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Jacob Frank

Frank, Jacob, c.1726–1791, Polish Jewish sectarian and adventurer, b. Podolia as Jacob Ben Judah Leib. He founded the Frankists, a heretical Jewish sect that was an anti-Talmudic outgrowth of the mysticism of the false Messiah Sabbatai Zevi. After traveling in Turkey, where he was called Frank and where he joined the Sabbatean sect, he returned (c.1755) to Podolia. Posing as a Messiah, Frank gathered a following, by whom he was addressed as "holy master." Professing to find in the kabbalah the doctrine of Trinitarianism and feigning conversion to Roman Catholicism, he and the Frankists were baptized (1759). The church, however, soon became suspicious of its new converts' sincerity, and in 1760, Frank was arrested in Warsaw on a charge of heresy and imprisoned in the fortress of Czestochowa; he was released (1773) after that section of Poland became Russian. Moving to Moravia, he enjoyed the favor of Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, who believed him a disseminator of Christianity. When she discovered his sectarianism, Frank fled to Offenbach, Germany, where he lived in luxury, supported by Polish and Moravian Frankists. Upon his death his daughter Eve became "holy mistress" of the Frankists. She died in 1816, and the sect eventually disappeared, most of its members having actually become Catholics. Many of them later became prominent members of the Polish nobility.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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