Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Rabbis Hoffmann and Hirsch on Teaching Biblical Criticism

Alexander Marx (son-in-law of R. David Tzvi Hoffmann), "David Hoffmann" in Essays in Jewish Biography, pp. 197-198:

One of the fields in which Dr. Hoffmann's works were of outstanding significance was the study of the Pentateuch. Scientific research on the book which is the foundation stone of Judaism had been left entirely to the Protestant theologians... An interpretation of the Pentateuch, in accordance with modern scholarship, but with proper regard to Jewish tradition, was a crying need which was widely felt but from which the handful of Jewish scholars shied away. Hoffmann was the first and most outstanding scholar who successfully tried to fight the opponents with their own weapons.

In appointing Dr. Hoffmann as teacher of the Pentateuch at the Berlin Seminary, Dr. Hildesheimer felt that he was fulfilling the obligation of the new institution to equip the future rabbis with the ability to answer the constant attacks on the authenticity of our holiest book. Even a man like Samson Raphael Hirsch, who in his own writings avoided this subject, asked Hoffmann during the first year of his incumbency whether he paid attention to biblical criticism in his lectures, and, glad to learn that this was the case, strongly encouraged him to continue along these lines.

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