Early Books on Judaism
Most early books about Judaism were written by Jews who had converted to Christianity and sought both to persuade other Jews to convert and reveal the secrets of Judaism to the Christian world. The illustrations in Johannes Pfefferkorn's Büchlein der Jude Peicht (1508) were revised and reused by Antonius Margartha in his similarly critical Der gantze jüdische Glaube (1530). Although officially discredited and even exiled for his controversial work, Margartha influenced many later writers and shaped Martin Luther's views of Judaism.
During the Renaissance and Reformation, a number of scholars learned Hebrew as part of their biblical studies. For these Christian Hebraists, Jewish beliefs and customs became a matter of scholarly interest. Philologus Hebraeus Mixtus by Johannes Leusden exemplifies the tradition of seventeenth-century Hebraists with its text in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. First published in 1663, the 1682 edition also shown here includes engravings of Jewish customs by anonymous artists.
Most converts and Hebraists, including Johann Bodenschatz, organized their works around the Jewish calendar or by life-cycle rituals. These works provide insight into the (often hostile) representations of Jews and Judaism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; but they also, through careful reading, yield valuable information about Jewish rituals, clothing, and everyday life in this period.