The 18th century British academy was rife with pseudo-scholars, mystics, and "enthusiasts" interested in the Hebrew language for diverse and polemical reasons. The linguistic and historical advances brought by the discovery of Sanskrit, the putative deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics by some scholars, and archaeological insights into the ancient Near East, brought major sea-changes in the scholarly understanding of Biblical history. Interest in the Hebrew language intensified as debates raged about whether there was a historical flood of Noah, and whether Hebrew was the most ancient language in the world, taught by God to Adam. Historical linguistic scholarship led the way in these debates. Some Hebraists had posts in academies or churches, while others were strictly amateur.
Some Hebraists proposed theories that the vowels in the text of the Hebrew Bible, superadded to the text by the scribal tradition, were a Jewish conspiracy to mask the true meaning of Scripture. As a result, a genre of Hebraic scholarship concentrated on running the words of the Biblical text together, removing the vowels, dissecting the words in different ways, and adding alternate vowels so as to give an alternate sense to the text.
William Blake was a great fan and practitioner of this field of scholarship, and many of his poems can be much more fully understood in the light of his particular readings of the Hebrew texts.
The Holy Land Appropriated: The Careers of Selah Merrill, Nineteenth Century Christian Hebraist, Palestine Explorer, and U.S. Consul in Jerusalem
Jun 01, 1997; I. Selah Merrill and the Jews of Palestine "The Jew needs to learn that his place in the world will be determined by what he can...
Alternate Route.('American Hebrew Literature: Writing Jewish National Identity in the United States')(Book review)
Feb 22, 2011; In her classic story "Envy," Cynthia Ozick drew an unforgettable portrait of the miseries of Yiddish writers in Americaignored,...