|Volume VII. No. 10
Tebeth 5610 January 1850
The Jews in Spain Under the Visigoths
By Dr. Julius Fürst
Tulga (640-641), Chinthila’s son, made no alterations, because he could sustain himself but one year on the throne in the war which he had to wage against his opponent, Chindeswinth, who became his successor.
Chindeswinth (641-650). Under this king, who resisted both the nobles and clergy, the Jews had rest, because he had to direct his severity against more important enemies than the Jews were, that is to say, against the clergy, who formerly governed the ostensible occupants of the throne. The synod, therefore, held at Toledo in 646, had other contests to settle.
Reckeswinth (650-672), the son of the preceding, and who was co-regent as early as 649, was nominated by his father himself to be his successor. The Jews had now again to suffer from the power of the clergy. So long as the old Chindeswinth lived, and before the clergy regained their power, at the eighth synod at Toledo (653), they were not thought of to the same degree as formerly, although a canon law was passed at that time* that each newly-elected king should swear that he would protect the Church against the perfidy of the Jews. Nevertheless the severe resolves of the Council of Toledo, under Sisebut, were confirmed.† The oppression must have been fearful at a later period, and even the baptized Jews seem to have endured a hard fate; since among the documents of the eighth synod, there is a petition of the baptized Jews to King Reckeswinth,‡ in which they solemnly promise to be in future Christians in earnest, to renounce Jewish customs and institutions, and they bind themselves to stone or burn every one of their number who should again relapse into Judaism. It must have been a terrible persecution which could have called forth this cry of anguish.
Wamba (672-680). This king reorganized the Spanish Church, repressed the undue power of the clergy, and Jews had rest. His eight-years’ reign was devoted to active measures of another kind, and under him the bloody laws of the councils fell into oblivion.
Erwig (680-087). This king, who became Wamba’s successor through an act of treachery, called together a general synod as early <<509>>as 681, at which all the bloody decrees of the councils, which had ever been hitherto passed against the Jews, were again placed in full force.* Under the government of this king, the highest dignity in the Church was possessed by Julian, Archbishop of Toledo, through whose instrumentality Erwig (Erviga) was made king, and he was at the same time the most important man of his age in Spain. Julian was the son of parents who had been compelled to embrace Christianity, as is proved by Isidore, of Badajoz (Colonia Pacensis), in the middle of the eighth century. He was also an author of ecclesiastical works. This Julian, the soul of the government of Erwig, a descendant from Jews as he was, was compelled, probably against his will, to compose a work against the Jews. Notwithstanding the forcible conversions, the Jews had the courage to make objections against the Messiahship of Jesus. They offered many reasons why Jesus could not have been the Messiah, and among these was also one which maintained that according to Scripture the Messiah should not come before the sixth millennium; and as it was then only from 4440 to ’47, they argued that Jesus could not be the Messiah. The Jewish reasons must at that time have appeared quite cogent, since, according to Julian’s work, many believing Christians had been induced thereby to renounce their faith. The king, Erwig, summoned his favourite, the archbishop Julian, to refute the points insisted on by the Jews, which he also did in a work called, “Proof of the sixth era of the world, and of the advent of Christ, against the Jews.”†
In the first book he proves that this mode of computation was first carried into the Scriptures by the Rabbins, and then follow the usual Christian arguments. In the second book the proofs from the New Testament are drawn forth. In the third book Julian labours hard to become in contradiction with himself, in attempting to prove that Christ should actually have been born in the sixth millennium. In this book he maintains, that the Jews had falsified the Hebrew text of the Bible, that the Septuagint alone could be relied on as the true source of biblical chronology, whence then he laboriously educes the six eras, and asserts that Jesus was born about the year 5200 after the creation of the world. By degrees Julian became a persecutor of the Jews.‡
Wittiza (701-710). The son of Egiza, already co-regent in 698, was compelled to contend already in the beginning of his reign against the conspiracy of both clergy and nobles, which induced him to humble them in the most signal manner. He had at first no time to devote to the Jews, and then he employed them as his confederates against the clergy. At the eighteenth synod of Toledo, he carried a decree through that all the laws promulgated against the Jews should be repealed, and that those who had already emigrated should be permitted to return to Spain. In the year 710, Wittiza was driven from the throne by Roderic, and he died.
Roderic (710-711) who was now king, had to maintain a fear<<511>>ful war with Eba and Sisebut, the sons of Wittiza. The civil war raged violently, and Count Julian, an adherent of Wittiza’s sons, entered into negotiations with the Saracens, against Roderic. Taric, who was at that time the bravest general of the African governor Musa, under the Calif Walid I., landed and pitched his camp on a high rock on the European side of the straits; this elevation has been called Gebl el Tarik (Gibraltar), and Jews in masses hastened to his standard. Near Xerez de la Frontera, and not far from Cadiz, a derisive battle was fought on the 19th of July, 711, which lasted till the 27th. The king, and the flower of the Gothic nobility and people were left dead on the field, and the Visigothic kingdom was at an end.
* * * * *
Fortunately the bloody laws of the councils and the kings were not always put into execution. The counts and dukes who were to see them carried into effect, were often content to let the Jews escape with a mere heavy fine and forced contribution, through which they were often enabled to maintain undiminished their power of resistance. In the same spirit we are told by Luke, Bishop of Tay (in the thirteenth century), in his chronicle, which is derived from old sources,* that Hilderic, Count of Nismes, who was a rebel against Wamba, had favoured the Jews in opposition to the laws of the kingdom.