Nathan, Isaac, Ben-kalonymos

Nathan, Isaac, Ben-Kalonymos a Jewish writer of great celebrity, flourished near the opening of the 15th century. The exact date of either the birth or death of this author of the first Hebrew concordance, who traces his lineage to the royal family of David, has not as vet been ascertained. All that we know with certainty is that he lived at Avignon, Montpellier, or Aries in the time of Benedict XIII, and that his writings were called forth by the conduct of this antipope towards the Jews, which was as follows. This pope, Peter de Luna by name, who was declared a schismatic, heretic, and perjurer, and who was deposed by the Council of Pisa (1409), but was still recognised on the Pyrenean peninsula, thought that he would secure the general recognition of his claims to St. Peter's chair if he could bring about the conversion of the Spanish Jews. He therefore issued a summons (1412), with the sanction of his patron, Ferdinand the Just, king of Aragon, to all the learned rabbins to hold a public controversy at Tortosa, and appointed the learned Jewish physician, Joshua Lorqui — or Geronimo de Santa Fe, as he was called after his conversion — to prove to them from the Talmud and other Jewish writings that the Messiah, whose advent the Jews were daily expecting, had already come in the person of Jesus Christ. To escape the threatening dangers, sixty of the most celebrated Jewish literati of Aragon answered the summons. They were headed by don Bidal ben-Benevenisti, IbnLabi of Saragossa, Joseph Albo, the famous author of the lkarim, Sechariah ha- Levi Saladin, Astruc Levi, Bonastruc Desmaithe, Ibn-Joseph, Ibn-Jachja, etc., and this most famous controversy of Tortosa lasted twentvone months (from February 1413, to November 1414). Benedict XIII presided at the meetings, and in the first session, which was held February 7, 1413, he thus addressed the Jews: "Ye learned Hebrews, know that I have not come here to discuss which religion is true, yours or ours. I am certain mine is the truest. Your law was formerly the only true law, but it is now abrogated. You are convoked here solely by Geronimo, who has engaged to prove to you that the Messiah has come by the evidence of your Talmud, which was composed long since by rabbins far superior to yourselves in wisdom; therefore be careful of your arguments." Two treatises were prepared for this controversy by Joshua Lorqui, or Geronimo de Santa Fe, the antipope's champion, entitled Tractatus contra perfidiam Judaeorum et

contsra Talmud, printed in the Bibliotheca Maxima Patrum, tom. 26, and separately in Hebraomastix (Frankf. a.M., 1602). It was in reply to these tracts that R. Nathan wrote the work entitled תוכחת מתעה, Correction of the Misguided, which has not as yet been published. To the same cause is to be ascribed his Hebrew concordance, entitled אור זרוע מאיר נתיב, or רחובות, which was designed to enable his brethren to rebut the attacks on Judaism, by helping them to find easily the passages of the O.T. quoted in support of the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth, and by aiding them to see what legitimate construction can be put on these passages in accordance with the context in which they occur. This concordance, to which R. Nathan devoted eight years of his life (1437-1445), and in which he adopted the plan of the Latin concordance of Arlotti, general of the order of Minorites (cir. 1290), first appeared with an elaborate introduction (הקונקירדאנסיס פתיחת) in Venice, 1523, then again, with the introduction castrated by the Inquisition (ibid. 1564, and Basle, 1581). The great value of this work can be best ascertained from what Jacob ben- Chajim, who carried through the press the Rabbinic Bible (1524-25) in Bomberg's printing-establishment, where the concordance appeared only a few months previously, says of it in his celebrated introduction (transl. by Ginsburg, Lond. 1867): "But for a certain book, called Concordannce, the author of which is the learned R. Isaac Nathan, who lived some forty years ago, published in our printingoffice at Venice, I could not have corrected the verses. This is a precious work; it embraces all the points of the Holy Bible, and explains all the sacred Scriptures by stating all nouns and verbs, with their analogous forms, and giving at the heading of every noun and verb an explanation, saying the meaning of the word is so and so, and branches out in such and such a manner, and comments upon each one separately. It also marks the division of each chapter, and the number of chapters in every prophetical book, and tells in which chapter and verse every word occurs. The advantage to be derived from this book is indescribable; without it there is no way of examining the references of the Massorah, since one who studies the Massorah must look into the verse which the Massorah quotes, and which, without a concordance, would take a very long time to find, as you might not know in which prophet the passage referred to occurs, and if you knew the prophet, you still might not know the chapter and verse. Besides, all the world is not so learned in the Scriptures. Whosoever has this concordance does not require any more the lexicon of Kimchi, for it contains all the roots, whereunto is added an index of all the verses in the Bible; none of them is wanted. In conclusion, without it I could not have done the work which I have done." Nathan's concordance was also translated into Latin by Reuchlin (Basle, 1556), and was inserted by the Minorite Maria di Calasio, in his four-volume concordance (Rome, 1622). It is the basis both of Buxtorf's and Furst's concordances. See Steinschneider, Catalogus Librorum Hebr. in Bibliotheca Bodleiana, col. 1141-1143; id. Bibliographisches Handbuch, page 100; Furst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 3:22; Gratz, Gesch. der Juden (Leips. 1875), 8:150, 151; Kitto, Cyclop. s.v.; Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. 2:681; Le Long, Bibl. Sacra (ed. Boernes), 2:398; De Rossi, Dizionario storico degli autori Ebrei, page 125 (German transl.); id. Bibliotheca Judaica Antichristiana, page 76 sq.; Etheridge, Introd. to Hebr. Literature, page 289: Lindo, Hist. of the Jews of Spain and Portugal, page 209 sq.; Milman, Hist. of the Jews (new ed. New York, 1870), 3:299 sq. (B.P.)

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