him to see all of the places that the Christian persists in the present. Ultimately, he seems unaware that Wissenschaft itself, in its universal, spiritual sense, rests upon a transformed, Protestant, theological foundation.

1 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 113-197; Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House, 1970).

2 Stephen G. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (1500-1660) (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 11-22.

3 Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise: Race, Religion, and Philology in the Nineteenth Century, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 1-13.

4 Martin F. J. Baasten, “A Note on the History of ‘Semitic,’ ” in Hamlet on a Hill: Semitic and Greek Studies Presented to Professor T. Muraoka on the Occasion of his Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. M. J. F. Baasten and W. Th. Van Peursen (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), 59-61.

5 Tuska Benes, In Babel’s Shadow: Language, Philology, and the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008), 30-34.

6 Ibid., 40-46.

7 Baasten, “History of the ‘Semitic,’ ” 66-67, 67n35.

8 A. L. Schlözer, “Von den Chaldäern,” Repertorium für biblische und morgenländische Litteratur 8 (1781), 161.

9 Baasten, “History of the ‘Semitic,’ ” 68.

10 Even after academic appointments increasingly split into “Semitic Languages” or “Sanskrit and Comparative [Indo-European] Grammar” by the mid-nineteenth century, a philologist’s training was likely to include Sanskrit, Hebrew, and Arabic. Thus, Indologists were in a position to engage the field and findings of Semitics, and vice versa.

11 One question that occupied linguist-philologists (these fields would become more distinct and specialized over the second half of the nineteenth century) from Semitic and Indo-European fields was whether these two language families were ever united, and if so, at what point in their development they divided. Tellingly, advocates of both monogenetic and polygenetic views of origins were able to reconcile their positions with biblical narrative, connected to Genesis 1 (creation), 10 (the deluge), or 11 (Babel).

12 On the significance of Schlegel’s work for shifts in Orientalism’s perceptions of, relations to, and uses for the Indian Orient, see Suzanne L. Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race, and Scholarship (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 58-65.

13 Benes, In Babel’s Shadow, 73-76.

14 Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 280-81.

15 Jonathan Hess, Germans, Jews, and the Claims of Modernity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 27-43, 54-69.

16 Hess, The Claims of Modernity.

17 Ibid., 208.

18 Said, Orientalism, 121. I am indebted to Gil Anidjar’s essay on “Secularism” in his Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008) for helping me to think through the transformation from “Hebraism” to “Orientalism.”

19 Thomas Albert Howard, Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 130.

20 Works that identify the text as inaugurating the Wissenschaft des Judentums include: Alexander Altmann, “Jewish Studies: Their Scope and Meaning Today,” in Go and Study: Essays and Studies in Honor of Alfred Jospe, ed. Raphael Jospe and Samuel Z. Fishman (Washington d.c.: B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations, 1980), 84; David R. Blumenthal, “Where Does ‘Jewish Studies’ Belong?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 44.3 (1976): 540; Ismar Elbogen, “Ein Jahrhundert Wissenschaft des Judentums,” in the Festschrift zum 50 jährigen Bestehen der Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Berlin: Philo Verlag, 1922): 107; Nahum N. Glatzer, Leopold and Adelheid Zunz: An Account in Letters 1815-1885 (London: East and West Library, 1958), vii; idem, “The Beginnings of Modern Jewish Studies,” in Essays in Jewish Thought (University: University of Alabama Press, 1978), 149; Michael Maher, “The Beginnings of Wissenschaft des Judentums,” in The Edward Hincks Bicentenary Lectures, ed. Kevin J. Cathcart (Dublin: University College Dublin, 1994), 141, 149; Alexander Marx, “Moritz Steinschneider,” in Essays in Jewish Biography (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1947), 112; Michael A. Meyer, The Origins of the Modern Jew: Jewish Identity and European Culture in Germany, 1749-1824 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1967), 162; David N. Myers, “ ‘From Zion Will Go Forth Torah’: Jewish Scholarship and the Zionist Return to History” (PhD diss., Columbia University, 1991), 4; Ismar Schorsch, From Text to Context: The Turn to History in Modern Judaism (Hanover: Brandeis University Press, 1994), 165, 198, 219, 243; Christian Wiese, Challenging Colonial Discourse: Jewish Studies and Protestant Theology in Wilhelmine Germany, trans. Barbara Harshav and Christian Wiese (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 79; Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Zakhor, Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 84; Leon Wieseltier, “Etwas über die jüdische Historik: Leopold Zunz and the Inception of Modern Jewish Historiography,” History and Theory 20.2 (1981): 135. Guiseppe Veltri, “A Jewish Luther? The Academic Dreams of Leopold Zunz,” Jewish Studies Quarterly 7.4 (2000): 339.

