Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

mikeh wrote:
In the Middle Ages, Jews as well as Christians seem to have had nothing but negative associations for Saturn... I suspect that the elevation of Saturn to the sphere of Binah was due to Ficino's influence on Alemanno.
While no doubt Alemanno was much influenced by Ficino, it is possible Alemanno here is following a much older associations between Binah and Saturn (some of which are explored for example in Idel's 'Messianic Mystics'). I suspect in fact the more direct influence here is Joseph Ashkenazi’s Commentary on Sefer Yetzirah.

Also a more positive evaluation of Saturn was made in Jewish sources from at least the 12th century, through the influential astrological works of Ibn Ezra that were available in Hebrew and Latin, influenced by arabic astrology.

Abulafia for example in a commentary on the 10 Sefiroth wrote:
“Among the stars, the power of Sabbatai corresponds to it (the land of Israel) because it is the highest among its companions, and behold, the supernal is appropriate to the supernal, and the nation of Israel is superior to all the nations...”

quoted in 'Toward the Millenium: Messianic expectations from the Bible to Waco' edited by Peter Schafer, Mark R. Cohen)
The negative associations were also incorporated by Jewish commentators as explanation of Jewish misfortunes and sufferings, and by Christian ant-semite commentators as Jewish malignancy.
mikeh wrote: Until such time I am shown otherwise, I conclude that Agrippa's source, either directly or through an intermediary, was most likely Alemanno or one of his students.
Quite feasible.

Francesco Giorgio also discusses Binah/Saturn in de Harmonia Mundi, which is a know source for Agrippa's OP.
Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.
T. S. Eliot

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

SteveM wrote
Does it specifically say it is in Occult Philosophy? More likely in De homine. I think it a quote that Agrippa takes without attribution from CH, which Lazarelli attibutes (wrongly or rightly) to the zohar.


66. Agrippa, De homine , 54v–56v, ed. Zambelli, 301–2. Compare this passage with Lazzarelli, Crater
, 15.2–3 and 16.1–2. On the Zohar passage, see edition of the Crater in Hanegraaff and Bouthoorn, Lodovico Lazzarelli , 217 and n. 126; so far, attempts to find the passage in the Zohar have remained unsuccessful.

note 66, page 19 from here: ... tism_2009_

Also found this google 'snippet'

“Crater Hermetis 30.3, which opposes the magical arts or “names of impurity” (Scemoth Sceltoma) against the divine secrets of the kabbalah, correctly paraphrases the contents of the Zohar 1.100a (and cf 1.133b).”

(The cabaslist friend of Agrippa, Agostini Ricci was court astrologer for the Marquis de Monferrato (and later physician to Pope Paul II), to whom Agrippa dedicated his Dialogus de Homine. In his own works, Agostini cites the Zohar and the Bahir. He also identifies the heavens (spheres of astrology) with the sephiroth.)
Thanks for mentioning De Homine. I didn't know about that work. I see now where Lazzarelli does cite the Zohar in CH 16.2, and that Agrippa probably read this passage in Lazzarelli, if, as Hanegraaff claims, Agrippa gives a close paraphrase of the quotation that Lazzarelli says is from the Zohar. However it remains to be seen if it actually does come from the Zohar. In the footnote you cited on p. 19, Hanegraaff says, "so far, attempts to find the quotation in the Zohar have remained unsuccessful". Footnote 126 of Hanegraaff and Bouthoorn says:
126. Norelli (in Mor 218) mentions Zohar 1.57b as closest to Lazzarelli's quotation, undoubtedly because both passages discuss Adam's sin as the cause of death (Zohar, "there is no death without sin"). But Zohar 157b does not contain anything resembling the quotation given by Lazzarelli, nor have we been able to find it elsewhere in the Zohar.
The alleged quotation reads:
"We would in no way know death if Adam had not sinned. But because he listened to the serpent, he brought death in both of its forms upon himself, his children, grandchildren and descendants. Because of that sin the creation has remained imperfect, and she shall not know consummation until the coming of the King Messiah. And then the stain of such great disobedience and intemperance will vanish away, and men will return to their pristine nature, such as the divine Mind intended it."
This does not sound like the Zohar to me. Does it really speak of the "divine Mind" (mens divina)?

Hanegraaff's other reference, to 15.2-3, is merely another place where Lazzarelli speaks of Adam's bringing death by his sin, due to the activity of the impure powers. This is not specific to the Zohar.

For CH 30.3, Hanegraaff does have a footnote indicating Lazzarelli's unacknowledged referencing of the Zohar passage your snippet indicated. I would expect that several Jewish writers would have repeated it without particular citation. It seems to me that I read something recently with similar language, commenting about the "sons of the concubines" etc., and it wasn't the Zohar. I will try to track it down.

Thanks also for correcting my uncritical use of Trachtenberg's report on medieval Jewish views of Saturn. Now I am wondering if it was only Jewish sources that had a positive view, or also Christian? Perhaps Ficino was influenced by Alemanno, or some other Jewish associate. [Added next day: I mean, it might be that he got it, and the four types of melancholy, from pseudo-Aristotle. But why did he look to, and trust, pseudo-Aristotle in the first place?]

