AMSTERDAM (Dec. 26)
A Dutchborn scholar from the United States is reported to have discovered what is probably the only existing copy of a controversial book by the 17th-century Marrano Uriel Acosta, who dissented from both the Christian faith he was forced to adopt and the established Judaism of his time.
Published in 1624, it is titled “Examen das Tradicoens Phariseas Conferidas con a Ley” (Examination of the Pharisaic Tradition as Compared with the Law).
The author, who was born Gabriel da Costa in Oporto, Portugal, in 1585, committed suicide in Amsterdam in 1640.
According to the latest issue of “Studia Rosenthaliana” published in Amsterdam, the book was found in the Royal Library of Copenhagen by Professor Herman Salomon, a member of the department of French studies at the State University of New York at Albany.
Until now, the Examen was believed to survive only in fragments quoted by Acosta’s friend-turned-opponent, Samuel da Silva.
It is a tract that challenges the belief in immortality. The doctrines of resurrection and reward and punishment were denied and the Biblical passages on which they were based were condemned by the author as spurious.
Not only did this appear to challenge the very basis of Judaism, it was equally an attack on Christian doctrine, which threatened to gravely compromise the Jewish community in Amsterdam in the eyes of those who had given it refuge.
When the book was published, Acosta was denounced by the community and spent several days in prison. His book was burned and he was fined 300 florins.