The Case Against Johann Reuchlin: Social and Religious Controversy in Sixteenth-Century Germany

By Erika Rummel

© 2002

The case of Johann Reuchlin, one of the best-known controversies of the 16th century, has been interpreted in many ways: as a case of anti-Semitism, a controversy between humanists and scholastics, or a case foreshadowing the Reformation debate. The last interpretation was facilitated by Luther himself, who repeatedly linked his case with that of the biblical humanists Lefevre, Erasmus, and Reuchlin.

In this lively critical analysis, Erika Rummel describes how the second interpretation, which was promoted in the 19th century, was replaced after WWII by a new sensitivity toward the anti-Semitic elements of the affair. More recently, however, the favoured approach is a more nuanced interpretation, acknowledging that the controversy is informed by a combination of social and intellectual currents and reflects both anti-Semitism and academic strife. The section containing the analysis is followed by documents illustrating the case, some of them translated for the first time into English.

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Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.8in x 9.3in
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  • PUBLISHED NOV 2002

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Quick Overview

A re-examination of the case of Johann Reuchlin, one of the best-known controversies of the 16th century.

The Case Against Johann Reuchlin: Social and Religious Controversy in Sixteenth-Century Germany

By Erika Rummel

© 2002

The case of Johann Reuchlin, one of the best-known controversies of the 16th century, has been interpreted in many ways: as a case of anti-Semitism, a controversy between humanists and scholastics, or a case foreshadowing the Reformation debate. The last interpretation was facilitated by Luther himself, who repeatedly linked his case with that of the biblical humanists Lefevre, Erasmus, and Reuchlin.

In this lively critical analysis, Erika Rummel describes how the second interpretation, which was promoted in the 19th century, was replaced after WWII by a new sensitivity toward the anti-Semitic elements of the affair. More recently, however, the favoured approach is a more nuanced interpretation, acknowledging that the controversy is informed by a combination of social and intellectual currents and reflects both anti-Semitism and academic strife. The section containing the analysis is followed by documents illustrating the case, some of them translated for the first time into English.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 208 pages
  • Dimensions: 6.2in x 0.8in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    'A significant contribution to the field in that it provides a fine, nuanced exposition of this important controversy in English, and also a good selection of primary source documents in translation which allow students and scholars to test her interpretations and invite them to reflect upon the primary sources themselves.'


    Stephen G. Burnett, Department of History, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

    'This manuscript is a significant contribution of synthesis that, through its developmental approach, helps to recontextualize the theme and open broader discussions of the nature of religion and scholarship in the late medieval and early modern periods...Accessible to general readers and yet meaningful to specialists working in this history of the later Middle Ages, Reformation, and Jewish and Christian traditions.'


    Dean Bell, Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, Chicago
  • Author Information

    Erika Rummel is a professor emerita in the Department of History at Wilfrid Laurier University.

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