Passive Messianism: To a More Pro-Active Approach

9 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2011

See all articles by DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler

Claremont Graduate University; California State University, Northridge

Date Written: December 24, 2011


Passive messianism represented a condition as well as an ideology that influenced Jewish behavior based on the interpretation of their religious text. For instance, ever since their return from Babylonian captivity, Jews have believed that the reason for their exile from Jerusalem was due to God’s sovereign authority to punish them for not abiding in the Torah. The Tanak (Hebrew Bible) supports this claim. It is filled with stories of how Jewish Prophets prayed for God’s mercy as well as prophesized throughout the Jewish community the message of repentance. One such message appears in the book of II Chronicles 7:14. It states that “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Such passages are typically found throughout the Tanak, and plainly suggest why exiled Jews tended to allow themselves to be victimized, electing to wait on divine intervention to solve their problems. Moreover, Robert Seltzer in his book “Jewish People Jewish Thought” tries to explain Jewish passiveness when he writes, “Ancient Israel received from God the gifts of land and statehood solely in order to be able to carry out the Torah. Later, Israel was exiled from the holy land to enable it to perfect itself and to fulfill its mission by remaining faithful to God and the Torah, despite suffering and agony”(587). This passage seems to suggest that Jews accepted their condition as part of some sort of divine purpose. Furthermore, the appearance of passive messianism during the 19th century is fully supported by a number of primary documents taken from that period. A case in point is the response published in 1819 by the Hamburg Rabbinical Court titled “These Are the Words of the Covenant.” This document clearly confirms and supports the claim that the behavior of Jews as a whole is passive, and is rooted in the rabbinical interpretation of their covenant relationship with God. The document states that “All the prophets have been unanimous in affirming that the God of our fathers would gather our scattered ones, and this is our hope throughout our exile.”

Suggested Citation

Chandler, DiMarkco Stephen, Passive Messianism: To a More Pro-Active Approach (December 24, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

DiMarkco Stephen Chandler (Contact Author)

Claremont Graduate University ( email )

150 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
United States

California State University, Northridge ( email )

18111 Nordoff Street
Northridge, CA 91330
United States

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