Jerry Z. Muller, "Professor of Apocalypse: The Many Lives of Jacob Taubes" (Princeton UP, 2022)

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Genius or Charlatan?

This is the story of Jacob Taubes, the controversial Jewish thinker whose tortured path led him into the heart of twentieth-century intellectual life

Scion of a distinguished line of Talmudic scholars, Jacob Taubes (1923–1987) was an intellectual impresario whose inner restlessness led him from prewar Vienna to Zurich, Israel, and Cold War Berlin. Regarded by some as a genius, by others as a charlatan, Taubes moved among yeshivas, monasteries, and leading academic institutions on three continents. He wandered between Judaism and Christianity, left and right, piety and transgression. Along the way, he interacted with many of the leading minds of the age, from Leo Strauss and Gershom Scholem to Herbert Marcuse, Susan Sontag, and Carl Schmitt. Professor of Apocalypse is the definitive biography of this enigmatic figure and a vibrant mosaic of twentieth-century intellectual life.

Taubes’s personal tensions mirrored broader conflicts between tradition and radicalism, and religion and politics. Jerry Muller traces Taubes’s emergence as a prominent interpreter of the Apostle Paul, and how his journey led him from a radical Hasidic sect in Jerusalem to the center of academic debates over Gnosticism, secularization, and the revolutionary potential of apocalypticism.

Professor of Apocalypse: The Many Lives of Jacob Taubes (Princeton UP, 2022) offers an unforgettable account of an electrifying world of ideas, focused on a charismatic personality who thrived on controversy and conflict.

Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, writer, Middle East television commentator and host of The New Books Network’s Van Leer Jerusalem Series on Ideas. Write her at reneeg@vanleer.org.il

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