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Sherman Lectures 2012: The Messianic Idea in Judaism Revisited

You are cordially invited to attend the 2012 Sherman Lectures which are to be given by Prof. Philip Alexander, FBA, Emeritus Professor of Post-Biblical Jewish Literature at the University of Manchester, on The Messianic Idea in Judaism Revisited.


The lectures will be held Mon 16 – Thu 19 April at 5:15pm each day, except for the final session on Thu 19 April when we will start at 4:15pm. The venue is A113 in the Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, M13 9PL (Building 67 on the Campus Map). If you would like to help publicise this event, please download the poster

Series Abstract:

Messianism is integral to the theology of Judaism, and is one of the big ideas that Judaism has bequeathed to the world, influencing, as it has, profoundly, Christianity and, to a lesser degree, Islam. Much has been written on the subject, but much, I would argue, remains to be said. In this series of lectures I will attempt to draw together more than twenty years of thinking and writing on Jewish Messianism to present a systematic account of my ideas. I will offer a critical overview of previous scholarly work, discuss the problems of defining Messianism (a surprisingly tricky task), trace the history of Messianism within Judaism from earliest times to the present, and then offer a series of probes into three particular versions of the Messianic Idea – Messianism as a historical-political process, Messianism as a drama in the spiritual realm, and “neutralized” Messianism – all based on close reading of primary sources. I will then propose a descriptive, analytical grid which will attempt to capture comprehensively the structure and key motifs of Jewish Messianism, onto which any specific form of the phenomenon can be mapped, and its distinctive character, as opposed to other forms of Messianism, ascertained. I will conclude by offering, as a historian of Judaism, some reflections on the implications of my analysis for the future of Jewish theology and for Jewish-Christian dialogue.

Community Sherman Lecture (in association with the Zionist Central Council and the Jewish Representative Council): Messianism and Zionism

8pm Sun 15 April at a North Manchester Venue to be advised on booking. Tel: 0161 720 8721 by 12 April.

This talk will be a “taster” for my Sherman Lectures, “The Messianic Idea in Judaism Revisited”, to be delivered at the Centre for Jewish Studies of the University of Manchester, 16th-19th April. In it I will explore one aspect of the larger topic, namely the relationship between Messianism and Zionism. Both Messianism and Zionism have a long history within Judaism. I will trace the development of both ideas and explore how, over the centuries, they have converged and diverged. We will spend most of our time on the modern period, from the rise of modern political Zionism in the late 19th century onwards, and examine a variety of  views which see Messianism and Zionism as irreconcilable, as compatible, and as more or less identical. We will conclude by considering the implications of using messianic language in political discourse in Israel.

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