David Halperin was trained in Semitic languages at Cornell (B.A., 1969) and in Near Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley (M.A., 1972, Ph.D., 1977). He taught in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1976 to 2000.
Reading Gershom Scholem’s Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism, David became fascinated with the Kabbalistic mystical heresy that grew up around the figure of Sabbatai Zevi, who drove the Jewish world wild with messianic excitement and then shocked his followers by converting to Islam in 1666. He conceived a plan of doing a series of translations of primary sources on Sabbatai Zevi and his followers, which had been mostly unavailable in English.
In 2001 he published the first book in the series, Abraham Miguel Cardozo: Selected Writings (Paulist Press). Sabbatai Zevi: Testimonies to a Fallen Messiah followed in 2007. Most recently, he’s contributed translations to Pawel Maciejko’s Sabbatian Heresy: Writings on Mysticism, Messianism, and the Origins of Jewish Modernity (Brandeis University Press, May 2017).
But the great challenge, which David took years to prepare for with close study of the original manuscripts, was to translate the extraordinary treatise I Came This Day to the Spring, in which the author, almost certainly the great rabbi of eighteenth-century Prague named Jonathan Eibeschuetz, lays the groundwork for a world religion rooted in Kabbalistic Judaism but unlike any religion ever known. A religion of universal brotherhood, gender equality, what we’d now call “marriage equality.”
David’s translation will be published by Wipf & Stock Publishers, a small but highly respected theological press in Oregon. The story of its passage to publication is what this website is about.