Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: The heresy of the Judaizers and the problem of the Russian reformation
Author: Howlett, Jana
ISNI:       0000 0001 3582 8519
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1979
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Full text unavailable from EThOS. Please try the link below.
Access from Institution:
In the year 1504 the grand prince Ivan III convened a Council of the Church to try several Muscovites and Novgorodians accused of heresy. The Council found the men guilty and they were burnt at the stake in public executions in Novgorod and Moscow. The 1504 trial and execution was the last of three trials of a group of men accused of a 'judaizing' heresy and known to historians as the Zhidovstvuyushchie, or Judaizers. The first trial of the heretics had taken place in 1486 and the second in 1490. The evidence compiled for these trials by Archb'shop Gennady of Novgorod, who claimed to have discovered the heresy, the chronicle accounts for 1486 and 1490, the documents produced by the Councils of 1488 and 1490, and the Prosvetitel' of Iosif of Volokolamsk, a polemical work against the heresy of the 'Novogorod heretics who philosophize judaistically' provide much material for a study of the first documented heresy in the Russian Church. Many historians have been attracted to such a study for, as a review of the historical background and historiography of the heresy in Chapter I shows, the involvement of many of the alleged Judaizers in the affairs of the Church and State during a period of important changes affecting both the Church and the State and the relationship between them, makes an understanding of the heresy important to our view of Russia in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. But the many studies of the heresy of the Judaizers undertaken by historians from the nineteenth century to the present day have failed to yield agreement on the origin and nature of the heresy. It is seen variously as the result of Jewish propaganda in the Russian Church, of the influence of Western Renaissance and Reformation ideas in Russia or, and this is the view which has dominated recent Soviet historiography, as a symptom of an indigenous Reformation (or proto-Reformation) movement affecting the whole of Russian society in the late fifteenth-early sixteenth centuries. The present work is an attempt to resolve the questions posed by studies of the heresy on the basis of a re-examination of primary published and manuscript sources. These fall into two categories: sources presenting the evidence against the Judaizers (evidence of the accusers), and sources associated with the heretics themselves. Chapter II examines the evidence of the accusers in connection with the trials of 1488 and 1490 (the so-called Novgorod stage of the heresy). Most of this evidence comes from the pen of Archbishop Gennady of Novgorod - consideration of the pre-1490 writings of Iosif of Volokolamsk shows that these do not have a direct bearing upon the subject of this study. Gennady's evidence has not received the attention it deserves, for it provides valuable information not only about the heresy he discovered in Novgorod, but also about the procedures accepted in the Russian Church in this period for discovering and identifying any heresy. His evidence explains his choice of the 'judaizing' label and shows that heretical acts had been committed in Novgorod, though not necessarily by the men condemned in 1488 and 1490. Gennady's letters are complemented by the official documents issued by the Councils of 1488 and 1490, and it is clear that the heretics were tried according to properly accepted procedure and that evidence and condemnation was obtained by Gennady with the full co-operation of the grand prince. Gennady remained Archbishop of Novgorod until 1503, but a study of the works produced at his court after 1490 (in Chapter III) provides little evidence of a continuation of his campaign against the heresy. For evidence against the heretics tried in 1504, historians have had to rely on the writings of losif of Volokolamsk, but an examination of his polemical tracts (later incorporated in the Prosvetitel') and letters written before 1504 yields little reliable information about the beliefs of the Judaizers. Even the Prosvetitel', written probably after, and not before the Council of 1504, as has been generally accepted, does little more than reiterate the accusations raised originally against the Novgorod heretics condemned in 1488 and 1490. The evidence of the accusers between 1490 and 1504 thus provides little information on the case presented against the heretics condemned by the Council of 1504. Such information has also been sought in the so-called 'literature of the Judaizers', works written by, or associated with, the men labelled by the accusers as 'judaizing' heretics. Chapter IV examines such works, most of which are associated with the Moscow Judaizers. Several survive in MSS. of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries and it is clear that most were not considered heretical at the time. On the contrary, they belonged to the category of instructive Orthodox literature. Chapter V draws some conclusions from the evidence of the sources. If it is accepted that a heretic is someone whom the established Church recognises as such, the Novgorodians condemned in 1488 and 1490 by a body representative of the Church and according to accepted Orthodox procedure were heretics. However, the available evidence about the Novgorod heretics and about the methods used in identifying and naming the heresy suggests that they were not guilty of a departure from Orthodox Christian beliefs: only of offences against ritual and of criticism of ecclesiastical and, perhaps, secular authority. There is little evidence that the men accused of heresy in 1504 were condemned in accordance with the precedent established by the-case of the Novgorod heretics of 1488 and 1490, or by a body representative of the established Church. The accepted view that they were heretics is not substantiated by the evidence available and the reasons for their condemnation were probably not religious but political.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Christian heresies ; Christian heretics ; Judaism ; Jewish converts from Christianity ; Reformation ; Church history ; Russia ; Russia (Federation) ; Novgorod