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Dissident RabbiThe Life of Jacob Sasportas$
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Yaacob Dweck

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780691183572

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691183572.001.0001

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(p.167) Four Prophecy
Dissident Rabbi

Yaacob Dweck

Princeton University Press

This chapter discusses Sabbatian messianism as an epistemological problem. How does one know whether or not someone is the Messiah? In the middle of the seventeenth century, prophecy was one way of obtaining such knowledge. Prophecy played a decisive role in the success of Sabbatianism. Adherents to the new movement emphasized the renewal of revelation both in the period of its rapid spread prior to Sabbetai Zevi's conversion as well as in the years that followed. Beginning with the leading Sabbatian propagandist, Nathan of Gaza, and continuing well into the eighteenth century, Sabbatians spoke and wrote about their activities as prophecy. Repeatedly they invoked their own capacity to communicate with the divine as a source for their own authority. Indeed, prophecy often served as the legitimating grounds for their suspension of legal norms and invention of new rituals. The chapter then looks at Jacob Sasportas's response to the Sabbatian renewal of prophecy as well as to other modes of knowing, such as dreams and astrology. For all of Sasportas's profound skepticism about the Sabbatian revival of prophecy, he refused to condemn the category outright. Just as he had continued to insist on his belief in the messianic idea but rejected Sabbetai Zevi as its fulfillment, he continued to hold open the possibility of prophecy while denying the legitimacy of Nathan of Gaza.

Keywords:   Sabbatian messianism, prophecy, Sabbatianism, Sabbetai Zevi, Nathan of Gaza, Sabbatians, Jacob Sasportas, dreams, astrology

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