A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany

By Aya Elyada | Go to book overview

Conclusion
The Study of Yiddish and Christian-Jewish Relations
in Early Modern Germany

The foregoing chapter attempts to analyze the place of Yiddish studies in the theological work of Christian, especially Protestant, scholars — theologians, Hebraists, and Orientalists—in early modern Germany. Subordinated to the theological needs and aims of these scholars, Yiddish studies were seen first and foremost as complementary to Hebrew and Aramaic studies, normally required for Protestant theologians in their attempt to scrutinize Jewish literature without Jewish assistance, and utilize it for Christian ends. In the case of Yiddish, however, nonscholarly purposes played a more important role. As demonstrated in the first three chapters, Protestant theologians could use their expertise in the Jewish language and its literature in order to fulfill their obligations in a confessional society, in which Jews constituted both a religious and a linguistic minority. Although theological in nature, these obligations also corresponded to a number of social and political needs in the Protestant German lands, such as the conducting of mission among the Jews, exposing and censoring presumed Jewish blasphemies, and strengthening the faith among ordinary Christians.

These two reasons for the involvement of Protestant scholars with Yiddish, namely to use Yiddish for conducting active mission among the Jews, and to obtain information about Jews and Judaism and expose Jewish blasphemies, mirror the two major tendencies in the early modern Protestant approach to Jews and Judaism in the German lands: the hope of converting the Jews, and the need to act against the dangers believed to be posed by them, especially through their blasphemies and anti-Christian propaganda. Both these tendencies were highlighted in the writings of Martin Luther on Jews and Judaism, and they remained decisive factors in Protestant thought and practice concerning

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