The Judaizing "heresy" arose in Novgorod in the years 1470 and 1471, after a Kievan Jew named Zechariah (Skhary) proselytized the priest Alexei, who in turn enticed the priest Denis and many others, including the archpriest Gavril, into Judaism. Around 1478, Ivan III, who had just subjugated Novgorod, installed them in the chief cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin. In 1484 or 1485, the influential state secretary and diplomat Fyodor Kuritsyn and the Hungarian "Martin" joined with Alexei and Denis and eventually attracted, among others, Metropolitan Zosima (r. 1490–1494), as well as Ivan III's daughter-in-law Elena of Moldavia, Meanwhile, Archbishop Gennady of Novgorod (r. 1484–1504) discovered the Novgorod heretics and started a campaign against them, which was later taken up by Joseph of Volotsk. Synods were held in Moscow in 1488 and 1490, leading to an auto-da-fé in Novgorod and to the imprisonment of Denis and several others. Alexei had already died, however, and several others, like the historiographercopyist Ivan Cherny, fled. Joseph's faction forced Zosima from office and convened another Moscow synod in 1504, which condemned five heretics to death, including the late Kuritsyn's brother Ivan Volk, a state secretary expert in the law, and Archimandrite Kassian of Novgorod's Yurev Monastery. Others, like the merchant Semon Klenov, were imprisoned.
The accusations against the "heretics" reveal a hodgepodge of tenets rather than a coherent sect. The dissidents allegedly elevated Old Testament law, denigrated Christian scripture and patristic writings, attacked icons and monasticism, and denied the Trinity and the Incarnation. They dissimulated in the presence of steadfast adherents of Orthodoxy, practiced astrology and black magic, and after the end of the Russian Orthodox year 7000 (1492 c.e.) ridiculed Christian writings that had predicted the Second Coming around that time, and especially the New Testament for describing its own era as the last epoch. They also opposed the condemnation of heretics and demanded that repentant heretics not be punished.
Whatever Jewishness lies behind these accusations may go back to the scriptural, astronomical, and philosophical interchanges between Jews and Orthodox Christians in western Rus during the fifteenth century. Fyodor Kuritsyn's "Laodician Epistle," a chain poem, is reminiscent of Jewish wisdom literature. In addition, the dissidents were more open to secular culture and rationalism than most representatives of the official church. Some of the accusations of heresy may have derived from issues pertaining to specific icons, to various Novgorodian practices, to the use of Jewish astronomical knowledge, to Moscow's treatment of conquered Novgorod, and even to church lands. Whatever the case, when a similar outbreak of dissidence occurred in Novgorod and Moscow during the 1550s, it was attributed to Protestant, not Jewish, influences. The phenomenon of dissidence prompted Archbishop Gennady to assemble a coterie of Orthodox and Catholic experts to compile the first complete Slavonic Bible and make other useful translations.
See also: ivan iii; joseph of volotsk, st.; kuritsyn, fyodor vasilevich; novgorod the great; orthodoxy; possessors and non-possessors
Klier, John. (1997). "Judaizing without Jews? Moscow-Novgorod, 1470–1504." In Culture and Identity in Muscovy, 1359–1584, ed. Ann M. Kleimola and Gail D. Lenhoff. Moscow: ITZ-Garant.
Tauber, Moishe. (1995). "The Kievan Jew Zacharia and the Astronomical Works of the Judaizers." In Jews and Slavs, vol. 3, ed. Wolf Moskovich, Shmuel Shvarzbard, and Anatoly Alekseev. Jerusalem: Hebrew University Press.
David M. Goldfrank
"Judaizers." Encyclopedia of Russian History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/judaizers
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"Judaizers." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/judaizers
"Judaizers." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved May 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/judaizers