Encountering Antiquity in Renaissance Europe: Greeks, Jews, and Humanists


[MUSIC] This program is brought to
you by Stanford University.>>Welcome to the third annual Lorenz
Eitner lecture on ancient art and culture. An event meant to advertise and promote
classics on this campus and beyond. Made possible by the generous
support of Peter and Lindsey Joost, great friends and
supporters of Stanford Classics. It’s a great pleasure
to welcome Peter here. Tonight, the serious is named in
honor of Professor Lorenz Eitner, who as it happens died just a few weeks
ago on March 11th at the age of 89. He’s well known on campus as
a very long-time director of the Stanford Art Museum,
what is now a center, which he ran for almost 30 years from
the early 1960s to 1989. He was a renowned scholar,
inspiring teacher, and really turned the art museum around. We’re very lucky today to
have a long time friend and companion here Sven Brunchen, who worked
with him for quite a number of years. And I would like to ask him to say
a few words about Lorenz Eitner. [INAUDIBLE]
>>[LAUGH] Thank you very much, Walter. I’m not so used to the Hollywood lighting. But anyway, I would first like to, as Walter did, thank Lindsey and
Peter just for this wonderful opportunity
to have these lectures. They began with John Bortman
three years ago, and continue tonight with
Tony Grafton from Princeton. And not only are they advocating
support for the classics department. But being an ex art history student, I have to say that this is bringing
something to art history also. Jodie Maxim from the Art History
Department is seated over there. And so, it’s a wonderful
opportunity to get both of these departments together under the auspices
of the Lorenz Eitner Lecture Series. Lorenz was a dear friend, I did my
dissertation with him many years ago. I worked with him at what was
then the Stanford Museum, and is now the Cantor Art Center. I think Mrs. Stanford wouldn’t like that,
but we won’t go into that designation. Anyway, Lorenz was an exceptional person, in that he was a great museum director,
a great scholar, a great teacher. When he took over the museum at
Stanford in the early 1960s, it’s about the time that
I came out to Stanford. He walked into the museum and
there was a large stump in the lobby with a rather tattered 1920s label on it, that
said, art is everywhere, even in nature. Well, he probably got rid of that,
[LAUGH] as well as shifting the locomotive which was located in
one of the rotunda of the museum, and began work, establishing what I would say is probably one of the best academic
institutional museums on the west coast. He was a wonderful organizer of
exhibitions on a low budget. He was able to assemble things for
a few $1,000, rather than a few $100,000. He bought very wisely. Of course, it was a time where one
could make great acquisitions and not pay very much money for them. And Lorenz had astonishingly good taste,
was able to buy wonderful material, particularly in the area of drawings and
prints. Furthermore, when he organized
exhibitions, he was one of the first people to do a thematic exhibition and
put everything together. So he put prints, sculpture,
paintings, drawings, all together. The more traditional approach was
to have a painting exhibition or a drawing exhibition, but
he managed to take all of these things, put them together and organize a wonderful
academically oriented exhibition. And they were very successful both
at the museum and the art gallery. He would mange to get students involved. There were seminars in the museum,
seminars in the art gallery, and there was a great spirit in
the department when I was there. Furthermore, he brought the department
to number six in the country. I don’t wanna say anything disparaging,
but I don’t think it has a rating today. And he was, as I mentioned, a fantastic museum organizer and
a autocratic leader, an enlightened autocrat in the old
tradition, which is sometimes needed. And he did not suffer fools nor
committees. He was someone was extremely
interested in the individual object. In fact, I mentioned just recently
that Lorenz would carry Greek coins in his pocket. And if you started talking about
connoisseurship, he’d pull them out of his pocket and talk about the sculptural
qualities of Athenian coins. And so, he had this marvelous capacity to
be interested and in love with the object. Furthermore, he was a great scholar. His many books on Jericho, as well as
his fabulous survey of 19th century art, which I believe is still in print,
was a great contribution to art history. He came out of the second generation of
the European American art scholarship with people like, well, he was actually
one generation later than people like Witcover and Erwin Panofsky,
the great German scholar. But again,
Lawrence had that European background. A number of languages, having studied
both in Europe and in America, received his PhD from Princeton. Came out to Stanford in the early 60s,
as I mentioned, was director of the museum for 30 years,
head of the department for 30 years. He didn’t like revolving chairmanships.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] He thought he could do more and he did, just stayed on and
building the department. During that time he was offered the
directorship of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he turned that down. He was offered the director shifts
of Princeton Art Museum and the Minneapolis Art Institute,
both of which again he turned down. For his continuous service
to the world of art, he was offered the merit cross of
the Austrian government in 1990. And he was a member of
the American academy. And also he served for
a number of years as the head of the program at Cliveden,
the Stanford program at Cliveden. So I could go on and
on about this remarkable man, but we have another remarkable
man to consider. So I just wanted to say a few
words of appreciation on behalf of the Eitner family,
who I’m in touch with, our thanks.>>The task of introducing Anthony Grafton
is, of course, both an honor and a pleasure. But it also is an enviable to those
who don’t know the man already. It is impossible to do justice
to the importance, breadth, and sheer verve of his scholarship. To those that do it is impossible to avoid
tired superlatives or match the skill of the last person I happened to have heard
introducing him on this very campus. In either case, can I justify
my irritation value in keeping a great speaker from an eager audience? So let me keep this short and sweet. Professor Grafton comes
to us from Princeton, where he has taught since 1975 laterally
as the Henry Putnam Professor of History. Though born and raised in New York, he
began his formal studies at the University of Chicago and ended them there in
short order, with a degree of PhD. Along the way, he spent some time
at University College London, where he worked with the very
influential scholar, Arnaldo Momigliano. The awards he has received
are simply too many to mention here. The fields he has made his own since that
time have been the history of scholarship and education in the West from
antiquity to the 19th century, the history of science From antiquity
to the Renaissance, the cultural history of Renaissance Europe, and
the history of books and readers. He made his name with an imposing
intellectual biography of Joseph Scaliger, the 16th century French classicist and
historian. As in the later major books on Leon Battista Alberti and
Gerolamo Cardano, the past comes to life when viewed through the eyes of someone
learned, interesting, and unusual. One particular favorite, The Footnote,
A Curious History, shows Professor Grafton’s range from antiquity
to the digital present and a knack of presenting highly technical material and
engaging and sometimes humorous ways. The essay genre has been
especially fertile ground and reaching a wide audience. If one tallies some ten single-authored
books, to say nothing of another nine co-edits on my recent count, one would
be forgiven for wondering if there had been several Anthony Grafton’s
in action for some four decades. No corner of intellectual history,
ancient or otherwise, has been too obscure or
too immune from comparison. No detail too small, no question too big. I find it no accident that
the new collection of essays, Worlds Made by Words, Scholarship and
Community in the Modern West, highlights the convivial and
