Strack, Hermann Leberecht°

views updated


STRACK, HERMANN LEBERECHT ° (1848–1922), German Orientalist and theologian. Strack was born in *Berlin, where he became professor of Oriental languages and director-founder of the university's Institutum Judaicum. He was recognized as a leading non-Jewish scholar in the field of Bible and Talmud, Hebrew and Aramaic linguistics, Masorah, etc. Serving as an expert in German courts on a number of cases with antisemitic overtones, Strack took a firm line in defense of Judaism, and at the same time was active in the Protestant missionary movement (he edited Jahrbuch der evangelischen Judenmission and Zeitschrift fuer die Arbeit der evangelischen Kirche in Israel).

In the field of linguistics his main publications were Grammatik des Biblisch-Aramaeischen (19216); Hebraeische Grammatik (195212; also in English (1886)); Juedisches Woerterbuch (1916), a Yiddish dictionary; and Lehrbuch der neuhebraeischen Sprache und Litteratur (1884). Of importance for the study of Masorah was his Dikduke ha-Te'amim des Ahron ben Moscheh ben Ascher (1879), edited in cooperation with S. *Baer; Catalog der hebraeischen Bibelhandschriften der… Bibliothek in St. Petersburg (with A.E. Harkavy, 1875); and Prophetarum posteriorum Codex babylonicus Petropolitanus (1876). He also took part in the controversy surrounding the *Firkovich forgeries (A. Firkowitsch und seine Entdeckungen; 1876). Strack wrote Einleitung in das Alte Testament (19066) and edited, together with O. Zoeckler, a short Bible commentary (1891–19052), to which he contributed several biblical books; he also published a translation of and commentary on Ben Sira (1903). He wrote, with P. Billerbeck, a commentary to the New Testament which was based on Talmud and Midrash (4 vols., 1922–28) and demonstrated the Jewish rabbinic origin of most of Jesus' sayings. He also issued annotated translations of several Mishnah tractates with Billerbeck, including Avot (19154), together with a vocalized text. Strack's Einleitung in Talmud und Midrash (19215) became a standard reference work, the English edition, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931), which is based on the last but revised German one, being sponsored by the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In fighting the malicious accusations against Judaism, Strack wrote Das Blut im Glauben und Aberglauben der Menschheit (19118), which was translated into English by H. Blanchamp as The Jew and Human Sacrifice … (1909). Works in the same vein include: Sind die Juden Verbrecher von Religionswegen? (1900); Juedische Geheimgesetze? (19259); Herr Adolf Stoecker christliche Liebe und Wahrhaftigkeit (18862); and Die Aufhebung der Juden-Emanzipation und ihre rechtliche Begruendung (1895; cf. also his Das Wesen des Judentums; 1906). Strack's courageous stand against growing German antisemitism brought him bitter denunciation by antisemitic writers such as K. Erbsreich and Th. *Fritsch; on the other hand his missionary activities came under attack from Jewish writers (P. Meyer, Woelfe im Schafsfell, 1893).