Philippson Bible

views updated


Sigmund Freud's father Jakob Freud (1815-96) came from a Hassidic community in Tysmenitza, in Galicia. He familiarized his son Sigmund, from age seven, with Ludwig Philippson's Hebrew Bible, in a richly illustrated, bilingual Hebrew-German edition.

In all probability, he had acquired the second edition, published in 1858, at the establishment of Baumgärtner, a bookseller in Leipzig, during the family's trip from Freiberg to Vienna with little Sigismund, then three years old. Jakob inscribed in this Bible the date of the death of his own father, Schlomo, along with the following: "My son Sigmund Schlomo was born on Tuesday, the first day of Iar 616 at 6:30 in the afternoon, or 6 May 1856. He entered into the Jewish Covenant on Tuesday 8 Iar, or 13 May 1856. The Mohel was Rabbi Samson Frankl."

Jakob Freud had this Bible rebound in leather in 1891 and gave it to Sigmund for his thirty-fifth birthday with a dedication, written in Hebrew characters, that is a mosaic of sentences excerpted from the Bible, the Talmud, and the Jewish liturgy, showing that he was a learned Jew and an expert in biblical reading. According to a study by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, the heritage this dedication holds is a coded message from the father, seventy-seven years old at the time, advocating a return to the Bible as a source of creative inspiration. There is some discord between, on the one hand, the knowledge and meaning evident in the dedication, which display a biblical spirit; and on the other the rationalist tenor of the Philippson Bible, which is infused with the spirit of the Enlightenment, even if the Hebrew text itself, bears a traditional orientation. Freud himself, in a 1935 addendum to "An Autobiographical Study" (1925 [1924]), revealed the impact this early reading had on him: "My deep engrossment in the Bible story (almost as soon as I had learnt the art of reading) had, as I recognized much later, an enduring effect upon the direction of my interest." (p. 8).

The critique of religion elaborated in Freud's scientific writings originated in his youth, but his affirmations relating to his Jewish identity and his belonging to the Jewish people are an integral part of his life story, from his earliest years to his last days.

Eva Laible

See also: Freud, Jakob Kollomon (or Keleman or Kallomon); Judaism and psychoanalysis.


Freud, Sigmund (1925 [1924]). An autobiographical study. SE, 20: 1-74.

Grosz, Ronald. (1992). Das jüdische element in Freuds psychoanalyse. Dissertation zur Erlangung des Doktorgrades der Philosophie an der Grund-und Integrationswissenschaftlichen Fakultät der Universität Wien. Vienna, dissertation.

Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. (1991). Freud's Moses: Judaism terminable and interminable. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Further Reading

Yerushalmi, Yusef Hayim. (1991). Freud's Moses: Judaism terminable and interminable. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.