Vulliaud: La Kabbale Juive

This blog and site is about books published in English. Yesterday, however, I got into a little research that led me to some French books, I found worthy mentioning here. An online friend of mine asked me about Paul Vulliaud. I found a French Wikipedia page, but my knowledge of that language is not good enough to understand everything. It is clear that he was a French Catholic theologian, (Lyon, 1875-1950), who wrote a two volume book on Kabbalah in 1923 titled La Kabbale Juive: Histoire et Doctrine. (First volume is 516 pages, second 453.) According to a 1925 review of the book (published in the The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures) it is too full of jargon, difficult to read and decipher, but the author’s knowledge is vast. Here is an excerpt from the review, which might get us closer to the book:

M. Vulliaud undertakes to “defend” the Cabala. His “defense” consists in an astonishingly painstaking effort to prove: (1) that the Cabala is indigenous to Judaism or at least orthodox within Judaism; (2) that the Cabala is ancient and not of comparatively recent medieval origin as various Jewish writers claim; (3) that persons with an aversion toward the Cabala as well as those who negate its antiquity or its orthodoxy (he calls them “rationalists,” enemies of the Cabala,” etc.) are malicious and misguided.

The reviewer has his own negative perspective and the language in the above segment reflects that. But I think he is probably right on target about Vulliaud’s intentions. Another review (from a 1930 issue of The Jewish Quarterly Review) is trashing the book even more, calling it a “two volume causerie.’ …The first chapters contain an amusing florilegium of early writers’ profound ignorance.” As there is no English translation of the book I will not be able to study it myself, so I will leave it there.

The wikipedia article mentions Vulliaud’s work on another Kabbalah related book: “Les Textes fondamentaux de la Kabbale.” This page mentions the book by Jean de Pauly
title “Etudes et correspondance relatives au Sepher Ha-Zohar” which was annotated by Paul Vulliaud. And this is all the time I had to find out about him.

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