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MOLKO, SOLOMON:

Marano cabalist; born a Christian in Portugal about 1500; died at Mantua in 1532. His baptismal name probably was Diogo Pires. He held the post of secretary in one of the higher courts of his native country. When the adventurer David Reubeni came ostensibly on a political mission from Khaibar, in Africa, to Portugal, Molko wished to join him, but was rejected. He then circumcised himself, though without thereby gaining Reubeni's favor, and emigrated to Turkey. Highly endowed, but a visionary and believer in dreams, he studied the Cabala with Joseph Taytazak and became acquainted with Joseph Caro. He then wandered, as a preacher, through Palestine, where he achieved a great reputation and announced that the Messianic kingdom would come in 1540. In 1529 Molko published a portion of his sermons under the title "Derashot," or "Sefer ha-Mefo'ar." Going to Italy, he was opposed by prominent Jews, who feared that he might mislead their coreligionists, but he succeeded in gaining the favor of Pope Clement VII. and of some Judeophile cardinals at Rome. He is said to have predicted to the pope a certain flood which inundated Rome and various other places. After his many cabalistic and other strange experiments, Molko felt justified in proclaiming himself the Messiah, or his precursor. In company with David Reubeni, whom he came across in Italy, he went in 1532 to Ratisbon, where the emperor Charles V. was holding a diet. On this occasion Molko carried a flag with the inscription (abbreviation for "Who among the mighty is like unto God?"). The emperor imprisoned both Molko and Reubeni, and took them with him to Italy. In Mantua an ecclesiastical court sentenced Molko to death by fire. At the stake the emperor offered to pardon him on condition that he return to the Church, but Molko refused, asking for a martyr's death.

Autograph of Solomon Molko.(After a manuscript in the possession of the Alliance Israélite Universelle.)
Bibliography:
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., ix. 234 et seq., note 5;
  • Neubauer, M. J. C. ii.;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom.
S. P. B.
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