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A Sixteenth-Century Debate on the Jewish Calendar: Jacob Christmann and Joseph Justus

Source: The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 1 (WINTER 2013), pp. 47-73
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Winter 2013) 47-73

A Sixteenth-Century Debate
on the Jewish Calendar:
Jacob Christmann and
Joseph Justus Scaliger


In August 1589, Justus Lipsius (15-47- 1606) wrote

former student Regnerus Gruterus, in which he expre
over the reported intention of Jacob Christmann (155
sor of Hebrew at Heidelberg, to write a new book on th
of historical chronology. Was there really anything w
"on time" Ģe temporibus) after Lipsius's famous pen fr
philologist Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), had pu
novum de emenàatione teniporum (henceforth DET) in 158
and technically demanding tome, Scaliger had skillfull
great number of ancient and medieval calendars and fi
epochs of antiquity, seizing on a combination of astron
logical methods and an extraordinary range of linguist
timeline of ancient history seemed under control to a
man like Lipsius, this feeling was in large part due to D
imposing folio-pages, brimming with chronological tables
foreign scripts, instilled the impression that it would
pair of feet to fill the footprints left by Scaliger. As Lips

1. For an in-depth survey of the first edition of DET, see A

Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the Hbtory of CLuuiical Scholarship , 2
93), 2:145- 357. For biographical details, see also A. E. J. Ho
(Joseph Justus)," Nieuw Nederlandsch biografech woordenboek ,
and P. J. Blok, 10 vols. (Leiden, 1911-37), 5:660-67, and Jaco
J LU t LU Scaliger (Berlin, 1855). For extensive bibliography up to
Grafton and Henk Jan de Jonge, "Joseph Scaliger: A Bibliog
in The Scaliger Collectiont ed. R. Smitskamp (Leiden, 1993), i-x

The Jewish Qtiarterly Review (Winter 2013)

Copyright © 2013 Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Juda
All rights reserved.

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48 JQR 103.1 (2013)

concede, there were still some "things

after him," yet the tone of his words su
Christmann would be the right man to a
Neither did Lipsius seem to woriy m
reaction- as it was Lipsius's habit to p
uaiy 1591, a disgruntled Christmann
printed in Heidelberg and titled Epistola
I lu turn Lip J Lun , in which he made cle
anything but lightly: "I would have h
more, famous man, than that you eith
at all or showed more accurate judgme
Christmann s view, Lipsius had crossed
he publicly mused about his chronolog
had a chance to see the results. When th
the spring of 1590, they turned out t
commentaiy appended to Christmann's
Elementa astronomica*
The volume nicely reflects the range of
talist and astronomer Jacob Christma
years of the sixteenth centuiy.5 In 1580,

2. Justus Lipsius (Leiden) to Regnerus G

1589, in Justus Lipsius, Epistolarum centu
sius, Epistolarum centuriae àuae, 2 vols. (Lei
Pard 111:1588-1590 , ed. S. Sué and H. Peet
3. Jacob Christmann, Epistola chronologica a
Qua conötaru annoriun Hebraeorum connexio de
luculenter refutantur (Heidelberg, 1591),
and Peter Verbist, " 'Christmannus aliquid
Christmann's Lesson in Chronology as an
(2010): 269- 97. The article contains a crit
analysis of its contents, which, however, r
not address the points raised here.
4. Jacob Christmann, Muhamed is Alf ragani
menta, e Palatinae bibliothecae veteris libris ve
M., 1590). Christmann based his translati
Jacob Anatoli of the original Arabic. See a
in Heidelberg," in Bibliotheca Palatina: Kat
Novetnber 1986, Heiliggeistkirche Heidelberg
1986), 414-17.
5. On Christmann s biography, see Melchio
ori, et quod excurrit, deculo philodophicis ac h
M., 1615), 518-22; Moritz Cantor, "Christm
Biographie, 56 vols. (Leipzig, 1875-1912),
Christmann, ein Heidelberger Professor, 15

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Heidelberg professors who were forced by the Luthera

VI to leave the university on account of their refusal to si
of Concord. After a two-year tour of various European cit
found employment at the short-lived Casimirianum in
had been founded by Ludwig 's brother Johann Casimi
the professors expelled from the Electoral Palatinate.
stay in Neustadt, Christmann published his first book,
Arabicum (1582), which contained an introduction into
writing of Arabic.6 Following the death of Ludwig VI,
allowed to return to Heidelberg, where he was appoint
professor of Hebrew in 1584. He would later swap this
chair of Aristotelian logic in 1591, to which he added
professorship of Arabic language - the first of its kin
1609. In 1585, he made an unsuccessful attempt to ente
of the Republic of Letters by becoming a corresponden
ger, to whom he wrote a polite letter on some question
Hebrew philology. Judging from a remark Scaliger later m
to Claude Dupuy, his reply, which has not been preserv
encouraging.7 It may have been this experience of rejectio
man that made Christmann particularly vulnerable to the
ison with Scaliger that Justus Lipsius would draw a fe

ichte der Stadt Heidelberg A (1901): 180-88; Erwin Christm

Geschichte der Mathematik und des mathematischen Unterri
Von der Gründung der Universität bis zur combinatorisch
diss., Heidelberg, 1924), 79-85; J. J. Verdonk, "Christmann,
ary of Scientific Biography, ed. C. C. Gillispie, 16 vols. (New Yo
Christian Ahrens, "Professoren der Neustadter Universität," in
Gymnasium Neustadt an der Weinjtraße: Entwicklung einer Schu
tadt/Weinstraße, 1978), 241-53 (249-52); Jürgen Hamel, "Chr
in The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomen, ed. T. Hockey
York, 200 7), 1:233-34; Dagmar Drüll, Heidelberger Gelehrten
(Berlin, 2002), 70-71. According to Drüll's Gelehrtenlexikon
born Jewish, but the article by Ahrens cited in this context do
6. Jacob Christmann, Alphabetum Arabicum cum Isagoge scriben
bice (Neustadt, 1582). See Johann Fück, Die arabischen Studien in
Anfang dej 20. Jahrhunderte (Leipzig, 1955), 45-46.
7. Jacob Christmann (Heidelberg) to Joseph Scaliger (Bou
1585 (stil. vet.), Sylloges Ep Li tolarům a viri) illustribiu ¿c rip tar
5 vols. (Leiden, 1727), 2:318-21; Grafton, Scaliger, 2:400-401
to Claude Dupuy (Paris), April 5, 1586, The Correspondence of J
ger, ed. P. Botley and D. van Miert, vol. 1, April 1561 to Dece
2012), 504.

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50 JQR 103.1 (2013)

the Epistola chronologica, he berated Li

chronological authority and for his f
erred quite miserably in his attempt
with the Christian era. Having set the r
somewhat superfluous, twelve-page d
of the Jewish calendar, a version of
al-Farghānī-edition of 1590, Christm
be perceived by his peers:

Thus you may recognize, most fam

added something to the matter and p
merely elucidated the inventions of
posterity will show gratitude towar
to mention the rather hateful comp
Scaliger. He may be a giant, I may be
from daring to wrestle with the giant
God does not bestow all his gifts on
veiy impatient when it encounters inju

A look into Lipsius s correspondence s

the late sixteenth-century Republic o
what must have appeared to them as th
unknown scholar to make a name for
weights of the profession. His colleag
who taught theology at Heidelberg,
when he wrote to him in Februaiy 15
Melissus had tried to prevent the enr
his diatribe. Lipsius, who expressed b
the German's huffy reaction, had pre
speak on his behalf, but never considere
reply.9 The chilly response, however, se
mann s belligerence. In 1593, he republi
ica , this time accompanied by a D
demonstrate how the correct method of the Jewish calendar could be
used to fix the true historical date of the Passion of Christ- a task at

8. Christmann, Ep Li to la, 15-16.

9. Franciscus Junius (Heidelberg) to Justus Lipsius (Leiden), Februaiy 24,
1591, Syllogej Ep'u tolarům, 1:415. See de Landtsheer and Verbist, " 'Christman-
nus/" 272-76, with references to further letters.

