Abravanel, Isaac

Abravanel or Abarbanel, Isaac əbräˈvənĕl, –bärbə– [key], 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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