1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Geiger, Abraham

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GEIGER, ABRAHAM (1810–1874), Jewish theologian and orientalist, was born at Frankfort-on-Main on the 24th of May 1810, and educated at the universities of Heidelberg and Bonn. As a student he distinguished himself in philosophy and in philology, and at the close of his course wrote on the relations of Judaism and Mahommedanism a prize essay which was afterwards published in 1833 under the title Was hat Mohammed aus dem Judentum aufgenommen? (English trans. Judaism and Islam, Madras, 1898). In November 1832 he went to Wiesbaden as rabbi of the synagogue, and became in 1835 one of the most active promoters of the Zeitschrift für jüdische Theologie (1835–1839 and 1842–1847). From 1838 to 1863 he lived in Breslau, where he organized the reform movement in Judaism and wrote some of his most important works, including Lehr- und Lesebuch zur Sprache der Mischna (1845), Studien from Maimonides (1850), translation into German of the poems of Juda ha-Levi (1851), and Urschrift und Übersetzungen der Bibel in ihrer Abhängigkeit von der innern Entwickelung des Judentums (1857). The last-named work attracted little attention at the time, but now enjoys a great reputation as a new departure in the methods of studying the records of Judaism. The Urschrift has moreover been recognized as one of the most original contributions to biblical science. In 1863 Geiger became head of the synagogue of his native town, and in 1870 he removed to Berlin, where, in addition to his duties as chief rabbi, he took the principal charge of the newly established seminary for Jewish science. The Urschrift was followed by a more exhaustive handling of one of its topics in Die Sadducäer und Pharisäer (1863), and by a more thorough application of its leading principles in an elaborate history of Judaism (Das Judentum und seine Geschichte) in 1865–1871. Geiger also contributed frequently on Hebrew, Samaritan and Syriac subjects to the Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, and from 1862 until his death (on the 23rd of October 1874) he was editor of a periodical entitled Jüdische Zeitschrift für Wissenschaft und Leben. He also published a Jewish prayer-book (Israëlitisches Gebetbuch) and a variety of minor monographs on historical and literary subjects connected with the fortunes of his people.  (I. A.) 

An Allgemeine Einleitung and five volumes of Nachgelassene Schriften were edited in 1875 by his son Ludwig Geiger (b. 1848), who in 1880 became extraordinary professor in the university of Berlin. Ludwig Geiger published a large number of biographical and literary works and made a special study of German humanism. He edited the Goethe-Jahrbuch from 1880, Vierteljahrsschrift für Kultur und Litteratur der Renaissance (1885–1886), Zeitschr. für die Gesch. der Juden im Deutschland (1886–1891), Zeitschr. für vergleichende Litteraturgeschichte und Renaissance-Litteratur (1887–1891). Among his works are Johann Reuchlin, sein Leben und seine Werke (Leipzig, 1871); and Johann Reuchlin’s Briefwechsel (Tübingen, 1875); Renaissance und Humanismus in Italien und Deutschland (1882, 2nd ed. 1901); Gesch. des geistigen Lebens der preussischen Hauptstadt (1892–1894); Berlin’s geistiges Leben (1894–1896).

See also J. Derenbourg in Jüd. Zeitschrift, xi. 299–308; E. Schrieber, Abraham Geiger als Reformator des Judentums (1880), art. (with portrait) in Jewish Encyclopedia.

Abraham Geiger’s nephew Lazarus Geiger (1829–1870), philosopher and philologist, born at Frankfort-on-Main, was destined to commerce, but soon gave himself up to scholarship and studied at Marburg, Bonn and Heidelberg. From 1861 till his sudden death in 1870 he was professor in the Jewish high school at Frankfort. His chief aim was to prove that the evolution of human reason is closely bound up with that of language. He further maintained that the origin of the Indo-Germanic language is to be sought not in Asia but in central Germany. He was a convinced opponent of rationalism in religion. His chief work was his Ursprung und Entwickelung der menschlichen Sprache und Vernunft (vol. i., Stuttgart, 1868), the principal results of which appeared in a more popular form as Der Ursprung der Sprache (Stuttgart, 1869 and 1878). The second volume of the former was published in an incomplete form (1872, 2nd ed. 1899) after his death by his brother Alfred Geiger, who also published a number of his scattered papers as Zur Entwickelung der Menschheit (1871, 2nd ed. 1878; Eng. trans. D. Asher, Hist. of the Development of the Human Race, Lond., 1880).

See L. A. Rosenthal, Laz. Geiger: seine Lehre vom Ursprung d. Sprache und Vernunft und sein Leben (Stuttgart, 1883); E. Peschier, L. Geiger, sein Leben und Denken (1871); J. Keller, L. Geiger und d. Kritik d. Vernunft (Wertheim, 1883) and Der Ursprung d. Vernunft (Heidelberg, 1884).