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which Scaliger had failed.10 Only a few months later, he

sion to dwell on Scaligeri mistakes in yet another publica
commentated Latin translation of a Hebrew calendar fo
which had originally been printed in Venice in 1 575.
The calendar's original editor had been Uri ben Simeon
Biala in Poland, who had emigrated to Safed in Palestine.
he undertook a tour of the European continent as an emis
Ashkenazi congregation, visiting Poland, Germany, and
where he committed his two known works to print. Besi
( limb ), Uri also edited an anonymous description of the
tombs of the patriarchs in Erets Israel ( Yihiut avoť), which
larized in Europe through Johann Heinrich Hottinger 's L
titled Cippi Heb raiei .n Christmann 's publication of Uri 's cal
icated to Heinrich Rantzau (1526-98), a famed humanist w
ernor for the Danish king in Schleswig and Holstein, who
copy of the original luab from the printer Johann Weche
Having heard about Rantzau 's desire to have the text tran
mann sat down to produce his Calendarium Pala&f tino ru
attaching some scholia to this text, "in order to make sure t
intention is more clearly perceived and to refute the errors o
pullulate with prejudice" {ut sententia auctoris rect 'uu percipiatur
orum, ex praeiudicio quodam pullulante**, refutentur)}2 This w
to Scaliger, whose work on the Jewish calendar was once
of attack for most of the introduction to Christmann's transla

10. Jacob Christmann, Eputola chronolog ica ad clarusünum virum h

(Frankfurt M„ 1593); Christmann, Disputatio de anno, mense et die p
cae: In qua calendarium Hebraeorum iuxta propria cánones confirmatur
mensium pascbatiimque universae ad vera s epochas restitiiiintur (Fran
11. See Avraham Yaari, "Uri ben Simeon of Biala," Encyclopae
M. Berenbaum and F. Skolnik, 2nd ed., 22 vols. (Detroit, 2007),
Heinrich Hottinger, Cippi Hebraici (2nd ed., Heidelberg, 1662).
84-88) also edited and translated the preface of Uri s calendar.
of Cippi Hebraici appeared in 1659. Yihiui avot was subsequently
French by Eliakim Carmoly, Itinéraires de la Terre Sainte des XI Ile,
et XVIIe siècle (Brussels, 1847), 433-60. For information on Uri
a French translation of the calendar-preface, see Itinéraires, 4
modern Hebrew calendar literature, see now Elisheva Carlebach,
Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge,
12. Jacob Christmann, Calendarium Palaestinorum et Universoru
annos qiuidrag 'uita supputatum: Auctore Rabbi Ori filio SimeonLi
(Frankfurt M., 1594), 5.
13. Ibid., 8-24.

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52 JQR 103.1 (2013)

Meanwhile, the incriminated Scaliger

his native France for Leiden, where he f
established university. Soon after his a
he published his Cyclometrica elementa (
advised claims about the squaring of the
of his more mathematically skilled c
mann, who took the opportunity to at
this time venturing into the field of geo
was not amused by Christmann 's rep
his own fields of expertise. A glimpse of
professor is provided by Scaligeri tabl
1606 by his students Jean and Nicolas
referred to as "a true Jesuit," who is
complaints about Christmann's onslau
were entirely unjust- can also be foun
to Johan van Oldenbarnevelt in 1595, a
the promise of a second edition of DET
on many new subjects and emend pre
tome finally appeared in 1598 and secure
most Protestant authority on historic
to this work, Christmann once again a
[jcioliuf], who wrote a chronological epiá
all his chronological knowledge from
revolution against his former teacher.17

14. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Cyclometrica

Christmann responded with his Tractatio geom
capita dù tributa (Frankfurt M., 1595). See
Goulding, "Polemic in the Margin: Heniy
rature of the Circle," in Scientia in marg
(Geneva, 2005), 24 1-59; Jan P. Hogendijk
ter: The Exchanges between Joseph Justu
the Circle Quadrature (1594-1596)," Histor
15. Scaligerana, Thuana, Perroniana, Pitboe
aux, 2 vols. (Amsterdam, 1740), 2:267. On
"Pour une edition critique des Scaligerana ,"
(1998): 407- 50. On the phenomenon of ve
Thomas Conley, "Vituperation in Early Sev
Rhetorica 22 (2004): 169-82.
16. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Hippolyti Epi
sigs. °2v- *3v.
17. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Opus de emendatione temporum: Castigatus et multis
par tib us auctius, ut novum videri poss it (Leiden, 1598), sig. e5r.

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In addition to DET, which was revised for a second and

1629, Scaliger produced his monumental Thesaurus Tem
16582), in which he tried to reconstruct the lost Greek
chronicle of Eusebius of Caesarea. The edition was accom
extensive commentary as well as a new synthesis of Scaliger
cal insights, titled Isagogici chronologiae canone s. Toget
cemented Scaliger's reputation as the founding father of
nology, a discipline that flourished greatly during the seven
and would later have its sporadic flare-ups during the hey
Geschichtswissenschaft. At the beginning of the nineteenth c
ists such as Ludwig Ideler still consulted Scaliger's books
step, respectfully referring to his opinions on a variety of s
ing the history of the Jewish calendar.18 By contrast, th
works of Jacob Christmann were soon relegated to obli
them the criticism of Scaliger's theories that had once motiv
was not until 1993, when Anthony Grafton published the
of his magisterial intellectual biography of the famous philo
more idiosyncratic aspects of Scaliger's work, including h
the Jewish calendar in the first edition of DET, once a
scholarly attention. While paying due credit to Scaliger's
Grafton's work has also helped to demystify these accom
showing, from a great variety of examples, that he drew fa
on his predecessors than he himself was prepared to adm
sharp rebukes his arguments elicited from his peers wer
always unjustified.
In Scaliger's day, the foremost Christian source on the Jew
was Sebastian Münster's Kalendarium Hebraic um, a varie
dium of Hebrew texts with Latin translations and comme
in Basel in 1527. 19 Like all other authorities on the subj
book taught that the Jewish calendar had its epoch or st
Monday, October 7, 3761 B.C.E. In the prolegomena to the fi

18. Ludwig Ideler, Handbuch der mathematischen und technische

vols. (Berlin, 1825-26), 1:576-83. On the history of the discipli
Grafton, "Tradition and Technique in Historical Chronology," in
and the Antiqiuirian, ed. M. H. Crawford and C. R. Ligota (Lond
19. Sebastian Münster, Kalendarium Hebraicum (Basel, 1527).
two copies of the Kalendarium Hebraicum , which are still pre
University Library. See Arnoud Vrolijk and Kasper van Omme
Books in Foreign Tongues": Scaliger's Oriental Legacy in Leiden, 1
2009), 83. On Scaliger's use of Münster, see Grafton, Scaliger

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54 JQR 103.1 (2013)

