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INTRODUCTION

On 7 November 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a Jewish teenager living in Paris, sought a meeting with the German ambassador.1 Only a few days earlier, he had received a postcard from his sister in which she explained that she and their parents were to be deported from Germany back to Poland. Having bought a pistol and bullets, Grynszpan headed to the German embassy, planning to kill the ambassador. In the event, the ambassador would not meet him, and instead sent a junior official, Ernst vom Rath, to deal with him. Grynszpan let off five bullets, hitting vom Rath twice; the diplomat died from his wounds two days later. This incident, which was portrayed by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry as an attack on the Third Reich by ‘world Jewry’, was the trigger for the events which have come to be known as Kristallnacht: a series of attacks against Jews carried out in Germany and parts of Austria during the night of 9–10 November 1938. Jewish homes, businesses, schools and hospitals were attacked. More than 1,000 synagogues were burnt. The official Nazi report estimated ninety-one deaths, though the real number was likely much higher.2 In the week following this pogrom, 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and taken to concentration camps.3 For many, the spectral figure of Martin Luther, who had launched the Protestant Reformation in Germany more than four centuries previously, appeared to lurk behind these horrific deeds. The mobs declared that they were conducting their attacks on the Jews as a birthday present for Luther, who had been born on 10 November 1483. Indeed, the Nazis had been making much of this connection since 1933, the 450th anniversary of Luther’s birth.4 Ten days after Kristallnacht, in an article in the newspaper Deutscher Sonntag, Immanuel Schairer, a pastor from Stuttgart, presented these events as a response to Luther’s question as to what should be done about the Jews, and quoted a lengthy passage from his On the Jews and Their Lies to substantiate his claim.5 Similarly, Bishop Martin Sasse of Thuringia chose this moment to publish a volume of Luther’s anti-Jewish writings, alluding both to Luther’s birthday and the recent destruction of synagogues in his preface.6 Most infamously, at the Nuremberg xii


INTRODUCTION trials held in the aftermath of the war, Julius Streicher, the owner of the profoundly anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer, cited Luther in his defence, arguing that he had added nothing to the reformer’s original message, and indeed suggested that Luther himself would be in the dock with him, were he still alive.7 It is impossible to discuss the Reformation’s impact on the Jews without acknowledging these events. Whether or not one accepts the Nazis’ claims that they were acting in accordance with Luther’s wishes, and regardless of how one assesses the relationship between Luther’s writings on the Jews and the Holocaust, this genocide continues to cast a great shadow over the subject. This has, in some ways, been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the Holocaust has encouraged historians to pay greater attention to the (mis-) treatment of Jews in earlier periods; on the other, there is the risk that these subsequent developments unduly shape how we think about those earlier events, or encourage us to draw simplistic links between the two. Yet, while it is perfectly reasonable to recognise this connection, it is the duty of the historian to approach the past on its own terms. In this context, this has at least two main implications. First, we must detach Reformation-era attitudes towards the Jews from the ends to which they were put several hundred years later. Second, we should recall that, despite both his significance to the Reformation movement, and the notoriety of his opinions on the Jews in particular, Luther does not speak for the Reformation as a whole. This will allow us to come to a much more nuanced and comprehensive understanding of Judaeo-Christian relations in the Reformation era. It should also mean that discussions of this theme in later ages will be better informed.

R The relationship with Judaism has been fundamental to Christianity since its inception, but through the patristic and medieval periods it had also been a deeply ambivalent one. On the one hand, the two faiths were part of the same broad religious current: the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Most obviously, the Hebrew Scriptures were accepted by Christians (who referred to them as the Old Testament), while Jesus Christ and his earliest followers had themselves all been Jews. Furthermore, many Christian theologians – most notably Saint Augustine of Hippo, the great fourth-century church father – felt that Jews were deserving of Christian respect as they had once been God’s chosen people, and might again feature within the divine plan for humanity. At the same time, Christians from Saint Paul onwards believed that with the advent of Christ, the Jews had been ‘superseded’ as God’s chosen people. This view had seemingly been confirmed by the fall of Jerusalem in 70 ce and the subsequent dispersal xiii


INTRODUCTION of the Jews, and was further reinforced with the conversion to Christianity of Constantine the Great in the early fourth century. This last development had meant that Christianity was soon established as the official religion of the Roman Empire, while Jews were effectively rendered second-class citizens. This in turn shaped the broad framework which would determine the relationship between Jews and Christians through the Middle Ages: Jews constituted a privileged but often persecuted minority living somewhat uneasily alongside Christians who regularly exerted their power over them. Anti-Judaism was far from universal, but it remained an undercurrent in European society, and meant that Jews were always vulnerable to Christian attack.8 At this point, a brief discussion of the terminology to be used in this study is necessary. In common parlance, anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism are often treated as if they are synonymous. Here, however, preference will be given to ‘anti-Judaism’ on the grounds that it is anachronistic to use ‘anti-Semitism’ for the early modern period: the latter term was only coined in the late nineteenth century, and reflected an effort to give pseudo-scientific justification for the hostility, by drawing on ideas which conceptualised Jews as a race.9 That said, especially because the term has become so widespread, some historians have felt it appropriate to use it for earlier periods. Gavin Langmuir, in particular, has sought to distinguish the two terms in a rather different way. He has argued that anti-Judaism might be considered ‘rational’ (in that it expresses largely understandable Christian resentment that the Jews had not come to share their beliefs about Jesus) and, in that sense, inherent to Christianity. ‘Anti-Semitism’ by contrast, was ‘irrational’ in that it reflected a set of beliefs, and accusations against the Jews, which defied logical thought. Importantly, he suggests that this irrational sentiment emerged in the twelfth century, and was reflected in some of the extraordinary allegations which Christians then began to direct against their Jewish neighbours.10 It was hardly a surprise that the Reformation should bring back to the fore the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. It was, after all, one of the most seismic events in the history of Christianity, shattering the unity of Western Christendom, which had survived intact for more than 1,000 years.11 Ostensibly beginning with Martin Luther’s criticism of the relatively obscure medieval practice of indulgences, it rapidly escalated into a wholesale assault on the status, beliefs and values of the Catholic Church. Luther’s revolutionary message of reform, which was disseminated by the equally radical medium of the printing press, which had only come into being in the mid-fifteenth century, was received with considerable interest and enthusiasm, by members of all levels of society.12 Within forty years, it received formal recognition, with the Religious Peace of Augsburg of 1555, through which the Holy Roman xiv


INTRODUCTION Emperor, Charles V, permitted local political authorities to introduce Lutheranism within their territories if they wished, a policy famously expressed by the Latin tag Cuius regio, eius religio (‘Whose reign, his religion’). Luther’s impact was greatest in his native Germany, but his writings were extensively published and circulated across the continent. At the same time, other reformers had appeared, some of whom had been directly inspired by Luther’s protest, while others had come to adopt similar positions independently. Almost from the outset, the Reformation was set on a path of internal fragmentation. Simultaneously, the Catholic Church underwent its own process of internal renewal. This had begun before Luther’s appearance, and indeed drew on similar currents of reform, but it is undeniable that the challenge posed by Protestantism galvanised the institutional church into a more systematic response, as exemplified by the Council of Trent which met over a period of eighteen years in the middle of the sixteenth century. Indeed, in light of these developments, historians are increasingly ready to talk of ‘Reformations’, rather than a single ‘Reformation’, in order to acknowledge this diversity.13 In this context, each of the Christian ‘confessions’ (as the different branches of Christianity are often termed) sought to distinguish itself from the others, and to establish its credentials as the ‘true’ church. Much of their effort was, of course, directed at clarifying issues of religious belief and practice, but many other spheres of life were also affected. This has been reflected in a substantial proportion of recent scholarship which has seen, for instance, studies of the impact of the Reformation(s) on the arts and music, the emotions, and even the landscape.14 Given the significance of Jews and Judaism to Christianity, it was all but inevitable that they too should have been affected by the Reformation. At first glance, then, it is perhaps surprising that at least until now no full-length study of the impact of the Reformation on the Jews of Europe has been written. But this is not quite as remarkable as it first appears. From the Jewish perspective, the reconfigurations which occurred within Christianity during the sixteenth century have often seemed fairly inconsequential, at least when set against the apparently unremitting anti-Judaism of the premodern period.15 While the Reformation is frequently mentioned as an episode of importance within the Christian world, with widespread ramifications, it is quite common that the discussion gets little further than Luther (not least because of the long afterlife of his pronouncements, as mentioned above), which does rather risk misrepresenting, or unnecessarily simplifying, the complexity of the movement.16 From the Christian perspective, meanwhile, there has been a general tendency for ‘majority history’ to neglect the Jewish contribution. Indeed, the medievalist Gavin xv


INTRODUCTION Langmuir, writing in the 1960s, contended that ‘majority historiography as it relates to Jews has been marked by a lack of interest and by ignorance, when it has not been marked by derogatory attitudes’.17 Even if they were not anti-Jewish per se, historians were products of a historiographical tradition which was hostile to, or at best not particularly interested in, its Jewish dimension. Certainly this situation has changed significantly over the intervening half-century, but there remains a tendency for Jewish history to be written by Jewish historians, and for it to be seen as somehow peripheral.18 There are then further factors specific to the Reformation. The often harsh treatment of Jews, and the vitriolic comments of some of the leading Protestant reformers about them, did not sit easily with those accounts, especially those written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which held up the Reformation as a harbinger of modernity, and an important stepping stone towards the emergence of toleration.19 Reformation attitudes towards the Jews have thus been something of an embarrassment, which scholars have sometimes sought to explain away, or simply to ignore. It has been striking, however, that the recent quincentenary of the Reformation in 2017 (marking the 500th anniversary of Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg), has seen much more attention given to Luther’s attitudes towards the Jews, in a more holistic assessment of a flawed individual.20 In addition, Jews have often been considered marginal figures in the Reformation: after all, they had been expelled from large swathes of Europe during the later Middle Ages, and many territories, officially at least, did not have a Jewish presence. Indeed, Jews likely only constituted between 1 and 2 per cent of the total population of Europe in this period. But the numbers only tell part of the story. They were a significant minority, traditionally enjoying a protected status, and frequently occupying prominent positions within society. This was not without its difficulties. For the Christian majority, Jewish success was often an especially unpalatable source of resentment; for the Jews, on the other hand, there was a particular tension between assimilation and the maintenance of a distinct Jewish identity, which it was not easy for these ‘aliens within’ to reconcile.21 Moreover, the Jewish population was not evenly spread across the continent. As one might imagine, they tended to congregate in those areas which proved more welcoming, or at least less hostile. Iberia, at least until 1492, Italy, and parts of eastern Europe were all home to quite substantial numbers of Jews; inhabitants of those areas presumably had rather different views about the Jews compared, for instance, with residents of France and England, from where they had long been expelled, and for whom an encounter with a Jew was exceptionally unlikely. But this was not a static xvi


