Johann Reuchlin

Johann Reuchlin, Count Palatine by Imperial and Papal Authority (German: [ˈjoːhan ˈʀɔʏ̯çlin]; sometimes called Johannes; 29 January 1455 – 30 June 1522) was a German-born Catholic humanist and a scholar of Greek and Hebrew, whose work also took him to modern-day Austria, Switzerland, and Italy and France. Most of Reuchlin's career centered on advancing German knowledge of Greek and Hebrew.

Johann Reuchlin
Johannes Reuchlin - Imagines philologorum
Johann Reuchlin
Born29 January 1455
Died30 June 1522 (aged 67)
Alma materUniversity of Freiburg
University of Orléans
University of Poitiers
EraWestern philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
SchoolRenaissance humanism
InstitutionsUniversity of Ingolstadt
Main interests
Ancient Greek, Hebrew, law, Christian mysticism
Notable ideas
Christian Kabbalah
Reuchlinian pronunciation

Early life

Johann Reuchlin was born at Pforzheim in the Black Forest in 1455, where his father was an official of the Dominican monastery.[2] According to the fashion of the time, his name was graecized by his Italian friends into Capnion (Καπνίον), a nickname which Reuchlin used as a sort of transparent mask when he introduced himself as an interlocutor in the De Verbo Mirifico. He remained fond of his home town; he constantly calls himself Phorcensis, and in the De Verbo he ascribes to Pforzheim his inclination towards literature.[2]

Here he began his Latin studies in the monastery school, and, though in 1470 he was for a short time at Freiburg, that university seems to have taught him little.[2] Reuchlin's career as a scholar appears to have turned almost on an accident; his fine voice gained him a place in the household of Charles I, Margrave of Baden, and soon, having some reputation as a Latinist, he was chosen to accompany Frederick, the third son of the prince, to the University of Paris. Frederick was some years his junior, and was destined for an ecclesiastical career. This new connection did not last long, but it determined the course of Reuchlin's life. He now began to learn Greek, which had been taught in the French capital since 1470, and he also attached himself to the leader of the Paris realists, Jean à Lapide (d. 1496), a worthy and learned man, whom he followed to the vigorous young University of Basel in 1474.[2]

Teaching and writing career

Johann Reuchlin's coat of arms

At Basel Reuchlin took his master's degree (1477), and began to lecture with success, teaching a more classical Latin than was then common in German schools, and explaining Aristotle in Greek.[2] His studies in this language had been continued at Basel under Andronicus Contoblacas, and here he formed the acquaintance of the bookseller, Johann Amerbach, for whom he prepared a Latin lexicon (Vocabularius Breviloquus, 1st ed, 1475–76), which ran through many editions. This first publication, and Reuchlin's account of his teaching at Basel in a letter to Cardinal Adrian (Adriano Castellesi) in February 1518, show that he had already found his life's work. He was a born teacher, and this work was not to be done mainly from the professor's chair.

Reuchlin soon left Basel to seek further Greek training with George Hermonymus at Paris, and to learn to write a fair Greek hand that he might support himself by copying manuscripts. And now he felt that he must choose a profession. His choice fell on law, and he was thus led to the great school of Orléans (1478), and finally to Poitiers, where he became licentiate in July 1481. From Poitiers Reuchlin went in December 1481 to Tübingen with the intention of becoming a teacher in the local university, but his friends recommended him to Count Eberhard of Württemberg, who was about to journey to Italy and required an interpreter. Reuchlin was selected for this post, and in February 1482 left Stuttgart for Florence and Rome. The journey lasted but a few months, but it brought the German scholar into contact with several learned Italians, especially at the Medicean Academy in Florence; his connection with the count became permanent, and after his return to Stuttgart he received important posts at Eberhard's court.[2]