shared aspect of intellectual culture. Something that has too
often been perceived as and has in our own times too easily become
a solitary and individual exercise. It is easy to see why Tony
has earned respect and affection at his own university while
never ceasing to be a distinguished citizen of an international
Republic of Letters. Yeah, he’s a highly productive scholar
who’s also a passionate teacher. From my own point of view it is
a quality of human empathy that informs Professor Grafton’s
work at every turn. Whether making sense out of the most
eccentrically-learned Renaissance scholars or coaxing a paper out of
a self-discombobulating student. One gloomy New Jersey winter’s day,
he passed on the following advice that had come originally from his wife’s experience
as an elementary school teacher. Show them that you care and
take the class outside whenever you can.>>[LAUGH]
>>The late professor, Eitner, a 1952 PhD from the same
institution in New Jersey, would surely have been delighted
that the 2009 Eitner Lecture will be given by Tony Grafton on
the topic Encountering Antiquity in Renaissance Europe, Greeks,
Jews and Humanists. Thank you.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Well, thank you very much. It’s an enormous honor to give
the third Eitner Lecture. It has been very gratifying
to learn about and to enjoy the extraordinary beneficence and
hospitality of the Joosts. A couple who remind me more of some of
the Messinasis I study in the 15th and 16th centuries than of many of
my contemporaries, and very, very pleasant to meet them. And many thanks to Grant Parker, old
friend who studied with me many years ago. And many thanks to you for allowing a non-classical
cuckoo into a classical nest.>>[LAUGH]
>>I should say that I am an ex-classis [SOUND]
>>[LAUGH]>>It’s true.>>[LAUGH]
>>[INAUDIBLE]>>[FOREIGN] I am an ex-classicist. You know the ex-parrot in Monty Python.>>[LAUGH]
>>I did mean to be a classicist. And started as one, but
somehow I took a wrong turn one day and wound up doing what we now call reception. But the Classics department at Princeton,
which is very much a classics department, trot me out when someone wants
to read really strange texts. Grant wanted to read, as I recall,
Polifitis and other people like that. So we read them together in a gloomy
New Jersey winter, many years ago, and I’m deeply grateful for
his friendship ever since. The characters of Theophrastus was
just the sort of gorgeous torso, or indeed herm, that Renaissance humanists love to attack
with philological hammers and chisels. The author, who was Aristotle’s star
pupil, became his successor, composed this lively set of character sketches for
unknown reasons at an uncertain date. The figures Theophrastus describes,
all of whom exemplify bad qualities, seem to have stepped out of the cartoons
of an Athenian James Thurber. They include the Toady, who laughs so hard
at a great man’s joke that he has to stuff his cloak in his mouth to
stop himself from giggling. The superstitious man who
won’t approach a tombstone or pregnant woman or a corpse or pass
a crossroads without making a libation. The chatterbox, a favorite of mine,
who is as likely to tell you, I threw up yesterday as to give
you the price of wheat and doesn’t care if either fact
interests you very much. And finally,
that weapon of mass destruction, the talker,
whose logorrhoea menaces the entire city. On a jury, he prevents others
from reaching its verdict. At the theater,
he prevents them from watching the show. At dinner, he prevents them from
getting on with their meal. As so often a very ancient text turns out
like the mad gardener’s rattlesnake in Lewis Carroll to be
the middle of next week, or at least to be this weekend’s
faculty dinner party.>>[LAUGH]
>>The characters offered readers a mordant vision of language and social
life, subjects of central interest to the humanists, cast in the neat
swallowable form of profiles. It also swarmed with information
about urban life in ancient Athens. A subject of equal interest to
the antiquarians who had rediscovered some of the lost beauties of the ancient city,
and the possibilities of writing a history
that offered not a narrative, but a diachronic recreation of buildings,
practices, rituals, and institutions. Most alluring of all, it was pocked with indecipherable phrases,
as indeed it still is. These posed the sort of
challenge to ingenuity and erudition that all
card-carrying humanists prized. Isaac Casaubon,
the indefatigable Huguenot-Hellenist, who lived from 1559 to 1614,
was just the sort of humanist on whom this sort of
text acted like catnip on a cat. I’m going to invite you to watch
him work with me just for a moment. In the Greek text in Latin translation
published by the scholar-printer Frederik Morel in 1583 Three, Theophrastus
describes the boastful man as follows. He stands in the diazeugma and tells foreigners how much
money he has invested at sea. And he explains how big his
money lending business is and how much he himself has gained and lost. Reading this,
Casaubon asked one simple but vital question,
what is he actually calling a diazeugma? He had every reason to wonder. Though Morel printed
the Greek word in his text, he evidently had not a clue what it meant,
at least in this context. For instead of translating it,
he transliterated it in his Latin version. When he tried to explain it in a marginal
note, he lunged in every direction, less like a respectable commentator than
the proverbial cow caught in barbed wire. It seems to be some kind of gap, or
transverse beam on a bridge, or the port, or the vestibule of a building. Casaubon thought a few things
were clear in all this murk. Theophrastus must have brought this
imaginary braggart on stage in some public place at Athens,
where meetings used to take place. A chorus in Aristophanes
knights mentioned the digma. And a note in the Greek scholia
in Aristophanes explained the term referred to exactly the sort
of public place Casaubon had in mind. The digma is a place in the paraeus where
many foreigners and citizens met and told stories. I think Casaubon concluded,
quoting this in his note, that the passage must be correct,
and I read, digmaty. For the digma was this
place in the paraeus. The fact that the scholium mentioned
foreigners clinched his case. Theophrastus’ braggart spends his time exactly explaining his
business to foreigners. As amended, the whole passage becomes
a vivid concrete description of a boastful man standing in the market in the paraeus. Exactly as Antonio stands on the Rialto
in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, also telling strangers about what should
have remained his private business. So Casaubon’s edition of the characters,
which coruscates with philological gems like this, each deserving to be picked up
and inspected for multiple facets, but we won’t, also displays an extraordinary
ability of conjectural inundation. Most important of all though,
it shows Casaubon thinking in a richly historical way
about a difficult ancient book. Again and again,
Casaubon explains to readers that the examples contained in this book
are not just made up by the author. They come from every day Athenian life,
and again and again, he mobilized his extraordinary
edition to prove this point. His copy of the scholia on Aristophanes,
for example, remains in the British library. And his work through it from beginning
to end, collating the scholia against the Ephrastes and drawing much
wonderful information from it. This little bit of work by Casaubon, and
there are many comparable examples in his career, exemplifies, for me, the technical
side of humanism, as the great art historian Ellen Panofsky defined that
movement more than half a century ago. Panofsky argued, as you’ll recall,
that the artists of the Renaissance had devised a new system
of one point perspective, which enabled them to take
a fixed distance from an object. And portray it in a way that
made it convincingly stand out, as if it were in three dimensions
on a two dimensional surface. In the same way, he argued, the humanists
and antiquarians of the Renaissance learned how to see the ancient world
from a fixed distance in time. They, the antiquaries, the advanced artists who sometimes
worked with him, used this new ability to fix a chronological standpoint to
see the ancient world as a whole. And they unified whole to reunite
