The struggle against unbelief in the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam after Spinoza’s excommunication

  • José R. Maia Neto
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 148)


In the period from Juan de Prado’s arrival in Amsterdam in 1655 to his excommunication in 1658, many problems concerning unbelief arose within and around the Portuguese Jewish community of Am- sterdam. On 27 July 1656, Spinoza was excommunicated because of— I quote from the proclamation of the excommunication ban—the ‘abom- inable heresies that he practiced and taught’. These heresies were presumably the following: (1) denial of the immortality of the soul, (2) denial of the divinity of the Law, and (3) the view that God exists only philosophically.1 In 1658 accusations were brought against Daniel Riberia. Isaac Pacheco testified that, among other heresies, Riberia denied ‘that God exercises either individual or general providence’, that he had affirmed ‘that Moses was a great magician’, and ‘that in establishing all precepts, Moses was acting in his own interest and that of his brother (Aaron)’.2 According to another witness, Abraham Franco de Silveira, Riberia held the three-impostors thesis: ‘one day, when I entered in his room, he [Riberia] spoke so frankly that he told me that what Moses said is as false as what Mohammed and Christ proclaimed, that all their talk is nothing but deceit and expedient action’.3 On the same occasion charges as serious were raised against Prado. According to the testimony of one of his Latin students, Jacob Monsato, Prado asked: ‘What cause have we to believe in the law of Moses more than in the teaching of the various sects? If we believe Moses rather than in Mohammed there must be some cause for it, but it is all imaginative.’4


Jewish Community Divine Revelation Profane Science Religious Matter Natural Religion 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • José R. Maia Neto
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Minas GeraisBelo HorizonteBrazil

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