Kyrenia Palmer


Sabbatean movement, heresy, Orroman province, Palestine, Sabbati Sevi, Nathan of Gaza


The Sabbatean movement, Judaism's first true heresy, originated in the Ottoman province of Palestine in the 1660s. The movement centered around an aspiring Messiah called Sabbatai Sevi. With the aid of a personal prophet, young Nathan of Gaza,· this man made himself a household word throughout the Jewish Diaspora and induced thousands of Jews to inflict radical penitential sufferings upon themselves in a sort of apocalyptic ecstacy. However, Sabbatai Sevi was not the decisive factor in Judaism's spiritual awakening, nor was Nathan of Gaza ( though without his support the movement never would have spread). Rather, the great messianic revival of 1666 reflected crucial changes within Jewish cosmology. The changes originated in popular distortions of Isaac Luria's Kabbalah and were nourished by the general upheaval of the 1600s and by the insecurity of the Jewish people in particular. Nathan of Gaza and Sabbatai Sevi merely created pressure at the pivotal point of mystic interpretation.