Philo-Semitism in the Radical Tradition: Henry Jessey, Morgan Llwyd, and Jacob Boehme

  • David S. Katz
Part of the Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées / International Archives of the History of Ideas book series (ARCH, volume 119)


The phenomenon of European philo-semitism during the early modern period has aroused a good deal of curiosity among historians, and the motives of the individuals who espoused this attitude have been examined. But what has often been forgotten is that in many cases a positive stance towards the Jews and their culture was part of a wider interest in other esoteric philosophies. This was apparent even in the case of Henry Jessey (1601–1663), one of the founders of the Baptist denomination in England, whose famous Narrative of the Whitehall Conference remains an essential source to understanding the readmission of the Jews to that country. Jessey’s contacts with Menasseh ben Israel and his work for readmission behind the scenes must certainly place him among the greatest friends of Israel in the early modern period.1 Jessey’s concern for European Jewry was deeply felt, and after the Swedish wars of the 1650s cut off the aid that was sent to their brethren in Jerusalem, Jessey organized a group of English philo-semites, including John Dury and Samuel Hartlib, to send aid to Palestine.2 Jessey even observed the Sabbath on Saturday in Jewish fashion.3


Radical Tradition Early Modern Period Essential Source Chief Architect Religious Truth 
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  1. 1.
    [Henry Jessey], A Narrative Of the late Proceeds at White-Hall, Concerning the Jews, London 1656.Google Scholar
  2. 1a.
    For Jessey’s important role in readmission, see the references in D.S. Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603–1655, Oxford 1982. Generally, see D.S. Katz, ‘Menasseh ben Israel’s Christian Connection: Henry Jessey and the Jews’, in Menasseh ben Israel and his World (ed. R.H. Popkin et al.) (forthcoming) .Google Scholar
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  6. 2c.
    The selections from Information printed in Misc. Jew. Hist. Soc. Eng., ii (1935), 99–104 are deliberately misleading: see now D.S. Katz, ‘Anonymous Advocates of the Readmission of the Jews to England’, Michael, x (1986), 117–42; idem, ‘English Charity and Jewish Qualms: The Rescue of the Ashkenazi Community of Seventeenth-Century Jerusalem’, Essays… In Honour of Chimen Abramsky, ed. A. Rapoport-Albert, et al. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    W[histon], Jessey, 87. See also the references to Jessey in D.S. Katz, Sabbath and Sectarianism in Seventeenth-Century England, Leiden 1988.Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., M. Tolmie, The Triumph of the Saints: The Separate Churches of London 1616–1649, Cambridge 1977, ix–xi;Google Scholar
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    Apart from Jessey’s Scripture-Kalendars, published between 1645 and his death in 1663, see Jessey’s anonymous compilations of prodigies: The Lords Loud Call to England, London 1660; Mirabilis Annus, Or The year of Prodigies and Wonders (1st imp., 1661); Mirabilis Annus Secundus; Or, The Second Year of Prodigies (1662); Mirabilis Annus Secundus: Or, The Second Part Of the Second Years Prodigies (1662).Google Scholar
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    Most of the writing by and on Llwyd are in Welsh. But see G. Nuttall, The Welsh Saints 1640–1660, Cardiff 1957, cap. 3.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 54; Morgan Llwyd, Yr Ymroddiad, 1657;Google Scholar
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    Morgan Llwyd, Y Discybl ai Athraw o Newydd, 1657.Google Scholar
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    John Goodwin (15947–1665), eminent Puritan divine.Google Scholar
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    Samuel Hartlib, a central figure in the circle of Jan Amos Comenius the Bohemian philosopher, which included John Dury, Jessey’s partner in obtaining aid for the Jews of Palestine. See also the studies of R.H. Popkin, “Some aspects…” and of E.G.E. van der Wall, “The Amsterdam Millenarian Petrus Serrarius…” in this volume.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • David S. Katz
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Tel AvivIsrael

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