1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Abrabanel, Isaac

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130611911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 1 — Abrabanel, Isaac

ABRABANEL, ISAAC, called also Abravanel, Abarbanel (1437–1508), Jewish statesman, philosopher, theologian and commentator, was born at Lisbon of an ancient family which claimed descent from the royal house of David. Like many of the Spanish Jews he united scholarly tastes with political ability. He held a high place in the favour of King Alphonso V., who entrusted him with the management of important state affairs. On the death of Alphonso in 1481, his counsellors and favourites were harshly treated by his successor John, and Abrabanel was compelled to flee to Spain, where he held for eight years (1484–1492) the post of a minister of state under Ferdinand and Isabella. When the Jews were banished from Spain in 1492, no exception was made in Abrabanel’s favour. He afterwards resided at Naples, Corfu and Monopoli, and in 1503 removed to Venice, where he held office as a minister of state till his death in 1508. His repute as a commentator on the Scriptures is still high; in the 17th and 18th centuries he was much read by Christians such as Buxtorf. Abrabanel often quotes Christian authorities, though he opposed Christian exegesis of Messianic passages. He was one of the first to see that for Biblical exegesis it was necessary to reconstruct the social environment of olden times, and he skilfully applied his practical knowledge of statecraft to the elucidation of the books of Samuel and Kings.