DET, Scaliger acknowledged that this

poraiy European Jewiy but went on
from an older system, which began o
Monday, October 27, 3760 B.C.E. As a
treatment of the Jewish calendar on the
tine," who "always match the Dionys
such a way, that this year of Christ, 1
European Jews, 5343. "20
As Grafton correctly noted, Scalig
unheard of doctrine of a "Palestinian" variant of the Jewish calendar was
most likely the aforementioned liiah by Uri ben Simeon.21 That he once
owned a copy of this text is confirmed by a Leiden manuscript (UB,
Vulcanius 108 pars 5), drawn up by his friend Bonaventura Vulcanius,
which lists some of the books in Scaligeri possession during the 1590s.
Among the "rare imprints," Vulcanius mentions a "map of the Jewish
years from 5335 to 5374" Ç Mappa Annorum Judaicorum ab anno 5335 ad
annum 5374), which matches perfectly the specifics of Uri s calendar.22
Further evidence for Scaliger 's knowledge of this text comes from book
7 of DET, which contained the edition and translation of a Computus
Judaicum of unknown provenance. A comparison of this calendar with
Uri s work and the texts edited by Münster suggests that Scaliger did not
publish a preexisting Hebrew document but rather "reconstructed" an
ideal Jewish computus from the few sources he knew. The text closes with
a list of twenty- three eras from the creation of the world to the Jewish
expulsion from Portugal, which could also be found as an appendage to
the preface in Uri's liuib.2* However, whereas Uri had used his eras to
date the present year 5335 of the Jewish world era (= 1 574/75 C.E.),
Scaliger decided to put these numbers to a more general use by indicating
each epoch s distance from the Jewish date of the creation of the world.
In order to do this, he merely had to take Uri's numbers and subtract
them from the base date 5335 J.E. (Jewish World Era), as Jacob Christ-

20. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Opiu novum de emendatione temporiun (Paris, 1583),
sig. a4v. See also ibid., 80.
21. Grafton, Scaliger , 2:188-92. See also Scaligeri repeated references to a
"Palestinian" Jewish calendar in DET (1583), 104, 177, 204, 323.
22. Catalog tuf Librorum omnium qui hodie coruiervantur à Joàepho Scaligero , ed. in
Albert van der Heide, Hebrew Manuscript ii of Leiden University Library (Leiden,
1977), 24: "Mappa Annorum Judaicorum ab anno 5335 ad annum 5374." On
this inventoiy, see Vrolijk and van Ommen, "All My Books, " 24-27.
23. See Scaliger, DET (1583), 312, and Christmann, Calendariiun, 43-44. On
Scaliger's Jewish computus, see also Grafton, Scaliger , 2:325-29.

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mann would later point out in his jcbolia on the Calen

norum.24 In another observation on the chronological s
Simeon, Christmann showed that the latter correlated
Jewish world era to the Christian era such that he always
Christian year that began (rather than ended) in the curre
As a result, 5335 J.E. was equated to 1575 C.E. despite t
J.E. had already started in the autumn of 1574 C.E. W
worked on his Latin translation of the Calendarium , he p
ger this three-month gap could pose to a correct under
chronology. In order to prevent any confusion, he pr
Julian calendar dates for each of the forty Jewish new ye
tabulated. In addition, he drew up a separate table that
Uri 's J. E./C. E. -correlations for easy orientation. Christm
ness was not completely gratuitous, for Scaliger's own
epoch of the Jews of Palestine indicate that he was mi
in precisely the specified manner.25
Aside from the correlation of the Christian with the Je
mann was able to identify the Seleucid era or Jewish "
(starting in 312 B.C.E.) as a further potential source of err
of al-Farghānī's Elementa , he had cited Abraham bar Hiyy
Ibn Daud as Jewish authorities who confirmed that the Er
began in 3450 J.E. This was equivalent to an interval of
creation, whereas Uri, following a minority tradition, gav
3,448 years. It is not difficult to see how Scaliger could
port for his assumption that Uri's " Palestinian" calend
later than the "European" one by seizing on this date. S
the Battle of Gaza, on which the Seleucid era is based
in 312 B.C.E., he could easily arrive at the idea that the "P
only began in 312 + 3,448 = 3760 B.C.E.26
In Scaliger's case, all of this led to the conclusion that
distinct systems of the Jewish calendar in existence - o
Palestinian - which used different creation-epochs as their
Although this assumption, as we will see later on, ha
implications, it actually contradicted Scaliger's own sou
of Uri's Luab made clear that the work's main purpose

24. Christmann, Calenàarium, 30-31.

25. See ibid., 62, 67- 106, and Christmann, Diáputatio , 6.
26. Christmann, Epistola (1591), 3. See also Christmann, Mu
231-32; Christmann, Du putat io, 7; Christmann, Calendarium, 33;
2:190. An interval of 3448 years is also recorded by Al-BīrūnT,
Ancient Nations, trans. C. E. Sachau (London, 1879), 18.

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56 JQR 103.1 (2013)

guide for Jews living outside the land

celebrate new moons and feasts in ac
according to Isaiah 2.3 was to go out
would later point out, Uri s calendar
contained a specific doctrine but becau
Erets Israel for his brethren in Europ
unity in Jewish calendation that Scali
chose for his publication, Calendariiu
Judaeorum , thus read like a deliberat
Yet although he inveighed against the
four publications between 1590 and 1
how exactly Scaliger had been able to
gested a shift of the Jewish era not sim
twenty days, to October 27, 3760 B.C.
confusion" into the computation of Jew
In the remainder of this essay, I pro
time the chain of reasoning that led Scal
dar to the "Palestinian" epoch by conn
scattered all over the first edition of
coction of an alternative version of the
tant consequences for his own chronol
dating of Christ's Passion (to April 23,
mann to such an extent that he wrote
the more commonly accepted view th
died on April 3, 33 C.E. By taking a cl
this discussion, I hope to provide som
regarding Scaliger's work as a chronol
nificance of the Jewish calendar as an
state of chronological scholarship at the


The distinguishing feature of the normative Jewish luniso

that it is based on the time of the molad, the mean conjuncti
moon. All beginnings of the year are computed by adding to
multiples of the duration of the mean synodic month, re
12h 793ch (Ich = 1 chelek = l/1080h). A standard lunar y
prises 12 X 29d 12h 793ch = 354d 8h 876ch, which is l
less than a (Julian) solar year of 365.25 days. The annual

27. Christmann, Calenàarium, 10, 25-27; Christmann, Diáputatio

28. Christmann, Diáputatio, 9.

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compensated according to a nineteen-year intercalation cyc

vides for the addition of an embolismic month in eveiy 3rd, 6
14th, 17th and 19th year. This basic framework is complic
tem of postponement rules ( àebiyoi ), which make sure that 1
ba-obanab ) never falls on the 1st, 4th or 6th day of the w
preventing the first molaà of the year from occurring af
result of these interlocking factors- molaà- reckoning, int
postponements - the Jewish calendar knows six different yea
353, 354, 355, 383, 384, and 385 days respectively. Owing
historical record, little is known about the exact time and pla
of this system, but it seems reasonable to assume that the Je
developed over several stages since Late Antiquity, befor
present normative form in the tenth centuiy. In any case, th
and precalculated calendar of medieval and modern Judaism
spicuously from the rabbinic calendar of the late Second Tem
naitic periods, in which observation of the new moon cre
by witnesses and announced by messengers) and the ad h
a rabbinic court played a central role.29
In the present-day Jewish calendar, all molaà- times are
the molad Tio bri of the first year of the Jewish world era,
5h 204ch after sunset, on Monday, October 7, 3761 B.C.E.
is the second day of the week, this value can be written
number expressed by the mnemonic word "7'"VQ or babaraà.
believed, the "Palestinian" version of the Jewish calendar
later, in 3760 B.C.E., this could in principle have led him to a
Tubri of this year, which is also known as molaà vayaà (
because it falls on Friday, September 26, at 14h after su
would have enabled his "Palestinian system" to produce t
junction times as the regular "European" one, provided th
the intercalation cycle by one year, intercalating in year
16-18 instead of 3-6- 8- 1 1- 14-17-19. Scaliger s source U
however, was firm in keeping the traditional order of lea
as its use of a babaraà-z poch. Unfortunately, the "Europe
not allow for such a molaà in 3760 B.C.E. Aside from the afor

29. For useful introductions to the fixed Jewish calendar, see W

Feldman, Rabbinical Mathematics and Agronomy (3rd ed., New Y
210; Arthur Spier, The Comprehensive Hebrew Calendar (New York
Ephraim Jehudah Wiesenberg, "Calendar," Encyclopedia Judaic
the historical background, see Sacha Stern, Calendar and Communit
the Jewish Calendar, Second Century BCE - Tenth Century CE (Oxf
lebach, Palaces, 1 1-27.

