The rediscovery of medieval Jewish philosophy of religion as a model for a modern concept of Judaism was largely the work of several nineteenth-century scholars belonging to the movement for a Wissenschaft des Judentums, commencing in the 1820s in Germany. This study provides an account of the first critical-academic reception of Yehuda Halevi's twelfth-century work Sefer ha-Kuzari within the Wissenschaft movement between the years 1840 and 1865. In those years an interesting development can be observed. Contrary to the assumption that the reform-minded protagonists of the movement would neglect the antiphilosophical Kuzari in favor of Maimonides' rationalism in the Guide for the Perplexed, the essay finds that in the contemporary discussions of Halevi the opposite was the case. Beginning with the rediscovery of the Kuzari and the publication of the first academic editions of Halevi's philosophical work in the 1840s, the work was deeply appreciated by the Wissenschaft scholars for its promotion of Jewish spirituality as an alternative to dry legal talmudism. In more general terms, by rediscovering its own rich theological traditions from the Middle Ages, this first generation of university-trained Jewish scholars was able to build a new, independent, and complex self-image for Judaism in modernity without relying on Christian (Protestant) concepts or theological doctrine.


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pp. 335-359
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