About this time he appears to have married, but little is known of his married life. He left no children; but in later years his sister's grandson Philipp Melanchthon was like a son to him till the Reformation estranged them. In 1490 he was again in Italy. Here he saw Pico della Mirandola, to whose Kabbalistic doctrines he afterwards became heir, and made a friend of the pope's secretary, Jakob Questenberg, which was of service to him in his later troubles. Again in 1492 he was employed on an embassy to the emperor Frederick at Linz, and here he began to read Hebrew with the emperor's Jewish physician Jakob ben Jehiel Loans. Loans's instruction laid the basis of that thorough knowledge which Reuchlin afterwards improved on his third visit to Rome in 1498 by the instruction of Obadja Sforno of Cesena. In 1494 his rising reputation had been greatly enhanced by the publication of De Verbo Mirifico.[2]

In 1496 Duke Eberhard I of Württemberg died, and enemies of Reuchlin had the ear of his successor, Duke Heinrich of Württemberg (formerly Heinrich Count of Württemberg-Mömpelgard). He was glad, therefore, hastily to follow the invitation of Johann von Dalberg (1445–1503), the scholarly bishop of Worms, and flee to Heidelberg, which was then the seat of the Rhenish Society In this court of letters Reuchlin's appointed function was to make translations from the Greek authors, in which his reading was already extremely wide. Though Reuchlin had no public office as teacher, he was for much of his life the real centre of all Greek and Hebrew teaching in Germany. To carry out this work he provided a series of aids for beginners and others. He never published a Greek grammar, but he had one in manuscript for use with his pupils, and also published several little elementary Greek books. Reuchlin, it may be noted, pronounced Greek as his native teachers had taught him to do, i.e., in the modern Greek fashion. This pronunciation, which he defends in De recta Latini Graecique sermonis pronuntiatione (1528), came to be known, in contrast to that used by Desiderius Erasmus, as the Reuchlinian.[2]

At Heidelberg Reuchlin had many private pupils, among whom Franz von Sickingen is the best known name. With the monks he had never been liked; at Stuttgart also his great enemy was the Augustinian Conrad Holzinger. On this man he took a scholar's revenge in his first Latin comedy Sergius, a satire on worthless monks and false relics. Through Dalberg, Reuchlin came into contact with Philip, Count Palatine of the Rhine, who employed him to direct the studies of his sons, and in 1498 gave him the mission to Rome which has been already noticed as fruitful for Reuchlin's progress in Hebrew. He came back laden with Hebrew books, and found when he reached Heidelberg that a change of government had opened the way for his return to Stuttgart, where his wife had remained all along. His friends had now again the upper hand, and knew Reuchlin's value. In 1500, or perhaps in 1502, he was given a very high judicial office in the Swabian League, which he held till 1512, when he retired to a small estate near Stuttgart.

Hebrew studies and advocacy

For many years Reuchlin had been increasingly absorbed in Hebrew studies, which had for him more than a mere philological interest. He was interested in the reform of preaching as shown in his De Arte Predicandi (1503)—a book which became a sort of preacher's manual; but above all as a scholar he was eager that the Bible should be better known, and could not tie himself to the authority of the Vulgate.[2]

The key to the Hebraea veritas was the grammatical and exegetical tradition of the medieval rabbis, especially of David Kimhi, and when he had mastered this himself he was resolved to open it to others. In 1506 appeared his epoch-making De Rudimentis Hebraicis—grammar and lexicon—mainly after Kimhi, yet not a mere copy of one man's teaching. The edition was costly and sold slowly. One great difficulty was that the wars of Maximilian I in Italy prevented Hebrew Bibles coming into Germany. But for this also Reuchlin found help by printing the Penitential Psalms with grammatical explanations (1512), and other helps followed from time to time. But his Greek studies had interested him in those fantastical and mystical systems of later times with which the Kabbala has no small affinity. Following Pico, he seemed to find in the Kabbala a profound theosophy which might be of the greatest service for the defence of Christianity and the reconciliation of science with the mysteries of faith, a common notion at that time. Reuchlin's mystico-cabbalistic ideas and objects were expounded in the De Verbo Mirifico, and finally in the De Arte Cabbalistica (1517).[2]

