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The Kuzari and the Shaping of Jewish Identity, 1167–1900


  • Page extent: 402 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.76 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521885331)

Judah Halevi's Book of the Kuzari is a defense of Judaism that has enjoyed an almost continuous transmission since its composition in the twelfth century. By surveying the activities of readers, commentators, copyists and printers for more than 700 years, Adam Shear examines the ways that the Kuzari became a classic of Jewish thought. Today, the Kuzari is usually understood as the major statement of an anti-rationalist and ethnocentric approach to Judaism and is often contrasted with the rationalism and universalism of Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed. But this conception must be seen as a modern construction, and the reception history of the Kuzari demonstrates that many earlier readers of the work understood it as offering a way toward reconciling reason and faith and of negotiating between particularism and universalism.

• First comprehensive exploration of this major medieval work • First history in the English language of any work of medieval Jewish thought • Demonstrates continuities in Jewish identity from Middle Ages to nineteenth century


Introduction; 1. Texts and contexts: pre-modern dissemination and transmission; 2. The image and function of the Kuzari in the Late Middle Ages; 3. The Kuzari in Renaissance Italy; 4. Judah Moscato's project and the making of an authoritative work; 5. The image and function of the Kuzari in early modern Europe; 6. The creation of an Enlightenment Kuzari; 7. Continuity and change in the nineteenth century; Conclusion: the emergence of late modern dichotomies.


'This book represents an astonishingly thorough and erudite discussion of the reception history of one of Judaism's most important books. The research is wide-ranging, deeply perceptive, and meticulously documented. An unparalleled achievement, this volume stands with the best sort of Jewish intellectual history.' Allan Arkush, Binghamton University

'This book can only be described as a masterful treatment of its subject. Shear's scholarship is astonishing in its breadth. In the course of following the Kuzari through history, Shear sheds a great deal of light on a series of widely disparate intellectual milieus. In the final analysis, his research provides us with very important insights into a past that is widely misconstrued in the light of the present.' Matt Goldish, The Ohio State University

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