Page 44 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 17 (1958-1959)

Basic HTML Version

EPITAPH ON JOSEPH KLAUSNER
B
y
E i s i g S i l b e r s g h l a g
E
IGHT hundred and forty-five articles and forty books have
been fathered by Klausner between 1893 and 1937. In the
last twenty-one years of his life scores of printed matter swelled
the staggering list of his publications. Almost all fields of Jewish
studies profited from his vast erudition: Bible and rabbinics,
medieval philosophy and Kabbalah, Semitic philology and gram­
mar. He even ventured beyond the ken of Judaism into an­
thropology, Buddhism and Greek philosophy. His thirst for
knowledge knew no limits, his intellectual curiosity knew no
bounds. But his abiding love he reserved for two disciplines:
Jewish history and Hebrew literature. He confined his interest
in Jewish history to the Second Commonwealth and his interest
in Hebrew literature to the nineteenth century with backward
glances into the eighteenth and forward looks to the twentieth.
His
Messianic Idea in Judaism,
his
History o f the Second Com­
monwealth
in five volumes and his books on
Jesus o f Nazareth
and
From Jesus to Paul
are standard works of Jewish history.
The three volumes of
Creators and Builders
which were dedi­
cated to the appraisal of Hebrew writers in the nineteenth and
twentieth century, his
History o f Modern Hebrew Literature
which numbers six volumes and runs to almost 2800 pages—
these are basic works on Hebrew literature. Both his major
histories—
The History o f the Second Commonwealth
and the
History o f Modern Hebrew L iterature—were
elaborations and
adaptations of lectures: the former originated in the modern
Yeshivah of Odessa before the First World War, the latter at
the Hebrew University. In their final versions, and there were
many, these massive works afforded their readers solid knowledge
of crucial and formative periods in the adventure of Judaism.
New insights were inevitable concomitants of Klausner’s exem­
plary industry. Thus historians were apt to regard the Babylonian
exile in the sixth century as a decisive interlude which changed
a nation into a commonwealth, a political entity into an ethical
entity. The Second Commonwealth, in their view, merely hard­
ened that transformation. Since they could not blind themselves
to the political aspirations of the Hasmonean rulers, they inter­
preted them as a brief aberration in a process which unrolled
with the rigid inevitability of a Greek tragedy.