ISIDORE OF SEVILLE

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE (Isidorus Hispalensis; c. 560–636), archbishop of Seville, theologian, and encyclopedist; one of the last church fathers . Isidore was probably born in Cartagena, but when he was still a child his family moved to Seville. He was educated by his elder brother Leander, archbishop of Seville, and after his brother's death in 600, Isidore succeeded him in the episcopate, which he held until his death. In his numerous writings Isidore encompassed all the sciences of his time; his great erudition was mainly expressed in his book Originum, sive etymologiarum. His most important historical work is Historia de Regibus Gothorum Vandalorum et Suevorum. During his episcopate, Isidore presided over several regional and national church councils in Visigothic Spain, most important of which was the fourth national council of Toledo in 633, which determined the authority of the Visigothic kingdom and the status of the Church. Though the council agreed with Isidore's fundamental views against forced conversion of Jews, it may be assumed that he prompted the numerous laws decreed by this council against converts of Jewish origin who had remained faithful to Judaism. While Isidore was strictly opposed to forced conversion, he believed that the political status of the Jews should be exploited to bring about their voluntary conversion, an attitude he expressed in his polemical writings against Judaism. In the first of these, Isaiae testimonia de Christo Domino, he tries to prove that Isaiah's prophecies herald Jesus as Messiah. In his main apologetic book De fide catholica ex Veteri et Novo Testamento contra Iudaeos, he tries to find evidence for the truth of Christianity in all the biblical books. Despite its title, the book does not contain any dogmatic evidence against the Jews from the New Testament. In both these works Isidore does not refer to the original Hebrew text of the Bible nor does he appear to have any knowledge of talmudic literature. His information in this field is based mainly on the writings of the Church Fathers, jerome in particular. Despite his missionary fervor, his writings are characterized by their moderate and restrained language, contrary to the prevailing anti-Jewish polemics. In his exegetical works Isidore generally preferred mystical and allegorical interpretations, especially in Mysticorum expositiones sacramentorum seu quaestiones in Vetus Testamentum, where he tries to reconcile divergencies between the Old and New Testaments. This work was designed to support Christian arguments in anti-Jewish disputations. His book Liber de variis quaestionibus adversus Iudaeos, attributed by some scholars to a later period, was aimed at bringing back into the fold of the Church those converts who had returned to Judaism. Isidore's works were widely read in the Middle Ages, as attested by the great number of manuscripts remaining as well   as the translation into German of De fide catholica…, made at a relatively early date. Up to the 12th century all anti-Jewish apologetic writers in Western Europe were inspired by Isidore's writings and his influence on the anti-Jewish disputations in Spain lasted even longer. Isidore's writings are collected in Migne's Patrologia Latina (vols. 81–84, 1850–62). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Baron, Social2, index; A. Lukyn Williams, Adversus Judaeos (1935), index; J. Fontaine, Isidore de Séville et la culture classique dans l'Espagne wisigothique, 2 vols. (1959); M.C. Diaz y Diaz (ed.), Isidoriana (Sp., 1961), includes bibliography.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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