Many of his contemporaries thought that the first step to the conversion of the Jews was to take away their books.[2] This view was advocated by Johannes Pfefferkorn, a German Catholic theologian.[3][4] Pfefferkorn, himself a converted from Judaism, actively preached against the Jews and attempted to destroy copies of the Talmud, and engaged in what became a long running pamphleteering battle with Reuchlin. He wrote that "The causes which hinder the Jews from becoming Christians are three: first, usury; second, because they are not compelled to attend Christian churches to hear the sermons; and third, because they honor the Talmud.".[5] Pfefferkorn's plans were backed by the Dominicans of Cologne; and in 1509 he obtained the emperor's authority to confiscate all Jewish books directed against the Christian faith. Armed with this mandate, he visited Stuttgart and asked Reuchlin's help as a jurist and expert in putting it into execution. Reuchlin evaded the demand, mainly because the mandate lacked certain formalities, but he could no long remain neutral. The execution of Pfefferkorn's schemes led to difficulties and to a new appeal to Maximilian.

In 1510 Reuchlin was appointed by Emperor Maximilian to a commission which was convened to review the matter. His answer is dated from Stuttgart, 6 October 1510; in it he divides the books into six classes — apart from the Bible which no one proposed to destroy — and, going through each class, he shows that the books openly insulting to Christianity are very few and viewed as worthless by most Jews themselves, while the others are either works necessary to the Jewish worship, which was licensed by papal as well as imperial law, or contain matter of value and scholarly interest which ought not to be sacrificed because they are connected with another faith than that of the Christians. He proposed that the emperor should decree that for ten years there should be two Hebrew chairs at every German university, for which the Jews should furnish books.

Maximilian's other experts proposed that all books should be taken from the Jews; and, as the emperor still hesitated, his opponents threw on Reuchlin the whole blame of their ill success. Pfefferkorn circulated at the Frankfurt Fair of 1511 a gross libel (Handspiegel wider und gegen die Juden) declaring that Reuchlin had been bribed. Reuchlin defended himself in a pamphlet titled Augenspiegel (1511), which the theologians at the University of Cologne attempted to suppress. On 7 October 1512 they, along with the inquisitor Jacob van Hoogstraaten, obtained an imperial order confiscating the Augenspiegel.

In 1513 Reuchlin was summoned before a court of the inquisition. He was willing to receive corrections in theology, which was not his subject, but he could not unsay what he had said; and as his enemies tried to press him into a corner he met them with open defiance in a Defensio contra Calumniatores (1513). The universities were now appealed to for opinions, and were all against Reuchlin. Even Paris (August 1514) condemned the Augenspiegel, and called on Reuchlin to recant. Meantime a formal process had begun at Mainz before the grand inquisitor. But Reuchlin managed to have the jurisdiction changed to the episcopal court of Speyer. The Reuchlin affair caused a wide rift in the church and eventually the case came before the papal court in Rome. Judgment was not finally given till July 1516; and then, though the decision was really for Reuchlin, the trial was simply quashed. The result had cost Reuchlin years of trouble and no small part of his modest fortune, but it was worth the sacrifice. For far above the direct importance of the issue was the great stirring of public opinion which had gone forward.

And while the obscurantists escaped easily at Rome, with only a half condemnation, they received a crushing blow in Germany. In Reuchlin's defense, Virorum Epistolæ Clarorum ad Reuchlinum Phorcensem (Letters of famous men to Reuchlin of Pforzheim),[6] had been published. It was closely followed by Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (Letters of obscure men), a satirical collection purporting to defend his accusers, but actually directed against them. No party could survive the ridicule that was poured on Reuchlin's opponents by this document.

Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von Sickingen did all they could to force Reuchlin's enemies to a restitution of his material damages; they even threatened a feud against the Dominicans of Cologne and Spires. In 1520, a commission met in Frankfurt to investigate the case. It condemned Hoogstraaten. But the final decision of Rome did not indemnify Reuchlin. The contest ended, however; public interest had grown cold, absorbed entirely by the Lutheran question, and Reuchlin had no reason to fear new attacks. When, in 1517, he received the theses propounded by Luther, he exclaimed, “Thanks be to God, at last they have found a man who will give them so much to do that they will be compelled to let my old age end in peace.”[7]

