Cover: The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought, from Harvard University PressCover: The Hebrew Republic in PAPERBACK

The Hebrew Republic

Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought

[A] magnificent book…The Hebrew Republic boldly claims that the secularism-as-modernism narrative is incomplete at best, and at worst totally backwards… Not only has [Nelson] significantly revised the history of some key concepts in early modern European political thought. It may be that he has written a paradigm-shifter, the kind of book that fundamentally realigns the way scholars look at a period as a whole… The Hebrew Republic demonstrates unforgettably that we need to understand piety to comprehend politics. This will not be news to scholars working on the Middle East or the Middle Ages. But for many historians of European and American politics and political thought, The Hebrew Republic may help force belief—not just religious institutions—back into the center of the story.—Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, The New Republic

Many of the political freedoms that we enjoy today have their roots in the Hebrew Bible and the rabbinical commentaries that explained it. Eric Nelson outlines this in his brilliant new book The Hebrew Republic, showing, for example, how the triumph of republican government over monarchy is in large part thanks to the Bible and the rabbis.—Daniel Freedman, Forbes

In The Hebrew Republic, Nelson has thrown down the gauntlet of a revolution. He means to overturn the accepted foundations of modern intellectual history by re-evaluating the early modern period and asking whether biblical and Jewish ideas were as foundational as Greek and Roman thought in creating the modern world. And Nelson, in being persuaded that the Bible was a motive force in early modern political history, is not alone.—Diana Muir Appelbaum, Jewish Ideas Daily

Deeply learned and thought-provoking… No doubt specialists will be debating the arguments of The Hebrew Republic for some time to come—which is a testimony to Eric Nelson’s profound and original book.—Adam Kirsch, Tablet Magazine

Nelson powerfully argues that [the 17th century] had as its driving force an intense scholarly interest in the Israelite constitution, occasioned by the discovery of new Rabbinic texts and the growth of Hebrew scholarship in Europe. Nelson’s account is remarkable because it shows just how serious great political thinkers of the 17th century were about the details of an ancient polity that many or most Christian scholars of the time believed was God’s approved constitution for all time. No matter how much contemporary political thought really is a product of the 17th century, Nelson explains, modern political theory has deeper theological roots than is generally believed.—J. John, Choice

Rarely—all too rarely—one reads a book that can really transform a major field of study. Eric Nelson has produced such a book—and he has done it with lucidity, economy, and grace. The Hebrew Republic teaches us to read early modern political thought in a radically new way.—Anthony Grafton, author of Worlds Made By Words

Eric Nelson’s deep knowledge of the Hebrew, as well as the Greek and Latin, sources of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century political thought is brilliantly deployed in this book. Nelson provides a provocative and persuasive account of the remarkable effects of taking biblical and rabbinic texts seriously.—Michael Walzer, Institute for Advanced Study

Awards & Accolades

  • 2012 Laura Shannon Prize, Nanovic Institute for European Studies at the University of Notre Dame
  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2010
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