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58 JQR 103.1 (2013)

molad vayad, the only available candid

were Thursday, August 27, lh 287ch,
Scaliger was most probably aware tha
of these dates, he risked detaching th
astronomical ones. The October date (1
ingly close to Monday, but as long as h
ria for shifting this particular molad
1.2.793 to 2.5.204, he was stuck. Alth
reasoning fully explicit, there is evid
with the tekufot , the equinoxes and sol
eventually led him toward a solution
claimed that the epochs of all lunar ye
or on solstices - an assumption he par
Metonic and Callippic cycles employe
both of which used the summer solsti
Seeing that the Jewish calendar epoc
creation of the world, it seemed reaso
behind its date. In Scaliger s time, it
had taken place at the time of one of
spring. From Münster 's Kalendarium He
had been similar debates among the t
sented by the party of R. Eliezer, wh
(autumnal equinox), and the followers
on Nisan (vernal equinox).31 The questi
of the "Palestinian" epoch had been. S
had sided with R. Joshua and himself in
It seems that this conviction was pa
tekufot of R. Ada, which he could find i
the four seasons of the Jewish year or,
cal beginning, namely, the equinoxes
months of Nisan, Tamuz, Tishri, and
dar knew of two systems of tekufot , w
two third-centuiy Babylonian amoraim
emy at Nehardea) and R. Ada bar Ahav
uel were based on the length of the Ju
being separated from the next one by an

30. Scaliger, DET (1583), 190. On the b

2:1 67-77.
31. Münster, Kalendaruim , 73-75, 87. See also Seder 'olam rabab A.
32. Scaliger, DET (1583), 198.

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( X 4 = 365.25d). This meant that the four tekufot slowly dr

the end of the Jewish year (at a rate of lh 485ch per 19-yea
naturally retaining their position in the Julian calendar (wit
N'uan falling on March 25/26). By contrast, the other s
ascribed to Samuels near contemporary R. Ada, but proba
not much earlier than the tenth centuiy - was based on the
solar year in the nineteen-year cycle of the fixed Jewish ca
is 1/1 9th of 6393d 16h 595ch. This value made it necessary
new unit of time below the chelek , known as the rega, whi
chelek . The tekufot R. Ada are thus separated by intervals o
31r, making up a solar year of 365d 5h 997ch 48r, which
to astronomical reality than Samuel's estimate.33
While the system of Samuel had already been treated at len
ster's Kalendarium Hebraicum , Ada's doctrine was largel
Christian scholars in Scaliger's time. His only source on
of tekufot was Uri's luah , from which he tacitly quoted in
referring to the "calendar of the Jews of Palestine," whe
NLtan of 5341 J.E. was noted for Thursday, 792ch 48r, a
Tamuz for Thursday, 8h 232ch Sr.54 Paraphrasing from
noted that

this is the method of the tekufot that was prescribed b

erudite Rabbi Aõôa- or Ada, if you prefer to spell
/7- and was also embraced by the Great Sanhédrin, w
rO"l 1H1H30. And for this reason the Oriental Jews do not
[ tekufot ] even today.35

The basic content of the passage is identical with Uri's o

except that Scaliger added the notion that oriental and
used different tekufot. He obviously inferred this from the
tekufot could not be found in Miinster's book, which was hi
for the "European" doctrine. As already mentioned, the
solar year was 1/1 9th of a nineteen-year cycle, which mean
noxes and solstices were bound to return to the exact sa
Jewish calendar after eveiy nineteen years. Since an ind

33. See Feldman, Rabbinical Mathematics, 74-76, 198-202; Sach

tious Calendars: Early Rabbinic Notions of Time, Astronomy an
87 (1996): 103-29 (105-9).
34. Scaliger, DET (1583), 177. Cf. Christmann, Calenàariiim , 73.
35. Scaliger, DET (1583), 177. Cf. the parallel passage in Christmann, Calen-
dariiim , 55.

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60 JQR 103.1 (2013)

shifted position by lOd 21h 12ch 48r rel

each year, the original starting point of t
mined by looking for a date in Uri s tab
regaim was 0. Using this method, Scal
ning of Ada's cycle was the tekufat Nuan
world era, falling on a Wednesday at t
Och Or after sunset or 9h 642ch before th
For Scaliger it must have thus been a
Nuan of R. Ada was based on the vern
B.C.E., year 1 of the "Palestinian" worl
book 4 of D ET, which operated on a m
5h 880ch or 365.2423d, Scaliger was a
equinox had fallen in said year on Apr
mind, he could return to the three afo
Tit bri in the first year of the Jewish c
Sunday, October 26, 3760 B.C.E., 2h 79
on Tuesday, April 21, 3759 B.C.E., 7h 1
to the equinox. Problematically, however
Jewish calendar had to begin on Mon
daring step, Scaliger left the familiar
system and shifted the calculated beginn
two hours to Monday, October 27, 5h
molad Nuan on Wednesday, April 22, 9
this result was that Scaliger was forc
moladot from the astronomical time of
that the "Palestinian" calendar was based
moon crescent - an understandable move
was often separated from the time of
A second consequence concerned the b
already mentioned, Scaliger could learn f
ence between the tekufat Nuan and th
9h 642ch. Judging from this interval
epoch should have occurred at the be
i.e., at sundown. Scaliger, on the other
equinox in 3759 B.C.E. to have fallen ar
that the Jewish calendar was based on

36. See Scaliger, DET (1583), 180-93; si

tropical year length in DET, see Grafton,
37. Scaliger, DET (1583), 6, 190, 300. Scalig
with new moon visibility had a long afte

