Using the Hebrew Book of Josippon as a prism, this study analyzes the dialogue surrounding Jewish history among Renaissance humanists. Notwithstanding its focus on the Renaissance, the author’s analysis extends to the consumption of Josippon in the High Middle Ages and into interpretations by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century humanists. With a focus on both Christian and Jewish discourse, the author examines the mythical and historical narratives that developed from Josippon.
Nadia Zeldes is senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters at Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
Chapter 1: Josippon: A Source of General History and Role Models for Medieval Jews
Chapter 2: The Christian Reception of Sefer Josippon in the Middle Ages
Chapter 3: Josippon as a Source for Founding Myths: A Jewish Version of Renaissance Forgeries
Chapter 4: The Book of Josippon in the Renaissance: Christian Hebraists and Religious Polemic
Chapter 5: The Book of Josippon in the Renaissance: Jewish Historiography and Religious Polemic
Chapter 6: Fifteenth-Century Vernacular Translations of the Book of Josippon
Chapter 7: Demolishing the Myth: The Book of Josippon under Humanistic Scrutiny
Zeldes has produced an absorbing monograph that provides an excellent introduction to Sefer Josippon and its reception history. It will certainly make for a great companion to an English critical edition of Sefer Josippon which scholarship sorely lacks.
Nadia Zeldes has given us a remarkable reception history of the medieval Josippon. Widely distributed and frequently reworked, that ‘open text’ was valued, she shows, by both Jews and Christians for polemical as well as internal purposes. It was translated and studied by readers seeking evidence about the life of Jesus, the theological significance of Jerusalem’s fall, or the links between biblical figures and major events in Europe. Zeldes documents how the book could be mined by everyone from preachers to local propagandists, and describes how it eventually served as a trigger for the development of more critical methods of historical study.
In Reading Jewish History in the Renaissance, Nadia Zeldes traces the fascinating life of this chronicle of a pseudo-Josephus concocted in Byzantine Italy which captured the imagination of Jewish and Christian thinkers from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Particularly illuminating is her analysis of the vernacular translations of the Josippon in fifteenth-century Spain and Italy, an examination which vividly evokes the creative tensions of the blossoming Humanist movement. All together it presents an intriguing example of how medieval Mediterranean culture informed European thought on the eve of Modernity.
This is an enlightening work on the extraordinary merging of modern historiography with the reception of sacred and authoritative Jewish texts that took place in Renaissance Italy and Spain. Zeldes casts light on the still partly unexplored intellectual encounters of Jewish and non-Jewish scholars that fed the consciousness of present-day Europe.
This book written by Nadia Zeldes offers a vast and beautiful survey of the impact of Sefer Josippon on Jewish as well as Christian scholars, from the high Middle Age to the Renaissance. Thus, Zeldes uncovers a story that was never told, the role of Sefer Josippon in the emerging Christian and Jewish medieval and early modern historiography. No doubt that this book will serve many historians and students in various areas of learning and research.
Zeldes’ work paves the way for many future studies, and must be consulted by scholars who are going to talk about SY as a text whose identity, contents, and valence was bandied about in humanist discourse by Jews and Christians alike.