ELIAS LEVITA (Elijah ben Asher ha-Levi): Rabbi; b. at Neustadt-on-the-Aisch (20 m. n.w. of Nuremberg) 1469; d. at Venice Jan. 28, 1549. His German birth is explicitly declared in the first preface to his Massoret, a statement corroborated by Kimchi and by Sebastian Münster. But Italy became his second home, hence he could state at the end of the Methurgeman, that he "wished to return to Italy, the land whence he came, and die in his city of Venice." He taught Hebrew at Padua 1504-09, lost his property there at the sack of that city by the French, removed to Venice, thence to Rome (in 1512), where he was under the protection of Egidio of Viterbo. When Rome was taken by Charles V. (1527) a second time he lost his property. He removed to Venice, which became his permanent home, with the exception of a few intervals spent at Isny and in a visit to Germany, 1540-43.
Elias Levita would occupy an honorable place among Hebrew grammarians, even if an extraordinary significance had not been attached to his labor by the historical conditions under which it was accomplished. His work became a factor of that historical advancement by which Christendom returned to the documentary sources of its doctrines. To this new beginning of linguistic and historical studies Elias Levita rendered important services. After Reuchlin under the direction of the physician Jacob Jehiel Loans (L. Geiger, ut inf., pp. 24, 26) had mastered Hebrew, and after Matthias Adrianus, a converted Jew from Spain, had been the teacher of Pellican (Geiger, p. 43), Levita, through the mediation of Sebastian Münster and Paul Fagius, exercised a much stronger and more lasting influence upon the transference of Hebrew knowledge to the Christians. Still greater than in the department of grammatical and lexical inquiries was the impulse which Elias Levita by his Massoreth hammassoreth gave to the text-critical treatment of the Old Testament. He brought his children up in the Jewish faith in spite of his intimate intercourse with Christian scholars; but to the greatest sorrow of one of his daughters her two sons, Eliano and Sol. Romano embraced the Christian faith (Graetz, ix. 335). Elias Levita was a pleasing example of a scholar who knew how to keep free from partizan entanglements the interest in the subject of his inquiry.
His writings are: (a) Text-critical: Massoreth hammassoreth (Venice, 1538; German translation by C. G. Meyer with annotations by Semler, Halle, 1772; in Hebrew and English by D. Ginsburg, London, 1867); (b) Grammatical: Perush al Pethach Debaray (ascribed to Moses Kimchi [q.v.], Pesaro, 1507); Biur al Mahalakh shebhile ha-daath ("Elucidations on Kimchi's grammar Mahalak," Pesaro, 1508; the Mahalakh with a Latin version by S. Münster, Basel, 1527); Sepher habbahur (treating of Hebrew grammar, Rome, 1518, revised edition, Isny, 1542; Hebrew and Latin by Münster under the title of Dikduk, Basel, 1518; with scholia, 1537, 1542); Sepher ha-harkabhah (elucidation of words composed of different forms, Rome, 1519); Sepher tub-ta'am (on Hebrew accents, Venice, 1538, also Latinized by Münster); Nimmukhim (remarks on D. Kimchi's Mikhlol and printed with it, Venice, 1545). (c) Lexical: Iishbi (an explanation of 712 words from Jewish literature, Basel, 1527); Methurgeman (a lexicon of Targumic and Talmudic words, Isny, 1541); Shemoth debharim (a glossary of Hebrew words, Isny, 1542); Nimmukim (annotations to D. Kimchi's "Book of Roots," printed together, Venice, 1546); (d) Exegetical: "The Psalms with Kimchi's commentary and corrections by the editor " (Isny, 1542); "The Psalms faithfully translated into Judeo-German ;" "the Targum to the Proverbs with Glosses" (Isny, 1541); "The Book of Job in Rimes" (Venice, 1544); (e) Literary: Sepher habbabhah (narrative of the wonderful events of prince Buovo d'Antona, a novel), Shirim, "Hymns" (Venice, 1545).
Bibliography: J. C. Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebræa, i. 153 161, iii. 97 102, iv. 182, Hamburg, 1715 33; J. F. Hirt, Orientalische und exegetische Bibliothek, vii. 50 sqq., Jena, 1776; J. Fürst, Bibliotheca judaica, ii. 239 242, Leipsic, 1849 63; L. Geiger, Das Studium der hebräischen Sprache in Deutschland, ib. 1870; J. Levi, Elia Levita und seine Leistungen als Grammatiker, Breslau, 1888; Bacher, in ZDMG, 1889, 206 272; H. Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, vol. ix. passim, Leipsic, 1891; C. A. Briggs, Study of Holy Scripture, passim, New York, 1899; JE, viii. 46-49.