By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of quite a lot of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its in simple terms linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish demonstrate not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but in addition, in a contrasting vein, how they considered their very own language, faith, and culture.
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Extra resources 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.
9 In the Latin dedication to his Yiddish New Testament, Helic outlined the missionary intentions underlying his translation. Accusing the rabbis of keeping the Jews blind to the Christian truth, the recently converted Helic expressed the hope that his translation of the New Testament into “the vernacular language, that is Theutonic”10 would reveal the truth of Christianity to his former coreligionists, and would thus help to bring about their conversion. 11 Half a century later the Protestant reformer and professor of Hebrew and theology at Strasbourg, Magister Elias Schadeus, published another Yiddish translation of Luther’s New Testament.
The second question in the book concerns how the Christian texts depict and represent the Yiddish language. Far from being neutral, matter-of-fact linguistic presentations, the Christian depictions of Yiddish were often shaped by their authors’ views of the Jewish culture and religion, as well as by underlying ideological motivations and agendas. These relate to certain issues in Christian-Jewish relations, such as the attempt to define the place of the Jews in German society, but also to intra-Christian discussions and debates, such as Protestant-Catholic polemics or the efforts to standardize and purify the German language.