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Paper: Paul Philip Levertoff and the Popularization of Kabbalah as a Missionizing Tactic

June 23, 2014

levertoffIn the past few years, Paul Philip Levertoff, a Jewish-born convert to Christianity (he was baptized at age 17 in August 1895, in Konigsberg, East Prussia, after he left his family and the Jewish community) who later embraced Anglicanism (he was later ordained as a priest, becoming a missionary to the Jews), has become somewhat of an icon in the Messianic Jewish movement. Viewed as a pioneer, he’s credited with foreseeing the “rebirth” of the first century Jewish Christianity. In his writings, recently resurrected by the messianic publishing house First Fruits of Zion, Levertoff sought to amalgamate the Hasidic background of his youth with that of Christianity, as he understood it, basing himself on the New Testament and later Christian Trinitarian developments. Of course, he was not the first to do so, as many Jewish converts to Christianity tried to appeal to their former co-coreligionists, with little success, using Talmudic texts, rabbinic writings, and especially the works of Jewish mystics. Levertoff’s specialty was Jewish mysticism found in the Kabbalah and its core text, the Zohar, which he even helped translate to English. He used the Zohar and the writings of Hasidic masters to show that the Hasidic Judaism of his youth was virtually the same as the original first century Christian movement among Jews.

Elliot R. Wolfson, Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, has written a paper titled Paul Philip Levertoff and the Popularization of Kabbalah as a Missionizing Tactic. It can be viewed here.

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