The Jews in Europe: The Reuchlin Affair Revisited, Part 1

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The Jews in Europe: The Reuchlin Affair Revisited, Part 1

Over these last several months we have spent a lot of time discussing the early years of the Reformation relative to the life of Martin Luther. Discussing things such as the early humanists in Germany and the Reuchlin affair, we had frequently stated that we wanted to better quantify the role of the Jews who were indeed operating behind the scenes of these events. Since that time, we have learned that E. Michael Jones, in his book The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and its Impact on World History, has done much of that research for us. Therefore we are going to make a presentation of chapter 7 of Jones’ book, which is titled Reuchlin v. Pfefferkorn. We believe that revisiting the Reuchlin Affair from Jones’ enhanced perspective, where he focuses on aspects of the Jewish question which our German historians had neglected, will not only enhance our understanding of the nature and objectives of some of Luther’s supporters during the Reformation, but also exhibit for us the Jewish mentality that agitated the later Revolutions in Europe and produced the Protocols of Zion. Both of these topics are of great interest in relation to our presentations here over the last year, and those which we hope to make here in the near future.

So without further introduction, we shall commence with E. Michael Jones:

Roughly 270 years after Nicholas Donin persuaded Pope Gregory IX to allow him to proceed against the Talmud, another Jew converted to Christianity and had the same idea. In 1504, Josef Pfefferkorn, a Moravian Jew, converted to Christianity, along with his wife and child. After changing his name to Johannes at his baptism, Pfefferkorn spent his first years as a Christian wandering through southern German-speaking lands preaching the conversion of the Jews. In 1509 he settled in Cologne, where he made contact with the Dominicans, who had promoted Donin's efforts to convert the Jews three centuries earlier. Pfefferkorn's enthusiasm for the Christian faith was undeniable, but the results of his preaching were meager. In 1516, at the height of his fame, he claimed he had converted 14 Jews after years of effort. He claimed another five would have entered the Church if the Jews hadn't blackened his name. Pfefferkorn would become famous as a publicist, not as a preacher. The printing press was transforming the movement of information in Europe, and he made good use of this new technology.

In one of his earliest writings, Der Juden Spiegel (Mirror of the Jews) Pfefferkorn candidly describes his conversion. "I was born in the Jewish faith and am now, by the grace of God, a Christian," he wrote. 1 He lived by usury before converting, but gave it up as a Christian because usury is immoral. "If I continued to associate with Jews," he continued, "and continued to take usury, what would you say other than that I was in serious sin and that 1 never really became a Christian, and everyone would condemn me by saying that the blood and suffering of Christ had been lost on me. What help would the holy sacrament of baptism have been to me?" 2

[Interestingly, here Pfefferkorn repudiates the exact manner of false conversion in which the so-called Conversos in Spain had been emulating over the two centuries up to this time, at least in this one regard.]

Pfefferkorn's admission he was a usurer is significant in light of later slanders. He was accused of criminal activity (and even of being hanged for it), but Pfefferkorn denied the charges, saying "two Jews wanted to sully my reputation with charges of theft.'' 3 Pfefferkorn filed suit against his accusers before the imperial court, and "they were obliged to pay 30 florins to cover my expenses and had to retract the accusations in public." 4 Most charges against Pfefferkorn are traceable to a document originating from the Jews of Regensburg. Among its milder statements was the claim he was an illiterate butcher. He was neither illiterate nor was he a butcher, an occupation morally less reprehensible than that of moneylender.

In his groundbreaking History of the Jews, Heinrich Graetz recites the slanders faithfully and uncritically and adds a few of his own, calling Pfefferkorn "an ignorant, thoroughly vile creature," as well as "the scum of the Jewish people," and a "noisome insect" 5 who was a tool of the "ignorant and fanatical Dominicans" of Cologne, a city known to be "an owls' nest of light-shunning swaggerers, who endeavored to obscure the dawn of a bright day with the dark clouds of superstition hostile to knowledge.'' 6 The vehemence of Graetz's attack is not, it seems, a function of historical sources, but of the very specific damning charges Pfefferkorn leveled against the Jews about their rites and, more importantly, their covert attacks on Christians.

[So Heinrich Graetz was an editorialist defending the Jews as well as a supposed historian. In this instance, as we learn from sources such as Martin Luther’s On the Jews and Their Lies, condemnation of the Jews for their rites and rituals and for their covert attacks on Christianity are more than appropriate. Unfortunately Luther himself made that realization rather late in life.

E. Michael Jones often quotes Heinrich Graetz and many other Jewish historians, and we understand that sometimes for a lack of other sources it is necessary to do that, especially when researching things pertaining to the Jews. But we should always be critical of their words and their claims, and get corroboration wherever possible. To his credit, Jones displays the capacity to criticize his sources, and to view their work critically while comparing their accounts against others. But Jones uses other sources as well, and here throughout this chapter he is very often citing books on Pfefferkorn and Reuchlin by Erika Rummel, German-language historians Hans Martin Kirn and Charles Zika, and another Jew named Ludwig Geiger. Continuing with his assessment of Graetz’s treatment of Pfefferkorn:]

Graetz claims Pfefferkorn did not write the famous series of tracts that began with Juden Spiegel but instead "lent his name to a new anti-Jewish publication, written in Latin by Ortuinus Gratius," one of the light-shunning Dominican swaggerers. 7 [By his name we can safely assume that Gratius was a humanist.] The leader of the Cologne Dominicans was Jacob Hochstraten (or Hoogstraten, in honor of his native town). Graetz refers to him as "an inquisitor or heretic hunter ... who literally longed for the smell of burning heretics and in Spain would have been a useful Torquemada." 8 Graetz's slanders are simply not true. Pfefferkorn, as his inimitable style and intimate knowledge of Jewish ritual indicate, wrote his own tracts. Hans-Martin Kirn says he "can in no way be seen as 'tool' of the Cologne Dominicans.'' 9

Ludwig Geiger, Graetz's contemporary [Geiger was born 31 years after Graetz was in 1817], noted Pfefferkorn "was later accused of scandalous activity by his enemies," including the scurrilous charge that "his wife ... had illicit intercourse with the Dominicans," but Geiger concluded "there is no proof for this allegation or the others," and wonders "how did they come into existence?" 10 The answer is simple. Stung by Pfefferkorn's criticism, the Jews invented slanders to blacken his name and dissuade others from taking him seriously. Geiger, like Graetz, was a German Jew, but, unlike Graetz, not so enraged by Pfefferkorn's conversion as to accept unfounded slanders.

