PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA, GIOVANNI°


PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA, GIOVANNI° (1463–1494), one of the most remarkable figures of the Italian Renaissance. Pico was an influential thinker, a humanist scholar of note, a pioneer of Oriental studies, and the father of Christian *Kabbalah. Contemporaries with whom Pico associated include, among others, Elijah *Delmedigo, Flavius *Mithridates, Johanan Alemanno, Marsilio Ficino, Angelo Poliziano, and Girolamo Savonarola. Delmedigo translated several Averroist treatises for Pico. Mithridates instructed him in Arabic and Aramaic ("Chaldean"), and translated for him a considerable number of kabbalistic writings; his translations survive and are the likeliest literary sources of Pico's Christian Kabbalah. The most striking and, in the long run, most influential outcome of Pico's encounter with Jewish esoterism are his kabbalistic theses "according to his own opinion" (Conclusiones cabalisticae secundum opinionem propriam), which set out to confirm the truth of the Christian religion from the foundations of Jewish Kabbalah. They are included among the 900 theses derived from all branches of knowledge which he offered, in 1486, for public debate in Rome. The debate never took place, but the kabbalistic theses made a lasting impression, and may truly be considered to mark the beginning of Christian Kabbalah. What they amount to is as much a kabbalistic interpretation of Christianity as a Christian interpretation of the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah, touched upon in Pico's Oration on the Dignity of Man, is discussed at great length in his Apologia (in Commentationes, 1496), where he defended 13 of his theses specifically condemned by the Church, one of which was the thesis that "no science can make us more certain of Christ's divinity than magic and Kabbalah." The Heptaplus (1489), a sevenfold interpretation of the biblical account of Creation, also shows kabbalistic traits. Pico owned many Hebrew books, and in his writings, particularly in his refutation of astrology (Disputationes adversus Astrologiam Divinatricem, 1495), he mentions various Jewish authors besides the kabbalists, notably Maimonides, Ibn Ezra, and Levi b. Gershom. The precise extent of Pico's knowledge of Hebrew and of his acquaintance with the Kabbalah are still open questions.

Editions of his works are Opera Omnia (Basle, 1572); Opere, ed. by E. Garin, vol. 1, De hominis dignitate, Heptaplus, De ente et uno, and Scritti vari (1942); vol. 2–3, Disputationes adversus Astrologiam Divinatricem (1946–52).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

E. Anagnine, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (It., 1937); J.L. Blau, Christian Interpretation of the Cabala in the Renaissance (1944); U. Cassuto, Gli Ebrei a Firenze nell'età del Rinascimento (1918); E. Garin, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (It., 1937); idem, La cultura filosofica del Rinascimento italiano (1961); idem, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (It., 1963); P.O. Kristeller, in: L'Opera e il pensiero di Giovanni Pico della Mirandola nella storia dell'Umanesimo, Convegno Internazionale, vol. 1, "Relazioni" (Florence, 1965), 35–133 (the most complete up-to-date bibliography of Pico will be found on pp. 107–33); Scholem, in: Essays Presented to Leo Baeck (1954), 158–93; F. Secret, Kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance (1964), index; idem, in: Convivium, 25 (1957), 31–47 (It.); Wirszubski, in: Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to G. Scholem (1967), 353–62.

[Chaim Wirszubski]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.