Moritz Horschetzky (1788-1859)

A Jewish doctor, amateur historian, and philologist from the Bohemian town Nový Bydžov (Neubidschow). He married into the most important family in Nagy Kanisza / Groß Kanischa (Hungary), the Lackenbachers; subsequently he played an active role in this community, served as a director of the Jewish community school, and ran the Jewish hospital. Horschetzky’s interest in Jewish history and biblical studies had been stimulated by the Prague Maskil Ignaz Jeitteles (1783-1843) during their joint study years at Vienna University.

In 1826 Horschetzky’s critical translation (of the eleventh and twelfth book) of Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities, the first by a Jew, was published in the prestigious Jewish printing house of Moses Israel Landau (1788-1752) in Prague, with a comprehensive introduction of the publisher. In his introduction Landau cleared Josephus’s name of accusations of contradicting the Holy Scriptures, on the one hand, and embellishing his account with superstitious tales and legends, on the other. While he elaborately condemned the ‘historical forgeries’ of Sefer Yosippon, he praised Josephus’s historical accuracy and dubbed him the ‘Jewish Polybius.’

Two more volumes (13 and 14) of the Jewish Antiquities in Horschetzky’s translations were published in Nagy Kanisza / Groß Kanischa, Hungary. However, the volume that is mentioned in a biographical sketch of Horschetzky in the Jewish journal Ben Chananja could not be located. Horschetzky’s learned comments and annotations were aimed at arousing the interest of educated Jewish readers and contextualizing Josephus’s account with facts and figures familiar to them, as one reviewer emphasized.

The general picture arising from Horschetzky’s comments is in tune with the romantic Jewish nationalism disseminated in the Josephus biography by Horschetzky’s Bohemian compatriot Dr Lessing. In the translation of volumes 11 and 12 Horschetzky additionally criticized contemporary socio-political conditions and emphasized that Enlightenment had failed to bring Jews civil emancipation. This rare case of political criticism was erased by the Prague censor Karl Fischer.

Geschichte der Juden seit dem Rückzuge aus der babylonischen Gefangenschaft bis zur Schlacht bei Aza […]; enthält das XI. und XII. Buch der jüdischen Antiquitäten des Flavius Josephus; übersetzt und durch Anmerkungen erläutert von Dr M. Horschetzky; mit einer Vorrede von M.I. Landau. Prague, 1826. A re-print in paperback edition was published by Nabu Press in 2010.
Dreizehntes Buch der jüdischen Antiquitäten; enthält die Geschichte der Juden seit der Schlacht von Aza, in welcher Judas Makkabäus fiel bis zum Tode Alexandras; übersetzt und durch Anmerkungen erläutert von Dr M. Horschetzky. Groß Kanischa, 1843.
Buch der jüdischen Antiquitäten des Flavius Josephus oder Geschichte der Juden seit dem Tode der Königin Alexandra bis zur Einnahme Jerusalems durch Herodes den Großen; ein Zeitraum von 33 Jahren, nämlich von 70- 36 vor Christi Geburt; übersetzt und durch Anmerkungen erläutert von Dr M. Horschetzky. Groß Kanischa, 1851.

Review of Dreizehntes Buch der jüdischen Antiquitäten, by M. Horschetzky. Literaturblatt des Orients 50 (10 December 1844): 798-800.

Hecht, L., ‘Re-evaluation of the Jewish Pantheon: Josephus Flavius and Jewish Historical Writings in Bohemia’, in Jewish Studies in the 21st Century: Prague – Europe – World, ed. M. Zoufalá. Wiesbaden, 2014: 95-111.
Kestenberg-Gladstein, R., Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den böhmischen Ländern. Tübingen, 1969: 265-6.
Reich, I., ‘Dr. Moritz Horschetzky. Biographische Skizze’, Ben Chananja 3.2 (1860): 74-77.

JRA entry contributed by Louise Hecht