The times had changed since Nicholas Donin's conversion in the 13th Century; the odium of being Jewish stuck with Pfefferkorn in spite of his baptism. The Dominicans and the Franciscans faithfully supported him in his efforts to convert the Jews, but the mendicants no longer were the cutting edge of European thought. Something had happened to the European mind; it was Pfefferkorn's lot to discover what.

[Of course, we should know that Christians should always have odium towards Jews, who even when they convert always carry with them a certain Jewish agenda. For instance, in large part Jews are responsible for the universalism of the Roman Catholic Church, because they are responsible for obscuring the identity of the true Israelites of Scripture. We have seen that even in Medieval Spain it was Conversos who led the way in wayward attempts to convert arabs and mestizos, as well as other Jews, to Christianity. Why is it that so many Medieval Jews, converting to Christianity, immediately sought to force other Jews to convert as well? And once Jews claimed to convert, true Christians exalted them above all others? Like a dog that loves ticks, the lack of Christian odium towards Jews has allowed the parasite to destroy the host. Continuing with Jones:]

Pfefferkorn characterized himself as a wandering preacher to the Jews immediately following his conversion. Der Juden Spiegel was supposed to show Jews their errors and prove the truth of Christianity. His second book, Judenbeichte, ridiculed Jewish penitential practices. In 1513, Pfefferkorn received a permanent position in charge of the Hospital of St. Ursula and St. Revillen in Cologne, a position he held until the end of his life. While traveling through Mainz, Oppenheim, Heidelberg, Ulm and Munich he made contact with the Franciscans who suggested in the confessional that he take up the battle against Jewish books, Jewish usury, and for Jewish conversion.

[Here we see that Pfefferkorn did not really originate the 16th century battle against the Jews and the Talmud that Jones seems to suggest in the opening paragraphs of this chapter where he compared him with Nicholas Donin. As we saw it depicted in The History of the German People at the Close of the Middle Ages by Johannes Janssen in our ongoing series on Martin Luther, the Dominican monks were already quarreling with Reuchlin and the Jews over the books of the Talmud when Pfefferkorn took it upon himself to be the leading spokesman in that struggle. Now we also learn that Pfefferkorn had gotten his encouragement to assume that role from Franciscan monks, so they must also have been previously engaged in the quarrel. Christians wanted the quarrel, they wanted to get rid of the Talmud, but they also must have felt that they somehow needed Jewish expertise in the Talmud on their side in order to do it. However as Martin Luther realized several decades later, getting rid of the Talmud alone would not change the nature of the Jew. That was the lesson that the Spaniards had learned in the Inquisition, and they decided to force all Jews to leave Spain.

We also see that like so many of the other Jewish converts of his time, Pfefferkorn profited from his conversion by being endowed with a comfortable Christian administration. Abandoning usury, he nevertheless made a profitable living as a Converso. Returning to Jones:]

Pfefferkorn, like Donin, knew Judaism from the inside. That familiarity precipitated Graetz's rage. Pfefferkorn had studied Jewish writings with his uncle, a rabbi. [Just as the Talmud is said to argue that Goyim who reads it must die, Graetz is angry that Pfefferkorn shared knowledge about Jewry with Christians.] Countering the claim that he was illiterate, a butcher, and a thief was a document emanating from Dachau in 1504, in which Pfefferkorn portrayed the Jews as engaging in covert warfare against Christians through usury and the subversion of religious vows. The Jews, according to Pfefferkorn, subverted the monks' vow of poverty by bribery, their vow of chastity by sexual seduction, and their vow of obedience by undermining all authority. Pfefferkorn pointed to more than 40 Christians who had abandoned the faith as a result of Jewish subversion, almost three times the number of Jews he had brought to Christianity by his preaching.

[There should be little doubt that the falling away from Christianity of so many Protestants and Catholics since the Reformation is largely the result of Jewish propaganda poisoning ignorant European minds. Every atheist, New Ager and so-called neo-pagan is an unwitting victim of the Jew.]

Pfefferkorn "spoke with the air of a man who was giving away secrets." 11 [Where Jones is citing Erika Rummel] Because of his insider's knowledge, his claims were a threat to the Jews. In his pamphlet, Ich bin ain Buchlinn der Juden veindt ist mein namen, or The Enemy of the Jews (1509), Pfefferkorn reiterated Donin's claims, documenting Jewish blasphemies against Jesus, Mary, and the apostles, and the curses against Christians the Jews incorporated into their daily prayers. [All of these things Luther had complained about 35 years later.] The Jews, said Pfefferkorn, utter "various insults and shameless words ... every day against God, Mary, his most worthy mother, and the whole heavenly host." 12 The Jews call Jesus "mamser ben hanido," which is to say, "one born from an unclean union." 13 Although Pfefferkorn doesn't say so, "mamser" is traditionally translated "bastard." The Jews are similarly vehement in denouncing Christ's mother, calling her a "sono," which Pfefferkorn translates as "a notorious sinner." Again Pfefferkorn is discrete; the word means "whore." Pfefferkorn says the Jews call Christian churches "mosschoff' or "beskisse," "that is [latrines or] shithouses." 14 Additionally, the Jews "hate the sign of the holy cross and find it quite unbearable. If they see pieces of wood or straw on the ground that are by chance arranged roughly in the shape of a cross, they push it apart with their feet that they may no longer have to look at it." 15 If a Jew "knowingly crosses a churchyard or listens to an organ," he "believes that his prayers will not be heard by God for 30 days." 16

Pfefferkorn also claimed Jews were revolutionaries who "pray for vengeance against the whole Christian church and especially the Roman Empire, that it may be broken up and destroyed." 17 The prayer for revolution is so significant that the Jews "are not allowed to say this prayer sitting down; rather, they must stand. Nor are they permitted to talk among themselves until the prayer is ended." 18 Whenever "war or rebellion breaks out among us Christians," Pfefferkorn says, the Jews "are heartily pleased, hoping that the time is near when the Empire will be destroyed." Pfefferkorn wrote Juden veindt to "prevent the damage which the mangy dogs [i.e., the Jews] do to Christian power in both the spiritual and worldly sphere." 19 The humanists and the reformers, who saw Pfefferkorn as a tool of the powers of darkness, would ignore his warning. But within three years of his death, German peasants had driven more than one prince from his throne in Southern Germany, and it looked as if the revolutionary spirit was going to spread to France and the low countries too.

