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Semitic Philology and the Wissenschaft des Judentums. Revisiting Leopold Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur (1818)

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The article begins with a brief sketch of the beginnings of Semitics and the Wissenschaft des Judentums, highlighting the theological roots of the former and the relation of each to Jewish emancipation in Prussia. The second section presents a close reading of Leopold Zunz’s Etwas über die rabbinische Litteratur (1818), a text that initiates the Wissenschaft des Judentums, and highlights several aspects of the work: the tension Zunz grapples with between rabbinic rupture and Jewish continuity, the former of which dominates; the contemporaneous use of “our science” and the relation between knowledge and the power it asserts; and the theological foundations of the program he proposes. It then looks at Zunz’s later writings, emphasizing the continuity of his thought and how he revises some of his earlier views. In closing, the article speculates as to why Zunz did not engage the field of Semitics.

Affiliations: 1: Kingsborough Community College


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