Heinrich Graetz and Francis Yates contended[8] that this affair helped spark the Protestant Reformation.[9] Although suspected of a leaning toward Protestantism, Reuchlin never left the Catholic Church. In 1518 he was appointed professor of Hebrew and Greek at Wittenberg, but instead sent his nephew Melanchthon.[7]

Influence on Luther

Luther's comment that justification by faith was the "true Cabala" in his Commentary on Galatians[10] has been explained as relating to Reuchlin's influence.[11] While Luther had consulted Reuchlin as a Hebrew expert and used De arte Cabalistica as support for an argument, Luther took objection to Reuchlin's comment in De rudimentis hebraicis that the Hebrew letters for Jesus name meant "the hidden God," which Luther found contrary to Matthew, Chapter 1:21, which describes the meaning as being about "he would save His people from their sins."[12]

End of life

Reuchlin did not long enjoy his victory over his accusers in peace. In 1519, Stuttgart was visited by famine, civil war and pestilence. From November of this year to the spring of 1521, the veteran statesman sought refuge in the University of Ingolstadt where he received an appointment as professor from William of Bavaria.[7] He taught Greek and Hebrew there for a year. It was 41 years since at Poitiers he had last spoken from a public chair; but at 65 he retained his gift of teaching, and hundreds of scholars crowded round him. This gleam of autumn sunshine was again broken by the plague; but now he was called to Tübingen and again spent the winter of 1521–22 teaching in his own systematic way. But in the spring he found it necessary to visit the baths of Liebenzell, and there contracted jaundice, of which he died, leaving in the history of the new learning a name only second to that of his younger contemporary Erasmus.

Reuchlin died in Stuttgart, and is buried at St. Leonhard church.[13]


  • De Verbo Mirifico (The Wonder-Working Word, 1494)
  • De Arte Cabbalistica (On the Art of Kabbalah, 1517)


  1. ^ Ivo Volt, Janika Päll (eds.), Byzantino-Nordica 2004, Morgenstern Society, 2005, p. 94.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k The Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, Volume 23 (11 ed.). New York: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company. 1911. p. 203. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ Deutsch, Gotthard; Frederick T. Haneman. "Pfefferkorn, Johann (Joseph)". Jewish Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Carlebach, Elisheva (2001). Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500-1750. Yale University Press. p. 52. ISBN 0-300-08410-2.
  5. ^ Reuchlin, Pfefferkorn, and the Talmud in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries in The Babylonian Talmud. The History of the Talmud translated by Michael L. Rodkinson. Book 10 Vol. I Chapter XIV (1918) p.76
  6. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum" . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
  7. ^ a b c Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Reuchlin, Johann" . Encyclopedia Americana.
  8. ^ The defense of Reuchlin, the Epistolae obscurorom virorum, prefiguring Luther's opening salvo of the Reformation. Yates, Franes (1979), The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, Routledge & Kegan Paul, p. 32, ISBN 0-415-25409-4.
  9. ^ Rummel, Erika (2002), The case against Johann Reuchlin, University of Toronto Press, pp. iv–xv, ISBN 978-0-8020-8484-2.
  10. ^ Latin: Commentarium in Epistolam S. Pauli ad Galatas: 2 By Martin Luther, Google Books, also English, though the word Cabala is lost in translation: A Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians
  11. ^ Philosophia Symbolica: Johann Reuchlin and the Kabbalah : Catalogue of an Exhibition in the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica Commemorating Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) Cis van Heertum, Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, 2005
  12. ^ Martin Luther's Understanding of God's Two Kingdoms: A Response to the Challenge of Skepticism. Texts and Studies in Reformation and Post-Reformation ISBN 0801038847 William J. Wright, Richard Muller - 2010
  13. ^ Posset, F (2011), "Reuchlin, Johann (1455–1522)", The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization.


External links


Year 1522 (MDXXII) was a common year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

1522 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1522.

Aaron Afia

Aaron Afia (Hebrew: אַהֲרֹן אַפִיָא, Aharōn Afia), also known as Affius, was a sixteenth-century Jewish ex-converso scientist, mathematician, philosopher, and physician living in Salonika.