classical forms with classical content. To revive classical visions of classical
authors, as Fulvio Orsini did in his famous images of illustrious men, not
only for Homer, but also for Theophrastus. We draw the curtain of charity over
the identification of Theherm I showed you first with Theophrastus. By 16th century standards,
it was a very clever idea. Well, I’ve come today, not to bury
Panofsky, but to qualify him a little bit. I believe that, as the example of
Casaubon’s work and Theophrastus suggests, Panofsky put his finger on something
central about Renaissance humanism, that shock of recognition. Recognition that the ancients lived in a
world coherently different from one’s own, a world that the scholar had
to reassemble like a mosaic. But I think that the experience of
the humanists was in fact more layered, more complicated, and sometimes, more contradictory than
Panofsky actually expressed. That it involved more kinds of
work with more kinds of text into sometimes with more kinds of
informant that Panofsky realized. And what I’m going to try to do
with Casaubon and his great friend, Joseph Scaliger, is to use some of the new
methods of intellectual history to put them back in their world. And suggest some of the more complicated
ways in which they looked from that world back to an ancient one. Now, it’s never easy to connect
a technical scholar like Casaubon with a wider historical context. Doing so, you always risk, as you do when
you connect a mathematician or physicist with a context, imposing your protagonist
in an iron cage of bad analogies. And that’s been a problem that people
interested in Casaubon have always faced. Mark Pattison’s magnificent biography
of him, first published in 1875, still perhaps the most powerful and
readable book ever written about one of the great Renaissance
humanists, faced this problem squarely. Pattison tells Casaubon’s life story,
follows him on the trail from modest academic
beginnings in Geneva to his last position, which I will describe in a little while,
a much grander one. And finally, concentrates on
the great difficulty of expressing or indeed explaining what
Casaubon thought he was doing. For Pattison, mesmerized as a young
writer by Casaubon’s diary, saw him in the end as a tragic figure. Who had driven himself to despair,
vainly trying to master an infinite not universive knowledge
in a finite life time. Now, one can see, reading the diary,
why you would draw this conclusion, just as one might draw such
a conclusion from our emails. But I hope you’ll agree with me that
the conclusion from the emails would be premature and partial. When you read Casaubon
tormenting himself with guilt, I rose at five, he says one day in 1597,
alas, how late. When you see him torturing himself
over pleasant conversations which robbed him of working time,
[FOREIGN], he says more than once. And you then learn that he wrote some 20
books in folio, produced some 22 children, 19 of whom survived childbirth, wrote some
2,500 letters in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. You might be convinced that Pattison was
right and that this was someone who simply couldn’t bear the load of guilt that
even this productivity left with him. Someone whose work as a scholar and emotional life were somehow
always at odds with one another. No one who’s read Pattison’s book can
ever forget the account of his autopsy, carried out by the distinguished doctor,
Theodor Drukedimarin, who found that Casaubon’s bladder had become malformed
and full of mucus calculus matter. The malformation he says was congenital,
but it was aggravated by sedentary habits. And inattention to the calls of nature,
while the mind of the student was absorbed in study [LAUGH]
>>Casaubon emerges as a kind of Protestant counterpart to the baroque
saints of the same period. Who suffered similar pains as
they made the mystical ascent, rather than the scholarly descent.>>[LAUGH]
>>Casaubon’s other partners in philological activity have also
been hard to tie to context. Consider his great older
contemporary Joseph Scaliger, who lived from 1540 to 1609. Edited many Latin poets and
recreated into extraordinary books the entire historical tradition
in history of the ancient world, from its beginnings in ancient Egypt
down to the fall of the Roman Empire. The man who was only one of his
extraordinary services discovered and published what we now call the canon of
kings, Babylonian, Persian, and later, which remains an absolute cornerstone
document for all of ancient history. But which mentioned a number of
people not attested in any Greek or Latin source other than the canon, a text which Scaliger could easily have
dismissed as a forgery, but didn’t. If Casaubon’s been taken
always as a self-torturer, someone whose work did nothing to
assuage his feelings of guilt or to make him feel as if he
labored in a proper vocation. Scaliger has always been seen as the
aristocrat who was free of any context. Jakob Bernais, the great German
scholar who wrote his biography, tells us with absolute credulity
how Scaliger learned Greek. Not by anything so pedestrian as reading
actual grammar, but by reading Homer in three weeks from end to end, compiling his
own grammar of Homeric Greek as he worked. He taught himself many other languages,
supposedly in the same way. And over time, despite having to
fight in the French wars of religion, made himself a sovereign Greek scholar,
who owed nothing to his time or place. One so sovereign that in his late 60s, he could translate marshall
into Greek lying in bed. Memorize the entire translation and
then write it out one day as a whole. So, here we have two different models,
but each of them is a model in which the scholar and
the context are pretty disassociated. And in which the conquest of antiquity,
though clear, is hard to tie to a larger world. Now these two Hellenists corresponded
with one another in long, frank letters over a period of 15 years. They also left rich information in many
forms about the way in which they thought about the ancient world with
scholarly tools they applied to it. And the kinds of dialogue they engaged in,
not only with one another, but with other informants. By examining some of these,
I hope to show we can, in fact, do some of the contextualizing that these
men in their enterprise have lacked. The first thing to realize is
that both men were readers, readers in a 16th century period sense,
only represented by certain eccentrics in the current
age of the hot link and the power skim. The humanists of the 16th century,
overwhelmed by floods of books and information that washed into their
studies in new languages from new continents, from new sources,
always read, pen in hand, bent nib raised to protect himself from
the overwhelming tide of new material. They read with equipment designed to
foster strenuous attentiveness and easy comparison of multiple sources. They prepared themselves morally and
aesthetically for the task of reading. Machiavelli, as you all know,
would play cards all day in the inn and then go home, wash,
dress himself in royal robes, and to dress himself to the ancients,
asking them question. And they, in their humanity, would answer. Casaubon tells us at least that he always
combed his hair before he went to his study to read. And as to Scaliger, he made reading one of
his miraculous accomplishments, he read in bed in a 16th century four poster
bed with a curtain without a candle. Light came out of his eyes,
he assures us, and is shown on the page. Such men made reading into a kind
of discipline that we now might find hard to imagine. They wreathed their copies of books
with annotations, as we will see. They compiled enormous notebooks
of the most varied kinds. On the left, you see one of
Casaubon’s textual notebooks. On the right, a ghost story that
Archbishop Lancelot Andrews of Evely told him that he carefully took down and
put in the same kind of notebooks. They classified their information. They made what some modern
historians have, I think, succumbed to the modern period
temptation of calling databases. What they did, I will argue,
is something rather different. They created what I like to
call a web that they wove. An advanced web of annotation and
written response that began in margins, moved into notebooks, and extended itself
into their letters, as well into drafts, into fragmentary treatises,
as well as into books never published. Only by reweaving the web,
