Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Henry VIII, Oxford’s Hebraists and the Rabbis



One of the most transformative periods in British history is the reformation – the break away of the British crown from Rome. This took place after Henry VIII was unable to receive annulment of his marriage from his sister-in-law Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn and produce a male heir to the throne. This issue preoccupied England between 1527 and 1535. In this essay, we will present an in-depth analysis of the issues relating to Henry’s troubled levirate marriage and the Levitical argument that marrying one’s brother’s wife is in violation of the laws of incest. We will look at this through an overview of the key rabbinic texts on this subject, which would have likely been sought and studied by Hen… Read More »

Three Crowns: Interpreting Oxford's Coat of Arms through Jewish Theology

Coat of arms.jpg

Oxford University’s coat of arms consists of three crowns - two above and one below - surrounding an open book with an inscription in two columns of the motto Dominus Illuminatio Mea. The origin of the motto is from Psalms “The Lord is My Light”[1], however the origin of the three crowns is a matter for speculation. Some suggest that it comes from the three crowns on the arms of Thomas Cranley (c.1337–1417), who was a Fellow of Merton College in 1366, Warden of New College in 1389 and Chancellor of the University in 1390, and is buried in the grounds of New College.[2] In this essay, I will explore the plausibility of a Hebrew context to the crowns on Oxford’s coat of arms and present interpretations to the i… Read More »

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