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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia

Mommsen, Christian Matthias Theodor

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Jurist, archeologist, and historian born Nov. 30, 1817, at Garding, Sleswick-Holstein died Nov. 1, 1903, at Charlottenburg, near Berlin. His most important work is his "Rö mische Gesch." (vol. 1:9th ed., Berlin, 1903 vols. ii., 3:8th ed., 1889 vol. 5:3d ed., 1886 vol. iv. was not published). In vol. iii. he treats exhaustively the position and influence of the Jews in the Roman empire and in vol. v. he devotes a chapter headed "Judä a und die Juden" to the spiritual and religious development of Judaism in the Persian, Greek, and Roman periods.

As a member of the Prussian Diet (1873-82) and of the German Reichstag (1881-84), Mommsen belonged to the Liberal party and strongly opposed the anti-Semitic movement. In his pamphlet "Auch ein Wort ụ ber Unser Judentum" (1881), which was written in reply to Treitschke's arguments in "Ein Wort ụ ber Unser Judentum," he warmly pleaded for tolerance and humanity, and argued that the Jewish element in the German empire is a wholesome one. He was among the first who signed the declaration of German notables (Nov. 12, 1880) in which Jewbaiting ("Judenhetze") was designated a "national disgrace." The passage in his "Rö mische Gesch." (iii:350), "Auch in der alten Welt war das Judentum ein wirksames Ferment des Kosmopolitismus und der nationalen Dekomposition und insofern ein vorzugsweise berechtigtes Mitglied in dem cä sarischen Staate, dessen Politik doch eigentlich nichts als Weltbü rgertum, dessen Volkstü mlichkeit im Grunde nichts als Humanitä t war," having been misunderstood and misinterpreted by the anti-Semites, was omitted by Mommsen in a later edition.

Mommsen was an active member of the Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus (founded 1891) until his death. He also declared himself against the accusation of ritual murder. In a prefatory letter to Errera's "Les Juifs Russes" (see Jew. Encyc. 5:203, s.v. Errera, Leo-Abram ) he expressed the hope "that the statesmen of a great empire and the sovereign arbiter of Europe may no longer be dominated by the blind action of a resuscitated Torquemada."

Bibliography : Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon Mittheilungen aus dem Verein zur Abwehr des Antisemitismus , 1893, p. 177 1894, p. 55 1897, p. 387 1903, pp. 345, 381 Hermann Vogelstein, in Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1904, pp. 103-106. D. S. Man.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Mommsen, Christian Matthias Theodor'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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