INTRODUCTION situation: just as some territories expelled their Jews, others might decide to encourage their settlement. When one takes a perspective which looks beyond the boundaries of a particular polity, one gets a much clearer sense of the extent to which Jewish groups moved from one territory to another, as changing rulers and shifting policies made it more or less desirable to live in a given area. Indeed, their expulsions only served to make them more visible, as they traversed the continent, and established communities in locations where they had not previously existed. In addition, it is apparent that Jews lived, whether secretly or with the tacit acceptance of the authorities, in many locations which were officially free of Jews. Not only that but, given the umbilical relationship between Christianity and Judaism, which came under renewed scrutiny during the Reformation era, Jews wielded far greater power in the minds of their Christian contemporaries than their actual numbers warranted. Fortunately, though, the last couple of decades or so have seen considerably more attention given to the Jewish contribution. Increasingly, reference works and collections of essays on the Reformation are realising that this needs to be considered for a proper understanding of the period.22 There have, moreover, been significant strides in a range of spheres. The views of a growing number of the leading reformers have been examined.23 The treatment of Jewish populations in Spain and Italy has always been relatively well served, as one might expect for places where Jews (and converts from Judaism) lived in greatest numbers, but a growing number of other territories, whether nations or cities, have been the subject of more detailed studies. Broader themes, including the realms of book culture and Christian Hebraica, have also benefited from sustained and specialist attention. But there has been a tendency for different territories, different confessions, and these separate themes, to be treated largely in isolation. This volume seeks to draw these disparate strands together into a more rounded analysis. It is only by considering the different Christian confessions, as represented in different territories, alongside each other and by considering ‘the Jews’ in a broadly construed way (incorporating not just contemporary Jews, but also their language, learning and their symbolic value) that we can properly understand their significance to the Reformation.

R This book is concerned with the impact of the Reformation, in its various forms, on the Jews. Its focus will largely be restricted to Europe, and particularly western Europe. Recent studies have started to bring a welcome global perspective to Jewish experiences in the early modern period, and the links between Jews in Europe, and those in north Africa, Asia Minor, and the Americas are becoming better understood, both through xvii


INTRODUCTION the Jews’ own migrations, and as a corollary of Christians’ exploration and colonisation of these territories.24 However, for reasons including my own expertise as a historian of the European Reformation, the fact that the Reformation heartlands were in Europe, and the space limitations of a book of this sort, I have taken the decision only to allude to those other territories where their fortunes closely intersect with the European narrative. Similarly, this volume is concerned predominantly with the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Again, given recent historiographical developments which have put emphasis on the so-called ‘Long Reformation’, one could make a case for continuing this narrative into the eighteenth century, into the Enlightenment, or even beyond. However, in order to retain focus on those elements which are most closely associated with the Reformation, attention here will be restricted to these two centuries. This nonetheless makes it possible to evaluate the implications of the theological positions elaborated in the sixteenth century, and their subsequent modification. It also means that there is a degree of symmetry here: the expulsion of Jews from Iberia marks the beginning of this period, while the last chapters will include their readmission to parts of western Europe – in England’s case more than 350 years after the original expulsion. Further, the focus will chiefly be on Christian attitudes and behaviours. On occasions, as we will see, Jews did record their responses to their treatment by Christian authorities, and there was clearly an awareness of the advent and consequences of the Reformation; at the same time, as has already been noted, the changes within Christianity often seem to have occurred with relatively little comment from Jews. Where possible, we will of course seek to evaluate the impact of Christian initiatives, but it should be emphasised that this study is principally a contribution to Reformation historiography. This book seeks to do justice to the complexity of the European Reformations. Rather than the (sometimes seemingly almost exclusive) focus on Martin Luther, it will examine the attitudes of a wide range of figures and groups associated with the various branches of Protestantism which emerged in the sixteenth century. As a result, it will be possible to show that ‘Reformation’ attitudes were much more diverse and multidimensional than the conventional picture has tended to suggest. This volume will therefore seek to discuss both magisterial (e.g. Lutheran, Calvinist/Reformed) and radical (e.g. Anabaptist) groups, across Europe. Importantly, moreover, Catholic attitudes will also be considered alongside these Protestant ones. Indeed, Protestant and Catholic attitudes towards the Jews and Judaism in this era only truly make sense when considered in conjunction with each other. In addition to witnessing a set of xviii


INTRODUCTION similar, and often parallel, developments, they were also interrelated, in the sense that developments within one confessional group or area often had direct implications for those in another. More than that, it is necessary to recognise the ways in which a confessionally divided Europe affected Judaeo-Christian relations. On the one hand, the Catholic and Protestant Reformations directed renewed attention to the Bible, increased the sense that God was active in the world, encouraged concern with individual and collective piety, and sharpened awareness of those who did not fit with the heightened religious standards which came into operation. On the other, however, the religious divisions instigated by the Reformation meant that Jews were no longer the only, nor even necessarily the most dangerous, religious ‘other’: competing Christian confessions were, in many cases, not only more populous, but also often had the support of powerful political forces, and were ready to defend their beliefs with a vigour which rarely characterised the much more defenceless Jews. As we will see, at least in certain respects, religious pluralism made it easier for Jews to find places of safety than had previously been the case. Moreover, the lengthy wars provoked by these theological disputes had a further indirect consequence: Jews might contribute to the economies of cash-strapped states, for instance through their trade or as financiers. Of course, it is important to acknowledge that religious, let alone specifically theological, considerations were far from being the only factors in play, and they were certainly not always the most significant. As we will see, for instance, there were numerous occasions when the political authorities rejected the advice that they received from Protestant reformers or the injunctions of the Catholic Church. Economic necessity and political pragmatism were often in tension with more explicitly spiritual concerns, and rulers needed to find a balance between these competing objectives which served their political needs, satisfied their conscience, and maintained the support of the people over whom they ruled. But it is an underlying contention of this volume that while these economic and political factors have been fully considered, religious factors have tended to be passed over rather too rapidly, apparently on the assumption that religion was not a serious motivating force even by the end of the sixteenth century. Indeed, much recent scholarship has demonstrated that even if religious division did cast doubt on absolute religious truth, this did not necessarily manifest itself in a significantly diminished attachment to religion.25 More than that, though, we need to challenge some of the grounds on which this assumption has been based. Especially at the start of the Reformation era, the distinction between religion and politics, which can seem almost a given to us in the twenty-first xix


INTRODUCTION century, was hardly meaningful. As a number of scholars have recently demonstrated, shared ideas about the body politic were fundamental to the working of early modern societies, as was the notion that for a political entity to operate successfully, it needed to be free from harmful spiritual influences.26 Such ideas lay behind the zealotry with which groups that were perceived to threaten that unity – such as heretics, witches, Muslims and Jews – were often treated. The religious pluralism of the Reformation era had serious implications for notions of religious and political unity, and undoubtedly contributed to the emergence of scepticism and doubt; but it would be simplistic to imagine that this was a swift or straightforward transformation. Indeed, especially in the short term, the divisions of the Reformation only served to heighten such tensions. This study seeks to integrate intellectual and theological approaches with social and cultural ones. While it is perhaps most straightforward to establish the positions adopted by the respective Christian churches – through an examination of the relevant writings of key reformers, and the decisions taken by popes and church councils, for instance – we should recall that these were often little more than theoretical statements. It is equally necessary to ascertain as much as possible the consequences of such views, both in terms of their impact on secular policies and also their implementation at the local level. In addition, we will seek to understand the nature of Jewish-Christian interactions in Catholic and Protestant locations, ranging from the anxieties which could attend such encounters through to forms of interaction, collaboration and identification. This will necessarily be impressionistic, given both the broad geographical and chronological canvas, and because we remain highly reliant on those sources which have survived; but it is certainly possible to identify particular patterns and tendencies. To that end, this volume aims to draw together a range of themes which are often treated separately. It is the contention here, however, that it is necessary to consider the various dimensions of Christian thinking about Jews in the Reformation era, and the different ways in which these shed light on Judaeo-Christian relations, alongside each other. While these were in some ways complementary, they could also be somewhat contradictory: how these were reconciled, and the often ambivalent consequences, in fact help us better to understand this multi-layered issue. These include attitudes towards the Jews, in the past, present and future; views regarding the Hebrew language and Jewish learning and traditions more broadly; and also the ways in which Christian thinking about these themes in turn sheds light on the Reformation and its priorities. Christians in the Reformation were concerned with the Jews as a group of people. Most immediately this meant how they dealt with those Jews who lived among them: should they be tolerated, persecuted, or removed entirely? In the late fifteenth and xx


INTRODUCTION early sixteenth centuries, there was a new wave of expulsions. The most famous of these, largely because of the number of people involved, were from Spain and Portugal in the 1490s, but there were many others around the same time, from territories in Italy, the Holy Roman Empire and elsewhere. The reasons behind these expulsions were complex, but it is clear that at least in part they drew on the same late medieval currents of reform, and concerns with religious purity, which provided the context for both Protestant and Catholic Reformations. As the sixteenth century progressed, religious and secular leaders had to decide whether to allow Jews to reside within their borders, and if so, how – and how much – to moderate their presence. Likewise, the authorities had to determine how they would ensure that converts from Judaism adhered to the requirements of the religion to which they had attached themselves. As we will see, ideas on these questions shifted over time, as the Reformation progressed. This is interlinked with the important broader theme of toleration. It is tempting, particularly in the twenty-first century where we are inclined to make moral judgements on matters such as toleration of other religions, to seek to place the different confessions in some kind of ranked order. But of course these confessions were not monolithic. To give only the most obvious example: various leading Lutherans evidently did not share the sentiments that Luther expressed in his most anti-Jewish writings of 1543. Reformation attitudes towards the Jews were a product of the particular circumstances in which individual reformers found themselves, their shared Christian inheritance, and their particular theological outlook. Even if we could say, for instance, that the Reformed churches were more sympathetic to the Jews than the Lutherans, it is much more important to appreciate the many elements to their thinking with regards to the Jews, and the various contradictions which these often reflected. Importantly, moreover, in Christian thinking, contemporary Jews were frequently linked with Jews of the past, and Jews of the future. The former had once held a special place in God’s eyes: they had been His chosen people and had enjoyed a Covenant with Him. Christians believed they had now replaced the Jews in this regard, though the divisions within Christianity, provoked by the Reformation, significantly complicated matters: it was surely not possible for more than one of the Christian confessions to be God’s chosen people. On the other hand, Jews were generally held to be responsible for the execution of Christ, and their descendants felt to harbour malice towards Christianity and still to bear responsibility for this act. The growing awareness of the difference between the Jews of the Bible and their successors added a further dimension to this relationship: Christians frequently criticised their Jewish contemporaries for failing to live up to that model. xxi