The phrase “Wissenschaft des Judentums” first appears in print in 1822 in the title and opening essay of the first issue of a journal edited by Zunz and published by the short-lived Verein für Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden (1819-1824), of which Zunz was a founding and leading member. On the Verein, see Schorsch’s From Text to Context, 3-28.

21 By the time Zunz wrote his Etwas, he had completed courses with Boeckh on Plato’s Republic and the History of Ancient Philosophy, and with Wolf on Greek Antiquities, Greek Literature, and Roman Antiquities. During the semester he composed the essay (winter 1817-1818), he was enrolled in Wolf’s Encyclopedia of Antiquity course.

22 Leopold Zunz, “Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur,” Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1 (Berlin, Louis Gerschel, 1875), 5. Subsequent citations will be made parenthetically throughout the article.

23 Susannah Heschel, “Revolt of the Colonized: Abraham Geiger’s Wissenschaft des Judentums as a Challenge to Christian Hegemony in the Academy,” New German Critique 77 (1999): 63.

24 This citation modifies a statement by Said in Orientalism, which very closely resembles one of Zunz’s arguments, with the substitution of “literature” for “culture” and “rabbinic” for “Orient.” Said writes (3) that Orientalism “… tries to show that European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self.” Compare this to Zunz’s Etwas, 4.

25 Susannah Heschel presents historians of the nineteenth-century Wissenschaft des Judentums, especially Abraham Geiger, as constructing a counterhistory of Christian counterhistory, which she calls a “revolt of the colonized.”

26 Among the latter, German Jews’ neglect of Hebrew is frequently the only factor mentioned.

27 Examples that present Zunz’s claims about rabbinic literature as showing that he thinks Jewish history is over or ending include: Michael A. Meyer, “The Emergence of Jewish Historiography: Motives and Motifs,” History and Theory 27.4 (1988): 171; David Biale, Gershom Scholem: Kabbalah and Counter-History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979), 33; Max Wiener, “Jewish History and Historians,” Contemporary Jewish Record 7.3 (1944): 261; Luitpold Wallach, Liberty and Letters: The Thoughts of Leopold Zunz (London: East and West Library, 1959), 18; Wieseltier, “Etwas über die jüdische Historik”: 148-49.

28 James Pasto, “Islam’s ‘Strange Secret Sharer’: Orientalism, Judaism, and the Jewish Question,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40.3 (1998): 439-449.

29 Als allmählig die Schatten der Barbarei von der verfinsterten Erde wichen, und das Licht die überall verbreiteten Juden auch überall treffen musste, knüpfte eine neue fremde Bildung sich an die Ueberbleibsel der alten hebräischen an, und Köpfe und Jahrhunderte verarbeiteten beide zu derjenigen Litteratur um, die wir die rabbinische nennen.

30 Zunz uses “Jewish literature” only once more (10), also in a footnote, and “neo-Hebraic” one more time in the body of the essay (4) referring to literature (twice when specifying post-biblical Hebrew language), whereas he employs “rabbinic literature” an additional seven times in the body of the essay (4 [twice], 5, 14, 23, 25, 31) and in its title. He uses “Hebrew” more often than neo-Hebraic when modifying literature (even when referring to post-biblical literature), which appears twice in the body of the text (22, 26) and three times in the footnotes (22, 24, 29). Additional designations for this literature include: literature of the Jews (5 [twice]); literature of the people (5); literature of a nation (6); literary products of the Jewish people (7); and works of the Jewish nation (30).

