The Jewish Reformation: Bible Translation and Middle-Class German Judaism as Spiritual Enterprise

ISBN : 9780199336388

Michah Gottlieb
472 ページ
156 x 235 mm

In the late eighteenth century, German Jews began entering the middle class with remarkable speed. That upward mobility, it has often been said, coincided with Jews' increasing alienation from religion and Jewish nationhood. In fact, Michah Gottlieb argues, this period was one of intense engagement with Jewish texts and traditions. One expression of this was the remarkable turn to Bible translation. In the century and a half beginning with Moses Mendelssohn's pioneering translation and the final one by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, German Jews produced sixteen different translations of at least the Pentateuch. Exploring Bible translations by Mendelssohn, Leopold Zunz, and Samson Raphael Hirsch, Michah Gottlieb argues that each translator sought a "reformation" of Judaism along bourgeois lines, which involved aligning Judaism with a Protestant concept of religion. Buber and Rosenzweig famously critiqued bourgeois German Judaism as a craven attempt to establish social respectability to facilitate Jews' entry into the middle class through a vapid, domesticated Judaism. But Mendelssohn, Zunz, and Hirsch saw in bourgeois values the best means to serve God and the authentic actualization of Jewish tradition. Through their learned, creative Bible translations, these scholars presented competing visions of middle-class Judaism that affirmed Jewish nationhood while lighting the path to a purposeful, emotionally-rich spiritual life grounded in ethical responsibility.


Introduction: The Jewish Reformation
Part I: Haskalah: Moses Mendelssohn's Conservative Reformation
Chapter One: The Bible as Cultural Translation
Chapter Two: Biblical Education and the Power of Conversation
Part II: Wissenschaft and Reform: Leopold Zunz between Scholarship and Synagogue
Chapter Three: Translation vs. Midrash
Chapter Four: Bible Translation and the Centrality of the Synagogue
Part III: Neo-Orthodoxy: The Samson Raphael Hirsch Enigma
Chapter Five: A Man of No Party: The Neunzehn Briefe as Bible Translation
Chapter Six: The Road to Orthodoxy: Hirsch in Battle
Chapter Seven: The Innovative Orthodoxy of Hirsch's Der Pentateuch
Chapter Eight: The Fracturing of German Judaism: Ludwig Philippson's Israelitische Bibel and Hirsch's Sectarian Orthodoxy
Conclusion: The Jewish Counter Reformation
Appendix: Mendelssohn on the Decalogue


Michah Gottlieb is Associate Professor in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU. An expert on modern Jewish thought and culture with a focus on ethics and Jewish-Christian relations, he has written or edited several books and articles, including Faith and Freedom: Moses Mendelssohn's Theological-Political Thought.