INTRODUCTION As for the Jews of the future, in millenarian thought, it was generally believed that Jews would convert to Christianity as one of the signs of the ‘Last Days’. A key element of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans was its discussion of Jews and Israel in relation to salvation (Rom. 9–11): in the context of this discussion it was noted that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (Rom. 11.26). Meanwhile in the Revelation of Saint John, it is noted that 144,000 Jews (12,000 each from the twelve tribes of Israel), ‘marked with God’s seal on their foreheads’, would convert (Rev. 7.3–8). But views varied about how likely this was, given their difference from the ancient Jews, and if so how many might convert, in what context, and whether or not they would be restored to Israel. In the Reformation era, these theological concerns relating to the history of the church, and its eschatological future, took on considerable significance with regard to how this religious minority was to be treated in the present day. Alongside these considerations of the Jews as a people, this study also seeks to bring to a more central position the Reformation engagement with the language and learning of the Jews. Though initial steps had been undertaken in the Renaissance, it was only in the sixteenth century that these fields flourished. Substantial efforts were directed to learning not only Hebrew, but also a range of other ancient Semitic languages, and also to contemporary Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish. This activity both facilitated interaction with Jews and Jewish scholars (indeed, Jews and Jewish converts frequently played an important role in providing instruction in these languages in the first place), and also helped advance the Christian study of Jewish materials. Furthermore, scholars were increasingly interested in various forms of Jewish learning, that extended beyond the linguistic and philological; rabbinic exegetical traditions could help Christians better understand the foundations of their religion, not just the experiences of the Israelites of the Old Testament, but also those of Jesus and his early followers in the New. For too long, these have been regarded as esoteric activities, of interest to only a handful of scholars. While it is certainly the case that the number of people who were able to work with Hebrew texts with genuine expertise remained small, engagement with such materials was much more widespread than has generally been appreciated. In this regard, the traditional, if often implicit, distinction between ‘scholars’ and ‘reformers’ is not especially helpful: almost all of the front-line reformers had some familiarity with Hebrew, and some were clearly well-informed about Jewish interpretations, and drew on these or sought to counter them in their own exegeses. Not only that, but this Hebrew scholarship created ripples which were felt much more widely through the Reformation world. Sermons, polemics, commentaries and other writings drew on translations of the Bible, whether in Latin or the vernacular, which xxii


INTRODUCTION themselves had been made from the Hebrew by authors familiar with Jewish lines of interpretation. In this way, this Jewish scholarship permeated, often in quite subtle ways, the religious culture of the entire period. Furthermore, that engagement with Hebrew and Jewish learning also fed into competing claims to truth and authenticity which were at the centre of the confessional conflicts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Living and believing in a way that aligned with the early church had of course been an aspiration of Christianity in the Middle Ages, but in the Reformation, particularly with its emphasis on sola scriptura (‘by Scripture alone’), this idea was given a new impetus: the nascent Protestant churches sought to demonstrate their superiority over the traditional church through what they believed was greater conformity with that ancient model. Catholicism, meanwhile, which felt that it had remained true to those ancient strictures, found it difficult to avoid participating in this particular arms race: in an age of confessional polemic and religious dispute, it was necessary for each branch of Christianity to bolster its own claims to legitimacy by every means possible. To that end, and building on the Christian humanism of the Renaissance, scholars and reformers paid great attention to the Bible, increasingly in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, and to other writings which had been produced in the same context, as a means of coming to a better understanding of that milieu. In this regard, biblical scholarship was almost weaponised: the best understanding of the Bible was fundamental to the churches’ rival claims to the truth. Knowledge of Hebrew, and familiarity with Jewish and rabbinic texts, contributed to this endeavour. This was not without its risks, however. Hebrew study could easily prompt accusations of ‘Judaising’. This was a rather loose concept, but could refer to the continuing practice of Judaism by those who had converted to Christianity, efforts made to convert others to Judaism, through to undue sympathy to Jewish lines of interpretation. Allegations of the last of these, in particular, peppered religious debates of the period, and indeed were sometimes even used by participants on both sides of a given encounter.27 Nonetheless, and despite these risks, it also encouraged collaboration with Jews and a readiness to engage with Jewish ideas and traditions. This book argues, finally, that the relationship with Jews and Judaism was fundamental to the Reformation. Both the Catholic and the various Protestant churches underwent a sustained process of self-reflection and self-examination, with a view to bolstering the conviction of each one that it was the most authentic and holy church in existence. In this process, the Jews were a critical point of reference. It was necessary to negotiate very carefully a balance between competing forces. On the one hand the xxiii


INTRODUCTION different groups sought to establish their proximity to the Jews of the Old Testament, and to position themselves as their rightful successors; to that end, Jewish, and especially biblical, cultural norms provided a series of touchstones for the Christian confessions of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. On the other, it was the contention of each of these confessions that they had replaced the Jews, and so at the same time they sought to emphasise the ways in which they differed from Judaism. Responses to these factors were important for developing the sense of identity of these churches, but also, potentially, of winning (or winning back) adherents. While this volume does not argue that the Reformation marked a turning point per se – as Reformation historians rather simplistically once did – it will suggest that this was nonetheless a critical moment for Judaeo-Christian relations. It caused the members of every Christian confession to consider afresh the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, and it gave a new significance to a series of questions which stemmed from this. In the short term especially, this arguably exacerbated the tensions between the two. Christians came to understand even more fully the differences between the Jews they read about in the Old Testament, and those they might encounter in daily life. The Reformation also placed greater emphasis on establishing and maintaining the religious purity of a community, while breathing new life into apocalyptic and millenarian thought: all of this could easily lead to extra scrutiny of, and pressure on, the Jews. In the longer term, however, there were some more positive aspects. Jewish learning was not without its perceived dangers, and was much more commonly used as a handmaiden for Christian purposes rather than engaged in for its own sake, but it did nonetheless have a role in the Christian endeavour, which gave it value. At the same time, the concomitant efforts to better understand Jewish life and practice did, at the very least, help somewhat to demystify the Jews. Indeed, the cultural, theological and intellectual reinterpretation of the Jews and Judaism which the Reformation encouraged arguably helped pave the way for their readmission to certain areas from which they had been expelled, a process which gathered momentum through the seventeenth century. In the Reformation, Christians attempted to resolve a set of seemingly timeless questions: how to regard and treat Jews who, sometimes at least, lived among them; whether they should be left to their own devices, face expulsion, or whether attempts should be made to bring them over to Christianity; to what extent should their language, and their linguistic and exegetical skills be drawn upon; how could one ensure that one’s religion was as authentic as possible; how certain could one be that one was a member of the faith that had replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. These questions xxiv


INTRODUCTION have often been treated separately but they were all interrelated. Moreover, it is only with a perspective which acknowledges both the similarities and differences between the Christian confessions, and that takes a long view, that we can properly attempt to offer answers to these questions. But it is important that the attempt is made, so that we can come to a better understanding of the priorities of both Catholics and Protestants in the early modern period, their attitudes to the most important religious minority, their nearest ally but also their longest-standing rival, and also their respective senses of self. Taken together, all of this should help us to come to a better understanding of this critical, but often somewhat neglected, aspect of the Reformation.

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8

R HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS Messianism, Millenarianism and the Hope of Israel

Sabbatai Zevi (or Tzevi) was one of the most remarkable figures of the seventeenth century.1 He was born in Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire in 1626, the son of Mordecai Zevi, a successful merchant who had moved his family there from Greece. In around 1644, he began to study various kabbalistic texts, most notably the Zohar (‘Radiance’), a collection of mystical writings which had been compiled in the thirteenth century.2 Possibly suffering from some kind of mental illness – which manifested itself in great emotional highs, but also recurrent depression – Sabbatai also started to break various Jewish laws at about this point.3 Most provocatively, he began to utter the Tetragrammaton: ‘YHWH’, the ‘ineffable name’ about which Luther had written just over a century before (see above, p. 66), was meant only to be spoken aloud by the Jewish high priest in the Temple in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur.4 One passage from the Zohar was interpreted by some to mean that the Jewish Messiah would appear in 1648. In June of that year, when he was still not yet twentytwo, Sabbatai started to believe that he was the Messiah. According to Baruch of Arezzo, who wrote a biography of Sabbatai shortly after his death, this realisation caused him great anguish. Baruch records how one day while he was studying the Torah with the rabbis, Sabbatai began weeping. When the rabbis asked him why this was, he replied: ‘I know I am the messiah, and that against my will I will perform strange acts against the Lord and his Torah, therefore do I weep.’5 Nonetheless, Sabbatai’s assertion that he was the Messiah (not to mention other claims, including the ability to levitate), antagonised the local rabbinate who banished him from Smyrna in the early 1650s.6 He spent much of the next decade travelling widely, managing to get himself expelled from both Salonica (Thessaloniki) and Constantinople during this period. He returned briefly to Smyrna in the early 1660s, before journeying to Rhodes, Jerusalem and then Cairo, where he would stay during 1663–65. While he was there, Sabbatai started to hear stories about an individual reputed to have miraculous powers who he hoped might be able to help him: this was 181


