AGEDA, ALLEGED CONFERENCE OF:
By: Moses Beer
In an English pamphlet, entitled "A Narrative of the Proceedings of a Great Council of Jews Assembled on the Plain of Ageda in Hungary, about ThirtyLeagues from Buda, to Examine the Scriptures Concerning Christ, on the Twelfth of October, 1650," London, 1655, a certain Samuel Brett gives a full report of a fictitious Jewish conference, said to have been held at Ageda, Hungary, in October, 1650. It was attended by three hundred rabbis and three thousand persons, who had come together from all parts of the world to consider their attitude toward Christianity. Only those Jews were admitted, he states, who understood Hebrew and were able to trace their pedigree to the Twelve Tribes. Six Catholic friars, specially delegated by the pope, were also present. The discussion, carried on in pure Hebrew, lasted for eight days. The doctrines of the Church, as expounded by the Roman friars, were rejected as idolatrous; and the Jews fell back to their former position. Some of them, however, expressed a favorable opinion of Protestantism, and especially of the London clergy.
This report found its way to Germany and Hungary, where it was variously reproduced ("Sulamith," II. i. 233-243; "Allg. Zeit. d. Jud." 1838; Fényes, "Magyaroszágnak Sat. Mostani Állapotja," iii. 27, and in many geographical and historical works; compare Leopold Löw, "Gesammelte Schriften," iv. 419). It is still found here and there in pamphlets of the Jewish missions in England, Germany, and Austria.
However, on critical examination, the story shows all the marks of a fictitious creation. There is no place in all Hungary known as Ageda; the requirement of a pedigree was foreign to Jews of that period; and the statement that the discussions were carried on in Hebrew is also very suspicious. Furthermore, an event of such magnitude would have created the deepest commotion in Israel, and would have given rise to heated polemics and much writing of responsa; whereas there is not the slightest evidence in Jewish literature to corroborate Brett's account. Manasseh ben Israel in his "Vindiciæ Judæorum" speaks of "the fabulous narrative" of the proceedings of this council.
It is probable that Brett wrote his apocryphal account with a twofold purpose: (1) to demonstrate the incapacity of Catholicism to fulfil its mission; and (2) to spur English Christendom to financial contributions for the Jewish missions.
- Sulamith, II. i. 233-243;
- Allg. Zeit. d. Jud. 1838;
- Löw, Gesammelte Schriften, iv. 418 et seq.;
- Selig Cassel, Ueber die Rabbinerversammlung des Jahres 1650, Berlin, 1845.