In part two of Juden veindt, "How the Jews ruin land and people," Pfefferkorn describes how Jews get money through usury; he also "explain[s] the harm and damage the Jews cause to the country and the people through usury" by explaining how debt accumulates when interest is compounded. 20 After 30 years, "the debt amounts to an unfathomable 106 tons of gold, 14,810 Gulden, 28 Wiesspfennig and 11 Heller!" [Jones neglected to include the amount of the principal in the citation.] "Thus the poor Christian, when he has nothing further to pawn, must run away and live out his life in poverty, which happens often and many times." 21

[Pfefferkorn certainly seems to be a prototype of what is often referred to as the “self-hating Jew”, however it could be possible that he believed he could sincerely convert, even if Christians should have rejected all such conversions. But Medieval Christians still believed that Jews could sincerely convert, and it seems that nobody ever learned from the experiences of the Spaniards.

But what is important to note is this: the attitudes which these Medieval Jews had towards Christians, the crudity of the language, the attitudes reflected in the blunt statements attributed to Jews, and, as we are about to read, their hope in a Messiah that will allow them to rule over all the world and dominate the Goyim. All of these same attributes and attitudes of the Jews are found in a document which surfaced a few hundred years later, called the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. It is often argued that real elders of the Jews could never have written anything so crude, but here it is right in front of our faces, in the time of the Reformation.]

In part three, Pfefferkorn explains how Jews use money to corrupt the morals of Christians. Jews use "their ill-gotten wealth" to "cause Christians to commit great sins." 22 Jews usually prevail in court because of bribery. "The only reason for this is their ill-gotten money, which Christians accept from them in exchange for helping to muddle and cover up their case and make it appear just." 23 Jews use their wealth "to lead astray not only the common people but even educated men" 24 by corrupting the morals of Christians and by undermining their faith. The Jews, Pfefferkorn writes,

cause many Christians, learned and unlearned, to doubt their faith, as I have shown in other books of mine. Thus there is much heresy where Jews live; also one finds that Christians commit unchaste acts with Jews and have children by them. These children remain Jews, which is no doubt a great, notable, and shameful evil. Christian blood is subjected to eternal damnation, and, as I have mentioned at the beginning of my booklet, there is in the whole city no sect or nation that hates the Christians more than the Jews. 25

The Jews also live in a world of political illusions, generated by the "central hope of the Jews" that "a Messiah ... will deliver them." This Messiah "will come as a secular ruler, a king with great power and wealth to rule and subdue the world." Pfefferkorn reveals the secrets of the Jews at great personal risk because "I know well, if I fell among Jews, they would devour me as the wolf devours sheep, for this was reported to me." Jews from several countries, he continues, "have made a pact to kill and murder" him. Pfefferkorn warns, "if I should disappear, have no other thoughts than that I was killed by the Jews as they killed others before me." 26

[These are the precise attitudes projected in the same blunt language that we see in the Protocols of Zion, however by the time of the Protocols the Jews see their own appointed ruler as their Messiah, which they describe as a supposed descendant of David, “King of the Jews”, and “supreme lord” in Protocol 24, where they assert that “The prop of humanity in the person of the supreme lord of all the world of the holy seed of David must sacrifice to his people all personal inclinations.” The Protocols therefore use the same language that Pfefferkorn uses where he says that the Jewish messiah “will come as a secular ruler, a king with great power and wealth to rule and subdue the world.” The Protocols are an extension of the desires of the Jews as they were illustrated by Pfefferkorn and by Luther 350 years before the Protocols appeared. Jones continues:]

Pfefferkorn concludes his pamphlet by urging Christian rulers to regulate the lives of Jews more closely. They should be forced to give up usury and to take on lowly occupations like sweeping dung in the streets. As his final point, he makes a recommendation that would generate conflict for the next decade. Indeed, if Graetz is right in seeing the battle of the books as the spark that set off the Reformation, it would generate conflict for centuries to come. Pfefferkorn recommended confiscating Jewish books, specifically the Talmud, because, deprived of their books, the Jews would abandon their false beliefs and embrace Christianity. Like Donin, Pfefferkorn felt Jewish heresy was a function of the Talmud. Deprived of the books that were blinding their minds and poisoning their souls, the Jews would embrace the Christian faith.

[But Jews who are ignorant of the Talmud continue to act in a manner which is absolutely contrary to the Christian faith. We should not see the Reuchlin controversy, or the “battle of the books”, as the spark that set off the Reformation. With that, Graetz is taking far too much credit for the Jews. Martin Luther was not inspired by the Reuchlin controversy, and Reuchlin despised Luther. In our estimation, it was the indulgences dispute and the corruption of the Catholic Church, that was the spark of the Reformation, and after Reuchlin lost his controversy, the humanists who rallied to Reuchlin’s cause had found another vehicle for their war against the Church in Luther’s cause. So Luther’s success was greatly abetted by Reuchlin’s failure. There is no doubt that Jews would have been interested in the success of either man, as we also see here, because Jews would have sided with any cause that would undermine the authority of the Church, and they did. Continuing with Jones, who picks up the account after Pfefferkorn takes it upon himself to become the spokesman for the Dominican monks in the cause against the Talmud:]

Instead of going to the pope, as had Donin, Pfefferkorn approached the emperor. In 1509 he applied to the imperial court for the right to confiscate Jewish books. Kunigunde von Bayern [the widow of Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria], the devout sister of Emperor Maximillian I, provided a letter of introduction to the emperor, who endorsed Pfefferkorn's proposals and authorized him to confiscate Jewish books and to "examine Hebrew writings anywhere in the German empire, and to destroy all whose contents were hostile to the Bible and the Christian faith." 27 In September, Pfefferkorn arrived in Frankfurt, home of the richest and most powerful Jewish community in the German empire. At his command, the city senate ordered the Jews to assemble in the synagogue, where they were told to hand over their books. One thousand five hundred manuscripts were taken from the Jews and deposited in the town hall. One letter from the archives of the Jewish community in Frankfurt recites

