Elijah Levita: a Jewish Hebraist
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Elijah Levita’s (c. 1469–1558) study of Hebrew was part of the longtime Jewish occupation with the language of Scripture. Yet much of Levita’s scholarship was at odds with prior Jewish approaches to Biblical language and the transmission of the Biblical text. In his many works, Levita provides a critical account of the development of Hebrew, Aramaic, and the masoretic scribal traditions. This article examines the relationship between Levita’s critical approach to the Bible and the Christian context within which he worked. With the rise of Christian Hebraism, an increasingly sophisticated and sustained discourse on Hebrew developed outside of Jewish circles. This created an alternative setting within which Levita could produce scholarship that challenged prior Jewish notions of language and the Bible. The viability of Levita’s scholarship was no longer contingent on Jewish reception alone, allowing him to express critical ideas without fear of internal censure and without assuming the hermeneutical posture typical of pre-modern Jewish scholarly expression.
KeywordsSixteenth Century Biblical Text Hebrew Language Jewish Scholar Christian Context
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