Jonah ben Jiṣhaq, Jehudah

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Learned Jewish convert; b. Safed, Galilee, Oct. 28, 1588; d. Rome, May 26, 1668. During his extensive travels in Europe as a rabbi he was converted to Catholicism in Poland and took the name of John the Baptist. Later he was sent by the King of Poland to Constantinople for the purchase of precious stones. There, however, he was arrested on the charge of espionage and would have been executed had not the Venetian ambassador interceded for him and enabled him to go to Italy. In Italy, where he was known as Giovanni Battista, he taught Hebrew and Aramaic, first at Pisa and then at the College of the Propaganda, Rome. One of his students at Rome was G. bartolocci (161387), who received much help from Jonah in preparing his masterpiece, the Bibliotheca magna rabbinica de scriptoribus et de scriptis hebraicis (4 v. Rome 167594). Jonah himself published a Hebrew translation from the Latin of the four Gospels, with a preface by Pope Clement IX (Rome 1668).

Bibliography: e. levesque, Dictionnaire de la Bible, ed. f. vigouroux, 5 v. (Paris 18951912) 1.2:1514. f. x. e. albert, The Catholic Encyclopedia, ed. c. g. herbermann et al., 16 v. (New York 190714) 2:350.

[l. f. hartman]