The Christian Hebraism of John Donne: Written with the Fingers of Man's Hand

The Christian Hebraism of John Donne: Written with the Fingers of Man's Hand

Chanita Goodblatt $70.00

275 pages | cloth | ISBN: 978-0-8207-0431-9


“[The book] is valuable for its careful and learned analysis of Donne's linguistic knowledge and exegetical strategies in the sermons, including his use of biblical philology, Hebrew etymology, and Jewish sources. At its best, the book dwells on specific passages from the sermons, examining closely their rich linguistic details and metaphoric meanings for evidence of the interplay of voices characteristic of Christian Hebraism and its exegetical traditions.” —SEL Studies in English Literary Studies, 1500-1900 

“Meticulous, detailed. . . . Goodblatt presents a valuable scholarly study on a particularized technique found in Donne’s sermons. She does this task quite thoroughly and displays philological, lexicological, and critical astuteness in accomplishing her purpose.” – Religion and the Arts


“Goodblatt’s careful attention to the individual Hebrew words that Donne pondered so eloquently in his sermons forms the most fascinating part of this valuable study. [Her] thesis is a valuable one. Donne’s . . . familiarity and ongoing engagement with the Hebrew language and Jewish exegetical tradition have not been sufficiently emphasized until now.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Erudite analysis of John Donne’s sermons. . . . Goodblatt’s book is an impressive piece of scholarship. It will be of especial interest to Donne scholars, but by demonstrating the significant role that Christian Hebraism played in Donne’s own biblical scholarship, Goodblatt has added more evidence for the plurality of religious ideas and sensibilities in the early modern period as well as for the importance of Christian Hebraism.” — John Donne Journal

Book Information:

The complex relationship between the nation, Church of England, and the Jews reached an important culmination during the Reformation as Christian scholars became more and more interested in Hebrew language and the Jewish roots of European civilization. Christian Hebraism's influence spread as a central focus in theology and politics, spurring the Geneva (1560) and the King James (1611) Bibles in particular. Within this context, Chanita Goodblatt reorients John Donne, one of the most prominent preachers and writers of the time, as a Christian Hebraist and examines the exegetical strategies and language in Donne's psalms and sermons.

While Donne shows only a basic grasp of the Hebrew language, his sermons reveal the many semantic nuances taken from Latin and vernacular translations of Jewish biblical scholarship. Goodblatt lays out the intellectual context of Donne's work and ties specific lexical, rhetorical, and thematic strategies to Hebrew traditions. Donne's work weaves a web of intertextual complexities that highlight the interaction of Christian and Jewish scholarship that influenced the theological and political views of the time period. In addition, Donne's reinterpretation of the Bible based on Jewish exegesis ultimately adds to an understanding of Christian Hebraism and establishes the Church of England as the inheritor of the Jewish tradition.

This study focuses on Donne's sermons preached on the Psalms. Organized both generically and thematically, corresponding reproductions of the Hebrew Rabbinic (1525) and the Geneva Bible preface each chapter and allow the reader, regardless of specialization, to follow Goodblatt's critical analyses.

The Christian Hebraism of John Donne will be of interest not only to Donne scholars, but also to students of Hebrew and Jewish tradition, of scriptural and theological studies, and studies in early modern English history.

Author Information:

CHANITA GOODBLATT is professor of foreign Literary Studiess and linguistics at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. She is a member of the World Union of Jewish Studies, the John Donne Society, and the Association for Jewish Studies.

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