Maccoby, Hyam

Hyam Maccoby (1924-2004) was a British-Jewish scholar and dramatist. He read Classics and English at Balliol College, Oxford and served in the Royal Signals before becoming English Master at Chiswick School in London. In 1975, Maccoby was appointed librarian and tutor at Leo Baeck College, the rabbinical seminary and institution of Jewish scholarship in London. In 1998, Maccoby joined the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Leeds as visiting and research professor.

He wrote extensively on Jewish and Christian religious tradition as well as on antisemitism. Maccoby’s publications include works like The Day God Laughed: Sayings, Fables and Entertainments of the Jewish Sages (with Wolf Mankowitz, 1978), Judaism in the First Century (1989), The Philosophy of the Talmud (2002), Jesus the Pharisee (2003), and Antisemitism and Modernity: Innovation and Continuity (2004). His book Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil (1992) inspired Howard Jacobson’s 1993 production Sorry, Judas. Maccoby’s play The Disputation re-enacts the Disputation of Barcelona, the medieval confrontation between representatives of Christianity and Judaism regarding whether or not Jesus was the Messiah. The play revolves around King James I of Aragon who comes to accept the ideas the Spanish Rabbi Nachmanides presents to him. Initially, the play was commissioned by Channel 4 in 1996 starring Christopher Lee and Toyah Willcox, but later expanded for the London stage.