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

MikeH wrote:
The alleged quotation reads:
"We would in no way know death if Adam had not sinned. But because he listened to the serpent, he brought death in both of its forms upon himself, his children, grandchildren and descendants. Because of that sin the creation has remained imperfect, and she shall not know consummation until the coming of the King Messiah. And then the stain of such great disobedience and intemperance will vanish away, and men will return to their pristine nature, such as the divine Mind intended it."
This does not sound like the Zohar to me. Does it really speak of the "divine Mind" (mens divina)?
My studies are from an older date, but as far I remember, Scholem gave the general opinion, that Kabbala movement till c. 1500 (more precisely likely 1492) followed the idea to describe, how god made the world, and started then to discuss, how the world would be finished.
Although there were various appearances of exaggerated Messias expectations before 1500, the climax naturally was the Shabbetai Zevi movement 1665/1666.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Huck wrote
My studies are from an older date, but as far I remember, Scholem gave the general opinion, that Kabbala movement till c. 1500 (more precisely likely 1492) followed the idea to describe, how god made the world, and started then to discuss, how the world would be finished.
Although there were various appearances of exaggerated Messias expectations before 1500, the climax naturally was the Shabbetai Zevi movement 1665/1666.
It is the specific vocabulary that Lazzarelli used that I am concerned about, "mens divina", which seems to me Neoplatonic as opposed to the Zohar tradition, which keeps to a mythological context (God made the world with the letters, etc.). According to Idel, the Jewish Spanish-Sefed movement used a mythological framework, whereas the Italian Jewish Kabbalah, at least starting with Alemanno and del Medigo (in the latter case, as a reason for rejecting Kabbalah), put that mythology into a Neoplatonist and/or Averroist or Avicennist philosophical framework. So I suspect that the quote that Lazzarelli thought was from the Zohar was really from a recent Italian Jewish reworking of the Zohar material. Scholem seemed to be unaware of, or perhaps discounted, the Italian trend that Idel makes much of. Idel calls it Italian "universalism" vs. Spanish-Safed "particularism". It is a crucial bit about in how Christian Neoplatonism influenced Jewish thought in Italy starting sometime in the later 15th century, documented by the 1490s in Alemanno, then in the 16th century in others.

The question of "finishing" the creation is something else. Platonizers such as Alemanno do not propose with their magic to "finish" creation, as opposed to perfecting one small portion of it. Messianism, at least in some forms, takes magic, whether conceived in mythological or philosophical terms, to an extreme.

In my previous post, I added one qualification to the hypothesis I posed at the end, i.e. that of possible Jewish influence on Ficino.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

mikeh wrote: So I suspect that the quote that Lazzarelli thought was from the Zohar was really from a recent Italian Jewish reworking of the Zohar material. Scholem seemed to be unaware of, or perhaps discounted, the Italian trend that Idel makes much of. Idel calls it Italian "universalism" vs. Spanish-Safed "particularism". It is a crucial bit about in how Christian Neoplatonism influenced Jewish thought in Italy starting sometime in the later 15th century, documented by the 1490s in Alemanno, then in the 16th century in others.
Hm. One thing, that I wondered about, was the Jewish presentation of the "50 doors of understanding", connected to Binah, contrasting the "32 ways of wisdom" connected to Chochmah. The Jewish presentation used a 5x10-scheme with a 50th door, which Moses wasn't allowed to enter.
That's rather comparable to the 50 elements of the Mantegna Tarocchi, something, from which I generally believe, that it was connected to Lazzarelli's early career.

The very early Jewish 50 doors of understanding (something, which hypothetically was connected to the binary scheme - as the "32 ways of wisdom") should have had a rather common 7x7+1 pattern, not a 5x10-scheme. it's a common talking in Kabbala contexts, that "mother" Binah (= 3) gave birth to the 7 remaining Sephiroth (= 4-10)

The 5x10-scheme for this Kabbala object didn't make sense. Could it have descended from the Christian interpretation during late 15th century? Possibly from Italy and from interpretations, which were near to the Mantegna Tarocchi? So that not only Christians took Kabbala, but also Jews took influences from Christians?

Kabbala used the picture of 4 world trees (4x10-scheme, arranged in a hierarchical order) in other contexts (10 Sephiroth), sometimes by modern Western interpreters used as representation of the number cards in Tarot.

4x10 is NOT 5x10, and anyway cards as numbers tell their own story.

Maybe, it's not clear, what I'm talking about ...

Here's the Kircher Sephiroth tree ...

And here in blue the "50 porta luci" (if I read this correctly) and the connection to the 32 ways of wisdom.


A common German expression is "50 Tore des Verstehens". English language seems to have expressions "50 gates of Intelligence" or "50 gates of wisdom" (whereby the use of "wisdom" is a little bit confusing, as wisdom is already used for the 32 ways).

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Hi Huck. Doing a little Google search for "fifty gates of intelligence" I see a couple of sources right off attributing the "fifty gates" to the Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashana 21:2 and BT Nedarim 38:1.
Fifty gates of understanding [binah] were created in the world, and all of them were given to Moses except for one. ... _pp._27-43
p. 38. So it's 7x7 + 1.

Nahmanides used it in his commentary on Genesis 1:1 and commentary on Leviticus 25:2. After that it was in the Zohar ( Pico in Heptaplus seemed to also have a 7x7 + 1 schema, but I only skimmed the article.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

I have done a small Google search for references to the "sons of the concubines" passage in Genesis interpreted in Lazzarelli's way, but not with reference to the Zohar. This is in reference to CH 30.3, a snippet that SteveM found and which Hanegraaff footnoted to the Zohar.

What Lazzarelli says, in Hanegraaff's translation (p. 263f) is:
30.3. For about the saying in Genesis: 'And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac; but to the sons of hte concubines he gave gifts," 222 the kabbalists say that what was given to the sons of the concubines were the Scemoth Sceltoma, that is to say the names of impurity, namely the magical arts. 233
232. Genesis 25:5-6
233.Zohar I, 100b, I, 133b.
I see Abulafia saying the same thing, on p. 338 at ... ia&f=false
I don't see the Hebrew words, but that's probably because the author didn't think to give us them.

It seems to me that the interpretation of the "gifts" as the lower arts of sorcery, astrology, etc. was standard lore independently of the Zohar. Lazzarelli again probably got it from Alemanno, who got it from Abulafia or other sources and passed it on in the late 1460s. We have to remember that the Zohar was written in artificial Aramaic. It is unlikely Lazzarelli could have read much of it, even if somehow he got a copy. At most he read Recanati's quotes, which may or may not have included this part. I don't know if he had access to that book, via Pico, or not.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

I want now to explore a different aspect of Jewish-Christian interaction, this time in relation to Ramon Llull's "combinatory art", going from a Jewish text in late 13th century Barcelona, to Llull's Ars Brevis in Pisa, 1308, to Pico's Apologia. Then in later posts I will try to fill in the speculative area on both sides of the 1487 Apologia..

Judging from Idel's writings, Alemanno does not seem to have quoted anything else, besides the part on golem-making, from Eleazar of Worms' Commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah Idel does mention in one article ( ... c_Kabbalah, from Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 51 (1988), pp. 170–74) that Eleazar's commentary also contains "an interesting parallel to Lull" (p. 171), meaning the Catalan mystic Ramon Llull. Idel does not elaborate and simply refers us to Perush Sefer Yezira, Perzemyl 1853, Fols. 5ab, 17c-20b. Since Idel's article is about Llull's 'ars combinatoria', I assume that Eleazar says something there about that. In any case, that is what I want to talk about in this post--the interrelationship between Llull's "ars" and Pico's Kabbalah, up to the end of the 15th century. I will mostly be sticking with Idel's article, including how it might apply to cartomancy; it has to do with the art of combining different elements. At the end of the post I will bring in Trachtenberg again, on the subject of the various "names" that were used by the Kabbalists, as it wasn't just the four letter name and the seventy-two letter (actually, syllable) name; there was also a 14 letter name and a 22 letter name. This is part of a lead-in to the subject of what Pico might have meant in making the Llullist "art" part of Kabbalah, because Llull himself was not, in spite of a later tradition, a Kabbalist in the usual sense.


In his Apologia Pico talks about a Kabbalah that is similar to the "ars combinandi" of Ramon Llull (Idel p. 170):
quae dicitur ars combinandi ... et est simile quid sicut apud nostros dicitur ars Raymundi, licet forte diuerso modo procedant
In English, the corresponding passage reads (translated in Hanes, "Between the March of Ancona and Florence", at ... ia&f=false, p. 294):
that which is called hohmat har zeruf [revolution or combination of letters] is a combinatory art and it is a method for gaining knowledge, and it is similar to that which we refer to as ars Raymundi, although it proceeds in a very different manner.
He says further:
Illa enim ars combinandi, est quam ego in conclusionibus meis uoco, Alphabetarium reuolutionem.
Rather than try to translate this myself, I will give the entire passage in which the two quotes are embedded, in Latin and in Umberto Eco's translation, in From the Tree to the Labyrinth, 2014, pp. 409-410. I highlight the parts that Idel cited:
Duas scientias hoc etiam nomine honorifi carunt. Unam quae dicitur ..... .... [hokmat haseruf ], id est ars combinandi, et est modus quidam procedendi in scientijs et est simile quid sicut apud nostros dicitur ars Raymundi, licet forte diverso modo procedant. Aliam quae est de virtutibus rerum superiorum que sunt supra lunam et est pars magiae naturalis supremae. Utraque istarum apud Hebraeos etiam dicitur Cabalam propter rationem iam dictam, et de utraque istarum etiam aliquando fecimus mentionem in conclusionibus nostris. Illa enim est ars combinandi quam ego in conclusionibus meis voco alphabetariam revolutionem. Et ista quae est de virtutibus rerum superiorum [410] quae uno modo potest capi ut pars magiae naturalis.

(They also honored two sciences with this name. One is called ..... .... [hokmat haseruf ], that is the combinatory art, and it is a certain way of proceeding in the sciences, similar to what we call the ars Raymundi, even though on occasion they may proceed in a different manner. The other which has to do with the powers of the higher things that are above the moon is part of the supreme natural magic. Both these two sciences are called Kabbalah among the Hebrews for the reason previously mentioned. And we have spoken of both some time ago in our Conclusiones]. The first in fact is the combinatory art that I refer to in my Conclusiones as the revolutio alphabetaria. And the second is the one that has to do with the powers of higher things, which can be thought of as a part of natural magic) (Apologia, 5, 28).
There are some differences between Hames' translation of Idel's first quote and Eco's of the same one. The main difference is in the translation of "forte"; Hames reads it as "very" and Eco as "perhaps". According to Google Translate, Eco is right: if it meant "very", the word would be "fortis".

When Pico refers to his Conclusiones, he means, Idel says, the 2nd Thesis of his "Cabalistic Conclusions Confirming the Christian Religion" (i.e. his own, as opposed to those of the "Cabalistic Wisemen"), from which Idel quotes:
Prima est scientia quam ego uoco Alphabetariae reuolutionis correspondentum parti philosophiae, quam ego philosophiam catholica uoco
Here is the entire 2nd Thesis, with the part Idel cited in bold (Farmer, Syncretism in the West, p. 521):
Whatever other Cabalists say, I divide the speculative part of the Cabala [the science of names] four ways, corresponding to the four divisions of philosophy that I generally make. The first is what I call the science of the revolution of the alphabet, corresponding to the part of philosophy that I call universal philosophy. The second, third, and fourth is the threefold merkabah [chariot], corresponding to the three parts of particular philosophy, concerning divine, middle and sensible natures.
When Pico refers to the "speculative" part of Kabbalah, he means, according his first Thesis (which I didn't quote), the part that deals with the "science of shemot [names]", as opposed to the "science of sefirot'. This is the reverse of how the distinction was usually made in medieval Jewish texts, Farmer says (p. 518). Here Pico is stating his own theses, not reporting others' views. His rationale for switching is unclear.

Idel, drawing the parallel with Pico and LLull, cites the Barcelona Kabbalist text he thinks might be related to the "ars Raymundi", an anonymous 13th century commentary on the Jewish liturgy (p. 171). Its first and longest part deals with two figures. One has three concentric circles with alphabets inscribed on their circumferences; the circles are designed to revolve, so that all combinations of three letters can be selected in one line going from the outer circumference to the inner circumference. The second figure lists a series of words to be associated with each letter of the alphabet. For example, for aleph it lists 'Or Kadmon, i.e. primeval light, El (God), Adon (Lord), Ehad (One), 'Emet (Truth), etc.

The text then interprets the letter combinations, at least some of them, in terms of the concepts. Idel gives one example; it combines the two letters dalet and kof. The anonymous author picks out two words, Da'at and Kedushah, presumably from a longer pair of lists. He says:
Da'at (Knowledge) and Kedushah (Holiness). It shows that out of this combination appear the ideas of the perfect righteous who apprehend the knowledge of the Holy and pure ideas which emanate from this combination.
Idel observes (p. 171)
It is obvious that this technique of interpreting the meaning of the various combinations of letters resulting from the revolving of the concentric circles corresponds to the scientia mentioned by Pico.
By "scientia" Idel has explained, Pico means wisdom. That would seem to be the object of the circles in the anonymous commentary as well. In Llul's Ars Brevis of 1308 there is a similar figure of three concentric circles, all designed to rotate, and an alphabet on each one, or more precisely, the first nine letters of the Latin alphabet. These correspond to six lists of nine words or phrases each, thereby forming six columns.


I am struck immediately by how easy it would be to adopt this idea of three circles to cards: instead of rotating the circles, one selects three cards. Then if you know the necessary words or concepts, you can combine them into something thoughtful--how thoughtful, depends upon the person doing the combining and on the subject the words relate to. If they are religious words,the thoughts will be pious ones. If multiple possibilities for each letter, and hence card, are listed, it will not be hard to come up with a variety of thoughts. In the sphere of fortune-telling, this is precisely Etteilla's method six centuries later: on the card there is a keyword, but there are also many "synonyms and related meanings" listed in the books by Etteilla's disciples designed (at his request) to supplement the deck. In the tarot of the Ferrara-area preacher of the "Steele Sermon", sometime between 1460 and 1500, the words might only be the titles that he gives for the cards.

Besides the fortune-telling context, the other main difference between this and cartomancy is that the cards are picked randomly, not selected by turning the wheel. That, of course, is a big difference.

Somewhere in between the two, we have the Italian tarocchi appropriati by Folengo and others starting in the second quarter of the 16th century, giving advice or making comments about life that incorporate the titles of various tarot cards. In Folengo's case, the cards to be combined are presented as though they were picked randomly by the people to whom he applies them, but it may well be that this is just a device Folengo uses; that is, he may have selected the cards in a non-random way, to fit the sonnets.


There is no evidence that Pico knew the anonymous 13th century Jewish text. But he might have known another text, which the Barcelona text seems based on. Idel continues:
It seems that Pico in fact referred to the specific system found in another commentary by the anonymous Kabbalist, a commentary to Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, a late midrash unfortunately lost, though quoted several times in the commentary on the liturgy. 13 ...It is possible, at least theoretically, that Pico was acquainted with this lost work.
13. See e.g. Heschel (as in n. 11 [Abraham Joshua Heschel, 'Perush 'al Tefilot,' in Kovez Mada'y Likhvod Moshe Shor, New York, 1945, pp. 113-126]), p. 120.)
Idel thinks that the anonymous author might be referring to a lost midrash, Such a text might have been old enough to have been preserved by Italian Jews.All this is pretty hypothetical and vague. Pico only mentions Llull, who was not thought of as a Kabbalist. He might, however, be referring to something more recent, or perhaps even something not yet written but in his head, Llull's "ars" made Kabbalist.

Pico may not be talking about a Jewish Kabbalah at all, but rather his own adaptation, one that gets to what he supposes is the Christian essence of those non-Christian works.

Llull seems to have done the same kind of thing. Idel observes that Llull was in Barcelona at the right time to have read one of the Kabbalist manuscripts with a similar set of circles.

But would a Jew have shown this text to a Christian such as Llull? Idel notes that Abulafia, who openly preached to Christians when he was in Italy, was in Barcelona about the same time as Llull. Abulafia had teachers and students in Barcelona who might have done the same.

Abulafia's goal in combining letters was not the same as Llull's: Abulafia was concerned with the attainment of an ecstatic union with the divine. Yet wisdom may well have been a part of that union, or so it seems to me. If attaining the level of the Averroist "active intellect" was part of his method, that would seem to imply some kind of use of the intellect, if only to transcend it, throwing away the ladder, in the end.


At the beginning of Ars Brevis there is a table with rows and columns. The columns consist of (a) attributes that would be appropriate to apply to God, i.e. great, good, glorious, etc., in other words, the Names of God, of which the names of the sefirot are other examples); (b) modes or measurements of being, i.e. greater, less, different, concordant, beginning, ending, etc; (c) types of questions, i.e. what, when, where, why, how much; (d) subjects, in a hierarchy from "instrumental" to God; (e) virtues; and (f) vices.

This chart is from Bonner vol. 1 p. 581, reproduced online at

The phrase "attributes that would be appropriate to apply to God", is my own. In earlier work, Llull used the word "dignities" and applied them specifically to God. In that way they correspond closely to "names of God" in pseudo-Dionysius or the Jewish "divine names" tradition; there is even a Hebrew word that corresponds to "dignities". However in Ars Brevis he wants the terms to be of more general application. They apply in an unlimited way to God, and in a more limited or even non-existent way to individual humans and other beings.

