The Feast of Saint Abraham
Medieval Millenarians and the Jews
Robert E. Lerner
"Robert Lerner takes us through some little-known byways of millennial thought in the high and late Middle Ages to explore an 'unprecedented theme' introduced by Joachim of Fiore. . . . A remarkable, valuable, and timely book. By painstakingly excavating this unnoticed line of millennial thought in later medieval Christian history, the author has drawn our attention to vital issues and raised important questions."—Speculum
"Like all his writing, Robert E. Lerner's The Feast of Saint Abraham is characterized by originality, profound scholarship (especially with regard to new manuscript sources), and by clarity and felicity of style. . . . A fine book."—Bernard McGinn, University of Chicago
Robert E. Lerner uncovers a strain of medieval millennial thought that conceived of a peaceful place for Jews at the end of time. Its proponents maintained that "the candelabra of the Church would return to the Synagogue" and that the millennial Church would celebrate the feasts of "Saint Abraham" and "Saint David." Rejecting the common assumption that all millenarians were of necessity anti-Jewish, Lerner reveals a Christian prophetic tradition that foresaw a world in which Jews and Gentiles would come together to mutual benefit.
As imagined by the twelfth century Calabrian Abbot Joachim of Fiore, God's plan, entailed a march of progress from Abraham until the wondrous transformation of human life upon the defeat of Antichrist. While the march of progress transpired on earth, a spiritual movement impelled God's chosen ones to heaven in phases, on a stairway to paradise. The divine plan had first entrusted the Jews with adherence to the letter of the Old Testament; then it had entrusted the Gentiles with the more spiritual New Testament. At the culmination of history, God would endow both Jews and Gentiles with a full understanding of both testaments. The word of God would return to the people from whence it came, and the Jews would be converted peacefully instead of damned.
Robert E. Lerner is Professor of History and Peter B. Ritzma Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University. He is the author or coauthor of many books, including The Age of Adversity: The Fourteenth Century (1968) and Western Civilizations, 13/e (1998).