By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of a variety of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its merely linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish display not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but additionally, in a contrasting vein, how they seen their very own language, faith, and culture.
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Additional info for A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany
52 Many Jews, however, upon realizing that these were Christian works, persisted in their refusal to read them. The solution adopted in some cases was to hide the name of the author and place of publication, or any other external markers that could betray the Christian origin of the work. Paulus Fagius, for example, published his Yiddish translation of the Bible (1544) in two editions, with two different titles and introductions: one in German, the other in Yiddish, addressed respectively to Christian and Jewish readers.
But the interest of Christian authors in Yiddish exceeded the practical uses of the language. By defining and representing Yiddish culture to Christian readers, the Christian authors were in fact taking part in a broader discourse on Jews and Judaism in early modern Germany. It was a discourse that both expressed and helped maintain the existing power relations between Jews and Christians, and the marginal place of the Jews within German culture and society. This form of “discursive” or “ideological” domination becomes especially evident when we examine the ways in which the Christian authors depicted the Jewish language and literature in their works.
Especially since the rise of Christian Hebraism from the late fifteenth century onwards and the Protestant call to read the Bible in the original Hebrew, Christian scholars used their proficiency in Hebrew to prove to the Jews their allegedly mistaken understanding of their own sources, as Müller himself did in this work. However, Müller presents his work as if it were a Jewish answer to the Christian Hebraists. By this he attempts to create a pretended alliance with his Jewish readers: if Hebrew has become a tool in the hands of Christians for anti-Jewish polemics, here, in Yiddish, his readers would find comfort (nekhomes) and reassurance.