Religious Positioning in the Context of Salvific Expectations among Jews and Christians towards the End of Time

The project undertakes a reinterpretation of the relations between Jews and Christians in Eastern and Central Europe during the early modern period with regard to the modalities and constellations of their reciprocal religious positions. In particular, the project focuses on the processes underlying their different religious and cultural positioning with regard to salvific expectations towards the End of Time. The analysis of the differences between Jews and Christians with regard to messianic and apocalyptic expectations but no less of the convergence of these traditions is a necessary and important research agenda. We observe that the expressions of Jewish messianic longing were related to the religious positions and reaction of the Christian majority culture and therefore variable. This enables us to better analyze the complexity and dynamics of the working out of various positions in terms of internal developments as well as in terms of the “other” tradition. The problem of identifying an internal religious-messianic position as a "revival movement" notwithstanding its deviance with regard to rabbinic tradition arises with regard to Pietism, Sabbatianism, Frankism, and later Hasidism. We must therefore consider whether in both cultures such movements developed similar strategies to overcome these obstacles, and whether they might interfere with each other in the course of cultural appropriations on both sides.

The project focuses on the largely neglected 17th and 18th centuries. In addition to the regional focus on Frankfurt and Hessen - one of the most important Jewish settlements in the empire of that time – special attention will be paid to Jewish-Christian circles, which were established in the context of the end-time-motivated pietistic missionary movement and revivalist endeavors. The analysis of the selected case studies of apocalyptic-religious positioning will aim at interpreting the processes of cultural encounter and cultural transfer. Our hypothesis is that central eschatological interpretations, messianic claims, and apocalyptic views in Judaism and Christianity were shaped and dynamically changed in the early modern era in a dialogical structure of reciprocal reception and confrontation. We shall examine the options developed in both traditions to deal with internal and external differences. These include — in addition to apologetics, polemics, and the acceptance of difference — strategies of the reinterpretation and appropriation of the other's position, perceived as a threat. Which synergies developed from the respective inner and outer positioning, and how do they express themselves in text, ethics, and ritual?

The aim of the differentiated understanding of both Jewish messianism, the question of salvation, and Christian apocalypticism in the early modern period is to be questioned consistently with regard to conflict with, and pluralism within, the analyzed religious positions. Particular attention is given to the adaptation and transformation of kabbalistic symbolism and rhetoric in the pietistic (e.g. Spener, Oetinger, Bengel), Sabbatian, Frankist, and Chassidic groupings of different characteristics. Not only is the position of the "religious other" redefined in this transfer process, but also the relationship to one's own religion, tradition, and culture. The centrality of "sensuality" and "corporeality" in the pietistic and Chassidic positions, which is to be thoroughly investigated, is of particular importance with regard to innovative theological and ritual-practical developments. The extent to which innovative methods for internal and external positioning were developed within these dynamics of new emerging threshold positions, and whether mutual influence of these two charismatic currents took place, will be treated in the context of the project.

The historical, cultural, and religious-scientific interpretation of these phenomena promises significant conclusions also with regard to the question of the role of messianic, end-time and mystical-kabbalistic motifs in traditionalist and fundamentalist movements in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.