31 Mit der Reformation, durch das Aufblühen klassischer Bildung nothwendig herbeigeführt, fing ein lebhaftes Studium der biblischen Bücher an, denen sich ein, wir möchten sagen, neugieriger Eifer anschloss, den Orient zu durchstöbern, und daher fiel man ein Jahrhundert lang die rabbinische Weisheit mit einer Hitze an, welche, als die vaterländischen reicheren und liebenswürdigeren Producte die Gemüther beschäftigten und erheiterten, plötzlich und vielleicht auf immer gewichen ist. Aber auch die rabbinische Literatur selbst sank in dem Maasse als die europäische sich hob und ihr die Juden sich anzuschliessen anfingen. Sogar was in dem letzten Jahrfunfzig jener noch angehört, hat von ihr nur die Sprache geliehen als ein zugängliches gelehrtes Gewand für Ideen, die eine Zeit vorbereiten müssen, wo die rabbinische Literatur zu leben aufgehört haben wird.

32 Said, Orientalism, 3.

33 Importantly, the maskilic model was biblical, rather than rabbinic, Hebrew.

34 Aber gerade weil wir zu unserer Zeit die Juden—um nur bei den deutschen stehen zu bleiben—mit grösserem Ernst zu der deutschen Sprache und der deutschen Bildung greifen und so—vielleicht oft ohne es zu wollen oder zu ahnen—die neuhebräische Literatur zu Grabe tragen sehen, tritt die Wissenschaft auf und verlangt Rechenschaft von der geschlossenen.

35 A discussion from a meeting of the Verein für Cultur und Wissenschaft der Juden held on December 22, 1821 connects to this concern. Members debated whether or not to include “religion” as a subject in the Verein’s school. Zunz voiced the main opposition, arguing that Jewish religion cannot be taught in a classroom, but only instilled though one’s upbringing at home, and asserting that the school’s focus must be on purely scientific instruction, which precludes religion. Zunz’s side won out. In the end, general agreement was reached that the “Jewish character” of the school would be secured by introducing Hebrew as a subject. Siegfried Ucko prints this discussion from the Verein’s protocol in his “Geistesgeschichtliche Grundlagen der Wissenschaft des Judentums (Motive des Kulturvereins vom Jahre 1819),” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland 5.1 (1935): 17-19.

36 Jetzt, glauben wir, wird die Bearbeitung unserer Wissenschaft im grossen Stile eine Pflicht, und eine um so gewichtvollere, da die complicirte Frage über das Schicksal der Juden, in einigen Paragraphen daraus beantwortet werden zu können scheint.

37 Um also das Alte brauchbare, das Veraltete schädliche, das Neue wünschenswerthe zu kennen und zu sondern, müssen wir besonnen zu dem Studium des Volkes und seiner Geschichte schreiten, der politischen wie der moralischen. Und das eben erzeugt den grössten Nachtheil, dass die Sache der Juden behandelt wird wie ihre Litteratur. Ueber beide ist man mit befangener Hitze hergefallen, und hat sie entweder zu niedrig oder zu hoch taxirt.

38 “Wir fürchten nicht, missverstanden zu werden. Hier wird die ganze Litteratur der Juden, in ihrem grössten Umfange, als Gegenstand der Forschung aufgestellt, ohne uns darum zu kümmern, ob ihr sämmtlicher Inhalt auch Norm für unser eigenes Urtheilen sein soll oder kann.”

39 Christians have primarily developed the field Zunz describes and it is their works that he largely relies upon. The majority of Zunz’s bibliographical citations are taken from catalogs compiled by Giulio Bartolocci (1613-1687), Carlo Giuseppe Imbonati (c.1696), Johann Christoph Wolf (1683-1739), and Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi (1742-1831). Added to this are a few researches by Jews: Azariah de Rossi (c. 1513-1578), Moshe Chaim Luzzato (1706-1746), Uri Zebi Rubinstein (c. 1806), and Chaim Joseph David Azulai (1724-1807).

