This chapter studies Jacob Sasportas's The Fading Flower of the Zevi within the context of Jewish responses to Christianity. Unlike the overwhelming majority of Sephardim in northwestern Europe, Sasportas had little to say about Christianity for much of his life. This changed dramatically in 1665–1666 when he made a pointed analogy between the followers of Sabbetai Zevi and the early followers of Jesus. Sabbetai Zevi and the Sabbatian movement forced Sasportas to confront Christianity. The emergence of a contemporary Jewish heresy—for no actual social distinctions divided “believers” from “unbelievers” in the early stages of the movement—propelled him to reimagine Christianity, which he now described as a heretical or ideological offshoot of ancient Judaism. Sasportas's turn to Christianity was not at all directed at learned Protestant readers in contemporary Hamburg or Amsterdam. Rather, it was an attempt to convince his fellow Jews that the figure they had embraced as the Messiah was closer to Jesus than to the redeemer envisioned in the final chapters of Maimonides's Code. Religious belief threatened the inviolate status of the law and, therefore, undermined the social authority of the one who determined the law: the rabbi.
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