The Kabbala Denudata: Converting Jews or Seducing Christians

  • Allison P. Coudert
Part of the Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 138)


The traditional view of the Renaissance and Reformation as periods of philo-Semitism2 has been qualified in recent years as scholars have increasingly revealed the very real limits to this phenomenon, together with the increasing hostility to Jews and Judaism. The attempt to distinguish between anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism made by Markish, for example, has been undermined by the work of Heiko Oberman, Jerome Friedman, Jonathan Israel and Po-Chia Hsia, among others.3 In the view of these scholars the enthusiasm of Renaissance Christians for Hebraica, characteristic of Pico della Mirandola and Johannes Reuchlin, was a fragile, ephemeral thing, which was first dampened by the Reuchlin-Pffeferkorn controversy and then fundamentally distorted by the conflicts of the Reformation period. By the mid-sixteenth century the charge of “judaizing” became an all-too-convenient, pejorative epithet for Catholics in their fight against Protestants and for Protestants in their fight against each other. With the reaffirmation of the Vulgate as divinely inspired at the Council of Trent, the Catholic interest in Hebraica, which had always been less than the Protestant, diminished even further. The popular Catholic revival of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries further encouraged anti-Semitic sentiments by resuscitating charges of blood libel, which had largely been discredited.4 In such a situation the embattled Christian Hebraists who were left jumped on the bandwagon of anti-Semitism to prove that they were good Christians because they hated Jews like everyone else.5


Seventeenth Century Christian Religion Eternal Damnation Jewish Source Blood Libel 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1994

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  • Allison P. Coudert

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