BAPTISTA, GIOVANNI GIONA GALILEO or BATTISTA:
Baptized Jew, professor of Hebrew, and librarian of the Vatican; born in Safed Oct. 28, 1588; died May 26, 1668. His Jewish name was Judah Jonah ben Isaac. He studied the Talmud and traveled as a rabbi through Italy and Poland; visited Amsterdam; and was finally elected dayyan in Hamburg. In 1625 he returned to Poland, and was converted to Christianity in Warsaw. Expelled from Poland, he came to Italy; was appointed professor of Hebrew, first in the University of Pisa, then in the Neophyte College of Rome; and later was one of the librarians of the Vatican.
The most important of his numerous works are: (1) a sermon in Hebrew and Latin on the Messiah and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, Rome, 1653; (2) "Limmud ha-Meshiḥim" (Doctrines of Christianity), a Hebrew translation of the Italian catechism of Robert Bellarmin, 1658; (3) "Berit Ḥadashah," a Hebrew translation of the New Testament with a preface by Clement IX., to whom the translation was dedicated; (4) "Hebrew-Chaldaic Lexicon"; (5) a "Treatise on the Name of Jesus" (in manuscript); (6) "Ḥillufin Sheben Sheloshah Targumim," a collection of the differences in the three Targumim. This work was left unfinished; the manuscript is preserved in the Vatican Library.
- Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, ii. 286 et seq.;
- Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. i. 720.