Illuminators and engravers concocted imaginative representations of the columns, portrayed as ladders, people hanging from towers, etc. Here is one, which I get from ... _Llull.jpg. It appears to be from a manuscript of 1321-1336 ( ... iculum.htm), in a work by Llull's follower Thomas Le Myésier:

In Roob, Alchemy and Mysticism, p. 290, I found an explanation of this illumination:
The nine philosophers at the right-hand edge embody the nine doubts, which can arise in the face of the nine object realms of the universe; these are listed on the first ladder. On the second ladder Lull demonstrated the nine absolute and relative principles"(...) these rules guide the willing reason according to certain principles, from the tower of trust, away from the doubts of your questions, for they embrace the causes of everything in existence." But the "Ars" ends at the tower. Its summit and the haloed trinity can now be reached by the "rope of mercy" which the hand of God is lowering. At the top of this hangs the intellect, followed by memory, the will and the seven virtues. The seven vices roast in Hell. (Translated incriptions: W. Buechel/T. Pindl-Buechel, in Lullus-le Myesier, Electorium parvum seu Breviculum, Wiesbaden, 1988.)

Another example is an engraving of 1512, which one website ( ... e-seville/) puts with a cosmograph that we discussed in another thread. This engraving shows Llull's "scala" (ladder or stairs) to heaven.

Llull shows how his "alphabet" in 6 columns works, by means of four "figures"; they can be seen at, with short, simple, but incomplete explanations. The first two figures introduce the words or phrases of the first two columns. The third figure lists all the binary combinations of those words/phrases, 36 of them, The fourth figure is three concentric circles that can be rotated, each with the 9 letters associated with the 9 words or phrases in the columns. There are 1,680 combinations, he says.(Eco explains where this number comes from on pp.392-394 of The Tree and the Labyrinth, omitted from the Google Books selections.)

In the "Ars Brevis" itself, I do not see anything corresponding to the Platonic "ladder of ascent" in any of the columns. For Plato, and Ficino after him, the seeker after knowledge ascends through the unfolding of contradictions ("dialectic") from sensation to opinion to knowledge. Llull's lists, in general, are merely ways of classifying things of a certain type in an exhaustive way, so that one may examine them in a process of elimination. With the "subjects" in the engraving, we do not start at the "instrumental" level and ascend through the mineral, vegatable, etc., levels. These are just types of things in existence, from things not found in nature to God. In this particular case, there is a hierarchy of being, each step being closer in essence to God. But It is not a ladder to be climbed by the seeker; rather, it is a series of modes of being, to be examined as needed.

Systems of cartomancy, starting with Etteilla, work in much the same way as Llull's columns. First there is a list of questions, of which the consultant selects one. That is the starting point.Then five or more cards, out of a pack containing all of them, are selected--out of 33 in the piquet deck, 78 in the tarot. A deck of just the 22 special cards could also be used. These cards, however many there are, correspond to the other four columns. Then the reader combines them in a definite order. As in the case of letter combinations, the selection is from the total number available, not just a part of them.

The types of thing in the deck correspond somewhat to four of Llull's columns: those of "figure A" apply to Emperors, Empresses, Popes, Triumphators, etc. all earthly images of God. The Popess would fit either as the Church or as the head of a female priesthood. I think the Fool and the Bateleur would also fit here. The Bateleur is a creator; the Fool is without concepts. The column Lull calls "subjects" is a hierarchy of closeness to God, as in the last section of the tarot sequence, although the tarot hierarchy starts with the embodied human (departing from this body at Death) and goes up from there. The columns of the virtues and vices correspond in the tarot to the virtues and evils there (some not labeled as such), mostly in the middle section. The "measure" categories (my term) might be reflected in the number cards, to which those concepts readily apply..

A major difference, as I have already said, is betwen how Llullian concepts are selected vs. cards in a reading. For Llull, they concepts come from the terms in which the question is framed. In cartomancy, they come from the cards that are picked blindly by the consultant.After that, however, there is a procedure of combining elements, whether from a well-constructed question or from an apparently random assortment of cards,

In the ecstatic Kabbalah, the result of combinatorial activity with letters or names is an influx of divine energy and an elevation of the soul, up to the sefirot themselves. It is from that standpoint that prophecy is possible, including knowing people's futures.

But its success depends in part on the conduct of those engaging in this practice. I quote Idel's quotation from Alemanno (Idel 2011 p. 188). I include Idel's comments--which he makes in the form of footnotes--although they are not what I want to talk about:
...the astrologers who have described Saturn say that it endows man with profound thought, law, and the spiritual sciences [holdimot ruhaniyyot], 49 prophecy [neuu'ah], 50 sorcery [kishshuf], 51 and prognostication and the Shemittot and Yovelot. 52 ... But if they [the Jews] do not keep the way of God, it will spit forth everything that is bad: prophecy will occur to fools and to babies in an insufficient manner, and to women and to melancholics, 54 and to those possessed by an evil spirit and maleficent demons that obliterate the limbs, 55 and bad counsels and sorceries, and anxieties and erroneous beliefs. 56
50. For this nexus see already R. Joseph ben Shalom Ashkenazi's Commentary on Sefer Yetzirah (Epstein, Jerusalem, 1961), fols. 5ib~52a.

51. This understanding of sorcery as related to Saturn stems, in Jewish sources, from R. Abraham ibn Ezra, Reshit Hokhmah, chap. 4. 1 combined the version found in a passage of this book as explicitly quoted in R Joseph Bonfils, Tzajhat Pa'aneah, ed. David Herzog, vol. 1 (Krakow, 1912), p. 49, with the commonly used edition of the book (cited just below). See also ibid., p. 270. The common version of this passage, as edited and translated by Raphael Levi and Francisco Cantera, The Beginning of Wisdom: An Astrological Treatise by Abraham ibn Ezra (Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore; Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1939), pp. xlii-xliv, does not contain the reference to incantation and sorcery.

52. These are terms for cosmical cycles according to Kabbalists, which interpreted biblical practices of cessation of agricultural works. The nexus between these two practices and Saturn is manifest already in the passage of Abraham Abulafia and even more in R Joseph ben Shalom Ashkenazi's influential Commentary on Sefer Yetzirah. See Moshe Idel, "Saturn and Sabbatai Tzevi: A New Approach to Sabbateanism," in Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations jrom the Bible to Waco, ed. Peter Schaefer and Mark Cohen (Brill, Leiden, 1998), pp. 179-180. See also above, chap. 12, note 39.
54. On Saturn and melancholy see the important study by Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, and Fritz Saxl, Saturne et la melancholie, trans. L. Evrard (Gallimard, Paris, 1989).

