The Impact of Learning Greek, Hebrew and ‘Oriental’ Languages on Scholarship, Science, and Society in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Call for papers.

Leuven, 13-15 December 2017

In 1517, Leuven witnessed the foundation of the Collegium Trilingue. This institute, funded through the legacy of Hieronymus Busleyden and enthusiastically promoted by Desiderius Erasmus, offered courses in the three ‘sacred’ languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The initiative was not the only of its kind in the early 16th century. Ten years earlier, the first Collegium Trilingue had been established in the Spanish Catholic collegium of San Ildefonso, and similar institutes and language chairs were soon to follow. By the end of 1518, the university of Wittenberg offered courses of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin in the regular curriculum, whereas in 1530 king Francis I founded his Collège Royal in Paris after the model of the Louvain Collegium Trilingue. This fascination with Greek and Hebrew did not come out of nowhere, but had its roots in Renaissance Italy, whence it gradually disseminated to other parts of Europe. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that, as early as the beginning of the 14th century, the Council of Vienne had authorized and encouraged the foundation of professorships in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic at four universities (Bologna, Oxford, Paris, and Salamanca), mainly in order to convert Jews, Muslims, and Oriental Christians to the ‘true’ faith. The council and Italian Humanism thus testify to the fact that enthusiasm for learning Greek and ‘Oriental’ (nowadays: Semitic) languages, next to Latin, among Western-European scholars and clergymen clearly predates the 16th century.

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