by putting the publications in the context of these larger and very difficult
to describe activities can we actually see how they saw themselves and
saw the ancient world. And when we do this, when we let
the strands of the web lead us, we make many unexpected discoveries. This is a small notebook
which Casaubon bound into one of his working
copies of Theophrastus. There’s nothing surprising about
the bibliographical note in Latin on the top right. But there’s something a little unusual
about the note on the top left. It’s in Hebrew,
not a language you’d expect to find in a set of notes on Theophrastus,
the Athenian writer. It says [FOREIGN] praise be to God,
creator of the Universe, [FOREIGN] the word for
create is misspelled. Casaubon’s Hebrew was very, very fluent,
but he worked very quickly, and he made mistakes he would never
have made in Greek or Latin. What I and the collaborator
working on Casaubon have found, what I have found alone
in working with Scaliger, is that one of the discoveries you
make when you trace their web, is that a Jewish element exists in
unexpected, as well as expected places. An element sometimes couched in Hebrew or
Aramaic, sometimes in Greek, one that’s unexpectedly rich and
prominent. If you reconstruct Casaubon’s Hebrew
library, which we did by the simple expedient of examining every book printed
in Hebrew in the British Library. Which includes the old royal library, which it took in Casaubon’s
books before 1614. It turns out that he had the richest
Hebrew library in Britain at the time of his death, something which none of
his students has managed to tell us. And this was so
forgotten that in the 19th century, when his copy of David Kimhi’s Grammar,
The Book of Perfections, save for Nick Lowe,
appeared in the British Library. The scholar who found it interpreted
the signature at the bottom of the page as the signature of an otherwise unknown
rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Kazuban.>>[LAUGH]
>>In fact, it’s a major strand in his work. As to Scaliger,
there’s never been any question. He collected an extraordinary range
of what he called oriental books, or books in oriental languages, Arabic,
Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and others. These were incorporated thanks to his
bequest in what the University of Leiden Library called its arc
which you see on the right. The most special collection
in the University Library. You can see even the dog looking
impressed as he looks up at it. An extraordinary collection. So extraordinary in fact that
the librarians pasted the slips identifying books as belonging
to Scaliger’s legacy, and to a great many books that actually
had nothing to do with Scaliger. But the collection was rich enough for
all that, including everything from the magnificent,
illuminated, printed Hebrew Bible to the Jerusalem Talmud,
which he owned the actual main manuscript. As well as a printed edition
from the shop of Bamberg. So, these two men are dedicated
buyers of Hebrew. More impressive,
they’re dedicated readers. They began with texts of the Bible. When you studied Latin or Greek in the
Renaissance, you began with short texts, which were printed so as to give you
plenty of space to annotate, to parse, to take apart, to record meanings. Hebrew texts were printed in the same way. This is the Book of Hosea,
a prophetic book of the Bible, quite a short one printed for
the students at an intermediate stage. And as you see,
covered with Casaubon’s annotations. A couple of his printed books are so
heavily annotated that the Bodleian classes them as manuscripts
rather than printed books. When Casaubon really wanted to force
a text into his head in any language, he didn’t content himself with reading it,
he wrote it. As he recalled, Demosthenes had copied
out the Thucydides eight times. So, he copied out the considerably shorter
biblical book of Esther eight times annotating it as he went
forcing it into his memory. Scaliger did similar things
working his way as many Christian Hebraist did through the Hebrew
text of the Gospel of Matthew. Here you see that when Scaliger mastered
Hebrew, and in this case Aramaic and Syriac, he used grammars. This is Jean Mercier’s Aramaic grammar. This is the distinguished Italian
humanist Angelo Canini’s effort to sort out the different forms
of Aramaic and of Syriac. And here you see a very young
Scaliger proudly signing his name in multiple languages and showing off. So this gives you a sense
of the investment which Scaliger as well as
Casaubon made in these languages. Early in their careers both men
expected the study of Hebrew to pay off with wonders. Guillaume Postel, manuscript collector,
linguist and wanderer convinced Scaliger when the two of them lived together for
a few days in a printer’s house in Paris. So, Scaliger later recalled that
the Eastern languages contained great mysteries which Scaliger would
learn by mastering the tongues. Casaubon learned Rabbinical Hebrew
as he confided to a friend in the hope of taking an adventurous trip
to the Eastern Mediterranean where he would use it as a lingua franca while
discovering even rarer books in Arabic. Scaliger didn’t find the mysteries, Casaubon never made it
to the Mediterranean. Nonetheless, the ambitions give you
a sense of the scale of their plans. Over time however,
both of them veered from the cabalistic or magical side of Hebrew studies,
to a much more philological level. On the left, you see a note in which
Casaubon condemns the practices, very popular in the Jewish tradition,
and very, very popular among Christian Hebraist
of interpreting biblical texts, not through their semantic meanings,
but by for example, treating the letter as numbers and
interpreting their numerical values or finding rules for
substituting one letter for another. Casaubon condemns the process on the left, drawing on an argument from Scaliger’s
book, which I show you on the right. So the two of them really argue for a kind of philological approach to Hebrew,
rather than a mystical one. Neither of them was
contented with the Bible. Like all good Christian Hebraists,
they read Maimonides, whose Mishneh Torah you see here
on the left in a Venice edition. Casaubon’s notes show him appreciating
not just the content of the text but it’s particular Jewish aesthetic. He calls this a beautiful title
page in the manner of the Jews and he also calls attention, if you see in
this nitch in the triumphal arch you see the proverb from Moses to
Moses from Moses to Moses, Maimonides there arose no one like Moses,
calls attention to this as well. So, Casaubon was not just a Hellenist, but
a kind of Hebrew bibliophile steeped in Jewish books and
fascinated by their manner of production. Both men read a kind of Hebrew book
you really might not expect to find a Christian Hebraist reading,
prayer books. This is a list of Scaliger’s
oriental books made after his death. And as you see,
it included what the list maker, Bonaventura Vulcanius, called
a splendid volume, containing hymns and all the other things that
Jews sing in the synagogue. Casaubon owned several
Hebrew prayer books. On the left, you see him doing one of
his favorite things when reading Hebrew, translating into Greek as he goes,
line by line. On the right, at the bottom, you see him
doing the other thing he likes to do with Hebrew prayers, wondering about them. Why, he wonders, does an Orthodox Jewish
male thank God for not making him a woman. Sometimes the prayers baffled him,
the prayer of thanks for giving one all necessary or if this is was one that Casaubon
found impossible to believe existed. Much less to compute but
one kind of Jewish prayer fascinated him and called out all
his admiration, the Selichot, the prayers for forgiveness from
the day of repentance, as a Calvinist, latent with guilt for
all the time he wasted. Casaubon felt a deep kind
of [FOREIGN] with the Jews, who clearly felt exactly the same way. Casaubon and Scaliger’s reading went
into more obscure corners than that. This is the beginning note Casaubon
often puts in a single note in a book to single out what he thinks
is most important about it. In his copy of Sefer Hasidim a book that
both he and Scaliger owned copies of. This is a medieval text which
describes the practices and beliefs and
rules of Jewish life in Medieval Ashkenaz. Scaliger didn’t think much of it and Casaubon professed to agree with