40 Zunz critiques the following Christian authors for their bias: Bartolocci, Jacques Basnage (1653-1725), Karl Friedrich Becker (1777-1806), Claudius Capellanus (c. 1667), Johann Andreas Eisenmenger (1654-1704), Johann Friedrich Hirt (1719-1783), Imbonati, Bernard de Montfaucon (1655-1741), Johann Friedrich Röhr (1777-1848), Friedrich Rühs (1781-1820), Wilhelm Schickard (1592-1635), Johann Christoph Wagenseil (1633-1705), and WoIf.

41 Zunz cites examples of this fanaticism (24n4): he criticizes “a senseless rabbi” who allowed the single existent manuscript of M. C. Luzzato’s psalms to be burned “out of zeal for the Davidian ones,” as well as the writings of baptized Jews, who “often sought to ingratiate themselves through fanatic persecution.”

42 This outlook evokes Herder, who influenced Zunz. See Schorsch, Text to Context, 248.

43 Zunz tends to address his works’ more pragmatic aims in their opening and closing pages, and does so much more explicitly in writings from the first half of the century than the second.

44 Ismar Schorsch focuses on this dimension of Zunz’s Vorträge in his essay “Leopold Zunz on the Hebrew Bible,” The Jewish Quarterly Review 102.3 (2012): 433-36.

45 Samuel S. Cohon mentions numerous appraisals of the work by contemporary and later Jewish scholars, and emphasizes how “leaders of Reform vied with one another in praise of the Vorträge,” in his “Zunz and Reform Judaism,” Hebrew Union College Annual 31 (1962): 262-64.

46 Schorsch, From Text to Context, 271-73.

47 Zunz, Gesammelte Schriften 2:199.

48 Leopold Zunz, Zur Geschichte und Literatur (Berlin: Veit und Comp, 1845), 17.

49 Ibid., 28, 158.

50 Ibid., 7-17.

51 The three works are Die synagogale Poesie des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1855), Die Ritus des synagogalen Gottesdienstes (Berlin, 1859), and Literaturgeschichte der synagogalen Poesie (Berlin, 1865).

52 Schorsch, Text to Context, 195.

53 Zunz, Die synagogale Poesie, 117.

54 Ibid., 122.

55 Ibid., 365-485.

56 Schorsch, “Leopold Zunz,” 444. The call is reprinted in Zunz’s Gesammelte Schriften 3:14-30.

57 Zunz closes his biography of Rashi (1822) with a reference to Herder in the Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (hereafter zwj): 381. His first fourteen points of his “Grundlinien zu einer künftigen Statistik der Juden” (1823), in the zwj: 523-526, repeat Schlözer’s definition of “Statistics,” as pointed out by Luitpold Wallach, “Über Leopold Zunz als Historiker: Eine Skizze,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (1935): 250-52. Maren R. Niehoff refers to Zunz’s visit to Eichhorn in 1818, citing Zunz’s diary, in his “Zunz’s Concept of Haggadah as an Expression of Jewish Spirituality,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 43 (1998): 4n5.

58 Zunz mentions that medieval liturgical poets borrowed from Aramaic and the “Semitic dialects” in his Die synagogale Poesie, 410. The second reference can be found in his Gesammelte Schriften i: 148.

59 In a letter to Zunz in 1834, Philipp Ehrenberg mentions his hope to work on establishing the connection between Semitic and Indo-Germanic, but there’s no evidence in Glatzer’s collection that Zunz responds to this point. See Glatzer, An Account in Letters, 85.

60 Ernest Renan famously describes the Semites’ “monotheistic instinct” in his Histoire Générale et Système Comparé des Langues Sémitiques (1858).

61 For example, in the last paragraph of his biography of Rashi (1822) Zunz describes how today, so far as Jews are concerned, “nearly the whole of Poland, half of Germany, and large parts of neighboring lands … almost all belong more to Asia than to Europe,” an unfortunate condition which he attributes to the rise of scholastic-talmudic polemics (Klopffechterei). zwj: 380.

