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San Diego Sarah  •  Link

We can trace English interest in Hebrew back to Henry VIII: In 1529 Henry employed apostate Jewish scholar Marco Raphael to garner scriptural support for his divorce. This Royal act sparked an expansion in Hebraic studies; in 1530 at St. John's College, Cambridge, Hebrew joined Latin and Greek as the only permissible languages for conversation in Hall. In 1540 Regius chairs in Hebrew were established at Oxford and Cambridge. Apostate Jewish scholars would appear periodically in these universities, such as P. Ferdinand, J. Wolfgang and Regius Professor J. I. Tremellius.

English scholars seeking to emulate these Jews made use of the various Latin Hebrew grammars becoming available through a healthy academic trade with the continent. The first of many English language Hebrew Grammars was produced by John Udall in 1593. These, in addition to imported Rabbinic commentaries, proved of vital service in the production of the greatest fruit of these developments, the Authorized Bible, published to much acclaim in 1611.
For more, see http://www.readmissionofthejews.blogspot.com/

Supporting this concern, during the early 17th century many Oxford colleges emulated the example of Laurence Humfrey who, in about 1566 established a public Hebrew lectureship at Magdalen College. At New College, Oxford, Warden Arthur Lake endowed such a lectureship in 1616, allocating to its incumbent a stipend of £5 a year.

Skip forward a few decades, and many during the Civil Wars lived in expectation of the end of the world. Millennial rumors were widespread, Christ's return being anticipated by many, including Oliver Cromwell and John Milton. Both Charles II during his exile and Oliver Cromwell consequently took money from, and promised protection to, Jews in Amsterdam and Bruges.
For more information, see https://www.gutenberg.org/files/15996/15996-h/1...

Rabbi, scholar, printer and diplomat, Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) of Amsterdam was one of the most influential personalities in modern Jewish history and around 1655 he spent time in London negotiating for a safe return for his people. Presbyterian zeal made this difficult, of course. For more information, see http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/england_article...

Over in the Holy Land in 1666 there was a man named Shabbetai Zvi who was a false Messiah -- claiming to be Jesus -- which caused quite a stir everywhere. Source: Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, (DC: Library of Congress, 1991).

John Maitland, Earl of Lauderdale, captured after Worcester and imprisoned in Windsor Castle, passed the time studying the Cabala, Hebrew, and what we today call Freemasonry.

Pepys and his fellows were very serious about learning Hebrew, so they could understand the Bible from its source materials.

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References

Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.

1660