him in a diplomatic letter. In fact, though, as Casaubon’s note says,
he found the book quite gripping. He was particularly fascinated,
as he says, by the fact that the book is full of
descriptions of Jewish scribal culture, terms for books, terms for scribes,
terms for writing implements. And he found more in the book
than technical information. Sefer Hasidim, as scholars have
discovered in the last 20 years or so, is one of the most
informative sources we have for the lives and roles of women in
the Medieval Ashkenazic world. And shows, among other things that they
had much to do with the trade for books. And at one point the book
tells a fabulous story. A Jewish woman angry with her husband
because he refuses to buy books, as a good Jewish husband would, refuses
in her turn to go to the ritual bath. Thus preventing him from
having sex with her. Was the strata and the you could say.>>[LAUGH]
>>Casaubon was a passionate book buyer, as passionate as any yeshiva bocher. He was also as dependent
a husband as any yeshiva bocher. Casaubon you see was a succor for any handsome young protestant
with the sob story. And even a bigger succor for any handsome book that he saw on
the book stalls around St. Paul’s. Near the end of his life, May 19th,
1611, he writes in his diary, today, I paid the booksellers what I owed,
except for Norton to whom I owe the most. I’ve emptied my purse, today, I decided that until Madame Casaubon comes
home, I will not spend more than a gold sovereign on books unless something
truly rare should turn up.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH]>>No wonder one thinks that when Casaubon read the tale of the Jewish wife, who insisted that her husband buy more
books, he wrote [FOREIGN] in the margin. He saw something himself, or something perhaps,
with Madame Casaubon in the Jewish wife. Both Scaliger and Casaubon learnt to
write Hebrew, as well as to read it, when Scaliger decided he needed information
about books from the Samaritan community. In Palestine, he wrote them a letter
in Hebrew of which this is a draft. And when Casaubon received the letter, which you see on the left from a Jewish
convert who taught in Germany, he replied in a fluent and
handsomely written Hebrew letter. You can see his signature, Isaac Casaubon. There’s Rabbi Casaubon down at
the very bottom of the page. So this was, of course, a standard
humanist text for mastering a language. Martin Cruzias,
the great humanist of tubing and who taught Johannes Kepler Greek,
kept his hand in with Greek by translating the sermons that he listened
to into Greek as he listened to them. 9,000 of these translations survive,
should anyone be looking for a dissertation topic in
Renaissance Hellenism. Casaubon and Scaliger didn’t write as
much Hebrew as they did Greek, but their accomplishments
are still quite impressive. They also read the work
of Christian Hebraist. And as we pursue them into
creative scholarship, the lessons of this engagement about their
vision of the past will begin to emerge. The first one is that they applied
the same methods to classical and to Jewish texts, whether the Jewish
texts were ancient or modern. Both Scaliger and
Casaubon deeply admired Johannes Buxtorf, professor in Basel, expert Hebraist,
and author of the [FOREIGN], the first detailed treatment of the lives
of Ashkenazic Jews which appeared in 1603. No cuddly philosemite,
Buxstorf does his best in describing the whole life cycle of an Ashkenazic Jew,
from birth to death in magnificent detail to prove that these
Jews were sunk in folly and superstition. They say they know God but
belie it by their works, since they are those whom God abominates. It’s an interesting
approach to ethnography. Scaliger remarks, it’s remarkable
that the Jews talked to Buxstorf, given how he speaks
about them in his book. Yet, both men knew that they
couldn’t rival Buxstorf for direct knowledge of Jewish life. This is Casaubon’s copy
of the Judenschule. If you look at the top right of the title
page, you will see the he calls attention to the fact that Buxstorf was
directly acquainted with rabbis and even partied with them. Below that, he lists page by page every
passage in which he thought that Buxtorf was describing Jewish life, not from
textual, but from personal information, from autopsy or from an account
actually given to him by a Jew. What Buxtorf didn’t say, but what
Casaubon had rightly inferred was that Buxtorf did in fact spend much time
talking to the Jews whose stubbornness and persisting in their religion
he disliked so much. Buxtorf’s notebook survives in Basel. And at the bottom of this page, you see
him giving an account of how when a Jew toasts a Christian at a wedding and
says, [FOREIGN] good life, he’s actually giving you a curse by manipulating
the numerical value of the letters. And Buxtorf actually records
that I learned this from a Jew in the 29th of May
in 1600 in the village of. Though it’s a very negative ethnography,
it’s ethnography carried out at a very high level of precision by
the standards of the 16th or sadly, even the 20th century. My favorite of these passages is the one
in which Buxtorf, dignified Basel professor, describes his conversation with
a Jew named Jacob Sephorim Trake or Jacob the book schleper, is a sort of character
out of Joseph Epstein’s short stories, Fabulous Little Jews, and whom Buxtorf
seems to have liked a little better. He doesn’t give any poisonous
information from this. What’s remarkable is that
Casaubon knew how to read ethnography because he was so
good a Hellinist. It was by reading Herodotus, whose work
both Scaliger and Casaubon read long before they read Buxtorf, that Scaliger
and Casaubon learned to read for autopsy and personal information
when reading a modern ethnography. Here, you see the notes that Scaliger
took on Herodotus in his 20s. They appear in the very beginning
of this copy of the book, which is still in
the Cambridge University Library. When Casaubon followed Herodotus to Egypt,
he noted every conversation in which Herodotus mentioned
getting information from the, and priests of thieves or
the inhabitants of Memphis. When Scaliger encountered the passage in
which Herodotus mentioned that he couldn’t give the number of how many Scythians they
were, because their accounts disagreed, Scaliger wrote, Herodotus was in Scythia. Again, we draw the curtain not of charity, but of prudence over discussing
what Herodotus knew about Scythia. What’s important here is that in age
of travel accounts and ethnography and age in which the book market was
flooded with accounts of the New World, accounts of China, accounts of Persia,
accounts of the other within the Jew, it was as classical
scholar that Casaubon and Scaliger responded to
this flooded information. The humanistic discipline,
as they understood it, was what enabled them to cope with
a flood of non-humanistic information. So that’s a first bit of
thinking about past and present which doesn’t emerge
from Panofsky’s paradigm. But the unity of classical and biblical,
of Greek and Jewish scholarship, comes out most starkly in
the technical work that Casaubon did. And here, I am going to revise
a starkly Panofskian analysis which I, myself, gave 25 years ago. A song of innocence about Casaubon and
explained both why I was wrong and why one has to understand
his work in a different way. The venerable character you see here is,
of course, the Egyptian sage, Hermes Trismegistus,
thrice-great Hermes, whose Greek works read and revered and
seen as diabolic in the Byzantine world, were brought to Italy in the 1450s,
were seen as they had been in Byzantium as the genuine work of an Egyptian writer
far older than any Greek writer, and were identified as the source from which
Plato had drawn the core of his doctrines. Marsilio Ficino, great Greek scholar, stopped translating Plato at
the direct request of his mystery oak, Cosimo de’ Medici, in order to translate
the word of Hermes Trimegistus. Which became a best-seller with
the magnificent blurb from a printers corrector saying,
whoever you are, buy me, for I am Hermes Trismegistus who astonished the
Barbarians and enlightened the Greeks and I will give you a great deal of
knowledge for a very small price. Hermes became a major figure in
the intellectual firmament of 15th and 16th century Hellenists. He won places of honor, as here in
the pavement of the Sienna cathedral, where he appears next to David, the author
of the Psalms, and to the Sibyls. And like both of them, he earned a place in a work that played
a central role in Casaubon’s life. The great church history of
the Italian scholar Cesare Baronio, Vatican librarian and
author of the first great effort to show that the church had never
changed from antiquity to the present. This is Casaubon’s copy on the left,
which survives in Dublin. It’s a magnificent polemical work, which argues that the church had sprung
into being in the time of Jesus. As it still was in the age of
the counter-reformation with bishops, with the mass, with the liturgy,
all of them never changed. The kind of book to make
a Protestant angry. And on the right, you see Casaubon’s note at the end
of page 173 in the first volume. All that he managed to study in sufficient
detail in order to refute the work, though he did read the entire book. And it’s his late marginalia
that are really chilling. He basically says of Mary Queen of Scots, it would take a heart of stone to
read her death without laughing.>>[LAUGH]
>>Now, Baronio really is the kind of
writer to enrage a Protestant. Here is the note that Jonathan Swift wrote after wiling away
years of boredom in Dublin, reading Baronio’s Annales. [FOREIGN] Thus,
after reading the 12 volumes, I assessed this [LAUGH] raging and bored, Jonathan Swift, 1729. Baronio provoked from
Casaubon the longest and nastiest book review in the entire
poisoned history of literature. 800 folio pages of venom directed against
the first 173 pages of Baronio’s work. What matters from our standpoint,
and what most of you know, is that this book contains the most famous
philological argument Casaubon ever made. The magnificent passage in which,
in ten pages of precise detailed argument, he shows that the dialogues of
Hermes Trismegistus cannot be Egyptian, cannot be ancient, cannot have anything
to do with their purported authorship. It’s the first great
demolition of a Greek fake or pseudepigraphon, as opposed to a Latin
one, carried out by a humanist. And it took a great deal of work. Poor Baronio, by the way,
never really meant for Hermes Trismegistus to occupy
a big part in his analysis. This is the manuscript of Baronio’s book,
which is in the Vatican library. And if you look closely, you see that he added his reference to
Mercurius Trismegistus at the last moment. I’m sure many of you, like me,
have done this from time to time when writing an article and
found that it’s always a bad idea. Baronio found exactly the same. For Casaubon, spurred by this
reference to Mercurius Trismegistus, obtained a copy of the book,
read it in his usual thorough way, and immediately began to find
anachronisms of every kind. References to Greeks who lived long after the time of
Hermes Trismegistus, Fidius for example. Borrowings from Plato,
rather than texts that Plato had used. Worse still, he found features
of the text that couldn’t possibly come from an Egyptian original,
as this text supposedly did. The Hermetic Corpus says that the term,
cosmos, is the right term for
the world or the universe. [FOREIGN]. It cosmizes everything. It puts everything in a beautiful order. All Casaubon wrote in his copy was cosmos. But in his final text, in which he attacks
Baronio, he asks the crucial question, are cosmos and cosmeo words from
the ancient Egyptian language? Obviously not. And it’s a brilliant piece
of scholarly detective work. And even the scholars who, in the 20th
century, have revived the argument that there are Egyptian elements to the
Hermetic Corpus has been unable to show that the texts as preserved
are anything but Greek originals. So far, I made my way 25 years ago. What I didn’t fully recognize was
the extent to which Casaubon’s argument about a Greek text,
Casaubon’s effort to discriminate, to rid the Greek corpus of a fake,
was actually tied to his Hebrew philology and his interest
in Jewish texts and Jewish sources. Casaubon read no texts more eagerly or
continually than the Hebrew prophets. His notes were full of discussions of
the rhetoric of Isaiah and Jeremiah. He was certain that true
prophecy was always difficult. And so, when he came across a passage in
Hermes Trismegistus where Hermes said, this mystery has been concealed
until this day when I reveal it, he became even more furious than usual. For, as he says, note if this is true,
and this man wrote before Moses, then God revealed his mysteries,
not through Moses but through this man. Casaubon, in other words,
found most offensive in Hermes, not the anachronistic references
to Greeks, not the slips that showed that he was writing in Greek, but
the claim to be a genuine pagan prophet. For Hermes, if he was a prophet, spoke
more clearly than the Hebrew prophets. He was far too true to be good,
and that was impossible. What I didn’t realize 25 years ago, what I
could have learned from Casaubon’s diary quoted at the top, was that at the same
time that he was reading Hermes and worrying about one kind of Pagan prophecy,
he was reading Christian Hebraist’s, and worrying about another kind. Here, he tells us that in June 1601, I spent some days with Galatinus and
Roychlin. And I’m not ashamed of the time
that I spent in reading them, even though learned men have
their great faults, too. Roychlin, of course, was the great
Christian Kabbalist whose approach to Hebrew Casaubon rejected even
though he admired his erudition. Galatinus meant much more to him. Pietro Galatino,
Catholic priest and Hebraist, had brought out a massive book in 1518
on the Secrets of Catholic Truth. In it, he quoted a vast range of ancient
texts for such they were taken throughout the 16th century, many of them in Hebrew,
many in Latin translation. Prophecies that he ascribed to rabbis,
who he said had predicted the truths of Christianity and the history of
the Christian world with utmost clarity. One of them in particular
infuriated Casaubon. According to Galatino,
one Rabbeinu HaKadosh, or holy rabbi,
had predicted the coming of the messiah. Had predicted that in the fourth
century Constantine’s mother Helen would discover
the true cross in Palestine. Had predicted the Christian
doctrine of transubstantiation. In these notes, which Casaubon took
to Galatino and Rabbeinu HaKadosh, you see Casaubon saying,
new guy, new guy, new guy. It’s remarkable. It’s more than remarkable how
confidently Galatino shows himself when he cites this pseudo rabbi, who he says so
many years before the birth of the lord, prophesied so
clearly about the mysteries of the faith. A letter to Scaliger, and here, you have the last bit,
where the web comes together. A web of marginal notes,
a web of reading notes, a web of correspondence brings
all the points together. In 16:1, Casaubon was reading Galatino. In 16:3, he writes to Scaliger to
ask what Scaliger thinks about that, our holy rabbi, that Rabinus Haccadosh. Whom Galatino uses to prove that
all the mysteries of Christianity, especially those of transubstantiation and
all those bells and whistles were known to
the most ancient Jews. I, says Casaubon, believe,
for pretty serious reasons, that the quotations from this and
similar ones from others are. No less than the texts of Trismegistus, which I will believe came from that
very ancient Egyptian on the day when I declare my formal divorce
from the art of criticism. Scaliger and Casaubon corresponded
at length without forgeries. Both of them were horrified,
especially at early Christian forgeries, that the fact that early Christians
had thought that the very enterprise of Jesus had needed
to be promoted with lies. Here you see that in this consultation,
they worked both with Christian and with Jewish texts in the same lines,
in the same letters. And that the approach they took
to both them was the same. Casaubon and Scaliger went into
harder Jewish forgeries and as well. For as they studied,
Jews and Greeks together, Hellenic scholarship itself mutated. What the great Jewish scholar,
Asaria Derossi, noticed in the 1570s, what Scaliger realized in the 1580s and
Casaubon realized with him was that tens of thousands of ancient Jews
had used Greek as their primary language, had read their Bible in Greek,
had written Greek. This fact had been forgotten
in both the Jewish and the Christian traditions
by the 15th century. The whole world of Hellenistic Judaism
had been forgotten. Philo was still read, but
he was treated as an honorary Christian. And otherwise, it was assumed that Jews had never
used the languages of ancient culture. Scaliger and Casaubon both realized that Greek texts by Jews formed
part of the ancient heritage. Both of them were particularly
interested in one of these, the Letter of Aristeas to Philocrates. It’s a marvelous text,
probably written in the second century BC, though controversy attends that,
as it does all other aspects of the text. Which describes how the Alexandrian
Library asked the high priest in Jerusalem to send translators
to Alexandria to make a proper version of the Pentateuch for
the king’s library. The high priest sends 72 translators,
6 from each of the 12 tribes. They bankrupt with
the king in Alexandria and tell him all sorts of interesting
things about Judaism. And then they translate the text, a task which coincidentally
takes exactly 72 days and produces a splendid version
of the Hebrew in Greek. These are Casaubon’s
reading notes on Aristeas. And here you see him saying, don’t think
this book is as ancient as it claims it is, but it’s still pretty ancient. And it’s certainly the kind of book that
I’m not ashamed to spend time reading, putting it in exactly the same category as
he put the work of the Christian Hebrews. What’s remarkable in this case is
the contrast in the two men’s approach to a text that still poses many
difficult philological problems. Scaliger, when he came
across inconsistencies and anachronisms, simply rejected
the text that contained them. The letter of Aristeas, supposedly
written in the third century BE, described the Jews as
still having 12 tribes. But most of those tribes
had gone off into exile and never come back, several centuries before. The text imagined Demetrius as
the Alexandrian library and who took care of the actual
process of translation. Scaliger found that implausible as
Roger Bagnal has recently argued, it is implausible to charge him without, though
once again, controversy rages over this. Scaliger rejected the text entirely. Moreover, he drew a moral from it. He argued that Hellenistic Jews were
really not to be trusted as sources. They didn’t know Hebrew. They invented stories about Hebrew, as Philo had invented stories
about the meaning of Hebrew words. So for Scaliger, the single text
was a diagnostic indication that the larger Greek
literature of Jewish Hellenism really presented more a problem
than a resource to the scholar. Casaubon had read Scaliger and
discussed Aristeas with him, but he takes a different approach to the text,
as you can see. He doesn’t think it’s genuine,
but as he reads it, he finds elements that seem to
him to reflect genuine antiquity. A reference to Efimerides of
the kings of Egypt, for example, sparks a remark about the official diaries
of Alexander the Great and his successors. What interested him particularly was
the fact that the Jews described by Aristeas washed their hands
before they discussed the Torah. In the gospels, as you’ll remember,
Pontius Pilate washes his hands. Casaubon, 20 years
before he read Aristeas, had argued that Pilot must have
been carrying out a Jewish ritual, since he couldn’t find any evidence
that washing hands was a purificatory or apotropaic ritual in Greece or in Rome. Here, in Aristaeus,
he found Jewish evidence, as he thought, imperfectly preserved,
but still clearly somehow Jewish evidence to confirm his
reading of the biblical account. For Casaubon, therefore, the text,
though of problematic authorship, was not to be rejected, but to be
sifted for its historical information. In this case, Casaubon’s analysis of
the text achieved something that no philologist among you will ever manage to
do more than once or twice in a lifetime. He convinced Scaliger, who,
in his last approach to the text, remarks on the washing of hands, of the fact that Casaubon had shown
this to be a genuinely Jewish ritual. It’s very rare in the world
of my humanists, for one, to convince another of a technical point. I fear it may still be rare
in the world of humanism. Most central here, as I hope is clear, is what’s happening to Hellenism
as the two men work on it. Greek literature is becoming something
much more complicated than the product of a single civilization. It’s becoming the product of multiple
civilizations, as in fact, it was historically striated, full of texts
of different value, texts that present problems, some of which are incredibly
difficult and some literally insoluble. This isn’t the direct discovery of
an ancient world seen in all its proportions and colors, but
the discovery of an ancient world too complicated to be seen and
understood that way. And it’s precisely the points at which
Jewish and classical sources and problems intersect, where the particularity
of that discovery is most visible. The most important Greek text for
Scaliger and Casaubon was, of course, the New Testament. Immeasurably more important than
anything we would call classical remark Patterson would call classical. Mark Patterson church of England
clergyman bitterly complained that Casaubon preferred bastard Christian Greek
to the true Greek of the fourth and fifth centuries BC. Casaubon and Scaliger wouldn’t
have understood the criticism. They were as dedicated to
the Greek of Josephus as they were to the Hebrew of the Medieval Hebrew
translation of Josephus, the Josephon. And above all else, they were dedicated to understanding
the Greek of the New Testament. And at the ends of their lives,
both of them found that they had to work with Hebrew sources and
even work with Jewish informants, if they were to understand that
Greek text in all its fullness. In 1613, Casaubon went to
the Bodleian Library at Oxford to continue his project of working on
Casaubon, his attack on Boronia. Here are some of the notes
that he took there. He really loved the Bodleian library,
as we all must. It is a magnificent institution,
architecturally beautiful, stocked with wonderful books. It was also the first library
in the modern world to have an acquisition’s budget. Though unfortunately, Bodley,
who undoubted underestimated how much would be necessary, and
the endowment was soon exhausted. And it was the first library to have a
donor’s book, where everyone after Bodley, who gave books to the library,
found his name celebrated. Above all, it was the first library to
refuse to let its treasures circulate. Normally, Renaissance libraries
allowed you to borrow books. The Vatican let you borrow manuscripts. You had to wrap the chain that was
supposed to hold them to their desk around them, so you’d remember that they weren’t
your manuscripts and bring them back. If you forgot, you might receive
an angry recall letter from the Pope. It happened more than once. Nonetheless, the principle was clear. Libraries were generally
open very short hours. Most serious scholarly work
was done outside them. The Bodleian, by contrast,
was a non-circulating library. It opened six or seven hours a day,
and so as Casaubon noted, one not only learned a great deal there,
but met every serious scholar in Oxford. One of them was particularly serious, a
young Jew from Italy named Jacob Barnett. Who lived in Oxford in the early 16 teens,
teaching boys who were gonna be ministers Hebrew and helping
the Professor of Hebrew with his studies. Casaubon had a particular problem from
which he needed help from Jewish law. After the opening up of
the catacombs in 1578, Barronio had argued that the catacombs represented
a new kind of Christian burial. And that this kind of Christian burial had
actually begun with the burial of Jesus as described in the synoptic gospels. And that there was, in other words,
a new way of interring the dead, as well as a new way of
worship in Christianity. Casaubon didn’t believe this. He was certain that the burial of Jesus
in the Gospels was a Jewish burial. He consulted Jacob. Jacob took Casaubon, this is the first
time that we can see a Christian do this, surfing in the Babylonian talmud,
[FOREIGN]. He found Casaubon a passage
on the law of burial, particularly the law of the niches or
[FOREIGN], in which Jews were buried. Casaubon took down what Jacob told him,
his hands trembling with excitement. And used it in magnificent passages of his attack on Baronio to show
that Jesus was buried as a Jew. Scaliger came to see the New Testament as permeated not only with
descriptions of Pharisees and Sadducees, but
actually permeated with Pharisee and Sadducee beliefs,
