1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Acosta, Uriel
ACOSTA, URIEL (d. 1647), a Portuguese Jew of noble family, was born at Oporto towards the close of the 16th century. His father being a convert to Christianity, Uriel was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, and strictly observed the rites of the church till the course of his inquiries led him, after much painful doubt, to abandon the religion of his youth for Judaism. Passing over to Amsterdam, he was received into the synagogue, having his name changed from Gabriel to Uriel. His wayward disposition found, however, no satisfaction in the Jewish fold. He came into conflict with the authorities of the synagogue and was excommunicated. Unlike Spinoza (who was about fifteen at the time of Acosta’s death), Acosta was not strong enough to stand alone. Wearied by his melancholy isolation, he was driven to seek a return to the Jewish communion. Having recanted his heresies, he was readmitted after an excommunication of fifteen years, but was soon excommunicated a second time. After seven years of exclusion, he once more sought admission, and, on passing through a humiliating penance, was again received. His vacillating autobiography, Exemplar Humanae Vitae, was published with a “refutation” by Limborch in 1687, and republished in 1847. In this brief work Acosta declares his opposition both to Christianity and Judaism, though he speaks with the more bitterness of the latter religion. The only authority which he admits is the lex naturae. Acosta was not an original thinker, but he stands in the direct line of the rational Deists. His history forms the subject of a tale and of a tragedy by Gutzkow. Acosta committed suicide in 1647. The significance of his career has been much exaggerated.