Holbach, Paul Henri Dietrich, Baron D'°

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HOLBACH, PAUL HENRI DIETRICH, BARON D' ° (1723–1789), French philosopher, encyclopedist, and publicist, of German origin. He was the most radical critic of Jews and Judaism among the French rationalists and encyclopedists of his generation. As a disciple of the English *Deists, who condemned revealed religion, d'Holbach criticized Judaism as being the most particularist of all religions. According to him the Christian religion had wielded a most destructive influence over mankind for 1,800 years. His attack on Judaism as a faith and as a human society was based on the view that, beside being the corrupt origin of the Christian religion, it was also a corrupted faith and sect in itself. D'Holbach dealt with Judaism in a number of his works, two of which are devoted to this subject (see below). Others are interspersed with references to them.

According to d'Holbach, Moses was the worst and most harmful of the religious legislators. He established and consolidated the rule of the priests, and imposed many trivial precepts on the Jews with the sole objective of erecting a barrier between them and the rest of mankind. Moses indoctrinated the Jews with hatred of mankind, parasitism, and exploitation. The God of the Jews is the prototype of a fearful, cruel, and avenging god. From the fate of the seven Canaanite nations, d'Holbach infers that the God of the Jews is a bloodthirsty deity who justifies the Jewish proclivity toward genocide. The Patriarchs are described by d'Holbach as sensual men who do not honor their promises; and the Prophets as the principal initiators and propagators of religious fanaticism in the world. Religious persecution is based on the doctrines of the Prophets of Israel and the abolition of the influence of these doctrines will encourage religious tolerance. D'Holbach pays special attention to the messianic belief held by the Jews, which he regards as the principal cause of their hatred of other peoples. D'Holbach considered this belief to border on insanity because "how can logical people hope for an empire and at one and the same time the end of the world?" At times, however, d'Holbach and his colleagues adopted an inverted strategy, and attacked the arguments of the rabbis in order to disprove the supposed biblical prophecies on the advent of Jesus. His writings, and the names under which they were written, include Tableaux des Saints: Part i, Les Saints du Judaïsme ou de l'Ancient Testament (1770); "J.B. de Mirabaud," Opinions des Anciens sur les Juifs (1769); "A. Collins," L'Esprit du Judaïsme, ou Examen raisonné de la loi de Moïse, et de son influence sur la religion chrétienne (1770); "M. Boulanger," Le Christianisme dévoilé (1756, 17662), and "M. Boulanger," L'Antiquité dévoilée par ses usages (1766).


S. Ettinger, in: Zion, 29 (1964), 182–207; A. Hertzberg, The French Enlightenment and the Jews (1968), index.

[Baruch Mevorah]