Abendana, Jacob ben Joseph

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ABENDANA, JACOB BEN JOSEPH (1630–1685), biblical commentator and polemist, elder brother of Isaac *Abendana; probably born in Hamburg, of Portuguese parents. Together with Joshua Pardo and Imanuel Abenatar Melo he studied at the Academia de los Pintos in Rotterdam. In 1655 he became principal of the Maskil el Dal fraternity in Amsterdam, where he delivered a memorial address on the inquisitional martyr Abraham Nuñez Bernal. In 1658, after completing his studies, he was appointed haham in Amsterdam.

Around 1660 he was in contact with Adam Boreel, the continental Christian Hebraist of the circle dominated by John Dury and Samuel Hartlib, who commissioned him to translate the Mishnah into Spanish. The translation made by Abendana was used by later Christian scholars such as Surenhusius, but was never printed and is now regarded to be lost.

In 1660/1661, Jacob and Isaac published Solomon ibn Melekh's Bible commentary, Mikhlol Yofi, with a supercommentary, Lekket Shikḥah (3rd ed., 1965), on the Pentateuch, Joshua, and part of Judges (Vienna, 1818). The work was published with the approbations of Christian scholars, including the celebrated Johannes *Buxtorf of Basel. Jacob Abendana followed up his success with a Spanish translation of Judah Halevi's philosophical work Kuzari (published in Amsterdam, 1663, with a dedication to the British merchant-diplomat Sir William Davidson).

By the beginning of 1668, Jacob had joined his brother Isaac in England, and with him set about selling Hebrew books to a devoted clientele that included Henry Oldenburg, Robert Boyle, and Thomas Barlow of the Bodleian Library.

In 1681 Jacob became haham of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in London (which he had already visited in 1667–68). In that year he was host to Princess Anne, who came to the synagogue during Passover, the first occasion on which a member of the royal family visited the Jews at prayer.


mgwj, 9 (1860), 30 ff.; Solomons, in: jhset, 12 (1931), 21–24, 39–40; Samuel, ibid., 14 (1939), 39 ff.; esn, s.v.; P.T. van Rooden and J.W. Wesselius, in: Quaerendo, 16 (1986) 110–30; D.S. Katz, in: Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 40 (1989), 28–52; idem, in: C.S. Nicholls (ed.), The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons (1993), 2.

[Harm den Boer (2nd ed.)]