Monday, March 30, 2009

Two Christian approaches to Radak (Rabbi David Kimhi)

By the first half of the 19th century, Christian appreciation for Jewish Bible exegetes, as well as their Christian opponents, were well-established traditions.

The former impulse continued to motivate Christians to translate Jewish works to make them available to a broader audience. It is because of this that Alexander McCaul published his translation of Radak's Commentary to Zechariah.

McCaul (1799-1863)

Below are two contemporary reviews (1837) expressing two opposite attitudes to Jewish exegesis in general:

Text not available
From the Church of England Quarterly Review.

Below is a gentlemanly review from The Gentleman's Magazine:

Text not availableText not available

McCaul is known to Jewish history as an active missionary to the Jews, and the author of a book called נתיבות עולם, or Old1 Paths, Or, A Comparison of the Principles and Doctrines of Modern Judaism with the Religion of Moses and the Prophets. This book, an attack on Judaism from a Christian perspective, using the method of comtrasting Rabbinic Judaism with the Bible, was widely distributed among Jews in England, and translated into other languages, such as:

Hebrew, 1839.
German, 1855.
Yiddish, 1876.

With the publication of the Hebrew version (to say nothing of it's later availability in Yiddish) it could be used in eastern Europe, and it quickly became a thorn in the side of Jews there. The Hebrew version was produced by a man named Yechezkel Stanislaus Hoga, a Polish Jew who had converted to Christianity, and was living in England. He had been a follower of the Hasidic rebbe the Chozeh of Lublin for a time in his youth, supposedly leaving him after testing, and duping, him (for info on this, see). Before moving to England, he worked as a censor of Hebrew books, and interestingly played the role of defender of the Chasidim before the government. (While Jewish apostates who became enemies of the Jews are well known, another type, which remained friendly to Jews and Jewish interests, are found in the 19th century. Another example of this type is Daniel Chwolson in Russia.)

However, sticking up for the Jews is not the same thing as refraining from promoting Christianity among them, and in England Hoga translated McCaul's Old Paths. (See, as well, his שירי ציון, a collection of his Hebrew poems and songs to Jesus from 1846. In addition, his translation of the New Testament.) Incidentally, it should be noted that rumor had it that Hoga had actually written Old Paths, or at least the bulk of it, and it was McCaul who produced the English version based on his work, more on that below.

You can listen to a great lecture by Sid Leiman about him, and his eventual reversion to Judaism, as well as his place in Jewish folklore of the 19th and 20th century.

Suffice it to say, by 1847 the following advertisement appeared in the London Jewish Chronicle:

Below is a summary of the notice in the Isaac Leeser's American Jewish periodical The Occident:
A very extraordinary advertisement appears in No. 79 of the Jewish Chronicle, issued by Stanislaus Hoga, proposing a “new Jewish monthly publication, in Hebrew and English, to be called ציד נאמן ‘The Faithful Missionary.’” The programme set forth, which occupies two columns and a half, promises an expose of operations of the “London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews.” It appears that this Mr. Hoga, who is admitted to be the greatest Hebrew scholar in England, was formerly in the employ of this society; but, either from conviction of his errors, or through some misunderstanding with his employers, he seems to have declared war against them, and promises to expose their machinations, which he threatens in such language as the following, which is No. 4 of the twenty-three things he proposes to do. “4. He will give full information of the commencement, progress. and conduct of the society; how this adulterous child was born, by whom it was cradled and fostered, until (as the present traders it) apostacy tell their dupes) ‘Kings are become its nourishing fathers, and queens its nourishing mothers.’” Besides this he proposes to refute attacks against Judaism by professors of Christianity, and to explain the history and character of both. There is no doubt that this extraordinary publication, if it ever do come to anything, will create considerable agitation and alarm among the officers and dependents of the “London Society,” whose situations will be jeopardized by some of the revelations promised to its patrons and supporters. The Jews will look on with some interest, and regard the affair as a “pretty quarrel as it stands.” I see that the “Voice of Jacob,” does not admit the advertisement, but takes notice of the matter as a piece of news only.
Regarding the rumor that Hoga had written נתיבות עולם, below is the text of a letter sent to the editor of the Jewish Chronicle in 1907:

. . .

The reminiscences of the venerable Professor Marks, given in your issue of the 11th, have interested me exceedingly, and you will, feel sure, allow me to make a few remarks upon points within my personal knowledge as to my late father, the Rev. Dr. Alexander McCaul, and Mr. Stanislaus Hoga, whom I knew well.

When Mr. Hoga came to England from Warsaw, he informed us that he had been baptised in the Roman Catholic church in Poland, and he certainly had not received any religious instruction from my father. He received no salary from any Christian mission, his income being derived from a very different source. He translated Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," but neither he nor anyone else assisted my fatherin writing "The Old Paths." I was almost always in the room with my father while he was at work on each weekly number, and have a vivid recollection of him with his huge Hebrew volumes around him. Mr. Hoga afterwards translated "The Old Paths" into Hebrew.

Neither was Mr. Hoga one of those who translated our Book of Common Prayer into Hebrew : they were my father and only two others, who used to meet in a room adjoining that in which my mother and I sat. The progress of the work excited the keenest interest in us. Mr. Hoga pursued various scientific studies, and I well remember his exhibiting his invention for signaling at night by means of coloured lenses.

. . .

Yours obediantly,

E. A. Finn
(nee McCaul)
Finally, see below for a response to a letter from Hoga to the Jewish Chronicle (March 1847). Here Hoga attacks a Christian interpretation and defends the Jewish interpretation, of the meaning of the use of plural in the divine name אלהים

Text not available

1 Hebraists will note the interesting choice to render "old," עולם. While "old" is a legitimate usage, עולם also --and probably more often-- would mean "eternal." Thus נתיבות עולם = "Eternal Paths."

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails