The New International Encyclopædia/Reuchlin, Johann

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The New International Encyclopædia
Reuchlin, Johann
Edition of 1905. See also Johann Reuchlin on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

REUCHLIN, roiK'lḗn, Johann, known also by the Greek form of his name, Capnio (1455-1522). The first humanist of Germany and one of the earliest promoters of Hebrew studies in that country. He was born at Pforzheim, in Baden, February 22, 1455. He began his studies at his native place, continued them at Freiburg, and in 1473 accompanied Prince Frederick of Baden to Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Johann Wessel (q.v.) and began to study Greek. The next year he went to Basel, where he took his bachelor's degree in 1475 and his master's in 1477. He then revisited France, studied law at Orleans and Poitiers, and gave lectures in Greek and Latin. In 1481 he established himself at Tübingen as teacher of jurisprudence and literature. He entered the service of Eberhard, first Duke of Württemberg, accompanied him to Italy in 1482, and was employed in a number of public services. He visited Italy again in 1490. In 1492 the Emperor made him a count of the German Empire, and about the same time he began the study of Hebrew under a learned Jew who was Imperial physician. In 1496, after Eberhard's death, he went to Heidelberg, and made a third visit to Italy in the service of the Elector Palatine in 1498. At Rome he applied himself with renewed vigor to the study of Hebrew and Greek. He returned to Württemberg in 1499, and in 1502 was made a member of the Swabian confederate tribunal, retaining the office till 1513. In consequence of a quarrel between Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg, and the Swabian League, he went to Ingolstadt in 1519 and taught Greek and Hebrew at the university. When the plague broke out at Ingolstadt two years later he returned to Tübingen, intending to devote himself exclusively to study, but soon fell sick, and died at Liebenzell, June 30, 1522. Reuchlin is justly regarded as the father of Greek and Hebrew studies in Germany. He had great ability as a teacher, and, although for most of his life he held no professorial chair and was not always free to lecture openly, nevertheless he directed and encouraged the study of both languages in his generation. His devotion to Hebrew was the cause of the most interesting and important incident of his life. In 1510 one Johann Pfefferkorn, a baptized Jew, called upon princes and subjects to prosecute the religion of his fathers, and especially urged the Emperor to burn or confiscate all Jewish books except the Bible. Reuchlin remonstrated, maintaining that only books directly written against Christianity should be destroyed. This attitude drew upon him the enmity of the Dominicans, and particularly of the Inquisitor Jakob van Hoogstraten (q.v.). Reuchlin's opponents controlled the universities of Paris, Louvain, Erfurt, and Mainz; but many of the distinguished and independent thinkers of Germany were on the side of the scholar. Ulrich von Hutten and Franz von Sickingen in particular gave him support and protection, the latter threatening Hoogstraten and the monks with terrible vengeance if they did not cease to persecute “his teacher, Doctor Reuchlin, that wise, experienced, pious, and ingenious man.” The Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum (q.v.) was an outcome of the contest. While there was much in Reuchlin's character and experience to draw him toward the Reformation, he never openly joined the movement, and late in life declared against Luther. Melanchthon was his great-nephew. Heuchlin's works include editions and Latin translations of Greek texts: a Vocabularius Latinus Breviloquus (1475); a manuscript Greek grammar (not published); the Rudimenta Linguæ Hebraicæ (1506), which, with pardonable pride, he declares to be “the first attempt to execute a grammar of the Hebrew tongue.” and made “without any foreign help;” De Accentibus et Orthographi Hebræorum Libri III. (1518); an edition of the seven Penitential Psalms (1512), the first Hebrew book printed in Germany; De Verbo Mirifico (1494); and De Arte Cabbalistica (1517), works on the Cabbala; Scenica Progymnasmata (1497), and Sergius (1507), Latin satirical comedies, not without humor and literary merit; the Augenspiegel (1511; ed. by Mayerhoff, Berlin, 1836), a reply to a book by Pfefferkorn (the Handspiegel). Two of Reuchlin's Greek treatises, the De Quatuor Idiomatibus and Colloquia græca, have been published by Horawitz under the title Griechische Studien (Berlin, 1884). The best biography of Reuchlin is Geiger, Johann Reuchlin; sein Leben und seine Werke (Leipzig, 1871); consult also: id., Johann Reuchlins Briefwechsel (Tübingen, 1875); Horawitz, Zur Biographie und Korrespondenz J. Reuchlins (Vienna, 1877); Holstein, J. Reuchlins Komödien (Halle, 1888); Strauss, Ulrich von Hutten (6th ed., Leipzig, 1895), for the controversy about the Jewish books.