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CRRS Workshop: Cédric Cohen Skalli

October 10, 2017 at 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Historicization is often viewed as an essential marker of “modern” scholarship or even modern consciousness. This paper proposes to study the birth and development of this new attitude through a case study: Isaac Abravanel’s contribution to the historical and critical understanding of the Bible. Indeed, as emphatically stressed by the great historian of Medieval Iberian Jewry, “Abravanel [1437-1508] was the first Jew to combine Renaissance ideas with the Torah of Israel. He was the first to study tradition in the light of the new historical and humanistic method.” Baer’s affirmation, although exaggerated, relied greatly on the reading and interpretation of Abravanel’s preface (הקדמה) to his Commentary on the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) written in Castile in the years 1483-4, and especially of its discussion of the question: who wrote the books of the Former Prophets. In this discussion, Abravanel develops a new historical sensitivity toward the texts’ history and composition. Moreover, he describes the making of the biblical books of the Former Prophets as a multilayered process entailing firstly the sources written by the historical redactors and later the work of compilation and edition made by the editors. This view opened new pathways for later biblical criticism, especially among 17th century Christian Hebraists. In his famous 1678 Histoire critique de l’Ancien Testament, Richard Simon makes of Abravanel’s preface a central source of inspiration and justification for his own historical and critical views on the history of the biblical text. This paper will unfold the complex history of Abravanel’s preface, from its original biographical and literary context to its rediscovery in the years of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologicus-politicus.


Dr. Cedric Cohen Skalli teaches early modern and modern Jewish Philosophy at the University of Haifa. His research focuses on the relationship of Jewish thinkers to two main philosophical shifts: the shift from Medieval philosophy to early modern thought (14th-17th century), and the shift from early modern to modern thought (18th-20th century). He published three books and 16 articles on diverse aspects of Jewish thought and literature in the Renaissance and several essays on the question of translation and Sprachdenken in early 20th century philosophy. He is also translator of many works of Freud, Benjamin, Scholem, Idel and Abravanel.


Abravanel, Peruš Neviʾim Rišonim, Pesaro 1511 (Page 2)

Richard Simon, Histoire Critique de l’Ancient Testament, Second Edition, 1685















October 10, 2017
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies


Burwash Hall – Victoria College
89 Charles St W, Victoria College
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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