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION Nathan of Gaza (1643–80) who, although he was only twenty years old, was already renowned for his kabbalistic learning. Sabbatai travelled to Gaza to meet him, hoping that Nathan would relieve him of the belief that he was the Messiah. Instead, the opposite happened: Nathan had already had a vision that Sabbatai was indeed the Messiah, and therefore sought to persuade him of this.7 In May 1665, Sabbatai departed from Gaza, leaving Nathan who immediately embarked upon a campaign to publicise Sabbatai’s Messiahship more widely. For instance, in a letter of September 1665 to Raphael Joseph Halabi, a wealthy Jew who worked for the Ottoman government in Cairo, Nathan set out his messianic vision: ‘A year and a few months from today, he [Sabbatai] will take the dominion from the Turkish king without war, for by [the power of] the hymns and praises which he shall utter, all nations shall submit to his rule.’8 He went on to explain that ‘there will be no slaughter among the uncircumcised [i.e. the Christians] except in the German lands’ (it seems likely that this exception was made in light of the recent Chmielnicki massacres in Poland–Lithuania, in which perhaps more than 50,000 Jews had been killed). At the same time, ‘the ingathering of the exiles will not yet take place at that time, though the Jews shall have great honour, each in his place’.9 Meanwhile, Sabbatai continued on his travels. Wherever he went, he was met by enthusiastic crowds. By September 1665, he was back in Smyrna, but seems then to have remained quiet for a time. On 12 December, however, again according to Baruch of Arezzo’s account, he launched an attack on the Portuguese synagogue there, breaking down its doors (which had been closed against him) with an axe, berating the congregation who were then at prayer, before appointing one of his brothers the king of Turkey and another brother the emperor of Rome.10 Then, at the end of the month, he left Smyrna for Constantinople where Nathan of Gaza had prophesied that he would assume the sultan’s crown, and take his kingdom.11 But, as soon as he arrived, in February 1666, he was arrested and imprisoned.12 Before long he was moved from his cramped prison to a fortress in Gallipoli, where he was able to entertain visitors (his jailers seem to have been quite ready to accept payment to permit these visitors to have an audience with Sabbatai, even if they did not share the belief that he was the Messiah), while stories of miracles circulated. During this period, Sabbatai’s fame continued to spread across Europe. For instance, Henry Oldenburg, the secretary of the Royal Society in London, wrote to Baruch Spinoza, the radical Jewish-Dutch philosopher, ‘Here [in London] everyone spreads a rumour that the Jews having been dispersed for more than two thousand years are to return to their country. Few in this place believe it, but many wish for it’.13 182


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS There was, moreover, widespread interest from the Jewish communities of Europe. According to one Christian source, in March 1666 the Jews of Avignon in France were making plans to relocate to Palestine.14 Meanwhile, in Frankfurt am Main it was reported that ‘The Jews eagerly received the vain reports and rumors that came from Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam and Poland. They truly believed in their deliverance and spoke about it in Christian houses as well as in the ghetto and in the synagogues, where they prayed for it’.15 Everything changed, however, in September 1666. The Sultan, Mehmed IV, had Sabbatai brought to his court at Adrianople (modern Edirne), where he was presented with an ultimatum: he should prove his divinity by enduring a volley of arrows and emerging unscathed, risk death, or convert to Islam.16 He chose the last of these options, immediately assuming the name Aziz Mehmed Effendi. The Sultan, who presumably appreciated it was better to treat his high-profile visitor well, rather than create a martyr, rewarded Sabbatai with an honorary position at his court.17 Even so, Sabbatai’s apostasy was a crushing blow for his many followers, the Sabbateans, though some, like Sabbatai himself, preferred to believe his conversion was part of the divine plan. Eventually, the Sultan tired of Sabbatai, who was believed to have resumed practising Judaism, and was no longer concealing his contempt for Islam, and in 1673 he was sent into exile in Ulcinj, in modern Montenegro, where he remained until his death in 1676, ten years and one day after his apostasy.18 Though his conversion and death largely brought the movement to a close, groups of Sabbateans continued to exist in Turkey, Italy and Poland. The Sabbatean movement was, in fact, the most significant messianic movement since the first century bce. Much of its success reflected the context in which Sabbatai emerged, and the particular stresses which were apparent in the middle of the seventeenth century. While 1648 marked the end of the Thirty Years War, it was also the year in which Bogdan Chmielnicki led an army of Cossacks in a series of attacks against Jewish communities in Poland–Lithuania, as part of a wider assault on the established order of that society.19 Closer to home, in August 1648, the ruthless and highly unpopular Sultan Ibrahim (‘the Mad’) who had been Ottoman ruler since 1640 was deposed and killed by his Janissaries.20 But the appearance of, and enthusiasm for, Sabbatai also drew on longer traditions of messianic thought. In fact, beliefs concerning the Messiah arguably constituted the most important division between Christians and Jews. For Christians in this era, both Catholic and Protestant, the Messiah had already come, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. The failure of the Jews to acknowledge this fact, they believed – whether 183


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION through ignorance or stubbornness – was their greatest flaw, and the main reason why they should be subject to Christian rule. Jews, on the other hand, regarded Jesus as a ‘false Messiah’, and still awaited the true Messiah, who would deliver them from the low position in which they currently found themselves. It is, in fact, striking that the era of the Reformation should see both a heightened Jewish messianism but also greater Christian millenarianism. Members of both faiths saw many signs around them which suggested that the day of deliverance was near at hand. For Jews, the arrival of the Messiah would initiate an age of peace, which would also see them return to the Holy Land. For Christians, the advent of the millennium would see the second coming of Christ and the world enter its Last Days, a period which would be marked, among other things, by the conversion of Jews across the world to Christianity. The initial outbreak of the Reformation had prompted greater eschatological thinking on the part of both Christians and Jews. For some (especially Protestants), the Reformation was at least in part a response to millenarian anxieties prompted by a crisis in the Catholic Church (above all, reflected in the idea that the Papacy was the Antichrist); for others, including many Jews, the Reformation was in fact further evidence that Christianity was nearing collapse, and that the millennium was near at hand. Such concerns reappeared in the middle decades of the seventeenth century: indeed, with what some believed to be the discovery of some of the ‘lost tribes’ of Israel in the New World, the two narratives intersected, as both Christians and Jews envisaged that the world would enter its final era. This, moreover, was the context in which Jewish readmission to England was achieved. Jewish Millenarianism Messianism was a recurrent idea in Jewish thought.21 While there were references to a Messiah (‘anointed one’) in the Hebrew Scriptures, the full understanding of the concept was developed subsequently. According to this idea, a Messiah would appear who would redeem the Jews, usher in a new era of peace in which all of mankind would worship one God, and restore the Jews to Israel. While the emergence of Christianity had been a product of this belief (in that Jesus of Nazareth was considered the Messiah by those who would become the earliest Christians), Jews considered him to be a false Messiah, and therefore continued to await his arrival. For Maimonides, writing in the twelfth century, belief in the future appearance of the Messiah was, in fact, one of thirteen principles required of every Jew. As he wrote in his discussion of the laws: ‘The Messiah will arise and restore the kingdom of David 184


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS to its former might. He will rebuild the sanctuary and gather the dispersed of Israel. All the laws will be reinstituted in his days as of old . . . But whoever does not believe in him or does not await his coming denies not only the rest of the prophets, but also the Torah and our teacher Moses’.22 The upheavals of the Reformation era inevitably gave renewed attention to these ideas. Above all, the expulsion of so many Jews from Spain in 1492 – incidentally, a year in which many expected the redemption to begin23 – was pivotal. Such a massive displacement was traumatic, not just for those Jews who were expelled from Spain (as we saw in Chapter 2) but also for communities across the continent and beyond, who were reminded once more of their vulnerability in Christian society. This upheaval inevitably encouraged some Jews to resort to mystical thinking and messianic traditions as a means of making sense of their experience; but the fact that so many Jews from Iberia – which had one of the strongest kabbalistic traditions – were then spread across communities around the Mediterranean can only have further encouraged this development.24 Safed, a town in Galilee, soon emerged as a particular centre for the development of kabbalistic thought in this period. Not only had Safed been home to a number of distinguished Jewish scholars in the past, but there was also one line of thought which held that the Messiah would first reappear in Galilee, and quite likely in Safed itself.25 One of the most distinguished figures associated with Safed was Moses Cordovero (1522–70), whose surname suggests that his family may have come from Córdoba, which may in turn suggest that his presence in Safed was a product of the expulsion from Spain.26 Among his many writings, he produced a very substantial commentary on the Zohar, and contributed a great deal to the systematic understanding of kabbalistic thought. By contrast, Isaac Luria (1534–72), known as ha-Ari, ‘the Lion’, who only spent the last years of his life in Safed, wrote very little, but exerted a great influence on those kabbalists who came after him. A particular feature of his thought was a concern with the cosmos, which had been broken following God’s withdrawal from it; mystical thought, in his view, provided the means by which the cosmos might be repaired.27 Many of the Jews who engaged with the Kabbalah during this period sought to establish when the Messiah might arrive. To do this, they frequently made use of ‘gematria’, according to which the letters of the words in the Torah are ascribed numbers, from which calculations can be made. All of this was based on the idea that the Scriptures convey multiple messages, only some of which have yet been understood. The mystical ideas of the Kabbalah purported to offer a means of uncovering more of those meanings. 185


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION For Luria, the arrival of the Messiah was imminent: he seems to have believed that this might occur in 1575. On one occasion, he asked his followers to travel with him to Jerusalem on the Sabbath. When they proved reluctant, he blamed them for delaying this event: ‘Woe unto us that we have not proved worthy to be redeemed. Had you promptly and unanimously replied that you were ready to go, Israel would have then and there been redeemed. For the hour had come but you were not ready’.28 As discussed in Chapter 2, Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508), a wealthy Portuguese Jew who in exile found his way to Venice, believed that the Messiah would most likely arrive in 1503, or at least that signs of his imminent return – such as the destruction of Rome – would occur by then, though he did subsequently revise this calculation several times, finally alighting on 1591. At the same time, in his Salvation of the Annointed, he argued against those who claimed the Messiah had already come.29 Likewise, the German Asher Lämmlein, who also travelled to Italy at the start of the sixteenth century, evidently anticipated the imminent arrival of the Messiah. According to the sixteenth-century Jewish historian David Gans, Rabbi Lemlin announced the coming of the Messiah in the year 360 (1500/1 [sic]) and his words were believed all through Israel’s dispersion. Also among the Gentiles were rumours, and many of them also believed him . . . And I, the author, heard from my old teacher, Rabbi Eliezer Trevis of Frankfurt, that he spoke the truth, and performed signs and miracles, and that probably our sins caused His failure to come.30