He was the teacher of Daniel ben Perachiah, whom he assisted in the translation from the Spanish into Hebrew of Abraham Zacuto's Almanach perpetuum (1543), and Moses Almosnino, whom he assisted in his (unpublished) Hebrew translation of Johannes de Sacrobosco's De sphaera mundi. Almosnino's Bet Elokim—an astronomical work which draws on Georg von Peuerbach's Theorica planetarium—also contains work by Afia at the end.Affia main work is the Opiniones Sacadas de los mas Auténticos y Antiguos Philósophos que Sobre la Alma Escrivieron, y sus Definiciones ("Selected Opinions of the most Authentic and Ancient Philosophers on the Soul, and their Definitions"), published in Venice in 1568. It was appended to Los dialogos de Amor, the Spanish translation of Judah Abravanel's Dialoghi d'amore. A treatise on the nature of the soul, the work contains summaries and philosophical discussions of various definitions of the soul, most notably that of Johann Reuchlin in De Arte Cabbalistica.As a physician, Afia was friendly with Amato Lusitano, who records how they discussed together the source of laughter, which Afia placed in the heart.

Adorján Czipleá

Adorján Czipleá (1639–1664) was a Hungarian Christian Kabbalist and mystic. Not much is known about his life except for the fact that in 1662 – after some years of formal education in his native country – he journeyed to England in order to continue his philosophical and theological studies. There is no knowledge regarding the circumstances of his death, which occurred within two years after his arrival.

While in England, Czipleá wrote a controversial short treatise entitled De ente et malo (On Being and Evil) which circulated among a narrow group of prominent European intellectuals including, among others, Henry More, Joseph Glanvill, Thomas Vaughan and Franciscus Mercurius van Helmont. Although this work appears to be lost, records of its radical views (indictable for heresy at the time) survived in contemporary accounts of it. Probably the most detailed of these accounts is found in Méric Casaubon's letter to Edward Stillingfleet, dated September 1670:

One such queer scholar was Mr. Adorján Czipleá, who held that the fallen angels did nevertheless not fall from Being since they possesse the attribute of intelligence which is, according to Plato, equivalente to that of existence. From this he deriv'd the preposterous idea that the first emanation, or Intelligence, or Being, is compromis'd withe the fallen ones: esse (sive intellectus) est diabolus. Being is thus always torn, in perpetual strife, between Satan and the Lord's angels. The Kabbalah, the Magyar claim'd, is the only one capable of discerning the two sides, and therefore delivering us from the grasp of Being towards Union to the One and Only God, for it alone can accesse His angels through His Word and climbe to the mystical Presence of God.

Scholarly interest in his idiosyncratic mysticism has only recently begun to emerge. Speculation regarding Czipleá's Hermetic and Kabbalistic sources ranges from John Dee, Pico della Mirandola and Johann Reuchlin, while attention has been drawn to his possible influence on the Cambridge Platonists and Metaphysical Poets.

Andronicus Contoblacas

Andronicus Contoblacas (Greek: Ἀνδρόνικος Κοντοβλάκας) was a Greek Renaissance humanist and scholar. He was a lecturer at the University of Basel in Switzerland. He is noted for having been a teacher to Johann Reuchlin.

Christian Kabbalah

The Renaissance saw the birth of Christian Kabbalah (often transliterated as Cabala to distinguish it from Jewish Kabbalah and Hermetic Qabalah), also spelled Cabbala. Interest grew among some Christian scholars in what they saw to be the mystical aspects of Judaic Kabbalah, which were compatible with Christian theology.

De Arte Cabbalistica

De Arte Cabbalistica (Latin for On the Art of Kabbalah) is a 1517 text by the German Renaissance humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin, which deals with his thoughts on Kabbalah. In it, he puts forward the view that the theosophic philosophy of Kabbalah could be of great use in the defence of Christianity and the reconciliation of science with the mysteries of faith. It builds on his earlier work De Verbo Mirifico.

