Pfefferkorn, Johann (Originally Joseph)

Pfefferkorn, Johann (originally Joseph)

a noted Jewish convert to Christianity, was born in Moravia in 1469. He embraced Christianity. and was publicly baptized at Cologne with his wife and children in 1506 when thirty-six years old. All the efforts of this man, who, with many faults, was certainly not wanting in merit, were early directed to the conversion of his brethren according to the flesh. The means he first made use of were highly laudable; for he treated them with gentleness, and even defended his former co-religionists against the calumny of their enemies. But fanatical and misguided, his zeal afterwards was less well advised when he began to forbid and condemn the reading of any Hebrew book excepting the Old Testament. With the aid of the Dominican monks, he prevailed on the emperor Maximilian to adopt his views, and in 1509 an edict was published which enjoined that all writings emanating from the Jews against the Christian religion, should be suppressed and condemned to the flames; this edict was soon succeeded by another, July 6, 1510, enjoining the destruction of every Hebrew book with the sole exception of the Old Testament. The execution of this edict was, however, suspended until the opinion of the electoral archbishop Uriel of Mayence had been obtained. By reason of this delay, Prof. John Reuchlin, whose opinion in this matter was sought for, was enabled to publish a voluminous treatise, in which he divided the Jewish works into seven different classes, and afterwards proved which of these classes might be considered dangerous or injurious to the Christian religion. Among the books which he thinks in part harmless and in part useful, and even valuable to theology, and which he would in consequence preserve, were not only the commelltaries of Rashi, the Kimchis, lbn-Ezra, Gersonides, Nachmanides, etc., but the Talmud and the cabalistic book Sohar (q.v.). On the other hand, Reuchlin maintained that those only should be destroyed which contained blasphemies against Christ, such as the Nizzachon and roledoth Jeshu. He further pointed out the impossibility of suppressing books by an imperial decree which were dispersed in all parts of the world, and might easily be reprinted in other places. The contest soon grew warm between the adversaries of the books and their defenders; the former consisting of the Dominicans and their partisans, and the latter of all moderate and enlightened theologians. The affair was finally left by an appeal to pope Leo X. Hochstraaten, an inquisitor, and a man fulily qualified for that cruel office, repaired to Rome. supported with remonstrances from several princes to bias, with money to bribe, and menaces to intimidate. He even threatened the pope with rejecting his authority and separating from the Church, unless Reuchlin, and the Jews whom he defended, were condemned. But all his efforts were in vain, and he was obliged to return, mortified and disgraced. The victory which his opponent had gained exposed him to the enmity of the monkish party. But he informed them "he was persuaded that Martin Luther, who then began to make a figure in Germany, would find them so much employment that they would permit him to end his days in peace" (Villers on the Reformation, page 107). Soon, indeed (by reason apparently of the Reformation movement), an end was put to the whole dispute. When and where Pfefferkorn died is difficult to say. Of his works, which obtained such unenviable notoriety, we mention, Der Judenspiegel, or Speculum adhortationis Judaicae ad Ckristum (Nirnb. 1507): — Die Judenbeichte, or Libellus de Judaica confessione sive Sabbate afflictionis cum figuris (Colog. 1508): — Das Osterbuch, or Narratio de ratione Pascha celebrandi inter Judaeos recepta (Colog. and Augsb. 1509): — Der Judenfeind, or Hostis Judaeorum (ibid. 1509): — In Lob und Ehren dem Kaiser Maximilian, or In laudem et honorem illustrissimi im7peratoris Maximiliani, etc. (Colog. 1510): — Ein Brief an Geistliche und Weltliche in Betreff des Kaiserlichen Mandats die judischen Schriften zu vertilgen: — Der Handspiegel, against Reuchlin (Mayence, 1511): — Der Brandspiegel (ibid. 1513): — Die Sturmglocke, against Reuchlin (Cologne, 1514): — Streitbiichlein wider Reuchlin u.s. Junger, or Defensio contra famtosas et criminales obscurorum verorums epistolas,

dedicated to the pope and the college of cardinals (Cologne, 1516): — Eine mitleidige Clag' gegen den unglaubigen Reuchlin (1521). (Where the Latin title is given, the work was also translated into Latin.) Comp. First, Bibl. Jud. 3:82; Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. 1:985 sq.; 3:940 sq.; 4:956 sq.; Meiners, Lebensbeschreibung der Manner aus den Zeiten der Wiederherstellung der Wissenschaften (Zurich, 1795), 1:99 sq.; Meyerhoff, Reuchlin u.s. Zeit; Erhard, Geschichte des Wiederaufbluhens der wissenschaftl. Bildung, volume 2; Lamey, Reuchlin u.s. Zeit; Strauss, Ulrich v. Hutten, volume 1; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 9:98. 101 sq., 103, 110 sq., 115 sq., 130 sq., 140, 142, 158 sq., 168 sq., 209, 211, 218, and Appendix, note 2, page 7 sq.; L. Geiger, Das Studium der hebr. Sprache in Deutschland, page 38 sq. (Breslau, 1870); Kalkar, Israel u.d. Kirche, page 90 sq.; Basnage, Histoire des Juifs, page 730 (Taylor's transl.); H. Adams, Hist. of the Jews, 2:47 sq. (Boston, 1812); Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles, page 464 sq.; Johannes Pfefferkorn, in Geiger's Zeitschrift fur Wissenschqft u. Leben (1869), pages 293-309; Aktenstucke zur Confiscation de judischen Schriften in Frantkfurt a. M. unter Kaiser Maximilian durch Pfejeirkorn's Angeberei, in Frankel-Gratz's Monatsschr. (July 1875), page 289 sq.; Weyden, Gesch. d. Juden in Koln am Rhein (Cologne, 1867), page 259 sq.; Palmer, Hist. of the Jewish Nation (Lond. 1874), page 288. (B.P.)

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