Political Theology in Renaissance Christian Kabbala: Petrus Galatinus and Guillaume Postel

Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann

Abstract: In the Renaissance debate over Jewish books, in which the famous Hebraist Johannes Reuchlin was deeply involved, those with the greatest interest in leaving Jewish books in the hands of the Jews were Christian Hebraists who studied and employed Kabbala and other Hebrew sources as part of their political theology. Petrus Galatinus and Guillaume Postel are studied here as two such thinkers, who found in the Hebrew sources, and in particular in the Hebrew letters of the Old Testament text, the most convincing evidence of the truth of their eschatological endeavors. Political concepts from the Hebrew Bible were, for Postel and Galatinus, transformed into Christological ideas, and politics, with a view to the proper theological-eschatological end, was also to be transformed. The efforts of those thinkers in their own political societies would come to naught, and Christian Kabbala itself dangerously approached the border of heretical theology. Nonetheless, these thinkers mark an important, if short-lived, moment in Christian Hebraism and political theology.

Biography: Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann is a professor at the Institute for Philosophy of the Free University of Berlin, and a founding member of the International Society for Intellectual History. His many publications include Topica universalis (Meiner, 1983); Theodizee und Tatsachen (Suhrkamp, 1988); Geschichte als absoluter Begriff (Suhrkamp, 1991); Blaise Pascal (C.H. Beck, 1999); Sinn-Welten, Welten-Sinn (Suhrkamp, 1992); Philosophia perennis (Suhrkamp 1998; English version Kluever/Springer, 2004); and Politische Theologie der Gegenaufklärung (Akademie-Verlag, 2004).

Volume 1, Number 3 (Spring 2006) pp. 286-309