REUCHLIN, reiн"lin' (CAPNION), JOHANNES: German humanist; b. at Pforzheim (24 m. n.w. of Stuttgart) Feb. 22, 1455; d. at Bad Liebenzell (20 m. w. of Stuttgart) June 30, 1522. After a brief course at the University of Freiburg, where he was matriculated May 19, 1470, he was a chorister in his native town and then gained a place at court in the chantry of the Margrave Charles I. The latter sent him as companion to his son to the University of Paris, where he began the study of Greek. In the summer of 1474 he worked at Basel (B.A., 1475; M.A., 1477), still continuing his study of Greek. At this period he composed his Vocabularius breviloquus (1475), but his teaching of Aristotelian philosophy brought him into conflict with the "sophists" of the university. He accordingly returned to Paris and resumed his Greek studies, then went to Orléans in 1478 to study jurisprudence, receiving his degree in law in the following year and supporting himself by teaching. He continued his legal studies at Poitiers and became licentiate of law in 1481. Reuchlin then returned to Germany and intended to lecture at Tübingen, but was requested by Count Eberhard im Bart to accompany him to Rome. After his return to Germany he was the counselor of the count and also practised law in Stuttgart. In 1484 he received a seat among the court judges, and two years later was Eberhard's envoy to the Diet of Frankfort, besides attending the coronation of Maximilian at Aachen. Meanwhile Reuchlin had begun the study of Hebrew. He visited Rome a second time in 1490 as the companion of the natural son of Eberhard, and two years later the count sent him to the court of the Emperor Frederick at Linz on a diplomatic mission. The emperor honored Reuchlin by conferring on him the title and privileges of a palsgrave, and here he secured instruction in Hebrew from the emperor's physician-in-ordinary, the learned Jew Jacob Loans. He now devoted himself to the mystery of the Cabala (q.v.), and in 1494 his De verbo mirifico appeared, in which he sought to show that God and man meet through the revelation of the mysteries contained in the marvelous names of God, especially in the tetragrammaton, the ineffable first becoming utterable through the most marvelous of all names (which he transliterated Jhovh, Jesus, recalling the tetragrammaton Yhwh), wherein man is united with God and saved.
The death of Eberhard (Feb. 24, 1496) brought Reuchlin in peril of his life from the unbridled Eberhard the Younger and the Augustinian Konrad Holzinger, who were opposed to him. He fled from Stuttgart to Heidelberg and was appointed counselor and chief tutor by the Elector Palatine Philip, Dec. 31, 1497. In 1498 Reuchlin again went to Rome on a mission for his patron, finding opportunity to continue his Hebrew studies with a learned Jew, Obadiah Sforno, and meeting Aldus Manucius at Venice. In Apr., 1499, he was again at home. During the period of his residence at Heidelberg, which was now to end, he had written, besides Latin poems and epigrams, two Latin comedies in imitation of Terence, Sergius, and Henno.
Meanwhile Eberhard the Younger had been deposed in Württemberg, and it became possible for Reuchlin to return to Stuttgart, where he was one of the three judges of the Swabian alliance until the end of 1512. In the midst of his official duties and his private practise, he found time to publish at Pforzheim, in 1506, his De rudimentis Hebraicis. This was followed in 1512 by a Hebrew edition of the seven penitential Psalms with a literal Latin translation and grammatical explanation for the use of beginners; and in 1518 by his De accentibus et orthographia lingu Hebraic. In the mean time he had published in 1517 his De arte cabbalistica, in which the cabala was held to have been revealed to Adam by an angel and to have been preserved in unbroken tradition to the time of the great synagogue and then transmitted by it to the writers of the Talmud. The cabala was further asserted to be in harmony with the Pythagorean philosophy, which had drawn from Egyptian, Jewish, and Persian sources. The esoteric doctrines of the cabala were emphasized and the various methods of gematria were explained and exemplified.
