Wagenseil, Johann Christoph°

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WAGENSEIL, JOHANN CHRISTOPH ° (1633–1705), Christian Hebraist. While professor at the University of Altdorf, he published a series of writings on Judaism and the Jews whose missionary intention is manifest. His most important work was Tela ignea Satanae, Hoc est: arcani, et horribles Judaeorum adversus Christum Deum et Christianam religionem libri ("Flaming Arrows of Satan; that is, the secret and horrible books of the Jews against Christ, God, and the Christian religion"; Altdorf, 1681), a collection of works written by Jews for use in Jewish-Christian disputations and controversies. Wagenseil published these for the first time, with a Latin translation and his own introduction, with the intention of making Christians aware of the Jewish objections to Christianity and thus to refute them. Since this compilation of Jewish polemical writings made Jewish criticism of Christianity widely known, it was used in anti-Jewish propaganda, but these same criticisms were also employed by some opponents of religious fanaticism, such as *Voltaire and the Encyclopedists. Later, in Denunciatio christiana de blasphemiis Judaeorum in Jesum Christum (Altdorf, 1703), Wagenseil appealed to the Protestant rulers to prevent the Jews from blaspheming Christianity and to try to convert them (though without persecutions and forcible means, to which he was opposed). A varied collection of essays on Jewish matters, Benachrichtigungen wegen einiger die gemeine Juedischkeit betreffenden Sachen (Leipzig, 1705), included a missionary essay and a work against *blood libel.

Earlier in his life Wagenseil published Latin translations of the mishnaic tractate Sotah (Altdorf, 1675) and extracts from the Talmud and Ein Ya'akov with the sources. Corrections to Sefer ha-Niẓẓaḥon by Yom Tov Lippmann Muelhausen are incorporated at the end of this book. In his determination to understand Judaism in all its ramifications, Wagenseil learned Yiddish and studied its literature. His collection, Belehrung der juedisch-teutschen Red- und Schreibart (Koenigsberg, 1699), includes Passover songs in Yiddish, the Megillat Vinz of Elhanan b. Abraham Hellen (describing the *Fettmilch uprising in Frankfurt), a Yiddish version of the Arthurian legend, and a Yiddish version of Hilkhot Derekh Ereẓ Rabbah ve-Zuta. Wagenseil was on friendly terms with some Jews, and an interesting correspondence with his teachers has survived. Considered the father of Scandinavian Hebrew studies, he trained a group of Hebrew scholars who were interested in acquiring information on Judaism, such as J.J. *Schudt.


J. Weissberg, in: Zeitschrift fuer Deutsche Sprache, 25 (1969), 154–68; Graetz, Hist, 5 (1895), 185–8; H. Thompson, Wagner and Wagenseil (1927); B. Weinryb, in: Gedank un Leben, 2 (1944), 109–18; H.J. Schoeps, Philosemitismus im Barock (1952), index; Fuerst, Bibliotheca, 489; adb.

[Judah M. Rosenthal]