Isaac La Peyrère ´s Criticism of the Bible and Philosemitism

© Verlag de Gruyter

Historian Andreas Pietsch looks at the French scholar Isaac La Peyrère whose striking philosemitism and strong criticism of the bible can be put into context to the relationship to his patron Prince Condé. The French scholar Isaac La Peyrère (1596–1676) is something of an enigma, and has been since his own time. After having left Bordeaux in 1640, the Huguenot La Peyrère entered the service of the Prince of Condé, a Catholic, who remained his patron until his death. He became quite notorious for the works which he published from 1643 onwards. Because of the scandals surrounding his writings La Peyrère has largely been interpreted either as a crypto-Jew or as an early atheist.

The present study investigates him and his work not only in terms of theological history but, for the first time, within the context of the social practices of the European Republic of Letters. La Peyrère’s criticism of the Bible and his striking interest in the Jews can now be newly interpreted in relation to spiritual reading of St Paul and La Peyrère’s relationship to his patron, Prince Condé.

By offering strictly biblical argumentations, mainly centering on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, La Peyrère presented a religious legitimation of political power. His works are rather ambiguous writings in confessional terms, which highlights the tense relationship between a Huguenot client and his Catholic patron. Looking at him from this perspective, La Peyrère is a highly intriguing case study for the political and religious intersections in the Republic of Letters.

Literature: Pietsch, Andreas, Isaac La Peyrère. Bibelkritik, Philosemitismus und Patronage in der Gelehrtenrepublik des 17. Jahrhunderts (Frühe Neuzeit, vol. 163), Berlin: De Gruyter 2012.