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Bidding Information
Lot #    7401
Auction End Date    6/8/2004 1:34:00 PM (mm/dd/yyyy)
Title Information
Title (English)    Gerusalemme (Jerusalem)
Author    Moses Mendelssohn
City    Trieste
Publisher    Gio Tommaso Hochenberger
Publication Date    1790
Collection Information
Independent Item    This listing is an independent item not part of any collection
Description Information
   227 pp., 184:110 mm., wide margins, stamp on title, light age and damp staining. A very good copy bound in later half leather and marbled paper boards.
   Important theological work by Moses Mendelssohn in which he defends Judaism and argues for emancipation. This work secured Mendelssohn's place in the history of Jewish thought. Its importance can be seen from the fact that the first edition, in German, was published in 1783, and only seven years later it had been translated into Italian, as well as other languages. The text of the title page states “overra della podesta ecclesiatica e del giudaismo di m. m. Dal Tedesco recata in Italiano,” that is, Moses Mendelssohn’s Jerusalem translated from the German into Italian. Mendelssohn wrote Jerusalem in response to the public challenge of John Casper Lavater (1741–1801), a Swiss clergyma, to defend the superiority of Judaism to Christianity. Lavater dedicated his translation of a Christian theological work to Mendelssohn, writing that the latter should "do what wisdom, love of truth, and honor require, and what Socrates would have done had he read the treatise and found it irrefutable," that is, to convert. Mendelssohn responds in Jerusalem, writing that it is superfluous and therefore illogical to assume that revelation can disclose a truth at which man can arrive by his own capacity to reason. Revelation cannot convince any man of the validity of something his reason cannot understand. Mendelssohn is aware that his rejection of revelation on philosophical grounds clashes with the classic self-image of Judaism which conceives itself as based on the Sinaitic covenant between God and Israel. If Judaism is revealed, it cannot be a religion for Mendelssohn, or if it is a religion it cannot have been revealed. He resolves this dilemma by defining Judaism not as a "revealed religion" but as "revealed law." The central religious tenets of Judaism—the existence and unity of God, divine providence, and the immortality of the soul—are not specific Jewish notions but doctrines of the general religion of reason, which require no proof or act of revelation to be intelligible. What distinguishes the Jew from the non-Jew is not his religion, which is the common property of all men of reason, but the unique laws, statutes and commandments that were disclosed at Sinai. That God spoke at Sinai is for Mendelssohn a verite de fait, an established historical fact, because it was witnessed by the entire people of Israel with incontrovertible clarity.

Jerusalem is an eloquent response, arguing so expressively for toleration that the eminent philosopher Emanuel Kant described it as an irrefutable book whose basic idea is that the state had no right to interfere with the religion of its citizens.

   Britannica (1911); EJ; Guttman Philosophies 330-44
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Listing Classification
18th Century:    Checked
Italy:    Checked
Other:    Theology
First Editions:    Checked
Language:    Italian
Manuscript Type
Kind of Judaica