pinoza's philosophical system, as is well known,began to influence European thought only more than a century after thephilosopher's death. True, his younger contemporary E. W. von Tschirn-haus derived some of his views from Spinoza, and even a thinker of Leibniz's stature was significantly influenced by him. But then his impactwaned, and it was only in the muddled heads of some religious enthusiasts that one could find versions of Spinoza's ideas, usually torn out of context.'Yet at the very time when Spinoza's
was bypassed and ignored by the emerging philosophical systems, his
exerted a strong influence on the history of religious enlightenment. His historical critique of the Bible was widely used in the literatureof English Deism and, as a consequence, had a significant impact on theFrench and the German Enlightenment.
We cannot trace here everydetail pertaining to the importance of the
foreighteenth-century Deism. One point may suffice to show the strength of this influence. Spinoza's conception of Judaism—his thesis that the Mosaic legislation had a purely political, not a religious character—was decisively influential on the self-definition of Judaism in the eighteenth century. Its impact on English Deism was equally strong, and it was thesource for the central idea of the fourth of Lessing's
which claimed "that the books of the Old Testament were not361