JONA, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (1588–1668), apostate scholar. Jona was born Judah Jona at Safed in Galilee and for that reason was known also as Galileo. After a life of wandering, apparently as a teacher and, according to his own account, as a rabbi, in Italy, Holland, and Germany, he, his wife, and children converted to Christianity in Warsaw in 1625. The kings of Poland and Sweden were among their godparents. Contrary to normal practice, he retained his previous Jewish surname. After further wanderings he arrived in Rome in 1638, where he became a reader in Hebrew at the College of Propaganda Fide. Among his publications are Hebrew translations of the Christian catechism, Limmud ha-Meshiḥim (Rome, 1658), and of the New Testament (1668), which he dedicated to Pope Clement IX. Extant in manuscript are a dictionary of talmudic idioms and a work on Targum variants which was completed by Guilio Morosini.
P.S. Medici, Catalogo de' Neofiti Illustri (Florence, 1701), 24ff.; Vogelstein-Rieger, 2 (1896), 256f.