55. Apparently hemiplegia.

56. Alemanno, untitled treatise, Ms. Paris, BN 849, fols. 940-958, which is part of a passage dealing with the sefirah of Binah. See also Idel, "The Magical and Neoplatonic Interpretations," p. 209.
Similarly Etteilla stresses that the card-reader cannot just be a fortune-teller. He has to be well-versed in the Kaballah and other esoteric subjects as well as leading a life devoted to God and his commandments. It is only from such a place that a combination of words can turn, through the cartomancer's skill, into a guiding principle for one's future well-being. (Actually, he calls it "cartonomancy", to emphasize the importance of numbers in this scientia; but common usage did not adopt his term.)

There is also another difference, not between Etteilla and Llull but between Etteilla and Pico. Pico insists that the words to be pronounced, if there is to be magic, must be in Hebrew or Aramaic. This is in magical conclusion 9>22 (Farmer, p. 501):
No names that mean something, insofar as those names are singular and taken per se, can have power in a magical work, unless they are Hebrew names, or clearly derived from Hebrew.

Farmer explains that by "clearly derived from Hebrew" Pico means Aramaic. Farmer also points out that in his conclusions on the Orphic Hymns, he seems to imply that Greek will work as well.

And between Etteilla/Llull and Abulafia there is also another difference: Abulafia's words, for the most part, are nothing like those of Llull, much less those of the tarot. They are words of scripture, or else derived by his methods from such words, consisting of the letters as conceived by the Sefer Yetzirah.

For Abulafia and the "ecstatic Kabbalah", the most important "name of God", besides the tetragrammaton, was the the 72 syllable one, made up of 72 3-character units, each formed from 3 successive 72 word verses in Exodus (Trachtenberg, p. 95). That does not quite fit the tarot; but Trachtenberg says there were also 12, 14, 22, and 42 letter names, of which the first two seem not to have caught on. I will cquote Trachtenberg on them because two of these numbers have been discussed in relation to the tarot seqauence, mainly 22, of course, but also 14 (p. 92):
The name if 12 letters, mentioned in the Talmud, was a dead-letter in post-Talmudic times... Its place, however, was taken by two new names of 14 and 22 letters, the first of which was comparatively little used. ...Though recognized as a legitimate name of God 33, and occasionally employed in incantations and amulets, its primary use was as an inscription on the back of the mezuza.

The name of 22 letters, however, is another matter, more interesting and puzzling--and much more imortant for the magician. Its debut was made in thr Sefer Raziel, 34 which, while largly ascribed to Eleazar of Worms, drew extensively upon Geonic mystic sources. ...It achieved a wide popularity very rapidly, was employed in many invocaigtons and charms in an especially potent name, and in the seventeent century it was introduced into the ritual of the synagogue, in a prayer which was attached to the reading of the Priestly Benediction.

Approximately transliterated into Latin characters, it is Anaktam Pastam Paspazim Dionsius, words that appear nowhere in Hebrew or Aramaic. There are two conjectures as to its origin: (1) it is a garbled version of Greek and/or Zoroastrian gods; and (2) it comes from the Benediction, which also has 22 letters. divided almost the same way, garbled by means of transpositions and substitutions. Trachtenberg favors the latter.

The 42 letter name traditionally derives from the first 42 letters in the bible. Trachtenberg sees "no reason to doubt the truth of this report" (p. 95).

Whatever any of this may have to do with the tarot, none of it has anything to do with Llull. These words are letter combinations derived by transforming the letters in sacred verses. They are not concepts of the understanding.


I am not at all sure how Pico expected to make Llull speak Hebrew. One way would be simply chant appropriate Hebrew letter combinations, following some established "recipe", before giving the interpretation of the Latin words to be combined. Then from the height so attained, the oracle would be announced. Another possibility is that people after Pico, trying to apply Kabbalah to the tarot, might simply have disregarded this requirement; for Christians participating in the Eucharist, Latin seems to work fine, and so by implication would other languages (despite the Church's resistance). Another approach might have been to combine Llull and Kabbalah in some way and then apply that fusion to tarot. Llull and Kabbalah were in fact combined very soon after Pico's death; I don't know whether enough of how it was done is in English or not. I will do some more research.

Another way out might have been to literally translate Llull into Hebrew. Since there is a lot written about that, I will deal with it next.

It is known that the last named alternative, translating Llull into Hebrew, was indeed carried out, probably in the exact year of 1474 (and no later than 1476), in the Italian town of Senigallia, on the Adriatic Sea between Ancona and Pesaro. This information is given in the Colophon of the manuscript, the part at the end that gives the circumstances under which the manuscript was made. The text so translated was in fact Llull's "Ars Brevis", the one with the six columns and nine rows of words and phrases.

The translation and its colophon are worth examining, for what they do with Llull's ideas. According to Harvey Hames, in a series of articles, it isn't just a translation but an adaptation to the ecstatic Kabbalah. Not only that, but there is reason for thinking that it was done with the participation of Alemanno or Mithradites, two of the collaborators of Pico later, and others who, like Alemanno, had a probable relationship to French-descended Jews in Mantua. But this is a story for another post.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

mikeh wrote:Hi Huck. Doing a little Google search for "fifty gates of intelligence" I see a couple of sources right off attributing the "fifty gates" to the Babylonian Talmud Rosh Hashana 21:2 and BT Nedarim 38:1.
Fifty gates of understanding [binah] were created in the world, and all of them were given to Moses except for one. ... _pp._27-43
p. 38. So it's 7x7 + 1.

