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Midrashim from Bordeaux: A Theological Controversy inside the Portuguese Jewish Diaspora at the Time of Spinoza’s Excommunication

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Abstract This article reconstructs an unknown theological controversy that took place during the years 1655–1658 inside the Portuguese converso diaspora, manifesting the conflictive dynamics of its internal religious pluralism. Defending Catholicism with the help of Midrashic quotations, the Bordeaux canon Jérôme Lopès provoked replies from two Jewish physicians of Amsterdam, who can be identified as Isaac Naar and (possibly) Benjamin Mussaphia. Their Portuguese and Spanish manuscripts, progressively decontextualized and anonymized, had a clandestine transmission among the Sephardim. They also influenced Spinoza and other Jewish freethinkers and made an impression on Christian readers of the early Enlightenment period.

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