Moritz Bloch (Mór Ballagi) 1815-1891
Moritz Bloch (after 1838, Mór Ballagi) was born in 1815 in Inócz, Zemplén County, Hungary. His father was poor, a tenant-farmer, but sought the best education for his son. He taught him his first steps in the Bible and in the Talmud. Bloch continued his Talmudic studies at Nagyvárad and Pápa. He continued studying the Greek and Roman classics, and then, from 1837-38 studied mathematics and geometry in Budapest. Following this he sto studied oriental languages and culture (“orientalia”) in Paris.
Bloch lived in Hungary during an era of growing Hungarian nationalism – Hungarians began to reclaim their own culture and language as distinct from German culture, a process that was called “Magyarization”. Bloch became deeply involved in this, dedicating his efforts towards the magyarization of the Jewish community, which had traditionally been more German than Hungarian. In 1841 he sent a petition to the Hungarian Parliament asking for the emancipation of the Jews.
His articles to the Pest daily newspaper were well received, and he was soon recognized as a champion of Hungarian national causes. While he was studying in France, leaders in the Jewish community in Pest began to agitate in the Hungarian parliament for the emancipation of the Jews. Bloch was asked to come back to Hungary, and to forward the cause in Jewish circles. At this time he wrote his famous pamphlet “A Zsidókról” (On the Jews) and returned to Hungary in order to devote himself to religious literature and the magyarizing of the Jewish community. In 1840 he published his translation of the first five books of the Bible into Hungarian, with explanations and other notes. He also translated the book of Joshua into Hungarian. Later in 1840 he was appointed corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Science in recognition of his patriotic and scientific endeavors.
In addition to his literary work, Bloch was active in the Jewish community, and advocated the establishment of a yeshiva. However, this did not succeed and he again left Hungary, this time to Thuerbingen. It was there that he met Ewald and other believers, and heard the Gospel. He came to faith, and was baptized in 1843.
As a Jewish Christian, Bloch wrote extensively on his new faith. In 1851 he became professor of theology in Budapest. The energy he had shown in advocating the magyarization of Hungarian Jews was now directed towards the cause of evangelicalism. He founded many institutions and was considered one of the evangelical’s leading spokesmen and supporters.
Bloch’s greatest contributions, however, were to the Hungarian language. His grammars, lexicons and readers were influential in achieving the magyarizing of Hungary and are still valued today, over a hundred years later.
Die fünf Bücher Mosis (ung. Übers.), 1840/41;
Josuah (ung. Übers. u. Ausl.), 1842;
Vollst. Wb. der ung. u. dt. Sprache, 1851;
Die Protestantenfrage in Ungarn u. die Politik Östr.s, 1860;
Lehrb. der hebr. Sprache, 1856 (18722);
Die Bibel, 1864 (ung.);
Bibl. Stud., 2 Bde., 1865-68 (ung.);
Prot. gg. Ultramontanismus, 1867;
Die Entstehung der nt. Schrr., 1872 (ung.).
Bernstein, A. Jewish Witnesses for Christ. Keren Ahvah Meschichit, Jerusalem. New edition, 1999
McCagg, William O. A History of Habsburg Jews, 1670-1918 p. 133
Meyer, Konversations-Lexikon.S. E
Rubin, Aaron D. The Paradigm Root in Hebrew* in Journal of Semitic Studies 2008 53(1):29-41
Penn. State University
Jewish Encyclopedia on-line, Isidore Singer