John Traske, Puritan Judaizing and the ethic of singularity

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Date
2018
Authors
Cottrell-Boyce, Aidan
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ISASR in association with the Study of Religions, University College Cork
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Abstract
In 1619, John Traske was tried before the Star Chamber, charged with being ‘a disturber of the peace of the Church,’ an ‘insolent detractor of the ecclesiastical government’ and with ‘having ambitions to become the father of a Jewish faction’. Traske was perhaps the most eye-catching of the seventeenth century Judaizing Puritans, not least because he managed to assimilate apparently legalistic attitudes towards the Law of Moses and a notably anti-legal soteriology. He taught that there was no way to know who was of the elect by their deeds, whilst at the same time encouraging his followers to observe the Saturday Sabbath and to abstain from eating pork. Typically, scholars have depicted the Traskite phenomenon as an efflorescence of Puritan precisianism or primitivism or Biblicism. However, an examination of Traske’s writing suggests that his thought does not fit easily into any of these boxes. In this paper I contend that Traske’s Judaizing tendencies should be read in light of another Puritan fixation: ‘singularity’. Traske believed that God was with ‘the people of least esteem’. By demonstrably exhibiting his association with the almost universally maligned trope of ‘Jewism’, Traske effected the association of himself with the ‘people of least esteem’. Like John Traske, many of the Godly saw great soteriological significance in the condition of suffering and marginalization. This tendency, the desire for what the Godly called ‘singularity’, provides a crucial piece of the jigsaw, when it comes to understanding why so many Puritans adopted Jewish rituals in the seventeenth century
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Keywords
Traske , Puritanism , Judaizing , Sabbatarianism , Judaism
Citation
Cottrell-Boyce, A. (2018) 'John Traske, Puritan Judaizing and the ethic of singularity', Journal of the Irish Society for the Academic Study of Religions, 6, pp. 1-37.