Until the dispersion of the Eastern colleges in the eleventh century, no great rabbis came into Spain with pretension of authority to enforce Talmudical traditions. When zealots of the sort did come, they found a community of Hebrews far superior to the Jews of Palestine.
Continuing Spanish Inquisition Established,
with a selection from History of the Inquisition by William H. Rule published in 1868. This selection is presented in 6 installments, each one 5 minutes long.
Previously in Spanish Inquisition Established.
Llorente estimates the number of Jews who perished under the fury of mobs, in the year 1391, at upward of one hundred thousand. To evade persecution, multitudes submitted to be baptized. More than a million had changed name at the end of the fourteenth century. After those tumults controversial preachers, such as San Vicente Ferrer, declaimed for popery against Judaism; and in the first ten years of the fifteenth century a second multitude of forced converts threw themselves into the bosom of the Romish Church, to the discouragement of their brethren and to their own confusion at last. They were set under the keenest vigilance of the inquisitors, without being able even to counterfeit any attachment to the Church, whose most grievous yoke they had put on, but which in heart they hated.
Now the Church gloried over the declension of Judaism. In presence of Benedict XIII, antipope, a Spaniard, wandering in Spain, because in Rome they would not own him, a formal disputation was carried on for sixty-nine days between Jerome of Santa Fé and other converts — or, as the Jews not improperly called them, apostates — on the one side, and a company of rabbis on the other. Such a controversy, carried on even in the presence of a half-pope, could only come to the prescribed conclusion; and after seeing all persuasion and corruption exhausted to bring over the Hebrews to his sect, but without much success, Benedict closed the debate, pronounced the Jews vanquished, and gave them notice of severer measures. The richer from interest, the poorer from bigotry, and the priesthood from instinct, poured contempt even on proselytes, whom they classified according to their supposed degrees of heterodoxy. Some were called “converts,” to note the newness of their Christianity; others “confessed,” to tell that they had confessed the falseness of Judaism. Sometimes they were branded as “maranos,” from the words maran atha, which the priests, in their ignorance, took to mean “accursed.” The whole were spoken of as a generation of maranos, or, worst of all in the imagination of a papist, “Jews.” Goaded by the cowardly persecution, the proselytes groaned after deliverance; a few even dared to renounce the profession of a faith they never held, and many resumed the practice of Jewish rites in private. This opened a new field to the zeal of the inquisitors; but the labor of suppressing a revolt so widely spread, so rapidly extending, and even infecting the Romish families with whom the imperfect converts were united, was more than the inquisitors could undertake without a more powerfully organized system of their own.
I believe that the fear of the Bible and the hatred of the Jews of Spain, first imprinted in the page of history by the Council of Illiberis in the beginning of the fourth century, was in course of time much aggravated by the earnest love of the Spanish Jews for the original scriptures of the Old Testament. It was not until the eleventh century that rabbinical tradition gained much hold in the Jewish mind in Spain, but, from the first, Christians had cursed Jews in sincere but blind zeal against the descendants, as they thought, of those who crucified our Lord in Jerusalem. Yet the Sephardim in Spain could have had no knowledge of the Crucifixion until some weeks, at soonest, after it had taken place, and perhaps never knew of the hostility of the Jews in Jerusalem against the Saviour.
Until the dispersion of the Eastern colleges in the eleventh century, no great rabbis came into Spain with pretension of authority to enforce Talmudical traditions. When zealots of the sort did come, they found a community of Hebrews far superior to the Jews of Palestine. No Assyrian had bribed them to worship the gods of Nineveh. Their neighbors the Carthaginians, so long as Carthage stood, had persisted in worshipping the Baal and the Ashtaroth that recreant Israelites in Samaria and Jews in Jerusalem worshipped for ages; but, while those gods had altars in Sidon and in Carthage, we do not hear of any altars being raised to them in “the captivity of Jerusalem, which was in Sepharad,” or Spain (Obadiah, 20); neither do we hear that those Jews betrayed any ambition to make a hedge to protect God’s law, instead of taking care to keep it. But the first propagators of traditionism in Spain came from the East, on the breaking up of the great schools of Babylonia by the Persians.
Ancient or Karaite synagogues remained in Spain until the expulsion of Jews at the close of the fifteenth century, and yet much later in the provinces that were not annexed to the United Kingdom of Castilla and Leon under Ferdinand and Isabella. Some of the strongest features of biblical learning imparted to the literature of the Reformation in its earlier stages proceeded from the converted Jews of Spain.
About the year 1470, when the persecution of both Jews and Mahometans was at its height — except in the kingdom of Granada — and when the testimony quoted from the Old Testament against worship of images must have been extremely galling to the worshippers, the priests thought it necessary to enforce the prohibition of vernacular versions of the Bible. Such versions, we know, were then circulated more freely in France, Spain, and Portugal. In Spain, one of the chief translators was Rabbi Moses of Toledo. To put a stop to Bible-reading, an appeal was made to Pope Paul II, who prohibited the translation of the holy Scriptures “into the languages of the nations.” This authority was quoted in the Council of Trent by Cardinal Pacheco, in justification of the practice of the Church of Rome in his day; but another cardinal, Madrucci, arguing against him, replied with cutting calmness that “Paul, of popes the second,” or any other pope, might be easily deceived in judging of the fitness or unfitness of a law, but not so Paul the Apostle, who taught that God’s word should never depart from the mouth of the faithful.
We want to take this site to the next level but we need money to do that. Please contribute directly by signing up at https://www.patreon.com/history