Renaissance Englands Chief Rabbi: John Selden

Paperback | October 1, 2008

byJason P. Rosenblatt

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In the midst of an age of prejudice, John Selden's immense, neglected rabbinical works contain magnificent Hebrew scholarship that respects, to an extent remarkable for the times, the self-understanding of Judaism. Scholars celebrated for their own broad and deep learning gladly concededSelden's superiority and conferred on him titles such as 'the glory of the English nation' (Hugo Grotius), 'Monarch in letters' (Ben Jonson), 'the chief of learned men reputed in this land' (John Milton). Although scholars have examined Selden (1584-1654) as a political theorist, legal andconstitutional historian, and parliamentarian, Renaissance England's Chief Rabbi is the first book-length study of his rabbinic and especially talmudic publications, which take up most of the six folio volumes of his complete works and constitute his most mature scholarship. It traces the culturalinfluence of these works on some early modern British poets and intellectuals, including Jonson, Milton, Andrew Marvell, James Harrington, Henry Stubbe, Nathanael Culverwel, Thomas Hobbes, and Isaac Newton. It also explores some of the post-biblical Hebraic ideas that served as the foundation ofSelden's own thought, including his identification of natural law with a set of universal divine laws of perpetual obligation pronounced by God to our first parents in paradise and after the flood to the children of Noah. Selden's discovery in the Talmud and in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah of sharedmoral rules in the natural, pre-civil state of humankind provides a basis for relationships among human beings anywhere in the world. The history of the religious toleration of Jews in England is incomplete without acknowledgment of the impact of Selden's uncommonly generous Hebrew scholarship.

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In the midst of an age of prejudice, John Selden's immense, neglected rabbinical works contain magnificent Hebrew scholarship that respects, to an extent remarkable for the times, the self-understanding of Judaism. Scholars celebrated for their own broad and deep learning gladly concededSelden's superiority and conferred on him titles ...

Jason P. Rosenblatt is Professor of English at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. His prior teaching experience includes stints at Brown University (where he received his advanced degrees), the University of Pennsylvania, and Swarthmore College. Publications include iTorah and Law in/i 'Paradise Lost' (Princeton 1994), a coedited...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:328 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.75 inPublished:October 1, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199234302

ISBN - 13:9780199234301

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. iHamlet/i, Henry, iEpicoene/i, and Hebraica: Marriage Questions2. Selden, Jonson, and the Rabbis on Cross-Dressing and Bisexual Gods3. Selden and Milton on Gods and Angels4. Samson's Sacrifice5. Andrew Marvell, Samuel Parker, and the Rabbis on Zealots and Proselytes6. Natural Law and Noahide Precepts: Grotius, Selden, Milton, and Barbeyrac7. Selden's iDe Jure Naturali . . . Juxta Disciplinam Ebraeorum/i and Religious Toleration8. Selden and Stubbe on Idolatry, Blasphemy, and the Passion Narrative9. Culverwel on Selden's Rabbinica: The Limits of a Liberal's Toleration10. Selden's Rabbis in the Court of Common Pleas11. Selden on ExcommunicationConclusionAppendix: Selden's Letter to Jonson (Jason P. Rosenblatt and Winfried Schleiner (eds.))

Editorial Reviews

"Primarily a brilliant analysis of the importance of Selden and the scope of his learning...a majestic survey of classical, biblical, and rabbinic scholarship in works by Selden's contemporaries...a masterful portrayal of Selden's humanism."--Noam Flinker, Hebraic Political Studies "Grounded in profound scholarship and a lifetime of Talmudic learning, this book sets a new high-water-mark for seventeenth-century literary, religious, and cultural studies."--William E. Engel, Seventeenth-Century News "Jason Rosenblatt's book elegantly demonstrates a twentieth-century scholar's understanding of - and appreciation for - a seventeenth century scholar's humane learning...well-written...a necessary book."--Achsah Guibbory, Renaissance Quarterly "It is a delight to share Rosenblatt's delight in overturning modern academic prejudices"--Brian Cummings, Times Literary Supplement "This is a major study of a major figure in 17th-century intellectual history. Summing Up: Highly recommended."--E. D. Hill, CHOICE