Demetrios Chalkokondyles

Demetrios Chalkokondyles (Greek: Δημήτριος Χαλκοκονδύλης), Latinized as Demetrius Chalcocondyles and found variously as Demetricocondyles, Chalcocondylas or Chalcondyles (1423 – 9 January 1511) was one of the most eminent Greek scholars in the West. He taught in Italy for over forty years; his colleagues included Marsilius Ficinus, Angelus Politianus, and Theodorus Gaza in the revival of letters in the Western world, and Chalkokondyles was the last of the Greek humanists who taught Greek literature at the great universities of the Italian Renaissance (Padua, Florence, Milan). One of his pupils at Florence was the famous Johann Reuchlin. Chalkokondyles published the first printed publications of Homer (in 1488), of Isocrates (in 1493), and of the Suda lexicon (in 1499).

Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum

The Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (English: Letters of Obscure Men) was a celebrated collection of satirical Latin letters which appeared 1515–1519 in Hagenau, Germany. They support the German Humanist scholar Johann Reuchlin and they mock the doctrines and modes of living of the scholastics and monks, mainly by pretending to be letters from fanatic Christian theologians discussing whether all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian or not.

German Renaissance

The German Renaissance, part of the Northern Renaissance, was a cultural and artistic movement that spread among German thinkers in the 15th and 16th centuries, which developed from the Italian Renaissance. Many areas of the arts and sciences were influenced, notably by the spread of Renaissance humanism to the various German states and principalities. There were many advances made in the fields of architecture, the arts, and the sciences. Germany produced two developments that were to dominate the 16th century all over Europe: printing and the Protestant Reformation.

One of the most important German humanists was Konrad Celtis (1459–1508). Celtis studied at Cologne and Heidelberg, and later travelled throughout Italy collecting Latin and Greek manuscripts. Heavily influenced by Tacitus, he used the Germania to introduce German history and geography. Eventually he devoted his time to poetry, in which he praised Germany in Latin. Another important figure was Johann Reuchlin (1455–1522) who studied in various places in Italy and later taught Greek. He studied the Hebrew language, aiming to purify Christianity, but encountered resistance from the church.

The most significant German Renaissance artist is Albrecht Dürer especially known for his printmaking in woodcut and engraving, which spread all over Europe, drawings, and painted portraits. Important architecture of this period includes the Landshut Residence, Heidelberg Castle, the Augsburg Town Hall as well as the Antiquarium of the Munich Residenz in Munich, the largest Renaissance hall north of the Alps.

Helius Eobanus Hessus

Helius Eobanus Hessus (6 January 1488 – 5 October 1540) was a German Latin poet and later a Lutheran humanist. He was born at Halgehausen in Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel).

His family name is said to have been Koch; Eoban was the name of a local saint; Hessus indicates the land of his birth, Helius the fact that he was born on Sunday. He visited a Latin school in Frankenberg, Hesse. In 1504 he entered the university of Erfurt, and soon after his graduation was appointed rector of the school of St Severus. This post he soon lost, and spent the years 1509–1513 at the court of the bishop of Riesenburg.

Returning to Erfurt, he was reduced to great straits by his drunken and irregular habits. At length (in 1517) he was appointed professor of Latin in the university. He was prominently associated with the distinguished men of the time (Johann Reuchlin, Konrad Peutinger, Ulrich von Hutten, Konrad Mutianus), and took part in the political, religious and literary quarrels of the period, finally declaring in favor of Luther and the Reformation for the rest of his life.

The university was seriously weakened by the growing popularity of the new University of Wittenberg, and Hessus endeavoured (but without success) to gain a living by the practice of medicine. Through the influence of Camerarius and Melanchthon, he obtained a post at Nuremberg (1526), but, finding a regular life distasteful, he again went back to Erfurt (1533). But it was not the Erfurt he had known; his old friends were dead or had left the place; the university was deserted. A lengthy poem gained him the favor of the Landgrave of Hesse, by whom he was summoned in 1536 as professor of poetry and history to Marburg, where he died.

Hessus, who was considered the foremost Latin poet of his age, was a facile verse-maker, but not a true poet. He wrote what he thought was likely to pay or secure him the favor of some important person. He wrote local, historical and military poems, idylls, epigrams and occasional pieces, collected under the title of Sylvae. His most popular works were translations of the Psalms into Latin distichs (which reached over fifty editions) and of the Iliad into hexameters. His most original poem was the Heroides in imitation of Ovid, consisting of letters from holy women, from the Virgin Mary down to Kunigunde, wife of the Emperor Henry II.