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practice in astronomical tables, where the days began twel

than in "civil" usage. Wednesday, April 22, Oh (Jewis
equivalent to Tuesday, April 21, 12h (civil time).38
This theoiy in turn entailed another interesting cons
it provided Scaliger with an explanation for a peculiar feat
ish calendar, the postponement rule J ah or molad zaken ,
that Rod h ha-jhanah had to be postponed by one day if th
molad TLtbri fell on 18h or later. According to Sebasti
made the erroneous inference, also adhered to by Scalig
applied to each new moon of the year), molad zaken w
because "it would be foolish to celebrate the new moon when the old
moon is still in the sky."39 From Scaliger's point of view, according to
which the molad was the moment of first visibility, calculated from a noon-
epoch, this rather cryptic rule was not terribly difficult to elucidate: if the
computation of the moon started from noon, then any molad later than
18h actually occurred between sunrise and noon, at a time when no new
crescent could be seen, thereby necessitating a postponement to the fol-
lowing day.40
Scaliger had now reached the finishing line, with Monday, October 27,
5h 204ch, as the first molad T'uhri and Wednesday, April 22, 9h 642ch, as
the first molad Nuan of his newly discovered "Palestinian" Jewish calen-
dar. The Nisan date was indeed a veiy appropriate beginning for a world
era, because, according to Gen 1.14, Wednesday was the day on which
the heavenly luminaries were installed in the sky, and was thus the begin-
ning of both the lunar and the solar year. In book 5 of DET, Scaliger
claimed that the creators of the Jewish calendar had chosen April 22,
3759 B.C.E. among all possible dates precisely because they had tried to
find a day in history on which the vernal equinox and the first visibility
of the new moon had converged on a Wednesday. And he seemed to be
partly talking about himself when he remarked: "It certainly cost them a
lot of sweat to find these three connected [in one day]. For this date
cannot be calculated without great and immoderate labor and I do not
quite know whether their diligence was more astounding or if knowledge
of this thing was more pleasant."41

38. Scaliger, DET (1583), 85, 300, 303.

39. Münster, Kalendariiun, 127. On this rule, see Feldman, Rabbinical Mathe-
matics, 191-93; Stern, Calendar, 195-96.
40. Scaliger, DET (1583), 85, 265, 303, 315-17.
41. Ibid., 199. Scaliger himself dated the creation 189 years earlier, to 3949
B.C.E., in which the equinox fell on Wednesday, March 21, coinciding with the
conjunction of sun and moon. See ibid., 200-201, and Grafton, Scaliger, 2:263,

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62 JQR 103.1 (2013)


So far we have followed a rather simple chain of reaso

show how Scaliger was able to extrapolate his epoch of
27, 3760 B.C.E., from the raw material found in Uri ben Si
the stubbornness with which he developed this conclusi
much contradicting evidence only becomes fully unde
take into account his use of Flavius Josephus as a prima
ancient Jewish calendar. In the prolegomena to DET, Sc

Josephus, this excellent and most trustworthy author, w

over was always celebrated in the month of Xanthicus. B
the [epoch of the] Europeans, Passover often strayed
or April at the time of Christ. For in the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th,
16th and 18th year of the Jewish cycle, Passover fell
Dystrus, which is our March.42

In making this claim, Scaliger erroneously assumed

employed Macedonian month names as equivalents to
Julian calendar whenever he mentioned historical dates
and the Jewhh War . According to Josephus ( War 5.99
the year of the destruction of the Second Temple (70 C
brated on 14 Xanthicus, which Scaliger took to mean Ap
ter of fact, a calculation of the date of 14 Nisan for 70 C.E
the "European" epoch yielded Friday, April 13, where
ian" epoch happened to deliver the expected result of
14.43 Similar conclusions could be reached with regard
on 8 Xanthicus that took place a couple of years befor
Jerusalem ( War 6.290) and the Shavuot day on which H
during the Parthian expedition (Antiquitiej 13.251-53),
to confirm the existence and use of the "Palestinian" e
second century B.C.E. and the first centuiy C.E.44 As a res
erations, Scaliger considered himself justified in using
ered Jewish epoch to recalculate the date of Jesus's cru
according to the four canonical Gospels, happened on
time of Passover (14 or 15 Nisan). Let us take a look a
of 1 Nisan for the Jewish years 3789 to 3793 (30-34 C.E

42. Scaliger, DET (1583), sig. a4v.

43. Ibid., sig. a5r.
44. Ibid., 88-90, 265, 316.

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in the first edition of DET.45 For easy comparison, I ha

equivalents according to the regular "European" system.

European Palestinian
3789 J.E. (7. 19. 1 18) Sun, 3 April 29 Sun, 23 April 30
8/19 Embolismic and defective (383d)

3790 j e. (5.3.994) Thu, 23 March 30 Thu, 12 April 31

9/19 Common and regular (354d)

3791 j e. (2.12.790) Tue, 13 March 31 Tue, 01 April 32

10/19 Common and excessive (355d)

3792 j e. (1.10.299) Tue, 01 April 32 Sun, 19 April 33

11/19 Embolismic and excessive (385d)

3793 j e. (6.19.95) Sat, 21 March 33 Sat, 10 April 34

12/19 Common and regular (354d)

Before Scaliger, the opinion followed by most Christian chronolog

been that the Passion took place on Friday, April 3, 33 C.E., w
the equivalent Julian date of 14 Nisan in the fixed Jewish ca
also the date of the opposition of sun and moon. Had Scaliger
the "European" system, he would have had no reason to deviate fr
date. By contrast, the "Palestinian" epoch allowed for a Passov
day only one year and twenty days later, on April 23, 34 C.E.
Passion of Christ had been assigned to 34 C.E. by previous aut
such as the Venerable Bede and (in Scaligeri own time) the Ro
quarian Onofrio Panvinio, the calendar date of April 23 was a
novelty, which was later to be once again championed by Isaac
One of the problems created by dating the Passion to 34 C.E
resulting prolongation of Christ's public ministry, that is,
between his baptism and crucifixion. Since the Gospel of John me
three or possibly four Passovers in its account of this period
6.4, 1 1.55), it was traditionally assumed that Jesus had preached
three years. In the Gospel of Luke (3.1), however, the baptism
is associated with the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, wh

45. Ibid., 262. Instead of Tuesday, April 1, 32 C.E., Scaliger ha

March 30, which must be a slip.
46. Onofrio Panvinio, Faktorům Libri V a Romulo Rege tuque ad Imp.
Carolum V (Venice, 1558), 306-12; John P. Pratt, "Newton's Date for
fixion," Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society 32 (1991):
account of the history of attempts to date the crucifixion up to Scalig
provided in C. P. E. Nothaft, Dating the Pad j ion: The Life of Jejiuf and th
of Scientific Chronology, 200-1600 (Leiden, 201 1).

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64 JQR 103.1 (2013)

began in the autumn of 28 C.E. While Pa

baptism to January 6, 30 C.E., never
Scaliger came up with a fresh solution b
Jesus 's public ministry, according to wh
combined, accounted for five consecutiv
also claimed that the Jews of the fir
counting Roman regnal years, in whi
postponed to 1 Nisan 15 C.E. This assump
beginning of Tiberius 's fifteenth year t
to early 30 C.E.47 All of this naturally h
to set the crucifixion to 23 April, 34 CE.
the amazing result that the night of Chr
precisely 1530 Egyptian years (of 365
Exodus, when the first Paschal lamb
proof that Scaliger had succeeded?

This is the correct deduction of the y

the Lord, which has escaped the eyes
so many years, and not even to this ver
it been established with greater certain
through mere conjectures, as has bee
has been inferred from the true doctri

Needless to say, Scaliger's entire line of reasoning rested on highly shaky,

if not illusory, foundations. To begin with, it is hardly likely that the
month of Xanthicus in the works of Flavius Josephus really corres-
ponded to April or any other month in the Julian calendar. As Josephus 's
own custom of dating the Passover to 14 Xanthicus (e.g., Ant. 2.318,
3.248) clearly indicates, he generally used the Macedonian month names
to designate months in the Jewish calendar, equating Dystrus to Adar,

47. Scaliger, DET (1583), 2 57-63. See also Henk Jan de Jonge, "Joseph
Scaligers Historical Criticism of the New Testament/' Novum Testamentům, 38
(1996): 176- 93 (179-80); Grafton, Scaliger , 2:312-15. Scaligers views were sub-
sequently criticized by Nicolas Vignier, La Bibliothèque Historíale, 3 vols. (Paris,
1587), 1:696- 99; sigs. i4r- 5v. A different version of the five- Passover theory had
previously been proposed by Gerhard Mercator. See Henk Jan de Jonge,
"Sixteenth-Century Gospel Harmonies: Chemnitz and Mercator," in Théorie et
pratUļue de l'exégèse, ed. I. Backus and F. Higman (Geneva, 1990), 155-66.
48. Scaliger, DET (1583), 263.

