Summary

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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/159…

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_articles/…

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.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The New York Times' 1620 Project explains the role of Hebrew studies:
https://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2020/September…

In case it disappears:

Before the Protestant Reformation, most Christian thinkers believed a monarchy, or a monarchy checked by a legislative body, was the ideal government.

Protestant emphasis on literacy, the priesthood of believers, and, in some cases, congregational ecclesiastical polities, undercut hierarchical government.

In the 17th century, Reformed authors began to argue the Bible sanctioned only republican governments. This came from commentaries on the Old Testament written by Jewish rabbis.

Reformers believed ministers and scholars should read the Holy Scriptures in their original languages, so many learned Hebrew. “To understand the Hebrew Bible ... one should consult the full array of rabbinic sources that were now available ...” Eric Nelson wrote in The Hebrew Republic (2010). “One should turn to the Talmud and midrash, to the targums and medieval law codes.” There Protestant Reformers found ideas scholars now call “political Hebraism.”

The most important political idea Reformed thinkers drew from rabbinical commentaries was that republics were the only form of government approved by the Bible. They learned to interpret passages like 1 Samuel 8 as condemning the Jewish people’s desire for a king, not their desire for a ruler other than God.

By the mid-17th century, many Reformed leaders had embraced these views in theory, and New England's leaders put these ideas into practice as early as 1620.

The Mayflower Compact reflects aspects of Hebraic republicanism, but it is far from unique.

In the 1630s non-Separatist Puritans came to New England where they created ecclesiastical and civil covenants for various purposes, all of which aimed to glorify God. They reinforced the idea that governments are legitimate because they were established by the consent of the governed. Not only did people consent to the formation of governments, most men could participate in meetings and be elected to public office.

Calvinist leaders committed to actively resisting tyrants. Traditionally, many Christians understood Romans 13 and related texts to prohibit rebellion or active resistance to tyrannical rulers. Reformers initially embraced this approach, but almost immediately changed their minds.

Calvin, one of the political conservative of the Reformers, said in some cases inferior magistrates may resist a tyrant.

Calvinists including John Knox (1514–1572), George Buchanan (1506–1582), Christopher Goodman (1520–1603), and Samuel Rutherford (1600–1661) argued inferior magistrates must resist unjust rulers;. Some even permitted private citizens to do so.

New England Puritans supported Parliament during the English Civil Wars, and John Cotton preached a sermon defending King Charles' execution.

The rest isn't about the role of Hebrew and rabbis.

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References

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

1660