During this period Reuchlin became involved in the controversy which was to embitter the closing years of his life. As early as 1505, in his missive, Warumb die Juden so lang im elend sind, he had held that the wretchedness of the Jews was a punishment for their rejection of the Messiah and their stubborn unbelief. At the same time, he did not wish them persecuted, but prayed that God might enlighten them. But Johann Pfefferkorn, a converted Jew, acted differently. He sought to compel the Jews to surrender all books contrary to the Christian faith and to attend sermons preached for their conversion. Pfefferkorn's course won the approval of the emperor, who, on Aug. 19, 1509, issued a mandate requiring compliance with his plans. Reuchlin declined to cooperate with Pfefferkorn, while Uriel, archbishop of Mainz, forbade Pfefferkorn to work in his archdiocese until further notice. Meanwhile the Jews of Frankfort had complained to the emperor that Pfefferkorn was ignorant in these matters, and Maximilian placed Uriel in charge of the confiscation, at the same time directing him to assemble certain scholars and others, including Reuchlin, and then to decide the matter. But Uriel delayed, and on July 6, 1510, Pfefferkorn obtained from the emperor a new requirement that the archbishop should merely secure the written opinions of those he had before been directed to consult, these decisions being intended for the emperor's consideration. On Oct. 6, 1510, Reuchlin accordingly delivered his opinion. He distinguished between obvious impieties, such as the Nizahon and the Toledoth Yeshu, which should be destroyed after legal investigation and condemnation, and the others, which should be preserved. The latter were divided into six categories, characterized partly as having no bearing on Christianity (as philosophy and natural science), partly as unobjectionable (liturgies), partly as indispensable for understanding the Bible (commentaries), partly as defending the Christian faith (the cabala), and partly as containing much of value along with superstition (the Talmud). He likewise held that the Jews were not heretics, but could claim legal protection. The opinions of the other scholars were radically different, and Maximilian determined to lay the matter before the diet, but no actual steps were ever taken.
The literary controversy, however, still dragged on, and Pfefferkorn finally offered to be judged by the emperor, the archbishop of Mainz, a university, or the inquisitor. Reuchlin replied to Pfefferkorn in his Augenspiegel (1511), but the pastor at Frankfort, Peter Meyer, judging the book heterodox, inhibited it and sent a copy to the Dominican Jakob Hochstraten, inquisitor of the province of Mainz, who submitted it to the theological faculty of Cologne. Arnold of Tungern and the Dominican Konrad Köllin, commissioned to examine it, required Reuchlin to withdraw all copies and publicly to beg his readers to consider him a true Catholic and an enemy of the Jews and especially of the Talmud. This was demanding too much, and after a series of further polemics, including Reuchlin's Ain clare Verstentnus (1512) and Defensio contra calumniatores (1513), the emperor was prevailed upon to silence both parties in June, 1513. Reuchlin now endeavored, through Frederick the Wise, to have the mandate extended to all his opponents; and the attempt of a Dominican to malign Reuchlin to the elector led both Luther and Carlstadt to express themselves in his favor. Frederick answered the Dominican with diplomatic reserve; but meanwhile the Cologne faction had secured from the emperor the confiscation of the Defensio, while Hochstraten had gained the condemnation of the Augenspiegel from the universities of Louvain, Cologne, Mainz, Erfurt, and Paris. Reuchlin was accordingly cited before the court of the inquisition at Mainz (Sept. 9, 1513). He failed to appear, but appealed to the pope, and then went to Mainz in the hope of a peaceable understanding. Failing in this, he again appealed to the pope who entrusted the decision to the Palsgrave George, bishop of Speyer (Nov., 1513). George cited the parties concerned and delegated judgment to the learned canon Thomas Truchsess, a pupil of Reuchlin's. On Mar. 29, 1514, judgment was rendered in favor of Reuchlin, whereupon Hochstraten appealed to the pope, and a committee of twenty-two was finally appointed, which, on July 2, 1516, decided in Reuchlin's favor. At this moment, however, a papal mandatum de supersedendo was issued, and judgment was postponed indefinitely, though Hochstraten remained for a year in Rome, vainly endeavoring to secure the condemnation of the Augenspiegel.
Reuchlin had the sympathy of the Humanists, as was evidenced both by their letters addressed to him, which he published as Clarorum virorum epistol (Tübingen, 1514, and Zurich; 1558) and Epistol obscurorum virorum (q.v.). He had a powerful protector in Franz von Sickingen (see SICKINGEN, FRANZ VON), who warned the Dominicans, and especially Hochstraten, to leave Reuchlin in peace. A final court was now determined upon, which met at Frankfort in May, 1520, and, condemning Hochstraten's attitude, recommended that the provincial should prevail on the pope to end the controversy and enjoin silence on both parties, while the Dominican chapter deposed Hochstraten from his offices of prior and inquisitor. At Rome, however, Reuchlin was now considered to be in sympathy with Luther, and on June 23, 1520, the papal decision was rendered in favor of Hochstraten. Reuchlin appealed in vain to Rome, and Sickingen with equal futility to the emperor. But interest in the controversy was at an end--the problem of Luther had appeared.
On Feb. 29, 1520, Reuchlin was appointed by Duke William of Bavaria professor of Greek and Hebrew at Ingolstadt, but early in the following year the plague compelled him to go to Tübingen, where he lectured in 1521-22.
The indirect services of Reuchlin to the Reformation were considerable. In 1518 he recommended his great-nephew Melanchthon as professor of Greek at Wittenberg; yet his own attitude toward Luther was unsympathetic, as was his feeling toward the Reformation in general.