David Zvi Hoffmann (November 24, 1843 – 1921) (Hebrew: דוד צבי הופמן), was an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and Torah Scholar. Born in Verbó in 1843, he attended various Yeshivas in his native town before he entered the college at Pressburg, from which he graduated in 1865. He then studied philosophy, history, and Oriental languages at Vienna and Berlin, taking his doctor's degree in 1871 from Tuebingen University. His rabbinical training was at the hands of Maharam Schick and Azriel Hildesheimer.
Shortly after obtaining his degree, he became employed as a teacher in Samson Raphael Hirsch's Realschule school in Frankfurt am Main, and in 1873 moved to Berlin to join the faculty of the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin where he eventually became rector in 1899 after the death of Azriel Hildesheimer.
Hoffman was the leading authority on traditional Jewish Law (halacha) in Germany in his lifetime, an expert specifically in the area of Midrash halakha (legalistic Biblical exegesis), and was also well known for his efforts to disprove the Documentary Hypothesis as expressed by the Graf-Wellhausen theory, his arguments being presented in a famous work entitled Die wichtigsten Instanzen gegen die Graf-Wellhausensche Hypothese (1903/1916). A. Altmann, however, sees Hoffmann's writings on these matters (though evidencing great expertise) as pure apologetics, the cause of which may be seen as laid out in his introduction to Leviticus , where Hoffmann makes the following remarks:
Yet, despite the piety of the above sentiments, and his repeated proclamations regarding the divinity of the Oral Law, Hoffmann was still very much the Wissenschaft scholar. He cites in his work scholars such as Z. Frankel, A. Geiger, S.J. Rapoport, and H. Graetz, he studies the influences of Ancient Near Eastern culture on the evolution of the Talmud, and he identifies problems in the transmitted text. For example, Hoffmann in The First Mishna sees the present Mishna Avot as having been redacted from three different sources, a Mishna of Rabbi Akiva, a Mishna of Rabbi Meir, and a Mishna of Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi, the originals of which cannot be completely reconstructed due to their thoroughgoing fusion and subsequent manipulation.
The extent to which Hoffmann resided in the Wissenschaft movement can also be seen from the criticism he received from such opponents of the movement as Samson Raphael Hirsch. Hildesheimer notes regarding Hirsch's opinion of his Rabbinical Seminary (where Hoffmann worked after leaving Hirsch's institution) that "a question certainly exists as to whether Rabbi Hirsch considers the seminary to be an Orthodox institution." Hirsch's opposition extended to Hoffmann's own work, judging Hoffmann's book Mar Samuel to contain heresies .
Hoffmann's resolution of this tension between faithfulness to tradition and textual criticism is found by in the following passage from the introduction to The First Mishna: