Among the proliferation of Protestant sects across England in the seventeenth century, a remarkable number began adopting demonstratively Jewish ritual practices. From circumcision to Sabbath-keeping and dietary laws, their actions led these movements were labelled by their contemporaries as Judaizers, with various motives proposed. Were these Judaizing steps an excrescence of over-exuberant biblicism? Were they a by-product of Protestant apocalyptic tendencies? Were they a response to the changing status of Jews in Europe?
In Jewish Christians in Puritan England, Aidan Cottrell-Boyce shows that it was instead another aspect of Puritanism that led to this behaviour: the need to be recognised as a ‘singular’, positively distinctive, Godly minority. This quest for demonstrable uniqueness as a form of assurance united the Judaizing groups with other Protestant movements, while the depiction of Judaism in Christian rhetoric at the time made them a peculiarly ideal model upon which to base the marks of their salvation.
1. Singularity and Puritanism
2. Judaizing and Singularity
3. ‘A Jewish Faccion’: Anti-Legalism, Judaizing, and the Traskites
4. Thomas Totney, Judaizing, and England’s Exodus
5. The Tillamites, Judaizing, and the ‘Gospel Work of Separation’
Endorsements and Reviews
An original and innovative contribution to our understanding of a neglected tendency within Puritanism. A compelling work that has implications that go well beyond its subject matter and opens up new ways of thinking about Christian interpretations and appropriations of Judaism.
Justin Meggitt, Senior Lecturer in the Study of Religion, University of Cambridge, and Visiting Researcher, Stockholm University
Aidan Cottrell-Boyce takes his readers on a fascinating journey, exploring the significance of ‘Judaizing’ trends among English Puritans. Operating at the intersection of theological and sociological analysis, he presents an innovative and convincing account in which the adoption of ‘Jewish’ practices enabled individuals to take on a stance of distinctiveness and separation from the surrounding culture of the dominant majority. The book’s argument has implications beyond its seventeenth-century focus, illuminating a broader historical pattern of scripturally shaped resistance-identity that can be traced through early Christianity, rabbinic Judaism, the rise of Protestantism, and the Radical Reformation.
Daniel H. Weiss, Polonsky-Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies, University of Cambridge