Islam, Judaism, and Orientalism, March 23-24, 2017

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth, Jewish Studies

Dr. Susannah Heschel, Dartmouth, Jewish Studies“It was Islam that saved the Jewish people!” So declared the distinguished medievalist S.D. Goitein in a 1958 lecture to British Jews. His declaration culminated a long century of Jewish scholarship on Islam that not only proclaimed theological affinities between the two religions, but viewed Islam as Judaism’s protector as well. Starting with the highly acclaimed book of Abraham Geiger, Was hat Muhammad aus dem Judenthume aufgenommen?, published in 1833, which launched modern scholarship on Islamic origins, Jewish scholars in Europe became fascinated with the uncanny appearance of rabbinic texts in the Qur’an. From the 1830s to the 1930s, Jews published significant scholarship on Islam, demonstrating the parallels between Judaism and Islam. My paper will delineate the stages of Jewish scholarship and examine the role of that scholarship within the larger context of nineteenth century constructions of “religion,” its reflection of a wider culture of European imperialism, and its adoption and transformation of philological methods drawn from New Testament scholarship.

Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. Her scholarship focuses on Jewish-Christian relations in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries, the history of biblical scholarship, and the history of anti-Semitism. Her numerous publications include Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (University of Chicago Press), which won a National Jewish Book Award, and The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton University Press).

Public Lecture

“History of Jewish Scholarship on Islam: The Story of a Fascination”
Thursday Mar. 23, 4:30 pm, David Strong C118


“Judaism, Orientalism, and Empire”
Friday Mar. 24, 11 am – 12 pm, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, Sedgewick B12


Susannah Heschel. 2014. “Constructions of Jewish Identity through Reflections on Islam,” in Caputo, N. and Sterk, A. eds. Faithful Narratives: Historians, Religions, and the Challenge of Objectivity. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 169-184.

Heschel, Susannah. 2012. “German-Jewish Scholarship on Islam as a Tool of De-Orientalization,” New German Critique 117: Fall: 91-117.