Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/609

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an enthusiast for Hebrew scholarship. He furnished it with several aids, including the grammar and lexicon (Rudimenta Hebraica) which he brought out in 1506. And it was as a defender of Hebrew letters that he became engaged in a struggle which went far to decide the immediate future of the New Learning in Germany.

In 1509 Johann Pfefferkorn, a converted Jew, sought from the Emperor Maximilian a mandate for the suppression of all Hebrew books except copies of the Bible. Reuchlin was consulted, and opposed the measure. He was then attacked by Pfefferkorn as a traitor to the Church. In 1514 he was accused by the Dominicans of Cologne, whose dean was the Inquisitor Hochstraten, in the ecclesiastical Court at Mainz. The Bishop of Speyer, acting for the Pope, acquitted him, and the decision was confirmed at Rome in 1516. This was an impressive victory for Reuchlin. Afterwards, on an appeal of the Dominicans, Rome reversed the previous judgment, and condemned him (1520); but that sentence passed unnoticed, and has come to light only in our own time.

Meanwhile the German humanists had taken up Reuchlin's cause, which, as they saw, was their own. If Jews should be forbidden to read such an author as Maimonides, who was useful to St Thomas Aquinas, how could Christians be allowed to read Homer, who depicts the immoralities of Olympus? Never was intolerance a fairer mark for the shafts of ridicule. The first volume of the Epistolae Obscurorum Vir-orum, written chiefly by Crotus Rubeanus, appeared in 1514; the second, chiefly by Ulrich von Hütten, in 1517. The writers wield, with trenchant if somewhat brutal force, a weapon which had been used with greater subtlety by Plato, and to which a keener edge was afterwards given by Pascal. They put the satire into the mouths of the satirised. Bigots and obscurantists bear witness in dog-Latin to their own ineptitude. Reuchlin's triumph in 1516 had an immediate and momentous effect on German opinion. A decided impetus was given to Hebrew and to Greek studies, especially in their bearing on Biblical criticism and on theology. This was the direction characteristic of the earlier humanism in Germany. Almost all the more eminent scholars were occupied, at least occasionally, with theological discussions. In 1525, three years after Reuchlin's death, Erasmus wrote a letter to Alberto Pio, prince of Carpi (the pupil and benefactor of Aldo), in which he observes that the adversaries of the New Learning had been anxious to identify it with the Lutheran cause. They hoped, he says, thus to damage two enemies at once. In Germany, during the earlier half of the sixteenth century, the alliance between humanism and the Reformation was real and intimate. The paramount task which the New Learning found in Germany was the elucidation of the Bible. But the study of the classical literatures also made steady progress, and was soon firmly established in German education.

Foremost among those who contributed to that result was Melanchthon