His Epistolae were edited by his friend Camerarius, who also wrote his life (1553). There are later accounts of him by M. Hertz (1860), G. Schwertzell (1874) and C. Krause (1879); see also D. F. Strauss, Ulrich von Hutten (Eng. trans., 1874). His poems on Nuremberg and other towns have been edited with commentaries and 16th-century illustrations by J. Neff and V. von Loga in M. Herrmann and S. Szarnatolski's Lateinische Literaturdenkmäler des XV. u. XVI. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1896).

Johannes Pfefferkorn

Johannes (Josef) Pfefferkorn (1469–1523) was a German Catholic theologian and writer who converted from Judaism. Pfefferkorn actively preached against the Jews and attempted to destroy copies of the Talmud, and engaged in a long running pamphleteering battle with humanist Johann Reuchlin.

Luther (1928 film)

Luther is a 1928 German film about the life of Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation.

The silent film starred Eugen Klöpfer as Luther and Theodor Loos as Philipp Melanchthon, and was written by Berlin Cathedral chaplain Bruno Doehring.

It was shot at the Babelsberg Studios in Berlin. The film's sets were designed by the art directors Robert Herlth, Walter Röhrig and Werner Schlichting. It premiered at the UFA-Palast am Zoo.

Luther (1964 film)

Luther is a 1964 TV play broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It was adapted by Phillip Grenville Mann from the 1961 play by John Osborne.It was directed by Christopher Muir and starred Terry Norris in the title role.

Nikolaus Gerbel

Nikolaus Gerbel (or Gerbellius) (c. 1485 – 1560) was a German humanist, jurist and doctor of both laws.

Nikolaus Gerbel was part of a circle of literary men living in Strasbourg. He is notable for his friendship with Luther, his correspondence with Erasmus and Melanchthon and his support to Johann Reuchlin in the Pfefferkorn-Reuchlin Controversy.

He was born in Pforzheim in the Black Forest and studied at the University of Vienna (1502–1505), at the University of Cologne (1505–1506), at the University of Tübingen (1508–1512) and later at the University of Bologna.

He published several works in ancient Greek geography (Descriptio Graeciae) and Roman history.


Obscurantism ( and ) is the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise and recondite manner, often designed to forestall further inquiry and understanding. There are two historical and intellectual denotations of Obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge—opposition to disseminating knowledge; and, (2) deliberate obscurity—an abstruse style (as in literature and art) characterized by deliberate vagueness.The term obscurantism derives from the title of the 16th-century satire Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (1515–19, Letters of Obscure Men), that was based upon the intellectual dispute between the German humanist Johann Reuchlin and the monk Johannes Pfefferkorn of the Dominican Order, about whether or not all Jewish books should be burned as un-Christian heresy. Earlier, in 1509, the monk Pfefferkorn had obtained permission from Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (1486–1519), to burn all copies of the Talmud (Jewish law and Jewish ethics) known to be in the Holy Roman Empire (AD 926–1806); the Letters of Obscure Men satirized the Dominican arguments for burning "un-Christian" works.

In the 18th century, Enlightenment philosophers applied the term obscurantist to any enemy of intellectual enlightenment and the liberal diffusion of knowledge. In the 19th century, in distinguishing the varieties of obscurantism found in metaphysics and theology from the "more subtle" obscurantism of the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and of modern philosophical skepticism, Friedrich Nietzsche said: "The essential element in the black art of obscurantism is not that it wants to darken individual understanding, but that it wants to blacken our picture of the world, and darken our idea of existence."

Paolo Riccio

Paolo Riccio (1480 - 1541) was a German Jewish convert to Christianity in the first half of the sixteenth century. He became professor of philosophy in the University of Pavia; subsequently he was physician to Emperor Maximilian I.

