The centering of the bible in seventeenth-century Amsterdam : Jewish religion, culture, and scholarship / Benjamin Fisher.

Fisher, Benjamin.
x, 284 p. ; 29 cm.
Local subjects:
Penn dissertations -- History.
History -- Penn dissertations.
Amsterdam created a unique Jewish culture in which the study of Scripture was a central focus of education, culture, and rabbinic scholarship. In contrast to Talmudically oriented central and east European Jewish communities, in Amsterdam the educational curriculum for children and adults was overwhelmingly centered on the systematic study of the Bible; Scripture occupied a central place in communal cultural activities and theological perspectives; and leading rabbis in the community produced innovative biblical commentaries that fused traditional Jewish genres with models from the surrounding Christian society. The pivotal role of the Bible in the ex-converso community reflects the lingering resonance of its members' experiences as New Christians living in Spain and Portugal, an awareness of medieval Spanish approaches to Bible study, and the immersion of this Jewish community in a Protestant city with no prior history of Jewish settlement. This project blends the study of learned treatises with manuscript archival sources in order to depict a Jewish biblical culture that shaped the experiences of diverse groups, from elite scholars to young children and their parents. The chapters trace the institutionalization of a biblical curriculum in schools, confraternities, and sermons; the central place of the Bible in Jewish efforts to achieve personal salvation; a deep preoccupation with the infallibility of the Bible and internal biblical contradictions that was provoked by contact with Protestant commentators; the Jewish encounter with Socinian Christians and its implications for Jewish approaches to reading the New Testament; and the use of historicist approaches for studying the New Testament that reflect cutting-edge methods used by leading Christian scholars. This dissertation contributes to our understanding of the biblical culture of the Jewish community from which Benedict Spinoza emerged, and provides an early and important model for understanding the centrality of the Bible in western European Jewish communities on the horizon of modernity.
Adviser: David B. Ruderman.
Thesis (Ph.D. in History) -- University of Pennsylvania, 2011.
Includes bibliographical references.
Ruderman, David B., advisor.
University of Pennsylvania.
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