Simon, Richard°

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SIMON, RICHARD ° (1638–1721), Catholic priest of the Oratorians Order. Simon first became interested in the Jews of his day while studying Hebrew at the Sorbonne. In order to further his studies, particularly in rabbinic literature, he established a friendship with an Italian Jew, a tobacco merchant named Jonah Salvador, even planning to cooperate with him in translating the Talmud. When Salvador informed him about the persecution of the Jews of *Metz resulting from the blood libel raised against Raphael Lévi, Simon came to their defense in his Factum servant de réponse au Livre intitulé: Abrégé procès fait aux Juifs de Metz (1670), a work which was widely circulated. Refuting the libel, the author recalled that Christians too had been the victims of similar accusations and that the popes themselves had come to the defense of the Jews on this account. On one occasion he demonstrated his solidarity with persecuted Jews of his day by signing a questionnaire for the Oratory as R. Simeon b. Joachim. Later, in his introduction to Cérémonies et coûtumes qui s'observent aujourd'hui parmi les juifs (Paris, 1674), his translation of Leone *Modena's Historia dei riti ebraici, Simon declared that it is impossible to understand the Christian religion without some instruction in that of the Jews, on which it was patterned. He published a supplement to this work in 1681, entitled Comparaison des cérémonies des juifs et de la discipline de l'Eglise. Between these two books he published his major work, Histoire critique du Vieux Testament (Paris, 1678), which gave rise to a storm of controversy. Simon was expelled from the Oratory and virtually the whole edition of Histoire critique was destroyed. In this book he relied to a great extent on the orientalist Gaulmin, one of the leading Christian scholars of talmudic and rabbinic literature in his day, although subsequently, and unjustly, almost completely forgotten. Simon was even more severe than Gaulmin in his strictures on Jewish writers, and in his later work, Histoire critique des principaux commentateurs du Nouveau Testament (Rotterdam, 1692), he was equally harsh in his attacks on hallowed Church doctrines. Simon s other works bear further witness to his scholarship, his insight into biblical criticism, and his fearlessness of controversial topics.


F. Stummer, Bedeutung Richard Simons fuer die Pentateuchkritik (1912); J. Steinmann, Richard Simon (Fr., 1960), 33ff. and passim; G.H. Box, in: E.R. Bevan and C. Singer (eds.), Legacy of Israel (1927), 363–4; R. Anchel, Juifs de France (1946), 130, 139; F. Secret, Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964), index.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]