Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494)

Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463-1494) was an Italian scholar and philosopher, and a pioneer in Second Temple Studies. A child-prodigy, Pico was soon fluent in Latin and Greek and was sent to study at the Universities of Florence, Padua, and Paris. In Padua he learned Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic with Elia Del Medigo. A member of the Platonic academy of Marsilio Ficino in Florence, Italy, he was the founder of the international movement of so-called Christian Kabbalists, who saw in the Jewish Kabbalah and in Classical Hermetic texts a source of pre-Christian wisdom. Pico was one of the fathers of modern study of post-biblical Judaism and early Islam. He was the first non-Jewish scholar to master the language and collect Hebrew manuscripts.

Pico claimed he possessed the “seventy secret books of Ezra”; Johannes Reuchlin believed that the Book of Enoch was among them. However, the catalogue of Pico’s manuscript compiled by Jacques Gaffarel (Codicum cabalisticorum manuscriptorum, quibus est usus Joannes Picus comes Mirandulanus index, 1651) seems to indicate that Pico had no knowledge of the Ethiopic Enoch (or 1 Enoch). What he had, was a Latin translation of Menahem Recanati‘s Perush ‘al ha-Torah, which he had commissioned to Jewish convert Flavius Mithridates(Raimundo Moncada) in 1486.

Pico’s respectful and sympathetic approach to ancient Jewish sources and his friendship with Jewish scholars made him also a pioneer of Christian-Jewish dialogue.

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