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Johan Kemper

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Johan Christian Jacob Kemper (1670-1716), formerly Moshe ben Aharon of Kraków, was a Polish Sabbatean Jew who converted from Judaism to Lutheran Christianity [1]. His conversion was motivated by his studies in Kabbalah and his disappointment following the failure of a prophecy spread by the Polish Sabbatean prophet Tzadok of Gordno, which predicted that Sabbati Zevi would return in the year 1695/6, [2] It is unclear whether he continued to observe Jewish practices after his conversion.

In March 1701 he was employed as a teacher of Rabbinic Hebrew at Uppsala University in Sweden,[3] until his death in 1716. Some scholars believe that he was Emmanuel Swedenborg's Hebrew tutor. [2]

During his time at Uppsala, he wrote his three-volume work on the Zohar entitled Matteh Moshe (The Staff of Moses), (1711).[4] In it, he attempted to show that that the Zohar contained the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. [1]

This belief also drove him to make a literal Hebrew translation of the Gospel of Matthew from Syriac (1703). He also wrote Me'irat 'Enayim (The Enlightenment of the Eyes), (1704) a Kabbalistic commentary on Matthew, which emphasized the unity of the Old and New Testaments and used elements from the Sabbatean and non-Sabbatean Kabbalistic traditions to derive Christian beliefs and meanings from traditional Jewish beliefs and practices.

After his death, Kemper's student Andreas Norrelius (1679-1749) translated the commentary into Latin as Illuminatio oculorum (The Light of the Eyes),(1749).


  • Hebrew Translation of Matthew's Gospel, (1703)
  • Meriat Enayim, (1704)
  • Matteh Moshe, (1711)


  1. 1.0 1.1 Wolfson, Elliot R. "Messianism in the Christian Kabbala of Johann Kemper", The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, Volume 1, No. 1, August 2001 (also appears in Goldish et al. (2001))
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dole, George, F. "Philosemitism in the Seventeenth Century",Studia Swedenborgiana, Volume 7, No. 1, December 1990
  3. Eskhult, M. "Rabbi Kemper's Case for Christianity in his Matthew Commentary, with Reference to Exegesis" in T. L. Hettema, Arie van der Kooij. Religious Polemics in Context: Papers Presented to the Second International Conference of the Leiden Institute for the Study of Religions (Lisor) Held at Leiden, 27-28 April, 2000. Uitgeverij Van Gorcum, 2004. ISBN 9023241339
  4. Schoeps, Hans-Joachim, trans. Dole, George F., Barocke Juden, Christen, Judenchristen, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1965, pp. 60-67


  • Eskhult, Josef (ed.), Andreas Norrelius' Latin translation of Johan Kemper's Hebrew commentary on Matthew : edited with introduction and philological commentary by Josef Eskhult Uppsala,2007. ISBN 978-91-554-7050-0
  • Goldish, M. Kottman, K.A. Popkin, R.H. Force, J.E. Laursen, J.C. (eds.), Millenarianism and Messianism in Early Modern European Culture: From Savonarola to the Abbé Grégoire. Springer, 2001. ISBN 0792368509
  • Maciejko, P. "Mosheh Ben Aharon Ha-Kohen of Krakow," in Hundert, G.D. (ed.), The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe,. Yale, 2008. ISBN 0300119038
  • Shifra, A. "Another Glance at Sabbatianism, Conversion, and Hebraism in Seventeenth Century Europe: Scrutinizing the Character of

Johan Kempper (sic) of Uppsala, or Moshe Son of Aharon of Krakow," in Elior, R. (ed.), The Sabbatian Movement and Its Aftermath: Messianism, Sabbatianism and Frankism,(Hebrew), Hebrew University. Jerusalem. |

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