Molcho, Solomon, or Diogo Pires

Molcho, Solomon, Or Diogo Pires as he was called when a Marrano or Neo-Christian, was born about A.D. 1501 in Portugal. He not only received a liberal education, which enabled him to hold a state office as "escrivao aos ouvidores na casa da supplicanao," but was probably also made acquainted in his childhood with Hebrew and Talmudic lore, as he is the author of a Hebrew work and a synagogal poem written in the Aramaic language (comp. Zunz, Literaturgesch. d. synagog. Poesie, page 534). About this time a man named David Rueben appeared in the court of the king of Portugal. He announced that he had come from India, and was sent by his brother, the king of the Jews, to propose an alliance in order to recover the Holy Land from the sultan Solyman. Many of the Neo-Christians believed in him. He passed through Spain, where he made many proselytes; into France to Avignon, and into Italy. He inscribed banners with the holy name of God. In many cities — Bologna, Ferrara, Mantuianumbers believed that he was commissioned to be the leader of the army of Israel. He even had an interview with pope Clement VII. Coming to Portugal, Molcho sought his acquaintance in order to find out whether his visionary revelations, which had all Messianic background, were in harmony with, Reuben's commission. The latter treated Molcho very coolly, and told him that his military commission had nothing to do with his cabalistic mysticism, being himself no adept in this branch of science. Molcho, however, misunderstood Reuben, believing as he did that this prince and would be Messiah would have nothing to do with him Since he had not the seal of the covenant, and he thus apostatized to Judaism, performing the rite of circumcision himself, which operation became to him the cause of a severe sickness. When Reuben was acquainted with this fact he was very angry, and feared that he might be suspected as the author of Molcho's apostasy. The Jews relate that Molcho was utterly ignorant while he was a Christian; but immediately on his circumcision "the Lord gave him wisdom, and he became wiser than all men in a very short time, and many wondered at him." His preaching was of such an inspiring eloquence that the Jews believed it to be dictated by angels. He preached Judaism before kings; even pope Clement VII admitted him to an audience, and gave him the privilege to dwell wherever he would. Solomon Molcho seems to have been permitted to pour out his apocalyptic rhapsodies (pages of them may be read in the Chronicles of R. Joseph ben-Joshua ben-Meir, the Sephardi, 2:152-189) without restraint. Bishops and princes the bishop of Ancona and the duke of Urbino, Francesco Maria della Rovere I from credulity, curiosity, or compassion, protected him against his enemies. Two of his prophecies, inundations of the Tiber in Rome and earthquakes in Lisbon, could hardly fail of accomplishment (the former took place October 8, 1530; the latter, January 26, 1531). But he came to a woeful end. He attempted to convert the emperor Charles V. at Ratisbon; but Charles was hard-hearted, and ordered him to be put in prison with his friend Reubeni, whom he met after he was obliged to leave Rome. When peace was restored with Solyman the Turk, the emperor betook himself to Italy, and both prisoners were conveyed to Mantua. Molcho, who was an object rather for a lunatic asylum than the stake, was condemned to be burned as an apostate Christian. "With a bridle on his jaw-bones to prevent his speaking to the people," as the Jewish chronicle relates, "they brought him out, and all the city was moved about him, and the fire burned before him. And one of the nobles of the emperor said, 'Take the bridle from between his teeth, for I have a message unto him from the king;' and they did so. And he said unto him, "The emperor hath sent me unto thee, saying," If thou turn from thy ways, shalt thou not be accepted and live?' And he will maintain thee, and thou shalt be before him; and if not, evil is determined against thee.' But he answered like a saint, like an angel of God, and said, 'Because I walked in that religion, my heart is bitter and grieved; and now what is good in your sight do, and my soul shall return unto the Father's house as in its youth, for then it will be better with it than now.' He was cast into the fire and the Lord smelled the sweet savor, and took to him his spotless soul, and is with him as one brought up with him, rejoicing always before him." Molcho died in November or December 1532; yet there were Jews who believed that the fire had no power over him, and that he departed — God only knows whither. Comp. Basnage, Histoire des Juifs (Engl. translation), page 722; Lindo, History of the Jews in Spain and Portugal, page 361 sq.; Milman, History of the Jews, 3:367 sq.; The Chronicles of Rabbi Joseph ben-Joshua ben-Meir, the Sephardi (transl. from the Hebrew into English by C.H.F. Bialloblotzky, London, 1836), 2:150-192; Jost, Geschichte d. Judenthums u. s. Sekten, 3:125; Kayserling, Geschichte der Juden in Portugal, page 176 sq., 192 sq.; Cassel, Leitfadenfur judische Geschichte und Literatur (Berlin, 1872), page 92 sq.; Finrst, Biblioth. Judaica, 2:387 Gratz, Geschichte der Juden, 9:264-285; the same in Frankel's Monatsschrift (1856), pages 205, 241, 260 sq. (B.P.)

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