Nahmanides used it in his commentary on Genesis 1:1 and commentary on Leviticus 25:2. After that it was in the Zohar ( Pico in Heptaplus seemed to also have a 7x7 + 1 schema, but I only skimmed the article.
That's fine, there you know more than I do. But I know descriptions of these 50 intelligences obviously in 5x10-structure in secondary sources (from which I don't know origin and source, and I even did forget, where I did see them). I wonder, how this happened. I suspect an after-Mantegna-Tarocchi development.

Re: Jewish-Christian interactions in Italy before 1500

Hi Huck. I don't know about 5x10 structures in Kabbalah. Even the original source, Leviticus chapter 25, has a 7x7 + 1 structure.

I am going to continue pursuing my previous line of thought, about the translation of Llull into Hebrew, 1474. In this post I am just going to focus on its colophon, i.e. the part at the end that gives the circumstances of the manuscript's creation. I am going to look at the questions of who was involved and what their point of view was. Then in another post I'll look at the translation itself, in relation to the Latin original.

The 1474 Hebrew manuscript version of Lull's "Ars Brevis" has been the subject of several articles by Harvey Hames, a professor at Ben Gurion University. The first, 1999, is: "Jewish Magic with a Christian Text: a Hebrew Translation of Ramon Llull's 'Ars Brevis'" Traditio, Vol. 54, 1999, pp. 283-300, available on JSTOR. There are also two later articles. One is in Invoking Angels: Theurgic Ideas and Practices, Thirteenth to Sixteenth Centuries, ed. Claire Fanger, 2012, starting on p. 294, at ... ia&f=false. The other is in Latin into Hebrew: Texts and Studies, Vol. 2, ed, Resianne Fontaine and Gad Freudenthal, 2013, starting on p. 136. Part of this article is online, at ... is&f=false. Since the relevant parts of the last two are online for anyone, I will focus on his earlier article and supplement it as necessary.

According to Hames, the Latin manuscript used is of the same "stemma" (manuscript family) as that of numerous manuscripts in 15th century Padua (1999, p. 287), although the exact Latin manuscript used is no longer extant (2012, p. 298). That the Latin version of the manuscript was in Padua is also indicated by its flyleaf; it had been acquired by a "Matthew de Regusa" and then sold to a "Brother Johannes de Ulma in Germany". A "friar" by the first name was presented for his master's degree at Padua in 1430, and a Dominican by the second name received a doctorate there in 1444.

Then Alemanno enters the story, at least theoretically; I will let Hames tell his reconstruction of events (1999, p. 287f). I include his footnotes, except for some of the more generic citations (to whole articles rather than specific pages), to make the reading flow better; these can be found in JSTOR's online copy.
It would seem that this manuscript changed ownership a number of times in Padua and likely came into the hands of the celebrated Jewish Renaissance scholar, Johanan Alemanno (1435-1503/4), while he was in that town. 20 Alemanno was a nomadic scholar of a Neoplatonic bent who is best known as one [288] of Pico della Mirandola's teachers in Jewish matters (along with Elijah del Medigo and the convert Flavius Mithridates). 21 While there is very little biographical information about his early years, it is possible to place Alemanno in Florence in 1455-56, whence he returned again in 1488 and where he remained at least till 1494, the year of Pico's death, and perhaps even until 1497. 22 Alemanno also spent seven years in Padua studying medicine, among other things, and was awarded his doctoral degree there by Judah Messer Leon in 1470. 23 Alemanno, whose writings indicate his broad intellectual interests and syncretism, would have found much to interest him beyond the study of medicine in Padua. His notebook, which consists of materials he copied, translated, and commented on over a thirty-year period, deals with a variety of subjects, such as moral and political philosophy, Kabbalah, and magic.24 It is the conception of the potentiality of man to ascend to and descend from the divine via nature or creation that probably attracted Alemanno and other Jewish thinkers to Llull in general and to the Ars brevis in particular.25
20. This supposition is supported by the fact that the Hebrew translation follows the Latin of the manuscripts in this stemma, and this manuscript is the only one of this group that has figures (like the Hebrew manuscript) and can be placed in Padua. The Aristotelian works would also have been of great interest for Alemanno, who in his study curriculum recommends broad study of Aristotle. Even if Alemanno did not see the manuscript in Padua, the colophon of the Hebrew translation demonstrates his importance for the group of scholars studying the Ars brevis. For an analysis of the manuscript tradition of the Ars brevis, see Raimundi Lull Opera Latina 12, 176-77. See also M. Idel, "The Study Curriculum of Johanan Alemanno" (in Hebrew), Tarbiz 48 (1979): 304-12.

21. [generic bibliography, followed by:] Alemanno was proud of his connections with Pico and that their names were so similar. In the introduction to his commentary on the Song of Songs, Alemanno wrote: "my master Count Johanni della Mirandola, my name is like his, Yohanan . .. named Ashkenazi in Hebrew and Aleman in Latin." See J. Perles, "Les savants juifs a Florence a l'Epoque de Laurent de Medicis," Revue des etudes juives 12 (1886): 255-56.

