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Abravanel, Isaac

Isaac Abravanel (əbrä´vənĕl, –bärbə–), 1437–1508, Jewish theologian, biblical commentator, and financier, b. Lisbon. He served as treasurer to Alfonso V of Portugal but fled that country when he was implicated (1483) in a plot. He was then employed by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, until they expelled the Jews from their kingdom. He was later employed by the governments of Naples and Venice. His biblical commentaries are notable for their interpretation of the books of the Bible in terms of their various historical and social backgrounds and for their liberal quotations from Christian commentaries. Abravanel attacked the use (by Maimonides) of philosophical allegory, which he believed weakened the faith of many and thus tended to undermine the Jewish community in a precarious time. In his analyses of the Messianic prophecies he specifically denied Christian claims of Jesus as the Messiah (a dangerous position to take at that time), and looked to an impending Messianic age in which the Dispersion would end with Israel's return to the Holy Land and the reign of Messianic rule for all humanity.

See study by B. Netanyahu (2d ed. 1968).

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Abrabanel

Abrabanel ( Abravanel). Isaac ben Judah (1437–1508), Jewish statesman, commentator, and philosopher. He succeeded his father as treasurer to the Portuguese king Alfonso V, but was compelled to flee to Spain when he was suspected of participating in rebellion against his successor. Although in the service of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, he failed to prevent the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and went into exile, eventually settling in Venice where he died. By the age of 20 he had written Ateret Zekenim (The Crown of Elders) examining divine providence. In Rosh Amanah (The Principles of Faith) he defended Maimonides, although he also maintained that the isolation of some dogmas as seemingly more important than others is wrong, since the whole of Torah is a seamless robe. He wrote commentaries on many biblical books.

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