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NIETO, DAVID:

Haham of the Sephardic community in London; born at Venice 1654; died in London Jan. 10, 1728. He first practised as a physician and officiated as a Jewish preacher at Leghorn, Italy. There he wrote in Italian a work entitled "Paschologia" (Cologne, 1702), in which he dealt with the differences of calculation in the calendars of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish churches, and demonstrated the errors which had crept into the calendar from the Council of Nice until 1692. In 1702 Nieto succeeded Solomon Ayllon as ecclesiastical chief of the Portuguese Jews in London; and two years after his settlement in that city he published his theological treatise, "Della Divina Providencia, ó sea Naturalezza Universal, ó Natura Naturante" (London, 1704). This work provoked much opposition against him; and it was used by his opponents as ground for accusing him openly of Spinozism, which at that period was equivalent to atheism. However, Ẓebi Ashkenazi, who was called in as arbitrator, decided in his favor (Ḥakam Ẓebi, Responsa, No. 18).

Nieto was a powerful controversialist. In his "Maṭṭeh Dan," or "Kuzari Ḥeleḳ Sheni" (London, 1714), written in Hebrew and Spanish on the model of the "Cuzari" of Judah ha-Levi, he defended the oral law against the Karaites, and showed that the contradictions of the Talmud lay not in essentials but in externals. He waged war untiringly on the supportersof the Shabbethaian heresies, which he regarded as dangerous to the best interests of Judaism, and in this connection wrote his "Esh Dat" (London, 1715) against Ḥayyun.

Nieto was one of the most accomplished Jews of his time and was equally distinguished as philosopher, physician, poet, mathematician, astronomer, and theologian. A prolific writer, his intercourse with Christian scholars was extensive, especially with Ungar, the bibliographer. Nieto was the first to fix the time for the beginning of Sabbath eve for the latitude of England.

Bibliography:
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. col. 881;
  • Kayserling, Gesch. der Juden in Portugal, pp. 325-326;
  • Jew. World, Dec. 19, 1879;
  • Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. iii.;
  • Cat. Anglo-Jew. Hist. Exh. 1887;
  • portrait in Jew. Chron. June 28, 1901.
J. G. L.
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