In closely connected studies Tassilo Erhardt and Michael Marissen have suggested that Handel's Messiah is fundamentally anti-Jewish. Erhardt, who based his conclusions on books thought to have been in the library of Charles Jennens, compiler of the Messiah libretto, argues that the text was intended as a defense of orthodox Christianity against Judaism as well as Deism; Marissen contends it “was designed to teach contempt for Jews and Judaism.” Closer examination of the theological literature of Jennens's day shows that the theories of both scholars are founded on selective and tendentious reading of the sources. Marissen's further claim that Handel consciously reinforced the libretto's supposed anti-Jewish connotations by means of motivic symbolism, orchestration, and chorale quotations rests on misconceptions about the composer's style. Jennens probably conceived Messiah not to counter either Deism or Judaism but to inspire his Christian audience to greater devotion. The preference he gave to Old Testament prophecy over New Testament narrative reflects a tacit contemporary prohibition against direct representation of Christ in the English theater.

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