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TORDESILLAS, MOSES HA-KOHEN DE:

Spanish controversialist, who was called upon to suffer for his faith, an attempt being made to convert him to Christianity by force. Despite cruel persecution, he remained true to his convictions, although he was robbed of all his possessions and reduced to poverty. Before long he was chosen rabbi by the community of Avila, where he was compelled to carry on a religious debate, about 1372, with the convert John of Valladolid in the presence of Christians and Mohammedans. It was an easy task for Moses ha-Kohen, who was acquainted with the Christian sources, to refute in four debates the arguments of his opponent, who tried to prove the Christian dogmas from the Scriptures. Soon afterward he was obliged to enter upon a new contest with a disciple of the convert Abner of Burgos, with whose writings, especially with his "Mostrador de Jeosticia," Moses was thoroughly acquainted. In 1374, at the desire of the members of his community, he wrote, in the form of a dialogue between a Jew and a Christian, the main substance of his debates, which treated of the Trinity, of the virginity of Mary, of sacrifice, of the alleged new teachings of Jesus and of the New Testament, of the seven weeks of Daniel, and of similar matters. His book, which is divided into seventeen chapters, dealing with 125 passages emphasized by Christian controversialists, is entitled "'Ezer ha-Emunah" (The Support of Faith). It was sent by its author to David ibn Ya'ish at Toledo, and manuscripts of it are found at Oxford, Berlin, Parma, Breslau, and elsewhere.

Bibliography:
  • De Rossi-Hamberger, Hist. Wörterb. pp. 317 et seq.;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., viii. 20-21;
  • Neubauer, Jewish Interpretations of the Fifty-third Chapter of Isaiah, p. 10;
  • Steinschneider, Verzeichnis der Hebräischen Handschriften der Königlichen Bibliothek zu Berlin, p. 51;
  • idem, Hebr. Bibl. ii. 85, note 10.
J. M. K.
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