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Xanthicus to Nisan, and so forth.49 Scaliger s decision to t

may have been partly motivated by Josephus's aforem
of a portent that occurred on 8 Xanthicus ( War 6.290), "a
the people were assembling for the Feast of Unleaven
Scaliger took this to mean that Josephus here equated
14 Nisan, it seems more likely that 8 Nisan was intend
many people had already assembled in Jerusalem one
actual feast.50
More importantly, however, the Jewish calendar of t
C.E. never followed the fixed, conjunction-based scheme th
in mind. Ten years before the first edition of DET, th
scholar Azariah de' Rossi (151 1/12- 1577) had begun to
umental Afe or enayim (the Light of the Eye<t, first printe
75) - a work of outstanding erudition, well known fo
discussions of chronological matters, which frequently
lished rabbinic wisdom. De' Rossi's meticulous source criticism revealed
that the traditional Jewish world era, which estimated the creation to
have taken place in 3761 or 3760 B.C.E., was based on a misapprehension
of the duration of the Persian rule over Israel. In rabbinic chronography,
as it is represented by the Seder * olam rabah, it was commonly assumed that
the Second Temple stood for sixty prophetic year-weeks or 420 years, of
which the first thirty-four years belonged to the period of Persian domin-
ion, encompassing the reign of three Persian kings. Contraiy to this,
ancient gentile sources showed that the Persians ruled for roughly 190
years and with more than ten kings after the erection of the Second Tem-
ple.51 This discrepancy was the principal reason why Christian world
eras, such as Scaliger's own calculation (3949 B.C.E.), differed from that
attached to the Jewish calendar by approximately two centuries. Scaliger
believed that he was able to explain this discrepancy by invoking his
theoiy of the origin of the Jewish calendar epoch. In his view, the ancient
rabbis had tried to date the creation of the world by searching for a year

49. See Emil Schürer, The Hu tory of the Jewish People in the Age of J es lu Christ
(175 B.C.-A.D. 135), 3 vols., trans, and ed. G. Vermes et al. (Edinburgh, 1973-87),
1:596-99; Stern, Calendar, 34-38; Federico M. Colautti, Passover in the Works of
Josephus (Leiden, 2002). See also the apt criticism in Christmann, DLf putativ,
50. Stern, Calendar, 58.
51. Azariah de Rossi, The Light of the Eyes, trans. J. Weinberg (New Haven,
Conn., 2001), 314-22, 405-542. On the background, see also Mitchell First, Jew-
ish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy between Rabbinic and Conven-
tional Chronology (North vale, N.J., 1997).

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66 JQR 103.1 (2013)

in which the equinox and the day of firs

cided. Since 3759 B.C.E. was the closest
which these parameters applied, they u
calendar, even though the age of the
scriptures, was roughly two centuries gr
By contrast, Azariah de' Rossi was abl
dar epoch was not based on astronomic
followed erroneous chronographic ass
range of rabbinic sources, he went on to
not an ancient institution, as some of
had only become attached to the Jewis
tuiy, at the instigation of patriarch
even much later, at the time of Rav S
it replaced the Seleucid "Era of Contra
tified as the founder of the conjunction
dar, whose institution Maimonides had d
of the Gemara." Before this time, the Je
based on the observation of the new moo
surmised, the babarad epoch had been
backward to the year of creation from a
Azariah de' Rossi's arguments aptly
believed the present-day Jewish calend
tic, origin. That this was a widespread
Jews is also hinted at by Scaliger, wh
remark: "If you ask a Jew nowadays
Hebrew year was, he will either think y
you insane to doubt that the lunar ye
self."66 According to Scaliger's own th
this view, the earliest Hebrew calendar
to the 365-day year used in ancient Egyp
he did not doubt that the lunisolar cal
introduced under Babylonian influence
at a veiy early stage. This view was partl
Münster, who had cited an obscure He

52. Scaliger, DET (1583), 79-80, 199-20

53. Azariah de' Rossi, The Light of the Eye
54. Ibid., 480-517; Maimonides, Sanctifica
Maimonides 3:8), trans. S. Gandz (New Ha
55. Scahger, DET (1583), 79. Translatio

56. Scaliger, DET (1583), 10-11, 150-54.

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edļ y showed that the postponement rules ( dehiyot ) of the

had been instituted close to the time of the founding of the
ple. Unbeknown to Scaliger, Azariah de' Rossi had alread
this idea, refuting it in his Matoref la-keoef (1576)- a fo
chronological themes explored in the Me'or enayim , in whic
to Miinster's Kalendarium Hebraicum.87

In his commentaiy on al-Farghānī's Elementa , Christmann, who knew

the Me'or enayim, effectively synthesized the theories of Scaliger and Aza-
riah de' Rossi by presenting a three-tiered theory of the historical devel-
opment of the Jewish calendar.58 Like Scaliger, he assumed that the
original Hebrew calendar had been a 365-day "wandering year" of the
Egyptian type, which was adjusted to the true length of the solar year by
inserting an additional thirty-day month eveiy 120 years. Contraiy to the
French philologist, however, he submitted that this calendar had been in
use until the days of Seleucid reign, when it was finally replaced by a
lunisolar calendar, based on the Era of Contracts (with an epoch on 1
Nisan 312 B.C.E.) and the nineteen-year Metonic cycle. The third and final
step toward the present-day calendar was made at the time of the closing
of the Babylonian Talmud (ca. 500 C.E.), when the Seleucid era was
replaced with the molad baharad. With regard to the postponement-rules
or dehiyot , which he believed to have been introduced at that same time,
Christmann gave his account a jarringly anti- Judaic spin. For the Jewish
rule of never allowing 15 Nisan to fall on a Friday, no other explanation
came into his mind than the Jews' hatred for Jesus and their alleged wish
to blot out the memoiy of his crucifixion, which had taken place on such
a combination of dates.59
In other respects, Christmann's exposition of the Jewish calendar was
remarkably similar to that found in DET, once the difference in epochs
is overlooked. He even repeated Scaliger's misapprehension according to
which the molad baharad designated the time of the moon's first visibility
at creation. In Christmann's interpretation, this had been the new moon
that followed the conjunction at the end of the Sabbath that concluded
the divine hexaëmeron.60 Against Scaliger's Passion date on April 23, 34

57. Joanna Weinberg, "Invention and Convention: Jewish and Christian Cri-
tique of the Jewish Fixed Calendar," Jewbh Hhtory 14 (2000): 317-30. See Scali-
ger's remarks on the antiquity of the dehiyot in DET (1583), 316. See further
Grafton, Scaliger, 2:177-88, 326-29.
58. Christmann, Muhamedu Alfragani, 233-36. See also Christmann, Dhputatio,
2-3; Christmann, Calendariiun, 32-33, with references to the Me'or enayim.
59. Christmann, Muhamedu Alfragani , 235. See also Christmann, Dui putat to, 3,
69; Christmann, Calendariiim , 32.
60. Christmann, Muhamedu Alfragani, 242. Cf. ibid., 236-65.

