Friday, 2 November 2012

A report on the life of Uriel Acosta

A report on the life of Uriel Acosta:

"ACOSTA (Ariel) a Portugueza gentleman, in the sixteenth century: he was bred up in the romish religion, but afterwards embraced the Jewish, and was circumcised at Amsterdam. He soon perceived that the morals and rites of the Jews were not comfortable to the laws of Moses; upon which occasion it was impossible for him to be silent: upon this, he was excommunicated. He writ a book of his own vindication, wherein he shews, that the rites and traditions of the Pharisees clash directly with the writings of Moses. He had scarce begun this work, when he embraced the principles of the Sadducees. Acosta did not stop there; he imagined he had found solid reason to convince himself, that the law of Moses was merely of human invention. He returned again to the Jewish church, and retracted all he had written. Some time after, he was impeach’d by a nephew, of not observing the Jewish laws, either with respect to eating or other points; and for this was terribly persecuted. After failing in an attempt to kill his chief enemy, he shot himself."

Miller, Historical, genealogical, and classical dictionary. 1743

I think it is interesting that a Protestant, Bible-reading, commentator puts emphasis on circumcision as a meaningful equivalent of baptism, whereas the Inquisition would focus on some vague cultural practice, such as what day someone is alleged to clean their house.

Also, an encyclopaedia such as Miller's COULD NOT have been published in Spain. The Inquisition would have immediately arrested the publisher - who is simply sharing information and opinions - for heretical propositions. 

We can speculate about the differences between the mentalities of a Catholic and Protestant gentleman of the period. The former is supposed to conform to dogma and, even if he wanted, would have a problem finding books containing any alternative views. The latter is presented with the information and able to form his own opinions. 

Of course, France is always the exception to the rule, being a Catholic country but encouraging Enlightenment values (which, of course, ended in an anti-clerical Revolution). It seems obvious (to me!!) that the Enlightenment countries would pull ahead commercially and scientifically, while the Inquisition countries would fall behind.

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