Saturday, October 11, 2008
Was Christopher Columbus Jewish?
Some believe very strongly that he was from a Jewish Family. Here is a little to support this theory:
I sat down to read an amazing book recently, titled The Book of Prophecies, filled with astounding insights and prophetic statements, some very controversial. What makes it so amazing is that this book, a collection of the author's writing and favorite passages from other authors, was written around 1501 and the editor/author is someone I've heard of all my life but never - I mean never - even heard that he published such a book.
The author is Christopher Columbus; while he wrote this book, during the late 15th century, a terrible event known as the Inquisition swept through Spain and other parts of Europe. People were being tormented, burned at the stake and expelled from the country, and no one was targeted more heavily than the Jewish population, which had grown considerably over the centuries. Jewish conversos (converts) would be arrested and accused of not being true Christians. They wouldn't even know who was accusing them; evidence would be presented in secret. Then they would be tortured until they confessed to being heretics. Then, once they confessed, they would be killed.
Jewish immigrations into Europe escalated after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, but even before Christ, Jews had begun to settle in the Iberian Peninsula - they were referred to as Sephardim, which comes from the Hebrew term for Spain, Sepharad, used in the Bible.
Part of this community included Christopher Columbus, a man "dedicated to his "Christian faith," but who by ancestry was most likely Jewish. He had earned the favor of the king and queen of Spain, with his vision and scientific knowledge. In fact, he had managed to raise the money to embark on what would become one of the most significant voyages in the history of the world.
Now believe me, Jews are blamed for everything even today for the stock market collapse and world financial mess. No we are not responsible for it. So why would I suggest that Christopher Columbus was from a Jewish Family? Because history is told by the victors, the conquerors, the people in power. But what we read in a history book is not necessarily the truth, but a truth from a certain perspective.
I submit another perspective for your review and thought.
Spain during the time of Columbus was a dangerous time for all Jews, even favored ones. Historians note that the voyage was originally scheduled for later in 1492. But the inquisition overshadowed all plans; an edict had been signed demanding the expulsion of all Jews by August 2, 1492 (which ironically coincided with Tisha B'av, the day of mourning the fall of the temples, the expulsion of the Jews into exile to Babylonia.) It is a bad day coincidentially throughout Jewish History. That is another story.
Our voyager gathered his crew, boarded his ships that night, and set sail for the new world, on August 3, 1492. Christopher Columbus obeyed the edict along with almost 300,000 other Jewish people.
The faith of Christopher Columbus has long been established, confirmed by much of his own writing. But his Jewish ancestry has been examined and hotly debated. Was Columbus truly Jewish? The evidence is compelling and has stirred passions among Moslems, Jews, and Christians alike for its implications. "The story of Jews in America begins with Christopher Columbus," declares one Muslim source.
I discovered that several Jewish resources, including the Jewish American Hall of Fame, claim him as one of their own: "It was Spanish Jewry, not Spanish jewelry, that paid for Columbus' voyage of discovery," they insist. "There is no question that it was his Spanish-Jewish friends who were instrumental in arranging for his meeting with the Spanish Monarchs in 1486 and who turned his dream into reality."
Here are a few other interesting facts that have been noted in connection with this question:
There is evidence that Columbus spoke Spanish while still living in Italy, an unusual situation unless his family had originated in Spain. Spanish-speaking Jewish refugees from the Inquisition were numerous in the Genoa area.
The form "Colón" which Columbus adopted as the Spanish equivalent of his last name was not the expected form (which would have been"Colom" or "Colombo"). It was however a common Jewish variation on the name.
Columbus was known to frequent the company of Jews and former Jews, among whom were some noted astronomers and navigators, as well as his official translator. Marranos (another term for Jews forced to convert) figured prominently among Columbus's backers and crew. Throughout his life he demonstrated a keen knowledge of the Bible and the geography of the Holy Land.
Columbus began the official report of his first voyage to America, addressed to Ferdinand and Isabella, with the following words: "And thus, having expelled all the Jews from all your kingdoms and dominions, in the month of January, Your Highnesses commanded me that...I should go to the said parts of India." This is a strange fact to mention in this context, and it is not even correct: The order of expulsion was not signed until March 31st.
The fact that the expulsion of Spanish Jewry and Columbus' voyage coincided is telling. Even when Columbus was scheduled to set sail on August 3rd, he insisted that his entire crew be ready on board a full day earlier. August 2nd 1492 was the day that had been ordained for the last Jews of Spain to depart the country. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were departed from Spain on that dark day.
When this coincidence of dates was first noted by the Spanish biographer S. de Madariaga, the English Jewish historian Cecil Roth also commented on the "coincidence" August 2nd 1492 coinciding with Tisha B'av, the Jewish fast of mourning. It was as if Columbus had arranged to remain on board ship for that ill-omened day, and to depart only afterwards.
*** Columbus discussed particular dates and phrases unique to Hebrew people. When writing about the fall of Jerusalem, he said "the destruction of the second house," referring to the Temple. Christians don't make this reference. Also Columbus used the phrase in the literal translation the Hebrew..."Bayit" This is the Hebrew word for house.
He also employed the Hebrew reckoning of 68 a.d. instead of 70 a.d.
Columbus is said to have used a unique triangular signature similar to inscriptions found on gravestones of Jewish cemeteries in Spain and South France.
And perhaps most importantly, in the upper left corner of his letters to his son Diego, was the Hebrew letters "Bet Hey", which stand for the Hebrew blessing "Be Ezrat Ha Shem," or "with G-d's help."
The case for Columbus's Jewish origins is not presented solely by Jews. The consensus of Spanish and Vatican historians seems to be for the position, while that of Italian historians is against it. Weird, no?
Italian historians assert that Cristoforo Colombo was born in Liguria. There position is that his father, Domenico Colombo, was a tower sentinel in Genoa and later a weaver in Savona.
Spanish historians insist that Cristobal Colon was the son of Domingo Colon, a wool trader, and Susanna Fontanarossa, both of Pontevedra, Spain.
We may never know for sure. One thing for sure, he was not the first to discover America. Otherwise we would be the United States of Columbus.