On Friday [28 September 1509] the butcher [i.e., Pfefferkorn] came to us here in Frankfurt, together with three priests and two friends from the city council, and they seized the books in the synagogue-the Tefilot, Machzorim and Slechot-everything they could find, and forbade us in the name of the emperor to continue praying in the synagogue. 28

The Jews did not sit idle. Humanistic studies of the sort promoted by Erasmus of Rotterdam had suggested that a new day of Enlightened tolerance was about to dawn after the long night of scholastic obscurantism, and so the Jews were emboldened to act. [Erasmus and the many humanists within the Church who were his followers were the real sparks of the Reformation, and Luther was the log they used to successfully start the fire, not Reuchlin.] The Jews sent Rabbi Gumprecht Weissenan to the archbishop of Mainz, who was persuaded that Pfefferkorn's activities infringed on his Episcopal jurisdiction. It was unusual for an individual of no official rank to receive such a mandate, and the emperor's action drew immediate protests both from Jewish representatives and from the archbishop of Mainz, who informed Pfefferkorn that the mandate was legally defective. Rabbi Weissenan, notes the same archival letter, was "successful with his request, and, praise be to God, obtained help and salvation for the Jews." 29 [We have to choke on those words, but they are part of the history.]

After warning German Jews that "should any community ... refuse to send money and participate in our efforts ... they will no longer be regarded as members of the Association of the Remainder of Israel," the Jews sent another delegation, led by Jonathan Levi Zion, to the imperial court to negotiate withdrawal of Pfefferkorn's mandate. 30 Levi Zion was frank in his reports to the Jews in Frankfurt. "I shall not be able to achieve anything until you send a man who is prepared for three things-you know what 1 mean." 31 Levi Zion's letter referred to Raschi's commentary on Gen 32:8 which mention prayer, combat, and bribery as three ways to defeat an enemy. Levi Zion and the Jews at Frankfurt settled on the last alternative as the best course. After pleading for money, "as soon as possible so that I shall not be forced to borrow money here at 100 percent," 32 Levi Zion announced by letter that he had bribed the Margrave of Baden, whom the emperor had assigned to handle Pfefferkorn's case. "For this," Levi Zion wrote, "I gave him [the Margrave of Baden] something, and should we obtain what we are asking for in the petition, I shall give him an additional one hundred Gulden for his efforts. And so he acted on our behalf and made a great personal effort" to annul Pfefferkorn's mandate. 33 Even so, Levi Zion still felt "Everything is upside down. The apostate and his courtiers have persuaded the emperor to write to the archbishop that [Pfefferkorn] should be the commissioner in this business, together with the apostate Viktor [von Karben] in Cologne, another doctor from Cologne, a doctor from Heidelberg and Dr. Reuchlin from Stuttgart." 34

[Jones cited Erika Rummel as his source for the letter of Levi Zion. And from this source, Jones makes a rather important observation:]

This is the first time Reuchlin's name appears in the controversy surrounding the confiscation of the Talmud, and the context is significant. Johannes Reuchlin is mentioned in the same letter in which Levi Zion admits bribing the Margrave of Baden. Levi Zion then asks for more money, presumably for more bribes. Since "it is very likely that the apostate [Le., Pfefferkorn] will be commissioned to proceed," the Jews "must immediately send wise and prudent men from our communities to the emperor. They must of course be well supplied with gold and silver, and must beseech the emperor to be merciful and spare us ... for I fear things that I do not want to write down." 35

The Jews reacted to the threat of losing their books by bribing court officials and slandering Pfefferkorn at the Imperial court during the winter of 1509-10. In the spring, their efforts paid off. Emperor Maximillian I ordered the Frankfurt senate to return the books. To play down the injury to Pfefferkorn and the Dominicans and "to avoid any complaints on the part of the Jews that his had been undertaken lightly and without diligent consideration," 36 the emperor created a commission to examine the Jews' books. Maximillian authorized the archbishop of Mainz [the corrupt Albrecht of Mainz] to solicit reports from four universities as well as from qualified individuals. Johannes Reuchlin was one of those qualified individuals.

[As we have seen in our series on the life of Martin Luther while presenting the Reuchlin Affair, or the controversy over the Talmud, from the perspective of the German historian Johannes Janssen, Johannes Reuchlin was a lawyer, a Cabalist and a humanist philosopher. He was was a scholar in Greek, Hebrew and Latin who realized the value of the original languages of Scripture in the study of antiquity and Christianity. But Reuchlin also insisted on the preservation of satanic Jewish treachery and blasphemy posing as religion, that which is found in the Talmud and the Kabbalah, and in this regard he was supported by notable humanists such as Mutian and Erasmus. However he was opposed not only by Pfefferkorn, but by many traditional Christians. Reuchlin, the son of a high-ranking Dominican monk, found that the Dominican monks were among his most vocal opponents. Continuing with Jones:]

As a result, Johannes Reuchlin was appointed to the commission. "It was fortunate for the Jews," Graetz writes, "that the honest, truthful Reuchlin, so enthusiastically prepossessed for Hebrew and Cabalistic literature, was asked to give his opinion of Jewish literature." 37 Johannes Reuchlin was, next to Erasmus of Rotterdam, the most prominent scholar of his day. Like Erasmus and the humanists, Reuchlin saw scholarship as the study of language rather than dialectic in the Scholastic mode. Unlike Erasmus, who confined himself to Latin and Greek texts, Reuchlin immersed himself in Hebrew as early as the mid-1480s. Reuchlin's interest in Hebrew blossomed while he was on an embassy to the papal court in 1490.

Reuchlin traveled to Italy as the crisis over the newly translated hermetic texts and their connection to magic reached its climax. There Reuchlin met the recently reborn Platonic academy in Florence under the direction of Lorenzo de Medici. In 1463, Lorenzo's father had commissioned Marsilio Ficino to translate "Corpus Hereticum," which a monk had brought from Macedonia. Ficino then steeped himself in the neoplatonic mysteries Julian the Apostate found so seductive a millennium earlier. Ficino aided in the translation of the "Hermitca" and "Orphica," which constituted the neoplatonic teachings, including the "Chaldean Oracles," ascribed to the followers of Zarathustra, as well as the teaching of Pythagoras, which included many magic spells, esoteric teachings, and customs.