Riccio was inclined to astrology and the Cabala, and had a controversy with Johann Eck about the existence of life on the stellar bodies. Erasmus thought very highly of Riccio, who defended him and his followers against the attacks of Stephen the Presbyter. Like most converts from Judaism, Riccio attempted to convince the Jews of the truth of the Gospels. He, moreover, advised the Christian nations to unite against the Turks, who were at that time the terror of Europe.

Riccio was a prolific writer and, as Heinrich Graetz says, "turned to good account the small amount of Jewish knowledge which he brought with him to Christianity". His best-known work is his De Porta Lucis R. Josephi Gecatilia (Augsburg, 1516), which is a free translation of a part of the Kabbalistic work Sha'are Orah by Joseph Gikatilla. Jerome Riccio (Hieronymus Ricius), Paulo's son, sent a copy of this work to Johann Reuchlin, who utilized it in the composition of his De Arte Cabbalistica.

Riccio relates that he was ordered by Emperor Maximilian to prepare a Latin translation of the Talmud. All that has come down of it are the translations of the tractates Berakot, Sanhedrin, and Makkot (Augsburg, 1519), which are the earliest Latin renderings of the Mishnah known to bibliographers.

The most important of his other works is De Cælesti Agricultura, a large religio-philosophical work in four parts, dedicated to Emperor Charles V and to his brother Ferdinand (Augsburg, 1541; 2d ed., Basel, 1597). His Opuscula Varia, which contains a treatise on the 613 commandments, a religio-philosophical and controversial work aiming to demonstrate to the Jews the truths of Christianity, and an introduction to the Cabala followed by a compilation of its rules and dogmas, went through four editions (Pavia, 1510; Augsburg, 1515; ib. 1541; and Basel, 1597).

Riccio wrote besides these works about ten others, all in Latin, on various religious, philosophical, and cabalistic subjects, which appeared in Augsburg in 1546 and were reprinted in Basel in 1597.

Sefer Nizzahon Yashan

Sefer Nizzahon Yashan (ספר ניצחון) "The (old) Book of Victory" is an anonymous 13th Century Jewish apologetic text originating in Germany. The name "old" (Hebrew yashan, Latin vetus) is attached to distinguish the work from Yom-Tov Lipmann-Muhlhausen of Prague's work of the same name, Sefer Nizzahon, written between 1401-1405. A modern edition was published by Mordechai Breuer in 1978, and a critical edition by David Berger (professor) in 2008 (1st ed.: Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1979).

The work was known and responded to by Protestant Hebraists and polemicists, including Johann Reuchlin, Sebastian Münster, Wolfgang Capito, Immanuel Tremellius, Jean Calvin, and Martin Luther.

Victor von Carben

Victor von Carben (1422–1515) was a German rabbi of Cologne who converted to Catholicism and later became a priest. Victor endeavored to show his zeal for his new religion by writing against his former coreligionists.He was involved in the Pfefferkorn controversy, and was one of the four imperial commissioners appointed to examine Jewish books for blasphemy against Christianity, the others being Johannes Pfefferkorn, Johann Reuchlin, and Jacob van Hochstraten. His work, Judenbüchlein, published in Cologne in 1508 or 1509 described the conditions and customs of Jews with a view toward aiding in their conversion. He disputed with learned Jews before the Archbishop of Cologne at Bonn, and secured the expulsion of Jews from Brühl, Deutz, and other towns in the Diocese of Cologne. He wrote to the archbishop, congratulating him on having "plucked away the weeds from his bishopric and ridden it of Jews," though like Pfefferkorn, he tried to persuade Christians that mistreating Jews would not aid in their conversion.In his writings Victor repeatedly asserts that it is not wise for Christians to enter into religious controversy with Jews, the latter being taught from childhood how to uphold their faith. He was chiefly concerned in exonerating himself from the accusation of having apostatized for the sake of worldly advantages; and in view of this, he paid the Jews a gratuitous compliment when he asserted that they, of all the people of the earth, are the most difficult to convert, their attachment to their Law being so strong that neither riches nor fear of persecution can cause them to abandon their faith.In his old age Victor became a priest; and after his death the following epitaph was engraved on the door of the church of Sainte-Ursule at Cologne: "Victor, formerly a Jew, wrote in the year 1509 four works against the errors of the Jews."

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