Acosta, Gabriel

Acosta, Gabriel (afterward URIEL), a Portuguese, of Jewish extraction, born at Oporto, and brought up in the Roman Catholic Church. About the age of twenty-two he began to entertain doubts first as to the doctrine of indulgences, and, finally, as to the truth of Christianity; and being unable to satisfy himself, he returned to the religion of his ancestors, became a Jew, retired from Portugal to Amsterdam, and was circumcised. He soon, however, became disgusted with the Pharisaism of the Jews of Amsterdam, and advocated a doctrine like that of the ancient Sadducees. He wrote in the Portuguese language a treatise entitled "The Traditions of the Pharisees compared with the written Law" (Amsterd. 1624), which so exasperated the Jews that they accused him of atheism before the civil tribunals. His book was confiscated, he was imprisoned ten days, and fined 300 guilders. He was also expelled from the Jewish synagogue. After seven years he submitted to a painful penance, and was readmitted, though it does not appear that he really changed his views. He died, according to Fabricius, in 1647, whether by suicide or not is uncertain. He left an autobiography which fell into the hands of Limborch, and was reprinted in 1847 (Uriel Acosta's Selbstbiographie, Lat. u. Deutsch, Leipzig). His life afforded Gutzkow the material for a novel, "The Sadducees in Amsterdam" (1834, and for a drama, "Uriel Acosta" (Leips. 1847). — Jellinck, Ueber Acosta's Leben und Lehre (Zerbst, 1847).

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