TO KNOW MESSIAH: THE DIALECTICS OF SEXUAL DISCOURSE IN THE MESSIANIC THOUGHT OF NATHAN OF GAZA
by Avraham Elqayam
No other messianic movement in Jewish history has been so obsessed with the messiah's sexual biography as the Shabbatean movement. This paper reviews the sexual discourse of Nathan of Gaza, Shabbetai Zevi's close friend and one of the most prominent prophets, theologians, ideologists and propagandists of the Shabbatean movement.
Nathan's thought is intrinsically based on a paradox, originating from the encounter of the opposed personalities of messiah and prophet. Nathan's discourse on sex was prompted by the paradoxical tensions that arose from the ostensibly impossible association of contrasted sexual conduct: the ascetic, rabbinically-oriented sexual behaviour of the prophet, and the deviant sexuality of his messiah. Thus, the paradox in Nathan's writings is autobiographical, a product of the personal encounter between messiah and prophet, and not just the result of his system of thought. The inner syntax of this dialogue is based upon dialectical thinking: Nathan gives voice to the repressive view of physical sexuality, in accordance with his own sexual personality. The other voice, the libertarian voice commending physical sexuality, expresses Shabbetai Zevi's deviant sexual personality Their dialogue culminates in the discourse on spiritual sexuality, reflecting the Gaza prophet's attempt to harmonize and balance these polarities.
The dialectics of Nathan's discourse therefore reflect the contrast in personalities. They are intensified by the conflict between the rabbinical-ascetic tendency and the deviant sexual behaviour. Ultimately they are annulled in their harmonization.
Répertoire bibliographique / Bibliographic Repertory