Quakers and Jews: A Hebrew Appeal from George Fox

  • 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 intense Quaker interest in the Jews in seventeenth-century England and Holland is easily documented from very numerous references in the published writings of George Fox and his wife Margaret Fell, as well as in dozens of letters sent between leading Quakers during this period.1 Recent research has uncovered a number of important personal connections between Quakers and Jewish scholars. We know now that Spinoza was employed to translate some of Margaret Fell’s work into Hebrew so that it might be disseminated among the Jews of Holland and Germany.2 We also know of a Polish rabbi who translated Quaker writings.3 The letter printed below is further evidence of Quaker attempts to convert the Jews, most interesting because it appeared in the form of a Hebrew broadsheet, probably printed in Amsterdam.4


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  1. 1.
    George Fox, A visitation to the Iewes, London 1656; A declaration to the Iews For them to Read Over, London 1661; An Epistle… To the Jews and Turks, London 1673; A Looking-Glass for the Jews, n.p. 1674; A Demonstration to the Christians… How they Hinder the Conversion of the Jews, n.p., 1679.Google Scholar
  2. 1a.
    Margaret Fell, For Manasseth Ben Israel. The Call Of The Jewes out of Babylon, London 1656; A Loving Salutation To The… Jewes, London 1656; A Call to the Universal Seed of God, London 1664; A Call unto the Seed of Israel, London 1668, The Daughter of Sion Awakened, London 1677.Google Scholar
  3. 1b.
    See generally, L.H. Hall, ‘Radical Puritans and Jews in England, 1648–1672’, Yale Univ. Ph.D. 1979.Google Scholar
  4. 2.
    Spinoza is the ‘Jew at amsterdam that by the Jewes is Cast out (as he himselfe and others sayeth) because he owneth noe other teacher but the light’: William Ames to Margaret Fell from Utrecht; Friends’ House Library, London, MS Swarthmore 4/28r (Transcripts, i. 71–74). See R.H. Popkin, ‘Spinoza, the Quakers and the Millenarians, 1656–1658’, Manuscrito vi (1982), 113–33;Google Scholar
  5. 2a.
    R.H. Popkin, ‘Spinoza’s Relations with the Quakers in Amsterdam’, Quaker History lxxiii (1984), 14–28;Google Scholar
  6. 2b.
    R.H. Popkin, ‘Spinoza and Samuel Fisher’, Philosophia xv (1985), 219–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 2c.
    Cf. H.G. Crosfield, Margaret Fox of Swarthmoor, London 1913, 50n.;Google Scholar
  8. 2d.
    W.I. Hull, The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam, Philadelphia 1938, 205;Google Scholar
  9. 2e.
    I. Ross, Margaret Fell, London 1949, 94; D. Carrington, ‘Quakers and Jews’, Jewish Chronicle Spec. Supp.: Tercentenary of the Settlement of the Jews in the Brit. Isles 1656–1956 (27 Jan. 1956), 46; H.J. Cadbury, ‘Spinoza and a Quaker Document of 1657’, Med. & Ren. Stud., (1943), 130–33;Google Scholar
  10. 2f.
    H.J. Cadbury (ed.), The Swarthmore Documents in America, London 1940, 7;Google Scholar
  11. 2g.
    L. Feuer, Spinoza and the Rise of Liberalism, Boston 1958), 49;Google Scholar
  12. 2h.
    L. Roth, ‘Hebraists and Non-Hebraists of the Seventeenth Century’, Jnl. Sem. Stud. vi (1961), 211; J. van den Berg, ‘Quaker and Chiliast: the contrary thoughts of William Ames and Peter Serrarius’, in Reformation (ed. Knox), 182–83.Google Scholar
  13. 3.
    Frs. Hse. Lib., MS Crossfield 7: his name was Samuel Levi ben Asshur.Google Scholar
  14. 4.
    Apart from the note in the text and the fact that Amsterdam was both a Quaker centre and the capital of Hebrew printing in seventeenth-century Europe, this suspicion is confirmed by the use of the gutteral Hebrew ‘ch’ for the initial ‘G’ in Fox’s Christian name. An English copy seems to have existed at the end of the seventeenth century: Annual Catalogue of George Fox’s Papers Compiled in 1694–1697 (ed. H.J. Cadbury), Philadelphia & London 1939, 181. The same catalogue (p. 54) lists a lost epistle from George Fox to Thomas Tany, dated 1655.Google Scholar
  15. 5.
    H.J Cadbury, ‘Hebraica and the Jews in Early Quaker Interest’, in Children of Light (ed. H.H Brinton), New York 1938, 135–63;Google Scholar
  16. 5a.
    M.G. Swift, ‘George Fox’s Knowledge of Hebrew’, Jnl. Fr. Hist. Soc. vi (1909), 140–45.Google Scholar
  17. 6.
    George Fox, John Stubs & Benjamin Furley, A Battle-Door for Teachers & Professors to Learn Singular & Plural, London 1660.Google Scholar
  18. 7.
    Fox’s Hebrew Bible, recovered in the course of research for these notes, was Menasseh ben Israel’s edition of 1635, now Frs. Hse. Lib., case 43. Cf. J.L. Nickalls, ‘George Fox’s Library’, Jnl. Fr. Hist. Soc. xxviii (1931), 6, 7.Google Scholar
  19. 8.
    Brit. Lib., MS Stowe 746, 139: photograph in Jnl. Fr. Hist. Soc. xv (1918), 31.Google Scholar
  20. 9.
    George Fox, The Journal ii (ed. N. Penney), Cambridge 1911, 39–40.Google Scholar
  21. 10.
    Ibid., 77–8.Google Scholar
  22. 11.
    Ibid., 106.Google Scholar
  23. 12.
    George Fox, ‘The Short Journal’, in The Short Journal and Itinerary Journals (ed. N. Penney), Cambridge 1925, 69, another version of ref. 10 above.Google Scholar
  24. 13.
    Fox, Journal ii, 311.Google Scholar
  25. 14.
    George Fox, ‘The Haistwell Diary’, in Short Journal (ed. Penney), 244, 253–54. An account of this dispute seems at one time to have been among Fox’s papers: Annual Catalogue (ed. Cadbury), 152.Google Scholar
  26. 15.
    Cadbury, ‘Hebraica’, 138–39.Google Scholar
  27. 16.
    Frs. Hse. Lib., MS Crosfield 7.Google Scholar
  28. 17.
    W.I. Hull, Benjamin Furly and Quakerism in Rotterdam, Swarthmore 1941, esp. 7, 69 and n.Google Scholar
  29. 18.
    Francis Bugg, Innocency Vindicated, London 1684, quoted in Swift, ‘Knowledge’, 141n.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht 1988

Authors and Affiliations

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

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