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Pablo de Santa Maria

PABLO DE SANTA MARIA (el Burguense; c. 1350–1435), one of the most prominent apostates of Christian Spain, bishop, and theologian. He was born Solomon Halevi, a member of a distinguished Jewish family of *Burgos which had produced several tax farmers and financiers of the Castilian kingdom. In his youth he belonged to the circle of Jewish scholars whose most outstanding members were his relative Don Meir *Alguades, Joseph *Orabuena, and Don Benveniste de la *Cavallería. During the early 1380s he corresponded with R. Isaac b. *Sheshet on questions of ritual law (Responsa Ribash, ch. 187–92) and from this may be deduced his familiarity with halakhah. He had some knowledge of Jewish and Arabic philosophy and had read Christian theological works. From a humorous letter written in Hebrew to Meir Alguades in honor of the festival of Purim, it appears that he was in "England" in 1389. Some believe that he was detained there as a Castilian hostage but the more logical assumption is that his stay was connected with a diplomatic mission and that the reference is not to England itself but to Acquitaine, then under English rule.

The circumstances of Pablo's apostasy are obscure: according to Christian tradition he was baptized on July 21, 1390, but from a letter sent him after his conversion by his disciple Joshua *Lorki, also known as Geronimo de Sante Fe, there is reason to assume that he was converted after the outbreak of the riots of 1391 (see *Spain). It is in any case clear that he was already perplexed over questions of faith several years prior to his apostasy. His conversion to Christianity was to a certain extent a protest against the Averroistic views advanced by a considerable number of Jewish intellectuals in Spain. There is no doubt that he was vitally influenced by the apostate *Abner of Burgos, whom he frequently quotes in his own works. His four sons, his daughter, and his three brothers were baptized together with him. At first his wife refused to follow his example, but she accepted baptism a few years later. After his conversion, which left a powerful imprint on Jewish intellectuals, he sent a letter to Joseph Orabuena explaining the reasons that prompted his conversion to Christianity. This letter, which was widely circulated, also reached his disciple Joshua Lorki, who was converted some years later. In a lengthy letter, addressed to Pablo, Lorki asked him the reasons for his decision and expressed fundamental reservations on the messianic role of Jesus. Only the last part of Pablo's reply has been preserved; it includes the idea that it is incumbent upon every Jew to delve into the Bible and the Oral Law so as to discern the messianism of Jesus.

To increase his knowledge of Christian theology, Pablo traveled to Paris, where he studied until 1394 and was ordained a priest. On completing his studies, he settled in Avignon, where he became one of the favorites of Pope *Benedict XIII and one of his staunchest supporters. It was during this period that he began his anti-Jewish activity, when he attempted to induce King John I of Aragon to issue anti-Jewish laws. His ascent in the Catholic hierarchy was rapid: in 1396 he was appointed archdeacon of Trevinno, in 1403 bishop of Cartagena, and from 1415 until his death, he was bishop of Burgos. He also held the position of canciller mayor to the king of Castile from 1407.

Pablo left a number of works: the first, Scrutinium Scripturarum, was completed in 1432. The first part describes a dialog between the Jew, Saul and the Christian, Paul. The Jew argues against the tenets of Christianity and the Christian refutes all his objections. In the second part, an apostate asks his teacher to elucidate a number of points of Christian dogma which are not sufficiently clear to him. In 1429 Paulus completed the Aditiones ad postillam Magistri Nicolai Lyra ("Additions to the Biblical Commentary of *Nicholas de Lyra"). He also wrote a historical poem, Las Siete edades del Mundo or Edades trovadas, as well as a work on the history of Spain from antiquity until 1412, Suma de las crónicas del mundo. Toward the end of his life, he wrote a book on his origins and genealogy. His brothers held important positions in Castilian society: PEDRO JUÁREZ became governor of Burgos and ALVAR GARCÍA the notary of the royal office. This was also the case with his sons: GONZALO GARCIA DE SANTA MARÍA rose to the rank of bishop; ALONSO OF CARTAGENA succeeded his father as bishop of Burgos and wrote Defensorium unitatis christianae in defense of the Conversos; PEDRO DE CARTAGENA became a military commander of the kings of Castile, and ALVAR SÁNCHEZ DE CARTAGENA was a diplomat in the service of the kingdom.


Baer, Spain, index; I. Abrahams, in: JQR, 12 (1900), 255–63; P.L. Serrano, Los conversos Pablo de Santa María y Alfonso de Cartagena (1942); F. Cantera, La conversión del célebre talmudista Salomón Leví (1933); idem, Alvar García de Santa María y su familia de conversos (1952), index; idem, in: Homenaje a Millás-Vallicrosa, 1 (1954), 301–7.