Monday, August 20, 2012

Christian Kabbalist Johan Kemper (1670–1716)

"Kemper major works, most notably a three-volume commentary on the Zohar titled Mateh Mosheh and a kabbalistic commentary on the Gospels, “Me’irat ‘enayim” (unpublished manuscript). He also embarked on a project of translating the Gospels into Hebrew, although only a translation of Matthew was completed."

Johan Kemper (1670–1716) was a Hebrew teacher, whose tenure at Uppsala University lasted from 1697 to 1716. He was Swedenborg's probable Hebrew tutor.

Kemper, formerly known as Moses ben Aaron of Cracow, was a convert to Lutheranism from Judaism. During his time at Uppsala, he wrote his three-volume work on the Zohar entitled Matteh Mosche (The Staff of Moses). In it, he attempted to show that the Zohar contained the Nicene Christian doctrine of the Trinity.

This belief also drove him to make a literal translation of the Gospel of Matthew into Hebrew and to write a kabbalistic commentary on it.

The movement was influenced by a desire to interpret aspects of Christianity even more mystically than current Christian Mystics. Greek Neoplatonic documents came into Europe from Constantinople in the reign of Mehmet II. Neoplatonism had been prevalent in Christian Europe and had entered into Scholasticism since the translation of Greek and Hebrew texts in Spain in the 13th century. The Renaissance trend was a relatively short-lived phenomenon, ending by 1750.

After the 18th century, Kabbalah became blended with European occultism, some of which had a religious basis; but the main thrust of Christian Kabbalah was by then dead. A few attempts have been made to revive it in recent decades, particularly in relation to the Neoplatonism of the first two chapters of the Gospel of John, but it has not entered into mainstream Christianity.

Messianic Christians are reviving it's practice believing it gives proof of the Trinity.

(Johan Kemper; d. 1716), Sabbatian kabbalist; after hisconversion to Christianity, lector in Hebrew at the University of Uppsala. Little is known about Mosheh ben Aharon’s early activity. It is certain that he was active in one of the groups linked to Yehudah Ḥasid, which around 1695 began to prepare to immigrate to Palestine in order to await Shabetai Tsevi’s second coming in Jerusalem.

Mosheh ben Aharon was attracted to the preaching of the Sabbatian prophet Tsadok ben Shemaryah of Grodno, a former brandy distiller who appeared around 1694, traveled through Eastern and Central Europe, and foretold redemption in the year 1695. Following the failure of this prophecy, Mosheh became receptive to the Christian message that Sabbatian expectations should be abandoned because the messiah had already come.

It seems that even before his conversion, Mosheh ben Aharon had had some contacts with Christian scholars, notably with orientalists Johann Christian Wagenseil and Laurentius Normannus. Toward the end of 1696, he converted to the Augsburg Confession in Schweinfurt and accepted the name of Johan Christian Jakob Kemper. In the same year, he published an account of his baptism and of the movement surrounding Tsadok of Grodno, and started teaching Hebrew at a German university, most likely in Altdorf. The following year he moved to Sweden and taught Hebrew and rabbinics at Uppsala, where he remained until his death.

During his tenure at Uppsala, Kemper wrote his major works, most notably a three-volume commentary on the Zohar titled Mateh Mosheh and a kabbalistic commentary on the Gospels, “Me’irat ‘enayim” (unpublished manuscript). He also embarked on a project of translating the Gospels into Hebrew, although only a translation of Matthew was completed.

The prime aim of Kemper’s works was to demonstrate the truth of Christianity on the basis of Jewish sources. Although the main focus is on kabbalistic speculation, his work is unusual in its attempt to find Christian elements in halakhah as well, and in the observance of traditional Jewish customs and rituals. According to Kemper, the truth of Christianity can be fully appreciated against its Jewish background. Thus he holds that the entire Jewish tradition contains intimations of Christianity that are impenetrable to the majority of Jews.

Kemper sought both to make kabbalistic speculation available to Gospel scholars and to convince Jews of the truth of Christianity. Unstated Sabbatian motifs (such as the doctrine of the tripartite division of the godhead) served for him as a bridge between the two religions. His translation of the Gospels from Syriac was intended as a missionary aid but contains many heretical Jewish elements that deviate from Christian doctrine. Similarly, his Hebrew commentary to Matthew (translated into Latin by Anders Norrelius) contains many Sabbatian doctrines that were most likely not recognizable as such to his Christian readers. 

Tempted By A Tiny Spark Of Light 

Question: How is it possible that someone could use Kabbalah and the Torah egoistically? Can someone who doesn't possess a spiritual screen and the force of bestowal draw the force of the Upper Light for his own sake? Isn't there is a whole system of worlds and restrictions to prevent us from receiving the Light egoistically?

Dr. Laitman's Answer: If you pick up
 the Torah and wish to receive power from it, you will get it since you are reading the primary source related to the spiritual world. It was written by a person who was in the process of attaining the Upper World. If you use it individually, in order to fill your egoism, for the sake of your own purposes, then you are using only a miniscule amount of the force it contains.

Even still, we do see how much more egoistical it makes people when the place of the "mistress" is taken by the "handmaid." A person not only doesn't receive correction from it, he becomes even worse! He thinks that now he owns this world and the future one, and that he deserves a reward; he feels proud before others and considers himself a chosen one, who is above them.

It is the Torah who is doing this to him; it becomes a deadly narcotic for such person. If, however, he wishes to use the Torah correctly, he does so in the group that builds itself as a common soul, as written about when receiving the Torah: as one man with one heart. This is the kind of engagement for which the Torah is given; otherwise, we are warned: In it there will be the place of your (spiritual) death!

The Daily Page - 3rd March 2010

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