But through the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, further Jewish authors made other predictions. Abraham ben Eliezer Halevi (c. 1460–1530), a Spanish mystic and kabbalist, who believed the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 had been the first sign of the beginning of the messianic age, which would soon be followed by the fall of Rome, believed the Messiah himself might then arrive in around 1530.31 Mordecai ben Judah Dato (1525–91?), an Italian rabbi and kabbalist, suggested that 1575 might witness the arrival of the Messiah. According to Azariah dei Rossi, ‘a famed kabbalist and scholar, Mordecai Dato, wrote a special book, named after his brother, Migdal David, in which he convincingly proved that the great hope of Israel for the beginning of redemption and the building of the temple will be fulfilled in the year 1575.’ Dei Rossi went on to acknowledge that ‘a whole group of the “sons of prophets” . . . are waiting for the year 1575 as the day of God, in which God will lead forth his people in joy 186


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS to everlasting salvation’.32 David ben Solomon ibn Abi Zimra, meanwhile, calculated that the messianic age would begin in 1640.33 This activity also encouraged the appearance of several false messiahs. Perhaps the most striking of these was David Reubeni (also Reuveni), who claimed to be ‘the son of King Shlomo, may the memory of the righteous be a blessing, and my elder brother, Yosef, sits on the throne in wilderness of Habur and rules over thirty myriads, over the tribes of Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh’.34 His real name is unknown, though it has been suggested that he had been a Jew who had been captured by Muslims and then released. His mission, he claimed, was to hasten the redemption. In 1523, he arrived in Venice, where he appealed to the Jewish community to aid him in gaining access to the pope; while many doubted his claims, some did give him assistance. In February 1524, according to his memoirs, he arrived in Rome ‘mounted on an old white horse . . . I entered the house of the pope, still riding on the horse, and then entered the presence of the cardinal, Gudio [Egidio da Viterbo] and all the cardinals and officers came to see me.’35 With the support of the Hebraist Cardinal Egidio, Reubeni was then able to arrange a meeting with Pope Clement VII, through which the pope ‘listened to what I had to say politely and said “This matter has come forth from God!” ’.36 Reubeni requested that the pope broker a deal between Reubeni’s forces and the Christian world in a compact against the Ottomans, and asked for letters of introduction to Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France. While Clement was concerned by the Ottoman threat, he delayed and only after a year did he provide letters of introduction to the kings of Portugal and Ethiopia. He then headed to Portugal. As a near contemporary Jewish historian wrote: ‘In those days [1525] there appeared at the court of the king of Portugal a Jew, David by name, from a distant land, India. And David said to him, “I am a Hebrew and I fear the Lord God of the heavens. My brother, the King of the Jews, has sent me here to you, my lord king, for help.” ’37 John II of Portugal welcomed him, apparently believing that his claims about the Messiah were correct, though he refused to provide him with the ships or weapons that he requested.38 While he was in Portugal, Reubeni met Diogo Pires (d. 1532), a converso from Lisbon who had become an official in the court of appeals. Pires was so impressed by Reubeni that, following a vision, he asked to be circumcised by him; when Reubeni refused the request, Pires circumcised himself, converted to Judaism, and took the Hebrew name Solomon Molko.39 Reubeni, who was held responsible for the conversion, was forced to leave Portugal, and suggested Molko come with him. Molko travelled to Salonica where he undertook study of the Kabbalah, and started to build a group of 187


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION followers around him. He regarded the sack of Rome in 1527 as evidence that the delivery of the Jews was near at hand, and so headed to Italy in 1529, where he preached about the Messiah.40 By this time, Molko had come to believe that he was the Messiah. Remarkably, Clement VII protected him, even defending him against accusations of Judaising. In 1530, Molko reconnected with Reubeni in Venice, and the pair of them then travelled to Charles V, whose help they sought against the Turks. But Charles V was rather less sympathetic than the pope: he had Molko arrested and transferred to Mantua, where he was burnt at the stake for refusing to accept Christianity.41 Many of his followers refused to accept that he had died, and continued to regard him as the Messiah. In the context of the Reformation it is striking that these false Messiahs should have received a sympathetic reception from Catholic leaders, and particularly from the papacy; at the same time, it is equally noteworthy that it was Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, the great protector of the Jews, who should take responsibility for resolving the situation and putting Molko to death. Christian Millenarianism Christians, too, anticipated the end of the world. Such ideas had been uttered periodically in the middle ages. Of particular note was the Cistercian Joachim of Fiore (1135–1202). Significantly, he argued that the millennium would occur within human history, rather than signalling its end.42 He divided history into three ages on the model of the Trinity: the age of the Father corresponded to the era of the Old Testament; the age of the Son began with the birth of Christ; and the age of the Spirit, which would begin, he calculated, in 1260, and would last for a thousand years. In this period the church would be overthrown, and instead those friars who devoted themselves to spiritual and mystical study would rule. His views were condemned at the Fourth Lateran Council, but they remained influential on subsequent millenarian thinking.43 Similar was Girolamo Savonarola (1452–98), a Dominican monk from Ferrara. Having made a number of what appeared to be successful prophecies (such as the French invasion of the Italian peninsula by France in 1494), he was swept to power in Florence on the wave of great popular acclaim, displacing the renowned Medici family as he did so: in his sermons he condemned the corruption of the church and the decadence of the Renaissance.44 Most famously, his puritanical campaign involved the so-called ‘Bonfire of the Vanities’ of 1497, when his supporters burnt thousands of objects which might be considered sinful (such as specific books, works of art and playing cards) or which reflected an unnecessary attention to one’s appearance (such as mirrors and cosmetics). 188


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS Also central to Savonarola’s brief hold on power in Florence were his millenarian predictions.45 As he explained in a book summarising his visions and prophecies, since his first arrival in Florence, ‘I preached to the people of Florence, continually stressing three things: first, the future renovation of the Church in these times; second, the great scourge that God would bring on all Italy before such a renovation; third, that these things would come soon . . .’.46 In his sermons, moreover, he increasingly presented Florence as a new Jerusalem, which would become the focal point for the new age.47 In one famous sermon delivered in January 1495 and immediately turned into a pamphlet to help disseminate his message further, he insisted: ‘But you, Florence, heard with your ears not me but God . . . and therefore, you, Florence, will not have the slightest excuse, if you do not mend your ways’, before going on to demand, ‘all of Italy must be turned upside down, Rome as well, and then the Church must be renewed . . . You should believe . . . for God has said it to you rather than I’.48 The advent of the Reformation in the sixteenth century, with its renewed attention to the Scriptures and heightened concern with salvation and spirituality, revitalised millenarian thinking.49 The Anabaptist Kingdom of Münster was characterised especially by the fact that its leaders anticipated the world’s imminent end. Unwisely perhaps, however, those leaders gave clear indications of dates on which this would happen. When the world did not come to an end at Easter 1533, as they had said it would, their claims to divine inspiration began to seem increasingly flawed. Likewise, it is evident that millenarian expectation was one of the main factors which added particular urgency to Luther’s reform campaign. The conversion of the Jews was often a critical component of Christian millenarian thinking.50 This was clearly a consideration for Martin Luther in writing That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew with a view to converting Jews to the Christian cause. As the Reformation developed, numerous theologians devoted considerable efforts to determining how Romans 11 (‘and all Israel shall be saved’) should be interpreted. In the seventeenth century, this theme received renewed attention, particularly in England. Again, this was in large measure a response to external events and a growing sense of impending crisis. These included the apparent discovery of one of the lost tribes of Israel in the New World, the continuing conflicts in Europe, and, closer to home, the Civil War (1642–51). The last of these involved the execution of King Charles I in 1649, and the replacement of the monarchy with a republican Commonwealth, which was overseen by Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector between December 1653 and his death in September 1658, and then his son Richard, before the Stuart monarchy was reestablished with Charles II in May 1660. These events 189


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION contributed to a breakdown of order which included, most obviously, the collapse of censorship, making it much easier for controversial ideas to be published in popular pamphlets and works of theology and thus to reach a wider audience.51 One of the most striking developments of the civil war era, was the emergence of various radical groups, particularly in the late 1640s, including the Diggers, the Fifth Monarchy Men, the Quakers and others.52 While these groups all had their own agendas, they were linked in both their desire for social reform and their readiness to draw on the Bible for inspiration. It has been calculated that almost three quarters of the works written by Presbyterian and Independent authors published between 1640 and 1653 in England expressed millenarian expectations.53 Not only that, but a number of their authors also tried to calculate when the millennium might begin.54 For some, 1656 seemed likely, on the basis that Noah’s Flood was believed to have happened when the world was 1,656 years old, while Matthew’s Gospel was interpreted as meaning that the millennium would be of the same length.55 The astrologer Simon Forman sought to analyse the Bible with reference to the restoration of the Jews, the Antichrist and the end of the world. The astrologer William Lilly (1602–81) used the stars to predict in 1651 that ‘we Christians’ would liberate Palestine from the Turks so that the Jews might return. Indeed, the idea that the time would soon be right for the Jews to return to Israel achieved quite wide circulation in the seventeenth century.56 This was often regarded as one of a series of phenomena by which the impending millennium would be signalled: this model involved the collapse of the Catholic Church (under pressure from Protestantism), the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (and hence the collapse of Islam) and the ‘restoration’ of the Jews to Jerusalem, all of which would be followed by the arrival and spread of the kingdom of Jesus Christ throughout the world.57 Such views were especially expressed by Puritans, in England and America, though this idea resonated more widely, finding expression, for example, in Milton’s Paradise Regained, where he has Jesus say: ‘Yet he at length, time to himself best known/ Rememb’ring Abraham, by some wondrous call/ May bring them back repentant and sincere . . ./ While to their native land with joy they haste . . .’58 For many Protestants, though, Jews were viewed with quite mixed emotions. This ambiguity is exemplified by the Quakers. Margaret Fell (1614–1702), known as the ‘mother of Quakerism’, is a particularly good example. As she lived in Northumberland, in the north-east of England, it is unlikely that she had met any Jews herself, but in 1656 and 1657, in the immediate aftermath of the Whitehall Conference (see below, p. 195 ff.), she wrote several pamphlets with which she hoped she might convert Jews to Christianity. Several were translated into Hebrew, quite likely by Spinoza.59 In one of 190


