The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Messianic Jewish Identities: The Case of Hugh Schonfield

Hugh Schonfield, “an independent Jewish historian of the Nazarene Faith”, came from an Anglo-Jewish family and was a founding member of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (1925). His pioneering study The History of Jewish Christianity (1936) anticipated more recent scholarship by Daniel Boyarin, Annette Yoshiko Reed and Israel Yuval on the complex nature of Jewish Christian identities of the Second Temple period, late antiquity and his own time. His best-selling popular book The Passover Plot (1965) and his denial of the deity of Jesus led him in a direction that excluded him from both Jewish and Christian communities. In 1956 he initiated the Commonwealth of World Citizens, the “Mondcitivan Republic”, with its own government, currency, Esperanto as its language and a commission to bring world unity and human fraternity. This paper examines Schonfield’s own construction of Jewish, Christian and alternative identities within the Hebrew Christian movement and the social context of the early 20th century.