Skip to main content

Shabbetai Zevi

Shabbetai Zevi (1626–76). Jewish messianic leader. Shabbetai Zevi was ordained as a ḥakham after a thorough Talmudic and kabbalistic education. In 1665, he travelled to Gaza to meet Nathan of Gaza ‘in order to find tikkun and peace for his soul’. Nathan was convinced that Shabbetai was the messiah and on 17 Sivan, Shabbetai so declared himself. He appointed representatives of the twelve tribes and circled Jerusalem on horseback like a king. Rumour spread throughout Europe. Shabbetai was excommunicated in Jerusalem and returned to Smyrna, and the entire community was thrown into a state of messianic fervour. A division arose between the believers (the maʾaminim) and the ‘infidels’ (the koferim), but so hysterical was the excitement that many of the infidels were forced to flee from the city. After appointing counterparts to the ancient kings of Israel, Shabbetai sailed for Constantinople, where he was arrested and held in moderately comfortable imprisonment. Meanwhile, news of the advent of the messiah produced enormous excitement throughout the diaspora, and broadsheets and pamphlets were circulated throughout Europe. In some instances support was given to the movement by Christian millenarians who believed that the world would come to an end in 1666. From prison Shabbetai continued his activities, abolishing the fasts of 17 Tammuz and 9 Av, and signing his letters as ‘the firstborn son of God’ and even ‘the Lord your God Shabbetai Zevi’. In Sept. 1666, he was taken to the Sultan's court where he was given the choice of death or conversion to Islam. Shabbetai agreed to apostasy, took the name of Aziz Mehmed Effendi, and accepted a royal pension. Shabbetai himself continued to act as before among his secret followers in Adrianople and was finally exiled to Albania where he died in 1676. Although repressed by the rabbis, Shabbatean ideas, particularly in the realm of the kabbalah, continued to circulate, especially in Turkey, Italy, and Poland, and continued to inspire popular movements such as the ʿaliyah of ‘the holy society of Rabbi Judah Ḥasid’ to Jerusalem in 1700. Such scholars as Moses Luzzatto, Jonathan Eybeschuetz, and Nehemiah Hiyya Hayon provoked controversy because of their continued Shabbatean ideas. For later developments see DOENMEH; FRANK, JACOB.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Shabbetai Zevi." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . 19 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Shabbetai Zevi." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . (March 19, 2019).

"Shabbetai Zevi." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved March 19, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.