Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews

Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews

Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews

Secrecy and Deceit: The Religion of the Crypto-Jews

Synopsis

"Secrecy and Deceit documents the religious customs of the Iberian Jews who converted to Catholicism, largely under duress, in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although many of the converts quickly melted into the Catholic mainstream, thousands of others and their descendents strove to preserve their Jewish culture despite the efforts of the Inquisition to suppress them. The author uses Inquisition records, chronicles, rabbinical rulings, letters, eyewitness accounts, religious books, and other historical documents to give the most thorough and accurate picture of crypto-Jews ever cataloged." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The history of Jews on the Iberian Peninsula spans three thousand years. the beginnings are obscure, but may go as far back as Solomon's trade with Andalusian Tarshish (1 Kings 10:22) or the Phoenician coastal trading settlements of Iberia in the tenth century bce. Jews undoubtedly traded along the Spanish coasts during the periods of Greek and Carthaginian domination of the Mediterranean, even though the first tangible archaeological evidence of Jewish Iberians dates only from Roman times. For the next fifteen hundred years the fortunes of Iberian Jews followed those of the Romans, Visigoths, Moslems, and Christians who successively controlled the Peninsula. On the whole Jews fared better when the dominant culture's religion was not fundamentalist in character or conversionist in policy. Jewish low points occurred when the Roman (312 CE) and then Visigothic states (589 CE) became Christian or when the puritanical Moslem Almoravids (1090) and later the Almohads (1147-60) purged Andalusian Islam. the high point was undoubtedly the florescence of Jewish culture in Moslem Andalucia during the tenth through the twelfth centuries. When Christian dominance over the Peninsula was finally assured in the mid-thirteenth century, Jews played a crucial role in cultural transmission and in the financial and political administration of the Christian kingdoms. Eventually this too turned sour, and on March 31, 1492, the Catholic Monarchs Fernando and Isabel signed an order giving the Jews four months to be Christian or be gone. From August 1, 1492, until the late nineteenth century there were legally no Jews in Spain. the fifteen thousand or so Jews who live there today are almost entirely recent immigrants.

Documentary evidence suggests that from at least Christian Roman times there had been many converts from and a few converts to Judaism. Those provisions of the separatist laws of the Council of Elvira (c. 300 CE), the Visigothic code (654- 81), the Islamic Pact of Omar (ninth century), and medieval Christian legislation such as Alfonso X's Siete partidas (1265) which are aimed at hindering conversions from Christianity to Judaism would not have been necessary if sporadic conversions had not been taking place. Numbers are impossible to estimate but, to judge from the scarcity of other documentation dealing with neophyte Jews, conversions to Judaism must have been rare. Other provisions of these laws encouraged conversion to the dominant religion, and evidence suggests that the number of Jews becoming Moslem or Christian was far greater than the number of converts to . . .

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