[We cannot tell whether there is any surviving writing attributed to Pythagoras which actually resembled anything that Pythagoras himself had written. Nothing survives which we can be certain was written by Pythagoras, and his so-called teachings seem to have been created for the most part by neoplatonists of the 3rd through the 6th centuries AD. The so-called Chaldean Oracles also seem to be the work of neoplatonists. Offhand, it seems to us that the neoplatonists and all the humanists who later followed them were merely seduced by nothing other than Jewish fables. Returning to Jones:]

At a certain point, Pope Innocent VIII began to suspect that the neoplatonic academy was involved in more than simple antiquarian pursuits. In 1490, one year before Reuchlin met Count Giovanni Pico dell Mirandola, Garsias alleged at Pope Innocent's urging that Pico, Ficino's pupil, was promoting magic. For two years, the sword of Damacles dangled over Pico's head. Then Innocent VIII died in 1492, and Alexander VI [Roderic Borgia] succeeded him. In his 46 Sentences, Pico defended himself against the accusations of his opponents, and after his presentation, on June 18, 1493, Pope Alexander VI cleared him of the charges laid against him. The way was then clear for the resurgence of Christian interest in magic. In her book on Giordano Bruno, Frances Yates laid the responsibility for that resurgence at the feet of Alexander VI, whom she claims had a special relationship to the Egyptian mysteries, astrology, and magic, as evidenced in the Pintarucchio frescoes in the Borgia apartments. Zika [citing Charles Zika] is more pointed. He claims the attitude of the papal court changed when Alexander VI became pope because Alexander was intent on putting "occult magic to his own use." 38

One year after Pico's acquittal, Reuchlin published De verbo mirifico, The Wonder-Working Word, his attempt to revive philosophy, lately fallen into the slumber of Scholasticism, by linking it to the Hebrew language, Caballah, and magic. In it, Baruchia, a Jew, Sidonius, a philosopher once an Epicurean but now knowledgeable in many different systems, and Reuchlin, under the name Capnion (the Greek word for smoke is Kapnos or Rauch in German. Reuchlin is the diminutive of Rauch), conduct a dialogue. The three are not divided by their religions; like the Masons at a later date, they are united by esoteric wisdom derived from the Caballah. Socrates was a wise man, but the wisest was Moses, who was wise not through his own intellectual powers but rather through the spirit of God in him. Only this spirit, transmitted from one race to another and now known as Caballah, makes one capable of penetrating the secrets of nature through the wonderworking word. The most wonderworking of all words is the unspeakable Tetragrammaton JHVH (the four consonants comprising the name Yahweh), which is similar to the Tetrakys [sic] of Pythagoras. Each letter has its own secret meaning. Ihsvh is the most secret name, because it adds the letter signifying Jesus.

[The Tetractys, allegedly of Pythagoras, is also a neoplatonic symbol, ten dots forming a pyramid, later employed by Kabbalists but made out of the letters of the Tetragrammaton. Of course, the pyramid shape is also employed in Masonry. We can nevertheless see some of the lines which connect Judaism to the humanists, and understand that even the earliest neoplatonists seem to have Jewish influences. Pythagoras, who antedated the neoplatonists by about 900 years, seems from the earliest writers who discussed him to have been influenced by Old Testament scripture, but those Old Testament scriptures are hardly Jewish.

Here is a deception which both Medieval Christians and E. Michael Jones have fallen for. The historian Flavius Josephus informs us that the name of Yahweh, the name represented by the Tetragrammaton, was ineffable only because it was officially forbidden by the authorities in the temple. The reasons for this had little to do with magic. But in his On the Jews and Their Lies, Martin Luther also referred to the “Schem Hamphoras”, which is a transliteration of the phrase which the rabbinical Jews were thought to employ to refer to the Tetragrammaton, and "Shem ha-Mephorash" can be understood to mean “the ineffable name”. But in reality, the Jewish rabbis of the Kabbalah have created their own versions of imagined ineffable name in 12, 22, 42, and 72-letter varieties. In pursuit of the correct combination of letters, they believe they could have a spell by which uttering they can accomplish virtually anything. So when a rabbi refers to the “ineffable name”, the Christian may think that he is referring to the Tetragrammaton, but the rabbi is really referring to something else which is otherwise unknown to the Christian. In any event, Christians should recognize all of this as vain idolatry, and imagine that God has His Own will, in spite of any invocation of His Name. Christians are warned against taking that Name in vain, which is what the Jews attempt to do through their spells. The Name of God does not even belong in the mouth of the Jew. Continuing with Jones:]

Like Karl Marx three centuries later, Reuchlin claimed philosophy would "work wonders." It would change the world by unleashing the power of the magic words which God himself uttered to Moses and Adam. To begin the study of magic, the adept needed to learn Hebrew to use "practical Caballah," another word for magic. Like Messianic politics, magic was a way of bringing about heaven on earth and was intimately bound up with the rise of the new scientific worldview. Magic was associated in the popular mind with Jews. Jews knew how to cast the spells that would bring about this-worldly riches and power. Both magic and applied science involved a turning away from the Cross, which is to say, the God-ordained necessity of suffering in this life if one wants to attain salvation. In the place of the Cross, the adept of practical Caballah proposes the techniques refined by Jews that enable one to get what one wants. Four centuries after the publication of De verbo mirifico, C.S. Lewis noticed

There is something which unites magic and applied science while separating both from the "wisdom" of earlier ages. For the wise men of old the cardinal problem had been how to conform the soul to reality, and the solution had been knowledge, self-discipline and virtue. For magic and applied science alike the problem is how to subdue reality to the wishes of men: the solution is a technique, and both, in the practice of this technique, are ready to do things hitherto regarded as disgusting and impious-such as digging up and mutilating the dead. 39

[And while people today have been trained to believe that they are modern and progressive, a lot of the so-called scientific practices are actually disgusting Kabbalistic sorcery. Jones does well to understand the connection between science and sorcery, but he falls short in understanding the true suffering which the Cross of Christ represents, which is nothing other than the delivery of the seed of the woman from the dilemma of Genesis 3:15, where the Word of God said: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The proof of this is found in the purpose of Christ described in Luke chapter 1: “That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us”, and the fact that the Jews are the seed of the serpent, as described by Christ Himself in John chapter 8 and elsewhere. Teaching Christians the magic of the Kabbalah, and causing them to abandon the Christian faith, as even Pfefferkorn attests, the Jews have waged their war against our race. Continuing with Jones:]

The seeds planted at the Platonic Academy of Florence under the patronage of the Medicis bore fruit at the turn of the century. In 1501, Giovanni Mercurio showed up in Lyon wearing flowing white robes and a chain around his neck, announcing he was omniscient and could change lead into gold and bring happiness to the depressed. The chain derived from the same Pythagorean [neoplatonist] chain of love and friendship whose symbology would exert its influence over Reuchlin.

