CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Loving Thy Neighbor as Thyself: The Place of Judaism in the Identity of the English Unitarians

Jay I. Solomon, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Humanities

Dept/Program: History

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): David Ruderman

Date of this Version: 24 March 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.



In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, the Unitarian movement, led by Theophilus Lindsey and Joseph Priestley, emerged in England in an environment already wrought with religious, intellectual and political dissent. These theologians descended from a two and a half century tradition of antitrinitarian thought that had begun with Michael Servetus during the Protestant Reformation. Antitrinitarianism, as a theological position that denied the doctrine of the Trinity, was perhaps the most conceptually disruptive proposal to emerge from this already tumultuous period of the sixteenth century. The extremity of the theological problems posed by denying the Trinity was due to the fact that many believed Jesus’ divinity to be the defining element of Christianity. Moreover, the only people who denied the Trinity were the Jews. As if to emphasize this concern, early antitrinitarians fixated upon post-biblical Jewish sources and the Hebrew language; they began to connect themselves intimately to the Jewish heritage and to identify intensely with the Jewish people as the proper worshippers of the one, true God. Exhibiting similar aberrant patterns of behavior, the eighteenth century Unitarians identified more closely with the Jewish people and Judaism than any before them while still contending unwaveringly that they were Christians. By analyzing the story of the Unitarians – their heritage, their defenses of themselves and their beliefs, and the perceptions of their enemies – we can understand not only the unique ways that these people conceptualized their own religious identity as Christians and investigate how these Christians’ identities were related intimately to Judaism, but we can also begin to understand the complicated and interdependent relationship between these two ancient faiths.

Suggested Citation

Solomon, Jay I., "Loving Thy Neighbor as Thyself: The Place of Judaism in the Identity of the English Unitarians" 24 March 2006. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 19 May 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.




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