Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522): A Unique Philosemitic Public Intellectual

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Intellectuals have been engaged in public life since antiquity: from Biblical prophets down to figures such as Machiavelli, Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau, and other Enlightenment and later thinkers. This article focuses on the life and work of Johannes Reuchlin (1455–1522). Its primary source is Reuchlin’s Expert Opinion Whether to Confiscate, Destroy and Burn All Jewish Books (Ratschlag Ob Man Den Juden Alle Ire Bücher Nemmen, Abthun Und Verbrennen Soll) published in 1510. Based on this and the scholarly literature, it is argued that as an outstanding philosemitic humanist who saved the Talmud and other Jewish books from destruction, Reuchlin should be recognized as a public intellectual, the greatest of his time. Arguably, by standing up against the destruction of Jewish religious and cultural life, Reuchlin stirred the German consciousness and public opinion that was crucial for the making of the Reformation. So far as the Jews were concerned, Jewish textual survival enabled national survival. Reuchlin contributed immensely to that survival.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)725-741
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Legacy
Issue number7
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Erasmus
  • Johannes Reuchlin
  • Public Intellectual
  • Talmud
  • national survival
  • the Jews

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Philosophy


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