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00018

Last Name
BIESENTHAL
First Name
Joachim Heinrich Raphael
Life Span
1804-1886
Publications
* Auszüge aus dem Buche Sohar, mit Deutscher Uebersetzung, 1837. Hebräisches Und Chaldäisches Schulwörterbuch Über Das Alte Testament: Mit Hinweisung Auf Die Sprachlehren, 1836-37. David Ḳimḥi's (in conjunction with F. S. Lebrecht), Berlin, 1838. "Ueber den Ursprung der Wider die Juden Erhobenen Beschuldigung bei der Feier Ihrer Ostern sich des Blutes zu Bedienen, Nebst Kurzer Darstellungdes Jüdischen Rituals in Beziehung auf den Genuss des Blutes," 1840. "The Book of Psalms; Hebrew Text, with a Commentary," Berlin, 1841. "The Book of Isaiah; Hebrew Text and Commentary," Berlin, 1841. "Chrestomathia Rabbinica sive Libri Quatuor, Complectens Analećta e Rerum Scriptoribus, Cosmographis, Grammaticis, Exegetis, Philosophis, Cabalistis et Poetis, Partim e Codicibus Sumta, cum Versione Latina et Vitis Scriptorum," part i., Berlin, 1844. "Zur Geschichte der Christlichen Kirche in Ihrer Ersten Entwickelungsperiode bis zum Anfange des 4ten Jahrhunderts." A Hebrew translation of the Epistles to the Hebrews and the Romans, with a commentary based on rabbinical lore. A Biography of Paul, 1857-58.
Sources
HaDavar; Jewish Encyclopedia
Details
Born in Lobsens, in the Grand Duchy of Posens from Jewish parents. Educated by the best Talmudic scholars of his day, he also studied he Holy Scriptures and Jewish poetry. He soon found, however, that as regards his study of the Bible he was left to his own diligence and perseverance, for his teachers knew nothing at all about it; and being imbued with the Talmudical warning - "Keep your children from the study of Holy Scripture," they were of opinion that it was not only a useless study and waste of time, but also a danger to one's piety. In 1819, when Raphael was fifteen years of age, the town of Lobsens was destroyed by fire, by which his parents were ruined. His education, however, had to be completed, so he entered the famous Jewish school of Rawitsch, where he received instruction from rabbis, and principally from Rabbi Herzfeld, of European renown. On leaving Rawitsch he went to Mains, where he received most kind care and support from the Rabbi of that city, Lob Ellinger, brother of the renowned Nathan Ellinger, or Nathan Bar Yospa, rabbi of Bingen, several of whose manuscripts are in the Bodleian. The celebrated Heidenheim (Wolf Ben Samson) of Rodelheim, the greatest Jewish critic and grammarian after Ibn-Ezra and David Kimchi, helped him to the treasures of Jewish literature, lending him the best grammars in the Hebrew language, so that he was able to acquire, with great application on his part, a complete mastery of grammatical Hebrew. In 1828, he left Mainz for Berlin where he earned his living by giving lessons. In the year 1830 he resided for four weeks with a Christian family at Havelberg, where he learnt for the first time what true Christianity was, and he determined, as he said, to "search for Christian truth." In this purpose his intercourse with Christian divines greatly helped him. He studied theology and philology in the University of Berlin from 1828, taking his doctor's degree in 1835. He studied under the Oriental scholar, William Vatke, and his knowledge of the Hebrew grammar was greatly increased by personal friendly intercourse with Dr. Gesenius, the distinguished Hebrew scholar, at Halle. Raphael was baptized in 1836 by the Rev. Dr. Kuntze, taking the Christian name of Joiachim Heinrich and the surname of Biesenthal. In 1837 he published "Auszüge aus dem Buche Sohar, mit Deutscher Uebersetzung," in which he tried to prove from Jewish literature the doctrine of the Trinity and other Christian dogmas. He also wrote "Zur Geschichte der Christlichen Kirche in Ihrer Ersten Entwickelungsperiode bis zum Anfange des 4ten Jahrhunderts" in which he makes much use of Talmudical material, and endeavors to prove that the Jews stood in close connection with the early Christian Church. In 1840, at the time of the blood accusation at Damascus, Biesenthal, under the name "Karl Ignaz Corvé," defended the Jews in his interesting work, "Ueber den Ursprung der Wider die Juden Erhobenen Beschuldigung bei der Feier Ihrer Ostern sich des Blutes zu Bedienen, Nebst Kurzer Darstellungdes Jüdischen Rituals in Beziehung auf den Genuss des Blutes," Berlin, 1840. After 8 years of prolific writing, he placed his services as a missionary at the disposal of the London Society, writing: "My Biblical studies led me, after much searching and wandering for a long time, to find Him of whom Moses and the Prophets did write. This result, this light which God caused to shine in my darkness, I deem it my unrelenting duty to communicate to others yet living in darkness, because the Lord Himself says that we should not put our light under a bushel. The Apostles, as well as all the Fathers, were furthered by the same disposition of mind. 'For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,' says the Lord. If Christ be our treasure, our heart must be entirely and undividedly His own, and all our talents devoted to the glory of His kingdom. Becoming a missionary seems to me the surest way to fulfil Christ's commands. I have long considered it both a duty and a privilege to communicate to my brethren after the flesh the message of salvation, and to employ those talents which God has given me for their welfare. My predilection for the above has often seemed to be a token of God's will that I should shew my brethren from their very literature, as well as from the Bible, that the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid in Christ, and that we can only know the Father through Him. During the last three years I have acted upon this conviction, and embraced every opportunity to prove to my brethren that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation, and my anxious desire now is to be enabled to devote all my time to this pursuit." He then began 37 years of missionary work to German Jews in 1844. He used the knowledge gained in Talmudic academies and while earning a doctorate at the University of Berlin to write commentaries on many New Testament books as well as a History of the Christian Church that shows the Jewishness of the early church. His knowledge of languages embraced - in addition to his native Polish - Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Syriac, Chaldee, Arabic, Ethiopic, Samaritan, French, German, Spanish, Italian and English. Never was missionary more highly gifted with "tongues" - his equal in this respect is not to be found in the ranks of the London Jews' Society.

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