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Book Notes: Uriel da Costa's Examination of the Pharisaic Traditions, supplemented by Semuel da Silva’s Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul. H. P Salomon and I. S. D. Sassoon (trans. and notes)

Edgar Samuel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Uriel da Costa's Examination of the Pharisaic Traditions, supplemented by Semuel da Silva's Treatise on the Immortality of the Soul Translation and notes by H. P. Salomon and I. S. D. Sassoon (ISBN 0920-8607, ISBN 90 04 09923 9, E. J. Brill, Leiden, New York, Cologne 1993) 578 pp. In 1624 Uriel da Costa published a vehement attack on Rabbinic Judaism and the concept of the Oral Law, in Portuguese in Amsterdam. This called forth a furious reply by Dr Samuel da Silva. Da Costa's book was condemned by the Mohamad and suppressed and its author was put in Herem, and when he recanted was subjected to the humiliating punishment of a public flogging with thirty-nine stripes and being walked on by the entire congregation of men. Many years later he committed suicide. Professor Salomon has discovered the sole surviving copy of Uriel Da Costa's book Exame das tradig?es Phariseas considerada com a lei escrita in the Royal Library of Denmark and has published it in facsimile with an English translation, together with a translation of Samuel da Silva's intemperate reply to it. This is an important service to scholarship. Da Costa is a neo-Karaite and his book would infuriate any Rabbinic Jew. He attacks the Rabbinic interpretation that 'An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth' means that if a man injures another he must pay monetary compensation as being contrary to the Word of God. No, argues da Costa, 'this text was meant to be interpreted literally and so it should be'. The rest of his argument is of the same literal-minded amoral quality. Reading the text renews sympathy for the men who suppressed the book and disciplined its trouble-making author, who was subjected to the Herem in Venice and Hamburg as well as Amsterdam. The book is well reproduced. It has useful genealogical tables and an informat? ive introduction by Professor Salomons. It has however one irritating editorial defect: in his list of'norms' he says: 'Religions, adherents of religions and adject? ives referring to them are not capitalised (e.g. judaism, jewish, jews; Catholicism, catholic, catholics)', and the reader has to suffer these barbarous errors for over five hundred pages. 271</page><page sequence="2">Book Notes The price of the volume at some ?95 will ensure that it is only bought by the unwary, the enthusiastic, or the very rich. Edgar Samuel</page></plain_text>