Reuchlin's De verbo mirifico introduced the idea of neoplatonic magic to the lands north of the Alps. In it, Reuchlin tried to break down the barriers separating religion, philosophy, and magic through recourse to the Hebrew language in general and in particular through the rehabilitation of Caballah, which he saw as the oral esoteric tradition that had come from Adam himself. Caballah, of course, had no ancient pedigree. It apparently arose in the 12th Century in Provence; it was the Jewish equivalent of the Albigensian heresy, a resurgence of neoplatonic gnosticism. None of the proponents of Caballah, however, saw it that way. Instead they viewed it as the original theology, the prisca theololgia, at least as old as Christianity and probably much older than that. Pico had already established a necessary connection between Caballah and magic in his writings. Reuchlin took his ideas one step further by claiming that natural magic was impossible without the Caballah. Reuchlin separated himself from the magic manuals of the Middle Ages. In place of these magic spells, which were either meaningless mumbo-jumbo or, worse, appeals to evil spirits, Reuchlin proposed the magic of the Hebrews found in the Caballah and intimately bound up with their language, the language of God Himself. Reuchlin claimed because God spoke in Hebrew, Hebrew words uttered in the proper way had an immediate physical effect. They could not bring about creation ex nihilo [from nothing], but they might very well influence the angels put in charge of that creation by God. In learning Hebrew, as Reuchlin did at the feet of rabbis, the adept learned the language God Himself had used to speak to Moses. Men could now use that same language in speaking to the angels who ran the universe and create wonders by their very words. Zoroaster, the first theologian, according to their view, recognized the unique nature of Hebrew words and so forbade any alteration of their form because the divine power of the word was only effective in its original Hebrew form. During the dialogue between the three learned men in De verbo mirifico, Reuchlin expands his praise of Hebrew into an attack on Greek, which, in the words of Baruchias, the learned Jew, possesses "no words that have come down to us from heaven and no names which can be characterized as having divinely ordained syllables." 40 Moses, because he spoke Hebrew, had priority over the Egyptians as well because the Hebrew language is more ancient. "Divine names come to us from the Jews and not the Egyptians. Hebrew names are more ancient and holier than any other names." 41

[Concerning the Kabbalah, Jones is entirely correct that the book has no provenance in antiquity, but is actually the work of sick and perverted Medieval rabbis. Jones’ connection of the Kabbalah to modern science is also adept, since both seek to make God’s Creation conform to the will of man, rather than conceding the fact that man, being the highest element of God’s Creation, should conform to the will of God.

Where Jones and his sources refer to Pythagoras, the appropriate reference would be to the neoplatonists. So it seems also where references to Zoroaster are made, that they also are actually only neoplatonic writings later attributed to Zoroaster. Perhaps the name of the neoplatonic “Chaldean Oracles” is itself prophetic, since the real source is indeed related to “Mystery Babylon”, and assuredly to neither Pythagoras or Zoroaster.

Of course, Johannes Janssen, the primary source employed for our series on Martin Luther and the Reformation, had not gone into the writings of Reuchlin or what had influenced him to any great extent. There are many Scriptural arguments which can be made to dispute Reuchlin’s position on the importance of the Hebrew language. As it says in Isaiah chapter 28, “with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people.” But Reuchlin, who was supposedly a man of great learning, seems to have easily fallen for the sophistic devices of the Jews. Unfortunately, this seems to have been the case with a great many Medieval scholars who imagined that the Jews were necessary for the study of Hebrew and an understanding of the Old Testament in Hebrew. Seeing the Jews as sages, the Christian is led into the ditch in spite of the warnings of Christ. Continuing with Jones:]

Taking his cue from Alexander VI's approval of Pico, Reuchlin defends the connection Pico established between Caballah and magic. In his "Conclusiones," Pico claimed that immediate access to divine mysteries and powers was available through the Caballah. Part of the Caballah was also the highest part of magia naturalis [or natural magic]. Reuchlin claimed the Caballah demonstrated the validity of the Christian faith and also corresponded to the esoteric wisdom of Orpheus, Pythagoras, and Zoroaster. [We must interject, that the ancient Greeks attributed a magical effect to the music of Orpheus, but hardly in the sense of the Kabbalah.] By locating the magical power of his system in the Hebrew language, Reuchlin hoped to evade the dichotomy the Church, following the classical tradition, had established. According to that dichotomy, a man either asked for power over nature, in which case his action was known as prayer and dependent on the permissive will of the deity; or he forced the issue by invoking evil spirits. [That description itself seems to be a Jewish assessment. The dichotomy does not necessarily belong to the Church.] Caballah seemed to indicate another possibility. 'The possibility of a middle ground between science and prayer based on the magical effects of angelic names in Hebrew seemed theologically unlikely, but that is the course Reuchlin pursued, hoping to evade the censure of those who claimed he was involved in black magic.

The Hebrew language saved Reuchlin, at least in his own mind, from becoming a proponent of black magic, which involved contact with demons and was practiced under the name of Solomon, Adam, or Enoch. Hebrew was the key to making contact with the good spirits whose silent help enabled the practice of magia naturalis. The true philosopher should not invoke demons, but if the philosopher is unable to perform wonders, he is no better than the garrulous Schoolmen who, like spiders, spin words but produce no effects. Sidonious says, "we would therefore be hardly distinguishable from the vulgar, if our miraculous vocation was not accompanied by miraculous actions." 42 Reuchlin's idea of a "wonder working" philosophy had much in common with Thomas Muentzer's view of scripture. To be truly alive, the word of God had to create signs and wonders. The same was true of Reuchlin's Caballistic Philosophy: Philosophy had no value if it couldn't work wonders beyond the power of man to explain. 'The Caballah would rehabilitate philosophy by its miracles, which were bound up not with evil spirits but with the power of Hebrew.

