Trailing Nietzsche: Gershom Scholem and the Sabbatean Dialectics

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Gershom Scholem, the most predominant scholar of Jewish Mysticism in our times, is highly known for his contribution to the field of Jewish history. But his intellectual origins lay in his adolescence, and in his heretical-philosophical criticism of the Judeo-Christian morality and the ideology of the German bourgeoisie. These early impressions and thoughts appeared in one of his first Hebrew articles, "Redemption Through Sin", published in Palestine in 1937. Scholem's discussion analyzed the "nihilistic revolution" of the Sabbataeans and Frankists in the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Europe, whose main feature was the rejection of the normative ethics of rabbinic Judaism. The hidden core of the young Scholem, his revolutionary thought, was followed by an early encounter with the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. The dream of young Scholem, as revealed by his diary, to write "Zarathustra for the Jews", eventually came into being in an original adaptation. His great book Sabbatai Sevi (1957), can be read as a Nietzschean re-reading of "Redemption Through Sin". The biography of Sabbatai Sevi as a Jewish Zarathustra may provide refreshing insights into the development of Scholem's thought and an opportunity to challenge him through an analogical perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-246
Number of pages24
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016


  • Gershom Scholem
  • Messianism
  • Nihilism
  • Religion
  • Sabbateanism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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