MembersCaught Between Judaism and Christianity

Struggles of Spanish Jews forced to accept Christianity can inform the Messianic movement today.

By David Lazarus | | Topics: MESSIANIC JEWS
Photo: Jack Bentley/FLASH90

Uriel Acosta (also written de Costa or d’Acosta) was born in Portugal, a Sephardic Jew who, together with his family, was forced to abandon Judaism and adopt Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition. Similar to modern-day Messianic Jews, these crypto-Jews held on to their Jewish traditions while practicing the Christian faith. 

Under pressure from the Church and state, over half of the Jews in the Iberian Peninsula converted to Christianity to avoid expulsion in 1492. By the time Acosta was born in 1585, his family had become devout Christians, and Uriel went on study Catholic and Christian theology for eight years in pursuit of an ecclesiastical office. Like thousands of other Spanish Jews, the Acosta family were called Conversos, or Marranos (“swine” in Spanish), by both Christians and Jews, rejected by the latter for having converting to Christianity, and excommunicated by the Church for maintaining Jewish customs.

Uriel Acosta eventually decided to return to his Jewish roots, and like many Conversos fled with his family to Amsterdam. But the Judaism he found in the...

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