The Biblists, also known as the Bibleitzy and the Spiritual-Bible Brotherhood (Russian: Духовно-библейское братство, romanizedDukhovnoye-Bibleyskoye Bratstvo) were a sect of Jewish religious reformers in late 19th-century Russia. The group advocated for radical reform of Jewish economic life, a rejection of the Talmud and other post-Biblical authorities, and the abolition of ritual observances in Judaism.[1][2]

Spiritual-Bible Brotherhood
Духовно-библейское братство
NicknameBiblists, Bibleitzy
Formationc. 1880
FounderJacob Gordin
Founded atYelisavetgrad, Kherson Governorate, Russian Empire
DissolvedSeptember 30, 1891; 130 years ago (1891-09-30)


Founder Jacob Gordin (1853–1909)

The sect emerged around 1880 among the Jewish working classes of Yelisavetgrad, South Russia, under the leadership of Jacob Gordin, in response to a wave of pogroms in the area.[3]

The founders of the Brotherhood believed that anti-Semitism was rooted in the historical role of the Jews in Poland and Ukraine and supported by their religious separateness.[4] Influenced by both Narodnik and Stundist ideals, Gordin and his adherents maintained that a resolution of the Jewish question will be possible only when the Jews not only give up their religious exclusivity and national identity, but also their former occupations and engage exclusively in 'productive' work.[4] To this end, the Biblists did way with dogmatic theology and all fast days, holidays, and religious ceremonies, including brit milahs, marriage, and even prayer.[5][6] Only the Tanakh was regarded as the source of faith, with complete freedom in its interpretation, according to the spirit of the age and the findings of science.[4] Members of the Brotherhood were also required to engage in physical labour, especially farming.[4]

The group's activities aroused consternation in the local Jewish press and community; on 16 June 1884, a group of Jews, including parents of the young people who had been attracted to the sect, attacked the Bratstvo meeting place. Particular outrage was caused by inflammatory letters published by Gordin outlining the dissident group's views:

Brothers, Jews, think it over why are you despised, why does no one have pity on you? ... It is our love for money, our arrogance, our usury, inn keeping and the middlemen occupations and all the other dishonest deeds that enrage the Russian population against us.[7]

After a long effort, Gordin succeeded in having the sect officially legalized on 12 January 1885; he was permitted to establish a synagogue or a prayer school, and to elect his own rabbi. (Other points of his petition, such as permission for the brotherhood to acquire land, and to establish Jewish agricultural communities, were not granted.)[4] At this time, the Bratstvo numbered about fifty adherents in Yelisavetgrad, and a few smaller groups in Odessa, Nikolayev, Uman, and elsewhere.[2] On 8 December 1888 the Ministry of Justice agreed to the Brotherhood's request to establish its own birth registry, separate from other Yelisavetgrad Jews.[8]

Nonetheless, the local government soon began to look upon the group with disfavour, and Gordin fled the country in July 1891. The police finally disbanded the Bratstvo on 30 September 1891.[2]

See alsoEdit


  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainRosenthal, Herman (1902). "Bibleitzy (Biblists)". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. 3. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. p. 197.

  1. ^ Raisin, Jacob S. (1913). The Haskalah Movement in Russia. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America. pp. 247–248.
  2. ^ a b c Lifschutz, Ezekiel (December 1966). "Jacob Gordin's Proposal to Establish an Agricultural Colony". American Jewish Historical Quarterly. 56 (2): 151–162. JSTOR 23873628.
  3. ^   Rosenthal, Herman (1902). "Bibleitzy (Biblists)". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. 3. New York: Funk & Wagnalls. p. 197.
  4. ^ a b c d e Berlin, Israel (1906–1913). Духовно-библейское братство [Spiritual-Biblical Brotherhood]. Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (in Russian). 7. Saint Petersburg. pp. 389–392.
  5. ^ Frankel, Jonathan (1981). Prophecy and Politics: Socialism, Nationalism, and the Russian Jews, 1862–1917. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 56–57. ISBN 0-521-23028-4.
  6. ^ Raisin, Max (1919). A History of the Jews in Modern Times. New York: Hebrew Publishing Company. pp. 156–157.
  7. ^ Herscher, Uri D. (2018). Jewish Agricultural Utopias in America, 1880–1910. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8143-4464-4.
  8. ^ Zhuk, Sergei (2008). "The Ukrainian Stundists and Russian Jews: A Collaboration of Evangelical Peasants with Jewish Intellectuals in Late Imperial Russia". In Brett, Daniel; Jarvis, Claire; Marin, Irina (eds.). Four Empires and an Enlargement: States, Societies and Individuals (PDF). Studies in Russia and Eastern Europe. 4. London: University College, London. pp. 17–32. ISBN 978-0-903425-80-3.