62 Susannah Heschel recently made a related argument about German-Jewish scholarship on Islam in the nineteenth century, carried out by many who were also practitioners of Wissenschaft des Judentums. She argues that “European Jews aligned Islam with Judaism in opposition to Christianity” by imagining an “Enlightened Islam,” which they used as a means “to insist on a ‘purified,’ rational Judaism,” a process she describes as aiming to “de-Orientalize Judaism.” “German Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool for De-Orientalizing Judaism,” New German Critique 117 39.3 (2012): 91, 107.

63 Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, Or How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

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  • 1

    Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1978), 113-197; Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Random House, 1970).

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  • 2

    Stephen G. Burnett, Christian Hebraism in the Reformation Era (1500-1660) (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 11-22.

  • 4

    Martin F. J. Baasten, “A Note on the History of ‘Semitic,’ ” in Hamlet on a Hill: Semitic and Greek Studies Presented to Professor T. Muraoka on the Occasion of his Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. M. J. F. Baasten and W. Th. Van Peursen (Leuven: Peeters, 2003), 59-61.

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  • 5

    Tuska Benes, In Babel’s Shadow: Language, Philology, and the Nation in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2008), 30-34.

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  • 6

    Ibid., 40-46.

  • 8

    A. L. Schlözer, “Von den Chaldäern,” Repertorium für biblische und morgenländische Litteratur 8 (1781), 161.

  • 9

    Baasten, “History of the ‘Semitic,’ ” 68.

  • 13

    Benes, In Babel’s Shadow, 73-76.

  • 14

    Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct: The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 280-81.

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  • 15

    Jonathan Hess, Germans, Jews, and the Claims of Modernity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002), 27-43, 54-69.

  • 17

    Ibid., 208.

  • 18

    Said, Orientalism, 121. I am indebted to Gil Anidjar’s essay on “Secularism” in his Semites: Race, Religion, Literature (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008) for helping me to think through the transformation from “Hebraism” to “Orientalism.”

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  • 19

    Thomas Albert Howard, Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 130.

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  • 22

    Leopold Zunz, “Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur,” Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1 (Berlin, Louis Gerschel, 1875), 5. Subsequent citations will be made parenthetically throughout the article.

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  • 28

    James Pasto, “Islam’s ‘Strange Secret Sharer’: Orientalism, Judaism, and the Jewish Question,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 40.3 (1998): 439-449.

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  • 32

    Said, Orientalism, 3.

  • 46

    Schorsch, From Text to Context, 271-73.

  • 47

    Zunz, Gesammelte Schriften 2:199.

  • 48

    Leopold Zunz, Zur Geschichte und Literatur (Berlin: Veit und Comp, 1845), 17.

  • 49

    Ibid., 28, 158.

  • 50

    Ibid., 7-17.

  • 52

    Schorsch, Text to Context, 195.

  • 53

    Zunz, Die synagogale Poesie, 117.

  • 54

    Ibid., 122.

  • 55

    Ibid., 365-485.

  • 56

    Schorsch, “Leopold Zunz,” 444. The call is reprinted in Zunz’s Gesammelte Schriften 3:14-30.

  • 57

    Zunz closes his biography of Rashi (1822) with a reference to Herder in the Zeitschrift für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (hereafter zwj): 381. His first fourteen points of his “Grundlinien zu einer künftigen Statistik der Juden” (1823), in the zwj: 523-526, repeat Schlözer’s definition of “Statistics,” as pointed out by Luitpold Wallach, “Über Leopold Zunz als Historiker: Eine Skizze,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in Deutschland (1935): 250-52. Maren R. Niehoff refers to Zunz’s visit to Eichhorn in 1818, citing Zunz’s diary, in his “Zunz’s Concept of Haggadah as an Expression of Jewish Spirituality,” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 43 (1998): 4n5.

  • 59

    In a letter to Zunz in 1834, Philipp Ehrenberg mentions his hope to work on establishing the connection between Semitic and Indo-Germanic, but there’s no evidence in Glatzer’s collection that Zunz responds to this point. See Glatzer, An Account in Letters, 85.

  • 63

    Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, Or How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

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