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS these texts, for instance, she asserted her conviction that England had a pivotal role to play in the apocalypse. She describes England as ‘a Land of gathering, where the Lord God is fulfilling his promise’ and goes on to remark that God ‘assembles the out-casts of Israel: and gathers together the dispersed of Judah, from the foure corners of the earth, and this is fulfilled in this our day in this Nation’.60 In addition, as the historian Claire Jowitt has shown, the Jews also played an important metaphorical role in Fell’s thinking about what constituted true faith.61 In her writings, she made a distinction between ‘outward’ and ‘inward’ Jews. By the former term, Fell meant those believers who focused on outward, ritualised religious practices: these included not only Jews, but also non-Quaker Christians. Inward Jews, by contrast, were those who followed their faith spiritually, and here she had in mind the Quakers specifically.62 This illustrates quite effectively the way in which the Quakers, like various Protestant groups before them, identified with the Jews: as a persecuted minority in seventeenth-century England, they found parallels in the sufferings of the people of Israel. Samuel Fisher, another early Quaker who had studied Hebrew at Oxford, travelled to the Netherlands in 1657 where he began attending a synagogue and interrupted the service as he would have done at a Quaker meeting; while discouraged from continuing to do this, he still accepted the invitation from Jews in the community to discuss religious matters with them further in their own homes, often for several hours at a time.63 Subsequently he lived in various Jewish communities in Germany and Italy, including that of Livorno, where his assimilation was sufficient for him to be allowed to stay in the ghetto. That is not to say that the Quakers’ attitudes towards the Jews were universally positive. For instance, George Fox (Fell’s husband), addressed his A Visitation to the Jews (1656), a work intended to convert Jews into Quakers, to ‘the Jews scattered, who are the seed of God, to whom the promise belongs, who have long had the words, but mist the promise’. Then, even in the first paragraph, he asserted that the Jews ‘put Christ to death and slew him’, before going on to insist that their current state was largely deserved.64 Similarly, Fell, in her later writings from the 1660s, took a much harsher line towards the Jews. In A Call to the Universal Seed of God, for instance, she attacked the ‘unbelieving Jewes’ of the Bible who encountered Jesus but failed to respond appropriately to his message.65 In these later works, moreover, Fell was more concerned to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah. It seems these works were intended for an exclusively Christian audience; there was no attempt made to translate them into Hebrew, which does suggest that Fell had given up any realistic hope of Jewish conversion.66 191


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION Puritans and Jews In her religious settlement of 1559, Elizabeth I had attempted to heal the religious divisions in England prompted by the Reformation by adopting a position of compromise: a degree of religious freedom was granted, so long as people demonstrated themselves to be loyal to the state. A small but vocal minority, who regarded themselves as the ‘godly’ or the ‘elect’ (but whose enemies dubbed them ‘Puritans’), however, complained that England was ‘but halfly reformed’ and pressed for further religious change.67 The accession of Charles I in 1625 only served to increase the concerns of this group about the religious future of the nation. Not only was he married to the Catholic Henrietta Maria of France, but also, in 1633, he appointed William Laud (1573–1645) as archbishop of Canterbury. Laud would introduce a range of religious reforms intended to impose greater uniformity and clerical authority upon the kingdom; especially to the Puritans, however, it looked like he was attempting to reintroduce Catholicism.68 Like the Calvinists, with whom they had much in common, the Puritans engaged in rigorous Bible study, devoting particular attention to the Old Testament.69 In addition, millenarianism also played a rather more significant role in their theology. Most mainstream Protestants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries assumed either that the millennium referred to a period in the past (whether before the corruption of the apostolic church by Catholicism or the whole Christian era) or else was a purely spiritual phenomenon.70 For some Puritans, however, the millennium was an altogether more immediate concept; and for many of them, the Jews would play a critical role.71 In fact, the first signs of this aspect to their thought appeared in the late sixteenth century. In 1590, Andrew Willett (1562–1621), a clergyman who would go on to become a prolific author, wrote a full-length work in Latin on the ‘calling of the Jews’.72 In the early seventeenth century, he was then followed by a number of other authors. For instance, Thomas Brightman (1562–1607), another cleric, wrote several works in which he interpreted the Song of Songs, Daniel and the Book of Revelation.73 According to Brightman, the millennium had already been underway for around 300 years, and would soon enter its final phases. These would involve the fall of Rome, the conversion of the Jews, and the destruction of the Turkish Empire.74 He anticipated that the conversion of the Jews would take place in 1650, and the Day of Judgement before the end of the century.75 The idea of the conversion of Jews received particular attention from Puritan authors. For example, in 1608, Thomas Draxe (d. 1618) wrote a commentary on Romans 11, entitled The World’s Resurrection, or the Calling of the Jews, in which he asserted that

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HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS the Jews’ conversion ‘is like to follow the burning and destruction of Rome, for then the stumbling blocks that the Papists offer them by their imagery, invocation of Saints, Latin service, and abominable and most senselesse transubstantiation, shalbe removed and taken away’.76 He then went on to note that ‘there shalbe some reasonable distance of time betweene the burning of Rome and the end of the worlde, in which it is most consonant to truth that the [Jews] shalbe called for their conversion in the last generall signe and fore-runner of Christs second comming so far forth as the scripture revealeth unto us’.77 Similarly, Sir Henry Finch (d. 1625), a lawyer, published anonymously The Worlds Great Restauration. Or The Calling of the Iewes in 1621, in which he claimed that it would not be long before Christ came to reign on earth, and that the Jews would convert and govern with Christ.78 William Gouge, a Puritan preacher, published the work and contributed a letter to the reader. However, this work was interpreted as a challenge to the monarch, James I: as a consequence, Finch and Gouge were imprisoned and the text was suppressed. For many Puritans, there was, moreover, a belief that England had a special part to play in the divine plan.79 Since the break with Rome and the establishment of the Church of England under Henry VIII in the 1530s, it was believed that England was not just ‘a chosen nation, but chosen above all nations’, as Edmund Calamy, the Presbyterian and historian put it in 1642.80 But, as the literary scholar Achsah Guibbory has shown, this view had important implications for how the English viewed the Jews of the Old Testament: on the one hand, again like the Calvinists, there was a strong motive for identifying with the people of Israel; but on the other, there were obvious tensions between two nations, both of whom regarded themselves as ‘chosen’.81 Alongside this, the Puritans – like many of their Protestant counterparts in continental Europe – demonstrated a heightened interest in the Hebrew language, not least as a means of better understanding the Old Testament.82 Indeed, several authors produced Hebrew grammars, including William Robertson’s Gate to the Holy Tongue (1654–55) and John Davis’s A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Tongue (1656), which was in fact a translation of Buxtorf ’s Hebrew grammar.83 Particularly notable is that both of these works were written in English, rather than Latin, with the intention of maximising the number of people who would have the opportunity to learn Hebrew. In the scholarship on this subject, this attitude is often described as ‘philoSemitism’.84 This terminology is rather problematic, for at least two main reasons. First, just as ‘anti-Semitism’ is rather anachronistic when applied to the early modern period (in that it relies on a racial/genetic understanding of Jewishness, which emerged 193


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION only in the nineteenth century), so too does this counterpoint. Second, the term implies a more positive attitude towards the Jews than was actually the case. Most of the figures who are generally described as philo-Semites valued the Jews not on their own terms, but rather because of the role they could perform. Wanting Jews in the country in order that they could convert to Christianity, thereby heralding the Last Days, could hardly be construed as genuinely sympathetic. Nonetheless, because of their enthusiasm for the Old Testament, some of their religious practices, and also their advocacy of Jewish readmission, Puritans were frequently accused of Judaising by their opponents. Even in the sixteenth century, John Whitgift (c. 1530–1604), who would subsequently become archbishop of Canterbury under Queen Elizabeth I, had accused the Puritan churchman and academic Thomas Cartwright (c. 1535–1603) of Judaising. This was on the grounds that he had defended the Presbyterian model for the Church of England, in light of the fact that Moses had appointed ‘elders’ among the Israelites (despite the fact he had sought to distance himself from Judaism in other respects).85 In the early seventeenth century, the Sabbath again became an issue which prompted accusations of Judaising (as it had been for some of the more radical elements of the Reformation on the continent – see above, pp. 53–9).86 The Puritans insisted that the sanctity of the Sabbath should be maintained by avoiding any inappropriate activities. In 1617, King James I issued his Book of Sports, which listed the sports and recreations which one could undertake on Sundays and other holy days. In the first instance, this pertained only to Lancashire, where there was a dispute over the issue between Puritans and the clergy (many of whom were Roman Catholic).87 The following year its remit was expanded to the whole country. In 1633, the text would then be reissued by James’s son and heir, Charles I (r. 1625–49). In the wake of the publication of the Book of Sports, various accusations of Judaising were made against Puritans. For instance, John Traske (c. 1585–1636), a Puritan clergyman, was arrested in 1618, on the grounds that he had preached that various Jewish laws – including those which prohibited the consumption of blood and pig flesh, and those which endorsed the Saturday Sabbath – had not been ended by the advent of Christ; instead, he had asserted that the Christians should continue to adhere to them.88 Traske was expelled from the ministry, fined £1,000, sentenced to life imprisonment, and had the letter ‘J’ burnt into his forehead to demonstrate to all who met him that he had been found guilty of putting forward Jewish opinions.89 In 1620, he wrote Libertie from Judaisme in which he sought to distance himself from those charges.90 194