[It must have escaped Reuchlin, that such beliefs had never assisted the Jews who had held them for a long time before he himself was convinced. All the power of the Jews in the 16th century had come from usury, bribery and debauchery, not from the alleged magic of Hebrew books, but from accounting ledgers. How could a man such as Reuchlin be taken in with these Jewish fables? In the same manner, generations of Masons have been deceived with similar Jewish fables, even to this very day. The answer lies in this: that worldly men are not so wise as they imagine themselves to be. The only real wisdom comes from God through His Word and His prophets and His Christ. Continuing with Jones:]

Reuchlin's fatal attraction to Caballah took root on his journey to Italy when he studied with Obadaiah Sforno, a Jewish physician, philosopher, and more importantly, collector of rare Hebrew manuscripts and books. Two years later, Reuchlin was back in Italy, this time on an embassy to the imperial court in Padua. On this journey he received instruction from the emperor's court physician, lacob ben lehiel Loans [Loans, how appropriate a name for a Jew]. Reuchlin and Loans remained in contact for the next decade, and Reuchlin repeatedly expressed his admiration for his Jewish teacher. Fully aware of Reuchlin's intercourse with the rabbis, Pfefferkorn exclaimed later, "if I had said these things I would have been burned" at the stake. 43

[In this aspect, Pfefferkorn was probably correct.]

Studying the Caballah required a sort of hermetic initiation. The Caballah, Rummel says, "was taught hermetically, that is, reserved for the elect, and was often associated with magic, a connection deplored even by Jewish teachers of stature such as Moses Maimonides." 44 It would not have been taught to someone who was either skeptical or disinterested. It would only have been taught to someone avid to receive initiation into its mysteries. The Jewish masters who taught Reuchlin, therefore, must have seen in him a potential adept. [Or perhaps a useful sucker.] "Christians," Rummel continues,

began to take an interest in the Caballah during the fifteenth Century. The Italian humanist Pico della Mirandola ... connected the Caballah with "natural magic," that is, the study of celestial bodies, but rejected its counterpart, black magic, "which is rightly excised by the church and has no foundation, no truth and no basis." ... Nevertheless it remained a controversial subject. It continued to attract the attention of inquisitorial courts and was therefore pursued by Reuchlin at some personal risk. 45

[The Dominican monks were the chief adversaries of the Talmudic writings in the Reuchlin Affair, and as we had learned from the last chapter of Jones’ book, Dominican monks were also the official judges in the trials of the Inquisistion. Jones continues:]

After Reuchlin met Pico and learned about the Caballah, Graetz says, he "thirsted for Hebrew literature, but could not quench his thirst." 46 More accurately, Reuchlin desired to learn Hebrew to slake his thirst for esoteric and arcane knowledge. In De verbo mirifico, Reuchlin wrote "The language of the Hebrews is simple, uncorrupted, holy, terse and vigorous; God conversed in it direct with men, and men with angels, without interpreters face to face ... as one friend converses with another." 47

In 1506, Reuchlin issued De rudimentis Hebraicis, the first Hebrew grammar ever written by a non-Jew. Four years later, when Reuchlin was at the height of his powers and reputation, Pfefferkorn approached him after he heard Reuchlin had been appointed an expert witness for the commission then deliberating Pfefferkorn's plan to seize the books of the Jews. Pfefferkorn came away from the meeting pleased, claiming Reuchlin had been cordial and had even graciously instructed him on the fine points of etiquette and protocol at the Imperial court.

Reuchlin completed his evaluation on October 6, 1510 and sent it to the emperor in a sealed envelope. He recommended that two books, Nizzachon and Toledoth Jeschu, should be confiscated and destroyed; the Jews should be allowed to keep their other works. This meant that Reuchlin did not include the Talmud among the "books which ridicule, slander and insult our Great Lord and God Jesus and his mother, and the apostles and saints." 48 He said "I have read only two such books: one called Nizzachon, the other Tolduth Jeschu ha nozri." Reuchlin gives the impression that these books had no standing in the Jewish community: "Even the Jews themselves regard them as apocryphal." 49 While at the court of Frederick III, Reuchlin "heard the Jews themselves saying in the frequent conversations I had with them that they have removed and destroyed such books and forbidden that people should in [the] future write such books or speak thus." 50

[The Sefer Nizzahon Yashan or The Book of Victory is an anonymous 13th Century Jewish apology which evidently originated in Germany and was also addressed by Luther. The so-called Sefer Toledot Yeshu, The Book of the Generations of Jesus, is evidently a medieval work which is a slanderous parody of the Christian Gospel. Continuing with Jones:]

At this point in his report, Reuchlin's testimony becomes problematical if not erroneous and self-contradictory: "If the Talmud were deserving of such condemnation, our ancestors of many hundred years ago, whose zeal for Christianity was much greater than ours, would have burnt it." 51 Reuchlin says no pope ever burned the Talmud, but Geiger corrects the historical record by reminding the reader that both Gregory IX and Innocent IV had consigned copies of the Talmud to the flames. Reuchlin might have been an expert in Hebrew philology and grammar (Graetz disputes this), but he was abysmally ignorant of the history of the Talmud, which had been burned more than once by his "ancestors." Reuchlin claimed "The baptized Jews Peter Schwarz and Pfefferkorn, the only persons who insist on its being burnt, probably wish it for private reasons." 52 Yet Reuchlin made these claims after admitting that he, unlike Pfefferkorn, had neither read the Talmud nor understood it! "No one," Reuchlin continued, "can say in truth that the Talmud, in which the four higher faculties are described, is completely evil and that one cannot learn anything good from it. For it contains many good medical prescriptions and information about plants and roots as well as legal verdicts collected from all over the world by experienced Jews." 53

Reuchlin then characterized the Talmud as "a work which is difficult to understand." 54 He also said that there were many strange ideas in the Talmud, but that did not justify its destruction. Of the Jews, Reuchlin said, "whether they are inimically disposed toward us in their hearts, only God can say." 55 Defense of the Caballah was unnecessary, because the pope had already recognized its value, and Pico had shown Christians could use its teachings to strengthen the Christian faith. Jews could not be called heretics because they had never fallen away from the Christian faith. The Jews had the right to retain their property, including the Talmud, because they were citizens-a then unusual term-of the German empire.

