Humanist, political consultant and one of the foremost classics scholars of his time, wrote the celebrated De Rudementis Hebraicis (1506, On the Fundamentals of Hebrew), a grammar and lexicon that revolutionized Hebrew studies and significantly advanced Old Testament research.
Collaborating in editing and commenting on classic literature and philosophy with the leading Humanists of the day (among them Desiderius Erasmus, Marsilio Ficino and Pico Della Mirandola) he became a pioneer in the scientific study of classical Greek and the German representative of Renaissance Platonism which he fused with Cabalistic (Jewish occult) teaching.
In a famous controversy he defended the study and preservation of Hebrew literature against the Inquisition censors led by the Cologne Dominican friar Johannes Pfefferkorn.
The dispute aligned the entire European liberal and Humanist community against the speculative doctrine of university Scholastics and it occasioned Reuchlin´s noted satire Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1515-17, Letters of the Obscure Men).
Although he enjoyed popular support and was at first acquitted of heresy (1516) he and his writings were eventually condemned by Pope Leo X (1520).
Church Reformers utilized the anti-institutional feeling generated by the controversy but Reuchlin repudiated Philip Melanchthon, his nephew, and Martin Luther in their separation from Roman Catholicism.