ASTRUC, JEAN


ASTRUC, JEAN
ASTRUC, JEAN (1684–1766), French physician and a founder of classical biblical criticism. The name Astruc was common among the Jews of southern France, and some have supposed that he was ultimately of Jewish extraction. Astruc learned Hebrew and Bible from his father, a former Huguenot preacher who had converted to Catholicism following the Edict of Nantes (1698). He served as professor of anatomy at Toulouse, Montpellier, and Paris. In 1729, he was court physician for a short time to King August II of Poland, and then to Louis XV of France. He wrote numerous tractates on medicine, the most important being his work on venereal diseases, De morbis veneriis, which appeared in 21 editions and numerous translations from 1736 onward. Astruc is remembered principally as a Bible scholar who helped pioneer a method of biblical analysis which continues to hold an important place in biblical scholarship. The orthodox Astruc reacted to the criticism of freethinkers toward the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. He published in Brussels (and secretly in Paris) an anonymous book entitled Conjectures sur les mémoires originaux, dont il parait que Moyse s'est servi pour composer le livre de la Genèse (1753) in which he attempted to show that Moses, the redactor of Genesis and the first two chapters of Exodus, made use of two parallel sources and ten fragments written before his time. The two primary sources can be distinguished by the fact that one refers to the deity as YHWH and the second as Elohim. Astruc assigned various repetitions, materials foreign to Hebrew history, glosses, and additions by later copyists to the ten fragments. He, however, was not aware of the work of H.B. Witter, Jura Israelitarum in Palaestinam (1711), which demonstrated that the first half of Genesis uses parallel sources and different divine names. The varying names for the deity had already been noted and discussed by older scholars such as Jean Le Clerc (Johannes Clericus) and richard simon , but none of these went beyond the generalization that the Pentateuch was composed of different documents. Astruc's documentary hypothesis was received with ridicule in some circles and was unnoticed in others until J.G. Eichhorn gave considerable attention to it, thus salvaging the theories of Astruc and Witter from oblivion. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Lods, in: RHPR, 4 (1924), 109–32, 201–7; idem, in: ZAW, 43 (1925), 134–5; O'Doherty, in: CBQ, 15 (1953), 300–4; de Savignac, in: La Nouvelle Clio, 5 (1953), 138–47; de Vaux, in: VT, Suppl. 1 (1953), 182–98. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: J.H. Hayes, in: DBI, 1:83. (Moses Zevi (Moses Hirsch) Segal)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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