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68 JQR 103.1 (2013)

C.E., Christmann reinstated April 3,

defended by other sixteenth-centuiy
Lucidus Samotheus (1537) and Pietro P
Scaliger did not become the man wh
founder of scientific chronology for per
concocted Jewish epoch for much lon
improvement was paved in 1593, when
take up what effectively became Europ
Leiden, whose recently established unive
utation as an innovative center of learni
of his new Dutch environment and his
ger could spend the following years bu
as he acquired an impressive stock of
oriental languages, the bulk of which is
of Leiden's university libraiy.62 The info
sources led him to rethink a variety of h
thus provided much of the impetus fo
tion of DET, which finally hit the book
dramatic changes that Scaliger made t
silent elimination of his "Palestinian"
of the regular "European" version of
change naturally affected all of the hi
its basis, including the creation of the w
of Jesus, which had to be shifted bac
C.E.63 Where Scaliger had previously r
and Uri ben Simeon, the second emen
chapter on the Jewish calendar with c
treatise kidiish ha- hoàes h and the talmu
showed that the Jewish calendar had at
tion, the new moons being reported b

61. Ibid., 371-404; Christmann, Disputatio

19-24; Johannes Lucidus Samotheus, Opuscul
ice, 1537), fols. 161r-94r; Pietro Pitati, Comp
lunaris anni qiiantitate (Verona, 1560), fols
" 'Christmannus/ " 278, claim that Christm
C.E. and thus misread the passage in his Epis
62. On the background, see Anthony Gra
tific Scholarship at Leiden," in The University
the Present, ed. T. Bender (Oxford, 1988), 5
Dead (Cambridge, Mass., 2001), chap. 6; G
Heide, Hebrew Manuscripts, 3-10; Vrolijk and
63. For Scaliger's discussion of the life o
DET (1598), 506-30.

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the Sanhédrin. He supplemented these insights with a new

cording to which the Jews of the Second Temple had also u
cid lunisolar calendar, allegedly based on a seventy-six-y
cycle, for civil purposes.64
The last great reform of the Jewish calendar, which h
present-day system, he now dated to the year 656 of the S
344 C.E.), the first year of a nineteen-year intercalation cycle
the calculated molad T'uhri fell on Monday, September 24,
baharad epoch had occurred 4, 104 years earlier, on Mond
5h 204 - a strikingly similar calendrical value. As Scaliger
4,104 years was the interval it took for 1 Tishri to recede by
1 hour from October 7 to September 24, which was the d
Tifhri according to Samuel. Seizing on this coincidence, he
the baharad-e poch had been deduced retrospectively from
near the autumnal equinox in 344 C.E.65 In his Thejauriut tem
the final edition of DET, which only appeared posthumo
Scaliger attributed this last reform to the patriarch Hille
claims he had encountered in Maimonides and in more recent Hebrew

historiographical sources such as Abraham Zacuto s Sefer yuhcunn and

David Gans's Tjemach David.66 This use of contemporary Jewish source
material had previously already characterized the works of Jacob Christ-
mann, whose critiques of Scaliger contained several references to the
Me 'or e nay im, the Sefer yuhadin, and the Sefer evronot, a pioneering compen-
dium on the calendar, printed by Jacob Marcaria in the Italian small
town of Riva di Trento in 1560/61. 67 By tracing the present-day Jewish
calendar back to the fourth century C.E., Scaliger propagated a vastly
improved (although still not fully accurate) view of its historical develop-
ment, which would retain a firm hold on both Christian and Jewish schol-
arship for centuries to come.68

64. Scaliger, DET (1598), sigs. ß3r-v; 89-105; Grafton, Scaliger, 2:420-24.
65. Scaliger, DET (1598), 593-95.
66. Joseph Justus Scaliger, Opiui àe emendatione temporum (3rd ed., Geneva,
1629), 634; Scaliger, Tbejauriu* Temporum (Leiden, 1606), Isagogici chronologiae
cánones, 215-16, 277- 80; (2nd ed., Amsterdam, 1658), 222-23, 282-85; Grafton,
Scaliger, 2:652, 664.
67. See n. 58 above and Christmann, Epistola (1591), 5; Christmann, D'upu-
tatio, 7, 9, 24, 28; Christmann, Calenàarium , 53, 151. On Jacob Marcaria, see
Joshua Bloch, "Hebrew Printing in Riva di Trento," Bulletin of the New York Public
Library 37 (1933): 755-69; Carlebach, Palace 50-51.
68. Ideler, Handbuch, 1:576. Franz Rühl, Chronologie dej Mittelalters und der Neu-
zeit (Berlin, 1897), 189-90; Eduard Mahler, Handbuch der jüdischen Chronologie
(Leipzig, 1916), 455-79.

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70 JQR 103.1 (2013)


As the foregoing discussion has shown, Scaliger s path t

excellence was far from straightforward. His mistakes, how
nal the importance the Jewish calendar possessed for the
tian chronologers in the late sixteenth centuiy. It caused me
and Christmann to delve deep into exotic Hebrew sour
Utah of Uri ben Simeon and Azariah de' Rossi's Me'or ein
cuss the purpose of strange elements such as the dehiyot . T
the calendar of the Jews can only be properly understoo
its relevance for Christian chronology. The ability to ac
mine past dates in the Jewish calendar was a necessaiy p
solving an age-old dispute concerning the date of the crucif
Christ, who died on a Friday around Passover (14 or 15
the precise year or Julian calendar date being known. Fo
mann, the question of the Passion date was of such par
tance that he dedicated to it some thirty pages in his al-
only to return to the subject repeatedly during the followin
made clear in his various publications, the main reason w
scholar should acquire a working understanding of the J
was to be able to correctly determine the year and c
Christ's Passion and Resurrection. It was precisely his m
of the method of this calendar that had made it impossible
find the proper date at first tiy.69
Christmann 's stressing of the importance of the Jewi
tool for New Testament chronology was neither original
torical. Its intimate historical ties to the sceneiy of the
made it an object of Christian study centuries before either
ies or historical chronology had become established disci
first full-scale Latin treatise on the medieval Jewish calend
ca. 1171 by a Westphalian cathedral canon named Reinher
contained an extensive discussion on how to apply this n
knowledge to finding the date of the crucifixion.70 As t

69. Christmann, Muhamedu* Alfragani, 174. See also Christman

4, 7-8, and Christmann, Disputata , 1. On the chronology of Jesu
its importance for early modern Hebraists, see now also Anth
Joanna Weinberg, "/ Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue": Isaac Cas
and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Cambrid
214-30 (esp. p. 223).
70. See the editions by Walter Emile van Wijk, Le comput emen
de Paderborn (1171) (Amsterdam, 1951); and Werner Herold, Reinh
Computus Emendatus (Paderborn, 201 1). On the medieval Christ
Jewish calendar, see C. P. E. Nothaft, "Between Crucifixion

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gests, the study of chronology lay close to the roots of

ism, a movement that came to full fruition during the six
and provided some of the conceptual breeding ground for
gence of comparative religion and cultural anthropology
by a desire to read the Sacred Scriptures in their origi
increasing number of scholars, often aided by learned
converts to Christianity, also turned to the study of Jewi
and ceremonial life. An important role was played by ethn
sentations of Judaism, which began to flourish in Ger
sixteenth century and in which descriptions of Jewish fea
and order in the calendar, were a frequent focal point.71
While some of the hopes that drove Christian chronologe
of Jewish calendars were never quite satisfied (the true da
fixion remains a matter of contention, while attempts
age of the world on the basis of scripture were thwarted,
trant pagan sources and finally by the advent of geolo
different kind could be reaped along the way. The ve
DET on which Scaliger set out to establish a satisfactor
Jesus's earthly life also saw him make brilliant use of
and the Passover Haggadah as means of reconstructing
ish setting of the Last Supper, which thus turned

