Chanita Goldblatt and
Howard Kreisel, eds. Tradition, Heterodoxy and Religious Culture: Judaism
and Christianity in the Early Modern Period. Beer Sheva: Ben-Gurion U of
the Negev P, 2006. 488pp. ISBN 9 6534 2926 4.
Bradford McCall. "Review of Chanita Goldblatt and Howard Kreisel, eds. Tradition, Heterodoxy and Religious Culture: Judaism and Christianity in the Early Modern Period." Early Modern Literary Studies 15.1 (2009-10) <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/15-1/mccogood.htm>.
Chanita Goldblatt, a scholar on Christian Hebraism in
Early Modern England, and Howard Kreisel, a professor of Jewish thought,
particularly of the medieval period, have compiled and edited these essays that
explore the religious cultures and encounters of Judaism and Christianity in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. This text focuses on both
intra-religious and inter-religious aspects of these cultures and encounters,
in a period that experienced the breakdown of religious consensus, the explosion
of science, and the growing import of the printing press. They have amassed an
impressive list of contributors and contributions, the more salient of which
shall be highlighted in what follows.
The volume begins with a series of seven essays that
highlight the points of contact between Judaism and Christianity. Achsah
Guibbory, Noam Flinker, Albert C. Labriola, and Jeanne Shami all, in one way or
another, write about how such contacts defined the literature of the
Reformation in general and the English church in particular. Amnon
Raz-Krakozkin depicts the role played by the Church in the transmission of Jewish
culture to the modern period in his essay. Boaz Huss and Matt Goldish highlight
the contacts between heterodox thinkers and movements in Jewish and Christian
thought. The second set of essays (five in number), deal with the nature of the
bible, and its shared usage between Jews and Christians in their communities of
belief. Michael N. Rony, Cedric Cohen-Skalli, and Abraham Gross each show how
different Jewish thinkers approached the bible, seeking to address the concerns
of their individual communities. Lawrence Besserman and Sanford Budick
demonstrate how Christian thinkers re-envisioned the story of Job in critiquing
a traditional religious belief or philosophical worldview. In all five of these
essays, the import of the printing press is stressed.
The concept of genre is a key theme within the third
series of essays (six), which highlight poetry, paintings, and sculpture, amongst
other things. More specifically, Ann Bener describes the use of Hebrew poetry
in the first printed Rabbinic bible. Chanita Goldblatt and Anne Lake Prescott
contribute essays that concern Christian poetry as translation and response to
the Jewish Psalms. Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby turns to the visual arts in an essay
that deals with the Christian representation of the Mendicant Friar and the
Muslim on the eve of the Reformation. Ellen Spolsky speaks of the use and
rejection of art for the creation of religious identity within the Reformation,
while Daniel M. Unger discusses the Catholic artistic depictions of penance in
the period directly following the Council of Trent. The final five essays all,
in one way or another, focus on issues of identity or on polemics. For example,
Aaron Landau focuses on the issue of self-identity in relation to alterity,
whereas Arthur F. Marotti highlights how identity defines the Catholic, and
William Kolbrener illustrates how religious identity is often formed through
contact with philosophic thought. Golda Akhiezer and Daniel J. Lasker both focus
on how the various political treatises in Jewish communities established or
defended the individual’s religious identity with respect to the ‘other’.
All in all, this series of essays collectively
demonstrates the import of the contact between Jewish and Christian communities
in the early modern period. They show that neither community can be understood
without considering the effects of the other community upon its identity and
culture. I recommend it for graduate students and scholars interested in the
ecumenical dialogue between Jews and Christians.
Responses to this piece intended for the
Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.