Jakob Frank - Encyclopedia




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JAKOB FRANK (1726-1791), a Jewish theologian, who founded in Poland, in the middle of the 18th century, a sect which emanated from Judaism but ended by merging with Christianity. The sect was the outcome of the Messianic mysticism of Sabbetai Zebi. It was an antinomian movement in which the authority of the Jewish law was held to be superseded by personal freedom. The Jewish authorities, alarmed at the moral laxity which resulted from the emotional rites of the Frankists, did their utmost to suppress the sect. But the latter, posing as an anti-Talmudic protest in behalf of a spiritual religion, won a certain amount of public sympathy. There was, however, no deep sincerity in the tenets of the Frankists, for though in 1759 they were baptized en masse, amid much pomp, the Church soon became convinced that Frank was not a genuine convert. He was imprisoned on a charge of heresy, but on his release in 1763 the empress Maria Theresa patronized him, regarding him as a propagandist of Christianity among the Jews. He thenceforth lived in state as baron of Offenbach, and on his death (1791) his daughter Eva succeeded him as head of the sect. The Frankists gradually merged in the general Christian body, the movement leaving no permanent trace in the synagogue. (I. A.)

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