Jost, Isaac Marcus
Jost, Isaac Marcus, one of the most celebrated writers of modern Jews, the first of his people since the days of Josephus to write a complete history of the Jews, was born at Bernburg, Germany, Feb. 22, 1793. His father, a poor blind man, the head of a family of twelve children, was obliged to depend mainly upon Marcus, the only boy, for support, and great and severe were the struggles which he had to endure until, in 1803, his father died, and the youth removed to Wolfenbüttel, where his grandfather resided. He was now admitted to a Jewish orphan asylum, where one of his most intimate associates was the celebrated Jewish savant Leopold Zunz, and together these two boys pursued, under great disadvantages and deprivations, ay, sufferings, the studies necessary to admit them to the higher classes of the gymnasium. "Whole nights," he touchingly records, "have we labored by the tapers which we made ourselves from the wax that ran down the big wax candles in the synagogue. By hard study we succeeded in bringing it so far in the course of the six months terminating with April, 1809, that we, Zunz in Wolfenbüttel and I in Brunswick, were put in the senior class (prima) in the gymnasium" (Pascheles, Sippurim, 3d col., Prague, 1855, p. 141 sq.). After four years of hard study he removed to the University of Göttingen, where for one year and a half he pursued with great earnestness studies in history, philology, philosophy, and theology, and then continued his investigations at Berlin University. In the capital of Prussia Jost soon won the hearts of many of his people, and, though comparatively a youth, yet succeeded in the management of a first class school, to which flocked the children of Jew and Gentile. In 1835 he accepted the headmastership of the Jewish high school at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and in that capacity spent the remainder of his days. He died November 20, 1860, at Frankfort-on- the-Main. While at Berlin he published:
(1) The gigantic historical work entitled Geschichte der Israeliten seit der Zeit der Maccabäer bis auf unsere Tage (Berlin, 1820-28, 9 vols.): —
(2) Allgemeine Geschichte des Israelitischen Volkes, etc. (Berlin, 1831-32, 2 vols. 8vo), being an abridgment, with corrections, of the former work: — and
(3) ששה סדרי משנה, the Mishna, with the Hebrew text and vowel- points, accompanied by a German translation, a Rabbinic commentary, and German annotations (Berlin, 1832-34, 6 vols.), besides various efforts of a philosophical nature, and numberless contributions to Jewish periodicals of all grades and descriptions. In Frankfort the same literary activity continued. In 1839 he started a weekly journal for Jewish history, literature, etc., of which three volumes appeared, entitled Israelitische Annalen (Frankft. a. M. 1839-41), which boasted of the names of some of the ablest of Jewish writers as contributors, and which furnished articles whose value every true Biblical student will not fail to recognize, in fact, for many items of information there contained we would look elsewhere in vain. To reawaken an interest in the study of Hebrew, he started in 1841 (when the Annalen were discontinued), in conjunction with the distinguished Jewish writer Creizenach, a periodical in Hebrew, of which two volumes appeared, entitled ציון, Ephemerides Hebraicoe s. collectio dissertationum maxime theologicarum, variorumque Hebraicorum scriptorum, ad ordinem mensium lunarium disposita (Frankfort a. M. 1841-42). Like the former journal, it constitutes a very important contribution to Biblical and Jewish literature, and will always be read with great pleasure by the lover of the sacred language. owing to the beautiful Hebrew style in which in is written. At the same time, however, Jost was also laboring at his grand history of the Jews, of which he published (6), in 1846-47, three more parts, under the title Neuere Geschichte der Israeliten, etc., being a continuation. and forming a tenth volume, of his great historical work; and in 1857-59 he finally gave to the world, as the result of his life long historical and critical researches, the Geschichte des Judenthums und seiner Secten, a work which may fitly make the top stone of the great historical edifice he had reared so perfectly from the very outset. He found no preparatory work, as did Grätz, Munk, Zunz, and Herzfeld; he was obliged to collect himself all the material needful for his great undertaking, and he spared no pains to do his work well. Jost deserves our notice also as a philanthropist: not only did he serve the literary world, and daily work for the advancement of Jewish interests everywhere, but he also founded an asylum for Jewish female orphans in the city which enjoyed his ripest scholarship. See Jahrbuch ur die Gesch.
der Juden (Lpzg. 1861, 12mo), vol. 2, p. 7 sq.; Jud. Athenoeum (Grimma and Lpz. 1851, 18mo), p. 117; Ehrentheil, Jud. Charakterbilder (Pesth, 1867, 8vo), No. 1, p. 67 sq.; Vapereau, Dictionnaire des Contemporains, s.v.