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS In fact, Traske’s case was one episode in a broader discussion of Sabbatarianism in seventeenth-century England.91 Lancelot Andrews (1555–1626), the bishop of Ely and a Hebraist himself, argued against Saturday sabbatarianism. As he explained: ‘It is good work to make a Jew a Christian, but to make Christian men Jews, hath ever been holden a foul act, and severely to be punished.’92 The renowned statesman Francis Bacon (1561–1626) expressed concern that the attention generated by Traske’s case was encouraging ordinary people to learn Hebrew, presumably in order to read the Scriptures in their original languages.93 In a Brief Refutation (1618), ‘B.D.’ (John Falconer) had characterised Traske as a ‘Puritan minister lately grown half a Iew in his singular opinions concerning the old Sabaoth, and Moysaical difference of meates’ and insisited that his ‘only learning is a litterall knowledge of Scriptures, and some little Hebrew and Greeke lately learned for the understanding of them: which alone he holdeth sufficient’, on the basis of which ‘he deduceth . . . strange Conclusions and Distinctions’.94 This was in fact a recurrent idea in writings of the time. Thomas Rogers (d. 1616), chaplain to Richard Bancroft, the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote a commentary on the 39 Articles (the key doctrinal statement of the Church of England) in which he argued that Puritan Sabbatarians were Judaisers.95 Similarly, in his satire Bartholomew Fair (1614), the playwright Ben Jonson presented a character with a stereotypical Puritan name: ‘Zeal-of-the-land Busy’; not only do the other characters refer to him as ‘Rabbi busy’, but he demonstrates a particular enthusiasm for pork, which he eats in great quantities in the final scene of act 3. In so doing, Jonson draws attention to the supposed connection between the two groups, while also attacking their hypocrisy.96 Oliver Cromwell and the Whitehall Conference At least officially, there had not been any Jews in England since their expulsion in 1290. In practice, however, at different times various small groups of Jews had lived in the country covertly.97 These included some of the Italian musicians at the court of Henry VIII, while in the second half of the sixteenth century there was a small community of crypto-Jews in London, and another even smaller community in Bristol.98 In the 1630s, there were a number of Jewish merchants living in London, who were obliged to behave as if they were Catholics (occasionally attending Mass in the chapels used by Catholic ambassadors in the city), even if their Jewish affiliation was effectively an open secret.99 Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, and the brief rule of Parliament, Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) became lord protector of England in 1653. Cromwell’s 195


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION religious outlook is a complex and somewhat elusive subject. Having undergone a religious conversion in the 1630s, possibly following some kind of spiritual crisis,100 from that point on Cromwell would refer to religion with great regularity, in his many sermons and speeches. The exact nature of his religious attachment was quite opaque, but it does seem that he embraced a form of Puritanism.101 He considered himself to be among the elect, whom God had chosen for eternal salvation,102 and increasingly came to think of himself as serving a greater, divine purpose.103 This in turn manifested itself in a providential outlook: every victory was seen as evidence of divine approval, but when his plans failed, he wondered what he had done to provoke God’s anger.104 Cromwell was strongly anti-Catholic in some regards, viewing the pope as the Antichrist, and justifying the invasion of Ireland in 1649 as revenge for the Catholic violence of the Irish rebellion of 1641. Yet when he was lord protector, he did not attempt to suppress Catholicism in his kingdoms.105 Similarly, he was ready to accommodate a wide range of Protestant groups, though he drew the line at those radicals who, for instance, denied the Trinity. Indeed, one can discern in his attitude a general readiness to tolerate those who held different religious views from his own. As he wrote in 1648: ‘I have waited for the day to see union and right understanding between the godly people (Scots, English, Jews, Gentiles, Presbyterians, Independents, Anabaptists, and all)’.106 It is striking that Cromwell should include Jews in that list, but not Catholics. Discerning his attitudes towards Jews is again not straightforward, though there are fragments of evidence which suggest that he was sympathetic to their cause. For instance, in February 1655, Cromwell wrote to the king of Portugal on behalf of Manuel Martinez Dormido (also known as David Abravanel), who had arrived in England a few months earlier, requesting the return of his property which had been confiscated by the Inquisition following his arrest for practising Judaism in secret in the 1630s.107 In addition, Cromwell is known to have used Jewish spies for intelligence gathering at various stages through the 1650s. And, most significant of all, he was responsible for calling the Whitehall Conference, at which the question of the readmission of the Jews would be discussed. This sympathy for the Jews may well have been encouraged by his Puritanism, but it is difficult entirely to rule out the possibility that he was also acting out of pragmatism. The Whitehall Conference would take place in 1655, but it was the product of a gradual build-up. To some extent the ground had been prepared by the various Puritan writings of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries discussed above. Momentum began to build, however, from the late 1640s. On 5 January 1649, Johanna Cartwright, and her son Ebenezer Cartwright, two English Baptists who were then 196


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS living in Amsterdam, sent a petition on behalf of the Jews to Sir Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the commander-in-chief of the Parliamentary Army during the Civil War, and the Council of War, in which they wrote that ‘your Petitioners humbly pray that the inhumane cruel Statute of banishment made against them, may be repealed, and they under the Christian banner of charity, and brotherly love, may again be received and permitted to trade and dwell amongst you in this Land [England], as now they do in the Nether-lands’.108 In the printed version of the petition, which appeared almost immediately, it was claimed that it had been ‘favourably received’ by the council. At the same time, it also encountered strong opposition. In an article in the weekly Royalist newspaper the Mercurius Pragmaticus, its author complained that it was ‘No marvell that those which intend to crucifie their King, should shake hands with them that crucified their Saviour.’109 However, the real driving force behind the Whitehall Conference was Manoel Dias Soeiro, better known as Rabbi Menasseh ben Israel (1604–57).110 Originally from Portugal, his family had arrived in the Netherlands in 1610, as part of the exodus from Iberia discussed in the previous chapter. In 1626, at the age of twenty-two, Menasseh established the first Hebrew press in Amsterdam, publishing a wide range of Jewish books in Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and English, intended for both Jewish and Christian readers. Indeed, he was soon the most famous Jewish publisher in the world.111 Many of the works for Jewish readers were intended to help them to come to terms with the religion with which they were reacquainting themselves; as discussed in the previous chapter, many of those Jews who arrived from Iberia in Amsterdam (and elsewhere) had not been able to practise their Judaism in public, and often had only a very rudimentary grasp of its procedures. At the same time, though, Menasseh also had many Christian contacts and readers. He sought to demonstrate to them, whether they were sympathetic or hostile, that Judaism was not blasphemous, and that Jews were not the enemies of Christianity. A significant step towards the Whitehall Conference occurred in 1644, when Menasseh received a visit from Antonio de Montezinos, also known as Aaron Levi, a Portuguese converso. According to the account that was written following his return, Montezinos had travelled to the province of Quito in New Spain (now Ecuador) in 1642, where he claimed to have met a group of people who lived in the remote mountains but spoke Hebrew, could recite Jewish prayers, and declared themselves to be descendants of Reuben, the founders of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.112 According to the Hebrew Scriptures (2 Kings 17), the Northern Kingdom of Israel had in the eighth century bce been overrun by the Assyrians, driving out ten of Israel’s 197


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION original twelve tribes, leaving only the people of Judah and Benjamin. It had been prophesied that their reappearance would be another signal of the millennium.113 It would only be in 1650 that Montezinos’s account was brought to a wider audience, but the idea that the indigenous people of America were descended from the tribes of Israel gradually took hold. For instance, John Dury, a Calvinist minister from Scotland who had spent time in the Low Countries and Germany, subsequently recalled that ‘I was told of a Jew who came from America to Amsterdam, and brought to the Jewes residing there newes concerning the ten Tribes; that hee had been with them . . . and had conversed with some of them for a short space, and seen and heard remarkable things . . . whereof then I could not learn the true particulars.’114 A few years later, Dury was then consulted by Thomas Thorowgood, an English Puritan who was in contact with Puritans in New England, and who was just completing a work, Jewes in America, in which he argued that the indigenous Americans whom the Puritans were then trying to convert were descended from the ancient Israelites; a version of Montezinos’s narrative, written by Menasseh, was included in the volume.115 Thorowgood’s initial enquiry had prompted Dury to write directly to Menasseh for more information. Not only did Menasseh write back to Dury,116 but this exchange also prompted Menasseh to write his Hope of Israel, which was published in Latin, Spanish and English versions in 1650.117 In this work, the English-language version of which was dedicated to the English Parliament, Menasseh related Montezinos’s account, evidently hoping that this would encourage the English to invite the Jews to return to their country.118 Menasseh endorsed Montezinos’s claims that the people he had encountered were descended from the lost tribes, and argued further that others had found their way to China, Ethiopia, the Levant and the West Indies.119 Alluding to Isaiah, Menasseh asserted that the Messiah would gather all twelve tribes ‘from all quarters of the earth’ and bring them to Jerusalem where they would live under the ‘Fifth Monarchy’.120 He was reluctant to indicate when he thought this might happen, but the discovery in the New World, and the tribulations suffered by Jews – he singled out the Spanish Inquisition for particular criticism – were signs that this event was not far off.121 In September 1655, Menasseh travelled from Amsterdam to London, evidently at Cromwell’s invitation (Menasseh’s son Samuel having previously visited England to prepare the ground for him), and took up residence in an expensive part of the city near the Thames, quite likely at Cromwell’s expense.122 While in England, Menasseh wrote and published his Humble Addresses to the Lord Protector (1655), in which he argued that the change of government and Cromwell’s rise provided a new opportunity for the readmission of Jews to England. Referring again to ideas raised in the Hope of Israel, he 198


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS insisted that England was now the only part of the world without Jews: ‘We know how our Nation at the present is spread all about, and hath its seat and dwelling in the most flourishing parts of al the Kingdomes and Countreys of the World . . . except onely in this considerable and mighty Island.’123 In this work, Menasseh also countered the various charges that were often made against Jews, including their practice of usury, supposed ritual murder and their desire to convert Christians to Judaism. Conversely, he argued that Jews could make an important economic contribution to the kingdom. A few weeks later, Menasseh was invited to meet Cromwell personally, during the course of which he presented the Lord Protector with letters from Jewish communities elsewhere, and then set out a short list of conditions which would be necessary for the Jews to live in England, including the freedom to conduct their own business, to worship in synagogues and permission to buy land for a cemetery. Cromwell listened to Menasseh’s requests sympathetically, and recommended to his Council of State that it consider them more fully. To that end, they convened a group of twenty-eight men – including members of the clergy, politicians, lawyers, businessmen, and even Ralph Cudworth, Cambridge’s Regius Professor of Hebrew – who would reflect different perspectives on the key questions. The Whitehall Conference, as this became known, met over five sessions between 4 and 18 December. Henry Jessey (1603–63), a Baptist clergyman and scholar, and a strong advocate of Jewish readmission, wrote a short account of the Whitehall Conference, ‘because many good people in divers parts of this Nation, who have often prayed heartily for the Jews Conversion, have heard a Rumor of a late Debate at White-hall about the JEWS having a liberty to return into England, and are very desirous to know the Truth of things in those Proceeds, and what is the issue of those Debates’.124 As an appendix, purportedly to fill the remaining pages which would otherwise have remained empty, Jessey included Menasseh’s seven points, which were read out early in the discussions. These were: that the Jews should be accepted and protected from all wrongs; that they should have public synagogues; that they should have a cemetery; that they should be able to conduct trade, just like any other foreigners; that someone should be appointed by the Lord Protector to check their passports and receive their oath of loyalty; that Jews should be permitted to deal with any internal community issues themselves; and that any laws against them should be repealed.125 According to Jessey, Cromwell began the Whitehall Conference by directing the discussion towards two key issues: ‘1. Whether it be lawful at all to receive in the Jews. 2. If it be lawfull, then upon what tearms its meet to receive them’.126 In answer to the first question, the lawyers present reasoned that the original expulsion of the Jews in 199


