Christian Interest and Concerns about Sabbatai Zevi

  • R. H. Popkin
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 173)


English and Dutch millenarians became convinced both from the study of Scripture and from the amazing events unfolding in their countries, such as the Puritan Revolution and the success of the Dutch Rebellion against the Spanish, that the coming of the Messiah was imminent. Some thinkers, like the French Protestant Isaac La Peyrère, believed it would be the Jewish Messiah, Jesus in the flesh, who would come around 1655–56. Others were convinced that the penultimate event, the Conversion of the Jews would take place. Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel traveled to England to negotiate the re-admission of the Jews, where the millenarians were convinced that the Jews would convert when brought in contact with the pure Christianity of the Puritans.


Jewish History British Library Anonymous Author Jewish Merchant Turkish Empire 
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  1. 1.
    On Rabbi Nathan Shapira and his visit to Amsterdam, see R.H. Popkin “Rabbi Shapira’s Visit to Amsterdam in 1657,” Dutch Jewish History, Proceedings of the 2nd International Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1984) 185205; idem, “Christian Jews and Jewish Christians in the 17th Century,” in R.H. Popkin Gordon Weiner, Jewish Christians and Christian Jews from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment ( Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1994 ), 64–67.Google Scholar
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    An account of Serrarius’s discussion with the rabbis in Amsterdam in 1664 appears in a letter of John Dury. Ms. Staats-Archiv Zurich, Dureana, E II 457d, fol. 421. Cf. R.H. Popkin, “Two Unused Sources about Sabbatai Zevi and his Effect on European Communities,” Dutch Jewish History II ( Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1989 ) 67–74.Google Scholar
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    See Michael McKeon, “Sabbatai Sevi in England,” Association of Jewish Studies Review 3 (1977), 131–169. See also the items listed in Cecil Roth’s Magna Biblioteca Anglo-Judaica ( Jewish Historical Society of England, London, 1937 ), 392–394.Google Scholar
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    A New Letter from Aberdeen in Scotland. Sent to a Person of Quality. Wherein is a more full Account of the Proceedings of the Jews, Than path been hitherto Published. By R.R. (1665), 2–3. See, on this, McKeon, “Sabbatai Sevi in England,” 141–42; Gershom Scholem, Sabbatai Sebi, The Mystical Messiah (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 348–49.Google Scholar
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    London. Printed for the Author; and sold by Tho. Bullock, at the Rose and Crown at Holbourn-Bridge. 1708.Google Scholar
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    Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.Google Scholar
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    Paul Rycaut, History of the Turkish Empire from the Year 1623 to the Year 1677 ( London 1680 ). By the time this appeared, Rycaut’s Turkish career was over, so he did not have to worry about recriminations from various Jews of Smyrna.Google Scholar
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    Anderson, An English Consul,24.Google Scholar
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    A German woodcut of the time shows Sabbatai Zevi and James Nayler as the two great imposters. The British Library has acquired some Polish pamphlets about Sabbatai Zevi, in which he is called a “Turkish imposter or a Jewish quaker” and in which the excited reaction of the Quakers in Bristol to the news about the Jewish Messiah is described. See Swiderska, “Three Polish Pamphlets”Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    A young Israeli scholar, Jacob Barzai, is preparing a study of the role of Menasseh’s ideas on the Sabbatian movement. He has found that Menasseh’s Hope of Israel was published in Smyrna in Spanish in 1657 by these new arrivals.Google Scholar
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    I have used the copy of this rare work that is in the collection of the William Andrews Clark Library at UCLA. The only other copy in the US is at Harvard. There are a few copies in England including one at the British Library.Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,2. The sermon by Dr. Offspring Blackall was “The Way of Trying Prophets.” A Sermon Preached before the Queen at St.James’s, November 9, 1707,published in London at the time.Google Scholar
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    On this see the excellent book by Hillel Schwartz, The French Prophets. The History of a Millenarian Group in Eighteenth-Century England ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980 ).Google Scholar
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    Thomas Emes was the first of the French prophets to die in late December 1707. Lacy and others predicted he would be resurrected on May 25, 1708. This became a critical matter within the movement, and a major reason for opponents to challenge the movement when the prophesied resurrection did not occur. See Schwartz, French Prophets, chap.IV, “The Legacy of Dr. Thomas Emes”. Schwartz discusses many critical responses of the time to the French prophets, but does not mention the Devils of Delphos.Google Scholar
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    John Mason inspired the millenarian group called the Philadelphians. On him see Christopher Hill, “John Mason and the End of the World,” in Puritanism and Revolution ( New York: Panther, 1969 ), 311–23.Google Scholar
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    When the first French prophets came to London in 1706, Buckeley and Lacy were among their first followers. Buckeley was a baronet and Lacy a wealthy Presbyterian. Lacy became one of the most important prophets in the movement, and Buckeley a leading defender of the group. See Schwartz, The French Prophets, 75–76 and passim..Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,110.Google Scholar
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    Charles Leslie, “A Short and Easy Way with the Jews,” in his Theological Works vol. 1 (London, 1721), 52.Google Scholar
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    Popkin,“The Fictional Jewish Council.”Google Scholar
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    McKeon, “Sabbatai Sevi in England,” 161.Google Scholar
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    There were German editions in 1760 and 1761 and an edition in the 1720s is mentioned.Google Scholar
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    The English edition, The History of Infamous Imposters, was published in 1683 at London. In 1686 another edition, The Lives and Actions of Several Notorious Counterfeits: who, from the most abject and meanest of the people, have usurped ye titles of emperours, kings, and princes, containing the history of twelve informers,appeared in London.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    See the accounts of his life in J.F. and L.G. Michaud, Biographie universelle nouvelle edition, tome XXXVI (Paris, 1854), 268–269; J.S.F. Hoefer, Nouvelle Biographie Générale tome XLII (Paris, 1971), 471–473; E. Haag and E. Haag, La France Protestante tome VII (Paris, 1857 ), 463–464.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    See Scholem, Sabbatai Sevi,bibliographical item 55 on 941.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ydele verwachtinge der Joden getoont in den persoon van Sabethai Zevi (Amsterdam 1669).Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Rocoles, Les Imposteurs,501.Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,537–566.Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,544–556.Google Scholar
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    Ibid.,566 ff.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Johann Baptista von Rocoles, Geschichte, erkwurdigen Beitreiger ed. Johann Friedrich Joachim (Halle, 1761).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. H. Popkin
    • 1
  1. 1.Washington University, St. Louis and UCLAUSA

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