[First, the Kabbalah is not useful to the Christian faith, because it teaches that through its magic, man can become as a god. But the Christian faith teaches the opposite, that God came as a man. Christ did not become a god, in the Talmudic sense. Rather, He was God, according to the Old Testament. So the Talmud is absolutely hostile to Christianity.

And all of Reuchlin’s defense of the Talmud certainly seems to have come directly from Levi Zion, perhaps with some large banknotes attached, but of that we may never know the truth. In Jones’ continued assessment of Reuchlin’s defense of the Talmud, we may see that the final effects are indeed foreboding. Jones continues:]

Despite stating that it needed no defense, Reuchlin then defended the Caballah, which he referred to as "the most secret speech and words of God. " 56 Reuchlin claimed theologians who did not know Hebrew had made serious theological errors, an assertion that undermined theology, according to the Dominicans, by making it a function of scripture scholarship, which is to say, language studies, not dialectics. [We must agree here in part with Reuchlin, but we do not need either Jews or their Talmud to do it.] He concluded "No Christian should pass verdict on [the Jews], except in a secular case transacted in a secular court. For they are not members of the Christian church, and their faith is none of our business.'' 57 The claim "their faith is none of our business" combined with the equally daring claim Jews had rights as citizens, did not endear Reuchlin to the Dominicans, whose mission since Penaforte had been the papally mandated conversion of the Jews.

[So, according to Reuchlin, evidently the beliefs of the wolves should not matter to the sheep!

Penaforte, or Raymond of Penyafort, was a Spanish Dominican friar in the 13th-century, related to the house of Aragon, who errantly dedicated himself to the conversion of Jews and Muslims. Continuing with Jones:]

In his report, Reuchlin denounced Pfefferkorn's writings as the work of an ignorant hatemonger, thus establishing the debate's parameters: the refined man of letters vs. the ignorant "tauf iud," a racist slur picked up by Reuchlin's supporters, including Erasmus of Rotterdam [an accurate translation evades us, but iud is certainly yid, or jew]. Pfefferkorn called Reuchlin a Judaizer, a term then in the process of losing its opprobrium among educated humanists. [Probably due to the Jewish influences among them. Pagans and Jews always got along very well with one another, a long history of cooperation which escapes today’s idiotic neo-pagans.] Reuchlin's claim that knowledge of Hebrew was necessary for the correct interpretation of the bible was guaranteed to offend theologians, no matter how much it pleased humanists. Those theologians, under the direction of the Cologne Dominicans, still wielded considerable political power, although not as much as in previous centuries. The conflict settled into the Humanist vs. Scholastic mode, even though (or perhaps, according to Rummel, because) it obscured the central contention of Pfefferkorn and the Dominicans, namely, that Reuchlin was a Judaizer. [And Jones is correct, the German historians we followed presenting the Reuchlin affair had never described Reuchlin as a Judaizer, but rather described the Reuchlin Affair in these very terms, as a contention between the Humanists and the Scholiasts. With this, the struggle appeared to not be over the Jews, when it certainly was over the Jews!] Indeed, Judaizing was a virtue to those who made theology a function of Hebrew grammar; it would soon become equally esteemed by the Reformers who believed that theology must be based on "Scripture alone." [Again, the Reformers were correct, but the Jews were unnecessary to that end. The Hebrew and Greek languages are inportant to the understanding of Scripture, but we do not need Jews to understand them either. However the Catholic Church saw Judaizers as anyone promoting anything from the Old Testament, which was quite a different view than that of the apostles.] The most significant part of the report is Reuchlin's praise of the Caballah:

I have read it myself. One could argue about the pros and cons for a long time in this report. But one may see from the book entitled Apologia by the earlier mentioned Count of Mirandola, which has been approved by Pope Alexander, that the books of the Cabala are not only harmless, but of great use to the Christian faith, and Pope Sixtus IV had them translated into Latin for the use of us Christians. There are sufficient grounds therefore to conclude that such books as the Cabala should not and cannot be legally suppressed and burned .... Jewish commentaries should not and cannot be abandoned by the Christian church, for they keep the special characteristics of the Hebrew language before our eyes. The bible cannot be interpreted without them, especially the Old Testament, just as we cannot do without the Greek language and Greek grammars and commentaries for the New Testament, as is confirmed and indicated in canon law. 58

Since "the Jews are our archivists, librarians and antiquarians, who preserve books that can serve as witnesses to our faith," Christians should "take care of the existing books, protect and respect them, rather than burn them, for from them flows the true meaning of the language and our understanding of Sacred Scripture." 59

One needn't be a learned theologian to see that Reuchlin was turning the Talmud into a meta-Scripture that would serve as the criterion of what was valid in the Bible. The hermetic texts had become the real Scriptures, and they were to be interpreted not by the Catholic Church, but by the nascent academic establishment, which had taken instruction at the feet of the rabbis in an atmosphere of quasi-Masonic hermeticism. Even Reuchlin's caveat against books promoting magic was qualified to the point of meaninglessness:

If there are, however, Hebrew books that teach or instruct readers in the forbidden arts, such as sorcery, magic and witchcraft, if they may be used to harm people, they should be destroyed, torn up and burned because they are against nature. But if such books of magic are designed only to help and benefit human life and serve no harmful purpose, one should not burn or destroy them, except books about buried treasures. 60

[The naiveté of Johannes Reuchlin is astounding, but it also preponderated amongst learned men of the time. With the humanists, whom we have already demonstrated were predominantly pagan and not at all Christian, the Jews would indeed come to rule the roost.

Johannes Reuchlin is certainly a clear example as to how the Canaanite Jews have indeed become pricks in our eyes and thorns in our sides in these last days.]

We will return to these thoughts as we continue our presentation of the Reuchlin Affair from E. Michael Jones’ perspective in the near future.

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