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION 1290 had been issued by King Edward I, rather than by Parliament, and so, as the monarchy had been cast aside, that edict was no longer applicable. Consequently, they concluded, ‘there is no Law that forbids the return of the Jews into England’.127 Resolving the second question was rather harder, however. As Jessey’s account makes clear, opinions were widely divided. There were some, he noted, who felt that it was their Christian duty to yield to the request to readmit the Jews, not least because of the great adversities Jews currently faced on the continent, but also because in England it was most likely that Jews might be persuaded to convert to Christianity.128 On the other hand, ‘the most did fear, that if they should come, many would be seduced and cheated by them, and little good would be unto them’.129 Both sides interwove economic, social and religious arguments in support of their respective positions.130 One preacher, for instance, argued, ‘Though the Jews are now in hardness of heart, and worthy of punishments; yet we had need beware lest we be occasions of hardening them, or instruments of punishing them.’131 He then went on to refer explicitly to Theodore Beza’s commentary on Romans 11.18 to demonstrate his support for the idea of Jewish conversion. Another noted that the current situation meant that Jews were presently treated worse than Muslims.132 Other participants, by contrast, expressed anxiety that permitting Jews into England might lead to conversions from Christianity to Judaism. The fifth and final meeting was open to the public, and was intended to review proceedings before leading to a resolution. According to Paul Rycaut (1629–1700), who attended the meeting, and who would later lobby for the expulsion of the Jews under Charles II, the clergy reiterated their strong opposition to the idea of readmission.133 Then the merchants offered a summary of their position, expressing their concerns that Jews would behave dishonestly, and provide unreasonable competition for English traders. Rycaut went on to claim that Cromwell agreed with them, and also spoke against the Jews, but given his role in bringing the Conference about in the first place, this does not seem especially likely; at most, perhaps, he may simply have expressed sympathy with their views. All of this left Cromwell in a difficult position. According to Jessey, in the face of these objections, he ‘professed, that he had no engagement to Jews, but only what scripture holds forth; and that he had hoped by these Preachers to have had some clearing the case, as to conscience’.134 Nonetheless, he continued to hope for the conversion of the Jews in the fullness of time, and advocated that preaching should be used to bring this about. The Whitehall Conference thus closed inconclusively, though Cromwell evidently hoped that the issue might be resolved at a future date. 200


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R In the aftermath of the Whitehall Conference, both sides in the debate sought to further advocate for their respective positions. William Prynne, a Presbyterian and lawyer who had prosecuted Archbishop Laud in 1644 and who opposed Jewish readmission, wrote his Short Demurrer in 1656, and followed this up with a second enlarged edition which included a new second part.135 In these works he gathered together huge amounts of material, especially relating to the period before the Jews’ expulsion in 1290, in which he attempted to prove that it was impossible for Christians and Jews to live alongside each other. For instance, he claimed that many Jews had been ‘found guilty of all sorts of wickednesses, poysonings, the murder of many Children, forging of Letters, counterfeiting and corrupting of moneys, thefts, deceipts, and other villanies, whereby they offended the Divine Majesty’.136 In the same year, William Hughes produced his Anglo-Judaeus, in which he also attempted to draw on history to argue that Jews, ‘despised by all, and hated by most’ were not only anti-Christian but ‘Monsters and enemies of mankind’.137 In the same year, an anonymous pamphlet, The Case of the Jewes Stated, appeared which also attacked Jewish morals.138 Only six pages in length, this was clearly intended for a more popular readership. Again, it focused on the accusation of child murder: ‘When they were in England . . . the Jews used every year to steal a young Boy, the child of a Christian, and to circumcise him, and then in their synagogues sate in a solemn assembly, chusing one of themselves to be Pilat, who out of their Devilish malice to Christ and Christians condemned the child, and crucified him to death’.139 Jews, its anonymous author also alleged, ‘use filthy blasphemous words when they go out of their chamber to the stool’.140 He then went on to claim that they disparaged both Christians and Jewish converts. The text portrayed Jews as following endless rules, and superstitions, such as lying in bed with their heads facing south and their feet facing north, to increase the chance of having male children. ‘And their chamber morals are so lascivious . . . as is unfit for chaste ears’.141 Especially in a setting where Jews had for so long been officially absent, it is perhaps unsurprising that their possible readmission should have provoked such strong, if ill-informed, responses. Joseph Copley, an otherwise little known figure, issued a direct response to this pamphlet almost immediately. Copley noted that ‘a man would admire to find so much venome in the body of so little a Spider . . . this Fellows heart is filled with envy and malice; so his noddle is as well gifted with a goodly talent of beastly ignorance’, before proceeding to work through the accusations in the first pamphlet systematically, 201


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION pointing out errors or problems with the logic. For instance, in his discussion of the ritual murder allegation, he noted that it would hardly make sense for Jews to bother circumcising the child if they were just going to murder him, and nor would one of them take on the role of Pilate ‘when none of them that I ever spake with believe there was any such person’. He then went on to argue in favour of Jewish readmission, stating that to do otherwise would be to follow Catholic practice.142 Menasseh also responded to the various allegations made against the Jews in his Vindiciae Judaeorum (‘Vindication of the Jews’), a treatise of some forty pages, published in 1656.143 In particular, he sought to address six of the main accusations which were often levelled against Jews, working through these in turn. Almost the entire first half of the work was directed to addressing the first of these, namely ‘that strange and horrid accusation . . . that the Iewes are wont to celebrate the feast of unleavened bread, fermenting it with the bloud of some Christians, whom they have for this purpose killed’.144 In the remainder of his Vindiciae he rejected the idea that Jews were idolaters (instead explaining how they worshipped in the synagogue), denied that they cursed Jews, contradicting Johannes Buxtorf ’s claims (made in his De synagoga Judaica, which would be translated into English in 1663),145 as well as rejecting the accusations that Jews proselytised for their faith, or approached their business transactions in a deceitful manner. Finally, he denied the widespread rumour that the Jews wished to buy St Paul’s Cathedral to turn it into a synagogue. Readmission While Menasseh and his delegation hoped for a swift resolution to the matter, Cromwell, who appreciated that there was considerable opposition to readmission both within the Whitehall Conference and among the public at large, was more inclined to let the matter cool off. Cromwell died in September 1658, almost three years after the Conference had concluded, without returning explicitly to the question of Jewish readmission. That said, informal acceptance of a Jewish presence soon came into being. The context for this inadvertent decision was provided by the resumption of war between England and Spain in 1654 (this conflict would continue until 1660). As mentioned above, a small community of Sephardi Jews had been in existence in London for about two decades: while its members practised Judaism covertly in their own homes, they maintained the public pretence of being Catholics.146 In March 1656, Antonio Rodrigues Robles (c. 1620–88), a member of this group, was arrested on the grounds that he was Spanish, and so his goods might be confiscated by the crown. Initially, it seems, 202


HEIGHTENED EXPECTATIONS he attempted to claim that he was Portuguese (and so not an enemy), but when that failed he then insisted that he was a member ‘of the Hebrew nation’, rather than being Spanish. Later the same month, this community submitted a ‘Humble Petition’ to Cromwell in which they sought his protection. Again there was no formal response to the petition, but on 16 May 1656, Robles’s goods were returned to him. Effectively, this response implied that while being Spanish was unacceptable in England at this point, being Jewish was not. In the meantime, existing members of the crypto-Jewish community requested permission to worship as Jews, and to establish a cemetery. Once more, formal permission was not granted, but it seems likely that informal assurances may have been provided.147 In December 1656 the group rented a house which they intended to use as a synagogue; they began to hold ceremonies there from January 1657. The following month, Antonio Ferdinando Carvajal (c. 1590–1659), originally from Portugal, and Simon de Caceres (d. 1704) who had been born in Amsterdam, acquired land to be used as a cemetery. By the time that the monarchy was restored in May 1660, therefore, the London Jewish community had started to put down roots. The absence of formal legislation did perhaps mean that they were in England on a precarious basis; on the other hand, it also meant that there was no legislation for the new king to overturn, should he wish to reverse these advances. In fact, Charles II showed no particular interest in altering the situation. Indeed, by 1663, more than fifty more Portuguese Jews had joined the London community; these included Duarte de Silva and Rodrigues Marques, both of whom had accompanied Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of the king of Portugal, when she arrived in England to marry Charles II in 1662.148 In 1664, Sir Henry Bennett, the secretary of state, responded on behalf of the king to a further petition of the Jews, saying that the Jews might ‘promise themselves the effects of the same favour as formerly they have had so long as they demeane themselves peaceably and quietly with due obedience to his Majesties Laws and without scandal to his Government’.149 Jacob Sasportas (1610–98), the rabbi of the London community, similarly reported to a friend in Rotterdam that ‘we are free to practise our own true religion . . . a written statement was issued from him [Charles II] duly signed, affirming that no untoward measures had been or would be initiated against us, and that they should not look towards any protector other than his Majesty’.150 The readmission of the Jews to England, even if it was tacit rather than the product of a formal declaration, has been regarded as one of the most important moments in the history of Jews in the country; it has also been held up as one of the best exemplars 203


THE JEWS AND THE REFORMATION of English toleration. The reality, as this discussion has shown, was much more complicated. Religious arguments, for and against readmission, were interwoven with political and economic ones. None of them was sufficiently compelling to win the day in 1655. At the same time, it seems highly probable that the readiness of Puritans to argue in favour of readmission, at least in part influenced by their millenarian hopes, helped make the Jews’ return more acceptable. More than that, though, it demonstrates how the Jews continued to have a relevance for various Christian communities well into the seventeenth century.

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