which Jesus often espoused. He found Jesus and
the disciples often to be quoting what he learned from his Jewish informant,
Philip Ferdinand. And this is a Hebrew book that
belonged to Philip Ferdinand, a convert who taught Arabic in Lyden and
read the Talmud with Scaliger. What Ferdinand showed him were proverbs
and sayings to be found in the Talmud. So both Casaubon and Scaliger,
at the end of their lives, found themselves reading
Jewish legal sources. Sources too difficult for them, which they had to work through with
the help of Jewish informants in order, so they said, to explicate the most
important of Greek texts, the founding texts of Protestant Christianity,
the Greek texts of the New Testament. What did this actually mean? It meant that Scaliger and Casaubon
had come to see Christianity itself, in its early centuries as
permeated with Judaism. As a religion that arose in a Jewish
world and that had retained, for decades and centuries,
Jewish practices and Jewish customs. Scaliger was actually inspired to
learn this by an unlearned Jew, a Jewish woman that he met
in Avignon as a young man. He ate with her at meals,
she was willing to eat fish with him. And they talked about
all sorts of matters. At one point, she told him a joke about
why the local rabbi was so stupid. This is a very common
form of Jewish humor. And what she explained was
that the Jews of Avignon, who were of course under papal control
in the 14th century, hadn’t wanted talented young men to run the risk of
attracting attention from the papacy. So they had sent them all away and
made the stupidest male Jew in Avignon, who had been properly circumcised,
their rabbi. So that if he attracted papal attention,
no harm would come to the community. Scaliger left where upon
the Jewish woman said, don’t leave, sir,
your Jesus was a circumcised Jew too. From that moment on, Scaliger told
the students who sat in his garden enlightened, and there you see him
sitting in his garden with the students. From that moment on, he became intensely conscious of
Jewish elements in early Christianity. Casaubon seems to have imbibed
this interest from Scaliger. But he felt it equally strongly. Partly, of course,
it was a historical tool. To see Christianity in its first decades
as Jewish was to see it as not Catholic. Barronio, for example,
explained what Jesus called the apostles. You all know, of course,
what the Virgin Mary reads. She’s a well brought up girl,
so what does she read? She reads the life of the Virgin Mary. Barronio asked himself,
what did Jesus call the apostles? Well, they were apostles, so
of course, he called them apostles. Casaubon asked Jacob Barnett what
Jesus would have called his apostles. And Jacob came up with a good
Aramaic word, sheliach, and said that’s what he would have called
them, a Jewish word for the apostles. That’s a remarkable thing for a 16th century Protestant
to be weighing in his mind. It was Scaliger who went furthest,
with Casaubon’s complete approval. Scaliger argued that the Last Supper
itself was only a partial account of what had taken place at Jesus’
last meetings with his [FOREIGN]. Jesus had not only said the words of
institution for the bread and wine. He had also celebrated
the Passover Seder with his apostles. So, said Scaliger, we must reconstruct
the Passover Seder if we’re going to understand exactly what happened at this
critical moment in the life of our savior. So, we must read a Haggadah,
the liturgy of the Passover Seder. When we do that, however, Scaliger noted, applying to a Jewish source the same
method he applied to Greek ones. We see that this is a text that took
shape after the fall of the temple, and that’s after the life of Jesus. So we must subject the Haggadah
itself to a historical analysis. Identify those elements,
like the prayer to all to come and eat bread, which might come from
before the fall of the temple. And that will give us the key to
what Jesus did with his disciples. It’s one of the most elaborate,
subtle, and daring historical reconstructions offered
by any scholar in the 16th century. Word ran around the Protestant
networks immediately. You can find letters from
Protestant to Protestant. Not just theologians, but jurists and
classical scholars, saying, have you read what Scaliger says about
the Passover and the Last Supper? Hisalben merely noted on the cover of
one of his copies of Scaliger’s book, note the [FOREIGN], the golden treatment
of Passover and Easter in Scaliger’s book. So this was a point in which
they had come together. What did this mean? It meant that Christianity
itself was not to be understood away from a Jewish context. That meant that the Greek of
Christianity might be Jewish Greek, an argument that was pursued
by Scaliger’s disciples and others through the rest of the 17th and
18th century. That meant so Scaliger told the boy
sitting in his garden that certain Jewish rituals had survived
in early Christianity. And said Scaliger,
it was right to keep them. I wish we had kept them even now. It meant finally that serious scholarship had to involve not just reading,
but dialogue. Dialogue with the Jews,
who were, after all, the only profound guardians
of their own tradition. And dialogue had its own dangers. After Jacob Barnet studied with Casaubon,
he went back to Oxford. And the Oxford authorities
decided that it was time for him to convert to Christianity. They wrote to Casaubon to say they were
going to convert him to Christianity and ask Casaubon how to do that since
there were almost no Jews in England. Adult baptism was illegal,
nobody actually knew how to convert a Jew. Casaubon wrote back,
I think he’s really Jewish. I don’t think you should
convert him at all.>>[LAUGH]
>>Nonetheless, the conversion was planned for the first Sunday of term in
Saint Mary’s Church in Oxford. And on the first Saturday of term, the
authorities went to find Jacob Barnett and discovered that he had run away. They went after him on horse and foot. Universities had police
in the good old days. They put him in Bacardo, universities
had jails in the good old days. And they subjected him to long and
brutal questioning, and interrogation, and threats in the hope of making him
finally agree to become Christian. When Casaubon heard of this,
he was horrified. He was sad that Jacob hadn’t really wanted
to convert, but he was horrified to see a scholar treated this way,
simply because he didn’t want to convert. And he wrote a letter to a prelate
above him in the order of dignities to go in turn to King James,
who was Casaubon’s patron. And King James, indeed, sent his man
with a writ to take Jacob Barnett out of jail in Oxford,
put him on a boat in Dover. I’m happy to say he next turns up at
the French court in Paris as the French monarchy’s expert on Jewish affairs. He was clearly a man of parts. So the web of reading,
the web of annotation, stretched from antiquity to modernity, stretched
out of the books to human contacts. Scaliger’s web did too, though Scaliger
had no such unhappy experiences, merely happy ones as he walked the streets
of the Jewish corridor of Amsterdam, where Portuguese Jews had been admitted. Admiring the Jewish women sitting
outside their houses on the Sabbath and observing the Sabbath. And telling his students, it’s wonderful
that the estates have readmitted the Jews. Jews are fantastic,
they make a lot of money for us, and they teach us things about Hebrew.>>[LAUGH]
>>At this point, perhaps it’s clear that any thought that
Scaliger and Casaubon were Hellenists in that Neoclassical wave that one used
to think of them is completely false. Their vision of antiquity was complex,
striated, multicultural. Their antiquity became, if anything,
harder to judge, and decipher, and reconstruct, and visualize over time,
rather than easier. And was, I would argue, on that account, all the more remarkable as an achievement
of scholarly technique and human empathy. I offer this little story as
a tribute to a department of the study of the ancient world,
which perhaps, more than any other in this country,
also seeks, as I see it from afar. Not to approach the ancient world as
a simple thing that can be seen and judged and laid out in all its dimensions
and colors, but as it should be. As a world that is eternally fascinating,
that becomes not less, but more puzzling, as we know it better. Thank you very much.>>[APPLAUSE] [MUSIC]

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