Bodin, Jean°

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BODIN, JEAN ° (1529 or 1530–1596), French historian, economist, and jurist. Bodin took an interest in Judaism in his main works De Republica (1576) and Methodus ad facilem historiarum cognitionem (1566), but chiefly in a work which he had completed in 1593 but did not publish, Colloquium Heptaplomeres de rerum sublimium arcanis abditis (excerpts first printed in 1841; complete edition 1857). Thanks to the help of three "royal readers" of Hebrew at the College of France in Paris, Cinqarbres, Jean *Mercier, and Paradis, Bodin not only acquired some knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic but also had translations made of many passages from Hebrew literature, which he used in his works. He referred to the Targum, talmudic authorities, kabbalistic literature, and many medieval writers. The Heptaplomeres contains six conversations between seven friends who represented as many religions or attitudes of belief. Toralba, the representative of natural religion, and Solomon Barcassius, the representative of Judaism, are both to some degree the spokesmen of Bodin himself. To Bodin, the Jews were not only the most ancient people but also the most faithful chroniclers of the earliest history of humanity. Bodin inserted into his dialogues a series of Jewish objections to Christianity which he reinforced with his own dialectical skill. Through the interpellations of Solomon he attacked the dogma of the virgin birth. Everything profitable in the writings of the apostles was borrowed from Judaism. The Christians violated the precepts of the Decalogue, which was nevertheless the natural law par excellence. Critics accused Bodin of having lost the faith of a real Christian through his dealings with the Jews (although he does not appear to have had any), and called him a half-Jew or secret Jew. This was presumably the source of the baseless supposition that his mother was of Jewish origin.


Guttmann, in: mgwj, 49 (1905), 315ff., 459ff.; Berg, in: Revue juive de Lorraine, 13 (1937), 29ff.; G. Roellenbleck, Offenbarung… und juedische Ueberlieferung bei Jean Bodin (1964).

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]