Christian Zionism and English National Identity, 1600-1850

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Andrew Crome
  • London, England: 
    Palgrave Macmillan
    , June
     2018.
     305 pages.
     $109.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9783319771939.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

In Christian Zionism and English National Identity, 1600-1850, Andrew Crome surveys the underlying motivations which led English Christians to advocate actively for a Jewish return to the Land of Israel. He gives both theological and sociological reasons. Indeed, his overarching thesis is that in helping Jews, English Christians adopted for themselves a missional and covenantal calling, which, gave England, as a servant nation of the Jews, an eschatological role. This, in turn, was formative in the development of English national identity.

As such, Crome goes deeper than merely surveying Christian restorationists as he develops a model that links Christian interest in Jews to the development of an “elect” role for England, a nation destined to help the chosen nation, the Jews. Crome illustrates his model with a panorama of history from the Whitehall Conference of 1655, through the Jew Bill of 1753, and culminating with the establishment of an Anglican bishopric in Jerusalem in 1841. Thus, the book ends with Michael Solomon Alexander (1799-1845), a Jewish bishop of the Anglican Church ministering in Jerusalem, as illustrative of the “point of encounter” between Jewish restorationism and England’s elect role in facilitating it (268).

Building upon Richard Cogley’s work on “Judeo-centrism” (7), Crome begins by surveying the theology of Joseph Mede (1586-1639) and Thomas Brightman (1562-1607), the two pillars of Jewish restorationist thought in England. He also surveys writers with whom I was previously unfamiliar, such as Henoch Clapham (1585-1614). Crome analyzes both radical and moderate proponents of Jewish restorationism and shows how relatively moderate Puritan restorationists, such as Thomas Goodwin (1600-1680) (72), agreed and differed from Fifth Monarchists, such as John Tillinghast (1604-1655) (94-97), in their beliefs about the Jews and their restoration.

Describing the “story” of Jewish readmission to England in the mid-17th century, and the subsequent Jewish-Christian encounter, has been done before and Crome wisely avoids going over again such well-worn ground. Instead, he provides reasons for the inception and continuance of Jewish restorationist beliefs, including the development of “consistent literalism” in Protestant biblical hermeneutics (63-64, 127). He also notes the way in which Jewish restorationism could be compatible with covenant theology (76). Crome also analyzes the writings of those who opposed Jewish restorationism, such as Richard Baxter (1615-1691) (106, 117), in order to further shed light on the why of Jewish restorationism. This analytical approach makes the book suitable for those looking for more than just a surface-level introduction to the topic.

A study such as this, encompassing as it does 250 years of Jewish-Christian interactions in England, could easily have brushed aside important distinctions between different forms of Jewish restorationism. It could also have become teleological in its structure. However, Crome is to be commended for avoiding this pitfall and his observation of the effect of the rise of premillennialism in Jewish restorationism is insightful (222) and illustrative of his nuanced argument. Another example, in which he shows a point of discontinuity in English Jewish restorationist beliefs, is the shift at the start of the 19th century, when restoration came to be seen as something that would precede Jewish conversion rather than follow it, as had been the previous position of Jewish restorationists (227).

This book makes a contribution to the highly charged scholarly debate on philosemitism, antisemitism, and allosemitism, and Crome gives a helpful literature review of recent scholarship (15-23). Ultimately, Crome endorses Bauman’s concept of allosemitism (21, 267-68), the ambiguities of which meant that Jews could still be treated as “others” by advocates of Jewish restorationism (101). Crome argues that the way in which believers in Jewish restorationism sometimes advocated the granting of political rights to the Jews in England, and sometimes did not, is because of the “allosemitic impulse” (262) which meant they gave Jews a future preeminent role, though this was not always matched with active political support in the present. Overall, Crome’s conclusion that “the Jews became virtual fetishes” (102) in the eyes of some Jewish restorationists is certainly a provocative contribution to the debate.

In conclusion, in light of the ubiquity of a “teaching of contempt” in the history of Christian attitudes towards the Jews, Crome’s attention to what the Jewish restorationist Lewis Way (1772-1840) called “a teaching of esteem” (233), in which the Jews were seen by many Protestants as a “superior” people (234), shows that, though “never held universally,” Jewish restorationism became an important concept in the history of ideas in England, and one which was far from marginal (272). By supplying several highly developed examples which show that these ideas impacted political outcomes, Crome’s thesis is convincing. Overall, the author is successful in illustrating that, “love for the Jews, and concern with their restoration to Palestine, had a long history in England, and exercised a deep affective power over its adherents” (272), though he nuances this view in the rest of his conclusion by alluding again to allosemitism. The book’s contemporary relevance, and its extensive engagement with secondary literature and historiographical debates, means that it is another book I would be obliged to add to the “must-read” section of any reading list on this topic.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Lawrence Rabone is a doctoral student in Jewish/Christian Studies at the University of Manchester.

Date of Review: 
August 17, 2020
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Andrew Crome is Lecturer in Early Modern History at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. He is author of The Restoration of the Jews (2014) and editor of Prophecy and Eschatology in the Transatlantic World (2016). He also writes on religion, contemporary popular culture, and fandom, and is co-editor of Religion and Doctor Who (2013)

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