Another outcome of his chronological research was

Jewish tradition, be it ancient or contemporary, was n

Reform: Medieval Christian Perceptions of the Jewish Luni

Living the Lunar Calendar , ed. J. Ben-Dov, W. Horowitz, a
(Oxford, 2012), 259-67; Nothaft, "A Tool for Many Purpose
(d. 1445) and the Medieval Christian Appropriation of the
Journal of Jewish Studies (forthcoming).
71. On Christian Hebraism and ethnographies of Judaism, s
"'A View of the Jewish Religion': Conceptions of Jewish Pra
Early Modern Europe," Archiv für Religioruigejcbichte 3 (200
"Von der luden Ceremonien-. Representations of Jews in Sixtee
many," in Jew¿, Judaism, and the Reformation in Sixteenth-Century
Bell and S. G. Burnett (Leiden, 2006), 335-56; Allison P. Cou
S. Shoulson, eds., Hebraica Veritas ? Christian Hebraists and the
Early Modern Europe (Philadelphia, 2004); Giuseppe Veltri an
eds., Gottes Sprache in der philologischen Werkstatt: Hebraistik
Jahrhundert (Leiden, 2004). On the historical and comparativ
in the early modern period, see now Guy G. Stroumsa, A New Scie
of Religion in the Age of Reason (Cambridge, Mass., 2010).
72. See Grafton, Scaliger, 2:315-24.

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72 JQR 103.1 (2013)

uniform. While Scaliger was working

made the startling discoveiy that the "
of the Apostles (6.1; 1 1.20) were Jews
but used a Greek Bible and followed a
Suddenly it became possible to view w
as representatives of a specific branc
largely given up on Hebrew as a sacre
previously been entertained by Azariah
his chronological studies in the Me'or e
Greek Jew, whose doctrinal deviation
or Aramaic linked him to what de' Rossi misconstrued as the Essene sect.
In a similar vein, Scaligeri later works contained numerous original (and
controversial) observations on Judaic sects and groups such as the Sad-
ducees, Karaites, and Samaritans, which greatly influenced subsequent
Christian scholarship.73 His attempts to prove the existence of a "Pales-
tinian" version of the Jewish calendar, which predated the "European"
version previously known to Christian scholars, may thus be seen as an
early test-run in Scaligeri project of painting a more variegated picture
of ancient and modern Judaism. If these intentions did not automatically
lead to sound results, this was partly due to the dangers inherent in any
intellectual activity conducted from the armchair, without confirmation
from the outside world. As Christmann asked in one of his more sneering
moments: "How could one be so eager to know about the Jewish compu-
tus and not have dared to go to the Jews who live eveiywhere in the
populous cities of Italy, Germany, Poland, and elsewhere, to ask them
how years are computed?"74
It is tempting to connect this accusation with a remark made by Scali-
ger in his 1595 epistle to Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, where he pointed to
the support he had received from the "Jews of Avignon," who had alleg-
edly furnished him with suggestions and material on the Jewish calendar,

73. For further information, see Joanna Weinberg, "The Quest for Philo in
Sixteenth-Centuiy Jewish Historiography," in Jewish History: Essays in Honour of
Chimen Abramsky, ed. A. Rapoport- Albert and S. J. Zipperstein (London, 1988),
163-87; Johannes van den Berg, "Proto- Protestants? The Image of the Karaites
as a Mirror of the Catholic- Protestant Controversy in the Seventeenth Century,"
in Jewish-Christian Relation** in the Seventeenth Century , ed. J. van den Berg and
E. G. E. van der Wall (Dordrecht, 1988); Anthony Grafton, "Joseph Scaliger et
l'histoire du judaïsme hellénistique," in La République des lettres et l'histoire du
judaïsme antique, XVIe- XVI Ile siècles, ed. C. Grell and F. Laplanche (Paris, 1992),
51-63; Grafton, Scaliger , 2:413-20, 507-12, 646-48; Grafton and Weinberg, "/
Have Always," 153-57, 200-02.
74. Christmann, Disputatio, 8. Translation according to Grafton, Scaliger, 2:191.

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thereby compelling him to revise some of his opinions

had maintained some form of contact with Jews from the Provence is
quite likely. In his table-talk, he relates his strange encounter in Avignon
with a poor but learned Jewess, with whom he allegedly ate fish. He even
claims to have debated the local rabbi and to have received a Hebrew
book from the Jewish community in the same city.76 Yet a comparison of
the sparse information on Scaliger 's collaboration with Avignonese Jews
with all the detailed criticism provided by Jacob Christmann during the
preceding years raises the question of who had a greater share in getting
Scaliger to rethink his arguments. It is striking to see that many of the
improvements that distinguish his treatment of the Jewish calendar in
the emended editions of DET - the abandonment of the "Palestinian"
epoch, the Passion date on April 3, the use of contemporary Jewish
sources such as de' Rossi and Zacuto, and the idea to locate the origin
of the fixed Jewish calendar in Late Antiquity - can already be found,
admittedly in often slightly different form, in Christmann's writings. Jud-
ging from these parallels, it may well be that Scaliger used the "Jews of
Avignon" as a smokescreen, by which he intended to hide his debts to a
scholar he disliked and to an incisive criticism of his scholarship that he
found difficult to stomach. In the end, Christmann's attempts to teach an
old chronological giant some new tricks may have been more successful
than his contemporaries realized.77

75. Scaliger, Hippolyti Episcopi Canon Pase halu, sig. Mr. An unbound copy of
the second edition of Christmann's Ep'tstola chronologica, presumably including the
Disputatio, is listed in the 1609 auction catalog of Scaliger s books. See The Auction
Catalogue of the Library of J. J. Scaliger, ed. H. J. de Jonge (Utrecht, 1977), 46:
"Iacobi Christmanni Epistola ad Lipsium de connexione Annorum Hebraeorum.
4to. Francof. 94 'sicV'."
76. See the article on "Judaei" in Scaligerana, 2:402-10 (409-10). A transla-
tion of this passage into modern French is found in Salomon Reinach, "Joseph
Scaliger et les juifs," Revue des Études Juives 88 (1929): 171- 76. See further
Anthony Grafton, "Close Encounters of the Learned Kind: Joseph Scaliger s
Table Talk," American Scholar 57 (1988): 581-88 (587-88); Grafton and Wein-
berg, "I Have Always" 287; Clemens M. Bruehl, "Josef Justus Scaliger: Ein Bei-
trag zur geistesgeschichtlichen Bedeutung der Altertumswissenschaft (Forts.),"
Zeitschrift filr Religions - und Geistesgeschichte 13 (1961): 45-65 (55-65); W. den
Boer, "Joseph Scaliger en de Joden," in Bestuurders en geleerden, ed. S. Groenveld
et al. (Amsterdam, 1985), 65-74. In later years, Scaliger found a personal instruc-
tor in the converted Polish Jew Philipp Ferdinand. See Grafton, Scaliger, 2:496-
97, 511-12, and Alastair Hamilton, "Ferdinand, Philip (1556-1599)," Oxford
Dictionary of National Biography, accessed May 2, 201 1, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9308.
77. For helpful comments and improvements to my text, I am much indebted
to the anonymous reviewers for JQR as well as to Yaacov Deutsch, Anthony
Grafton, and Eitan Grossmann.

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