22. [generic bibliography about Alemanno]

23. [generic bibliography and background on Judah Messer Leon and del Medigo, none of it I haven't already said, except for assertions that del Medigo actually taught at the University, although not on the faculty, and that JMD was "connected" with the university. He cites articles by Geffen, Ruderman, and Carpi]

24. See his Collectaneae, MS Oxford, Bodleian Library 2234 (Reggio 23).

25. Alemanno knew and studied the Hebrew version of Ibn al-Sid al-Batalyawsi's Katab al Hada'iq (Book of the Imaginary Circles) in which the concept of a ladder (an allegory for the Universal Soul) for ascending from earth to the Agent Intellect appears. Alemanno's adaptation of this motif in his 'Einei ha- 'Edah, a commentary on Genesis, influenced Pico della Mirandola's formulation of the ladder used for ascent and descent in his Oratio. See M. Idel, "The Ladder of Ascension: The Reverberations of a Medieval Motif in the Renaissance," in I. Twersky, ed., Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (Cambridge, Mass., 1984) 2:83-88.
Hames' placing of Alemanno in Florence in 1455-56 is a shrewd move: those years are between the 3rd and 4th periods of 7 years each; so one does not have to decide in which 7 year period he was in Florence. This is the time period that I have hypothesized Alemanno would have gotten his introduction to Platonism. Since my earlier post, I have found some additional evidence for this hypothesis, in David Ruderman's The World of a Renaissance Jew, 1981, p. 51. He notes that in 1454-55 Judah Messer Leon
accused the kabbalists of his generation, in a letter to the Jewish commuity of Florence, of myultiplying God's name and mixing their mystical inquiries with Platonic elements. 75 Scholem mentioned that the date of the letter was about 1490; yet Simbah Assaf had already dated this letter with others sent to Florence between 1454 and 1455, during the heat of the controversy of Messer Leon over the Torah commentary of Gersonides. Because of this early date, it seems unlikely that Messer Leon would have referred to Pico or any manifestation of Christian Kabbalah in Florence. 76
75. Scholem, "Zur Geschichte [den Anfaenge der christlichen Kabbala," in Essays Presented to Leo Baeck," London, 1935], pp. 191-92. Scholem's source is a letter sent by Messer Leon to the Lewish community of Florence, published from a Jerusalem manuscript by S. Assaf, "From the Hidden Treasures of the Library in Jerusalem" (Hebrew), in Minhah le-David, Kovez Ma'amarim by Hokhmat Yesrael...R.David Yellin (Jerusalem, 1935), p. 227. The passage reads: {Hebrew text follows, omitted here].
76. Assaf, "From the Hidden Treasures," p. 224.
That Allemano spent 7 years in Padua, ending in 1470, is also a good guess on Hames' part. Several scholars have said that his teacher, Judah Messer Leon, had come to Padua by the mid-1460s (Tirosh-Rothschild, Between Worlds p. 29 and p. 251, n. 87, citing Carpi and Bonfil); also, it fits Alemanno's conception of life as divided into periods of 7 years, as well as what he puts in this fourth period for subject-matter: Jewish theology, specifically includng Kabbalist works such as Abulafia (Tirosh-Rothschild p. 37).

Regarding the idea in footnote 25 in the quote from Hames, that Alemanno's conception of the ladder influenced Pico's formulation in his Oratio, I would observe that the Oration was written in late 1486 or early 1487, a year before Pico says he exchanged ideas with Alemanno. If Alemanno was Pico's teacher on this point, they must have known each other, or some mutual acquaintance, before then. This is a problem that Hames addresses, as we shall see. I would also note that Alemanno, as quoted in footnote 21, calls Pico "my master"; does that mean only "employer", or also "teacher"? You will recall that Pico's nephew thought it was the other way around, that Alemanno was Pico's master. No doubt there was much interchange of ideas. Without getting into the arguments, however, let me just say that the consensus--that is, all the scholars who have written on this, including Idel--is that mainly Alemanno was the teacher, Pico the student. Pico touches the surface of which Alemanno explores more deeply and with reference to long Jewish tradition.


The Colophon--the part added at the end of a manuscript to tell the circumstances of its production--has what appears to be four paragraphs; either that or Hames has made these divisions for readability. It is of considerable interest (pp. 289-290 of 1999 article), However Hanes has presented a slightly different translation in each article. What I am going to do is, paragraph by paragraph, present Hames' first version and then the later changes, I will highlight the parts changed and my additions indicating what they were changed to:
To thank, praise, and honor the blessed and exalted Lord who has helped me to finish this famous wisdom. Raimundus [the] Christian completed (hishlim) this book in the town of Senigallia in the month of Ab, in the year 5234 [July-Aug. 1474].

[My note: Hames 2012, p. 299, and 2013, p. 138. omit "[the] Christian" in the above.]

This time as well, I will give thanks to God who held my right hand, and who aided me with his support, and in his benevolence made me successful, and who helped me with his aid and support to ascend Hor ha-Har (Num. 20:23-29, Deut. 32:50), mountain upon mountain, until attaining the peak of thirteen mountains. And in them I found very sharp brambles (Prov. 24:31), thorns (Song of Sol. 2:2), and briars (Judg. 8:7, 17), and holes, pits, and caves and deep wells down to the bottomless hell (Deut. 32:22). And fortified hewn rocks going above the vault (firmament) of heaven (rakia ha-shamayim - Gen. 1:14, 15, 17, 20, perhaps also [290] Ezek. 1:22, 23) and beyond to the tower until ezer. I will thank and bow down [to Him] who led me through all this and I arrived at the fruit of my labor, I took the trouble and I found [Him].

[My note: Hames 2012 and 2013 have "and beyond to the strong tower (migdal oz)" replacing the "until ezer" after "tower" with "strong" before.]

And I completed the copying of this work - short in quantity but great in quality - today, Friday, of the weekly portion "and behold a ladder positioned on the ground and its top reaches to the heavens" (Gen. 28:12), 8 of Kislev in the year 5235 [28 November 1474], a full hundred years after its composition. And I was on the shores of the Adriatic Sea in the town of Senigallia which is on the River Miola [Misa]. Signed by the youngest of the disciples of the French doctors, Pinhas Tzvi, son of Nethanel Macon called Abin Abinu ibn Tura Hafetz Hazak. 27

[My note: 2012 and 2013 have "Nethanel Vaison". 2013 has as a footnote: "probably Vaison-la-Romaine in the Comtat Venaissin. 2013 has "Abin Abat" instead of "Abin Abinu".]

I copied this book of Raimundus at the side of my teacher, the scholar, guide for the perplexed, Maestro Pinhas the doctor, may God protect and preserve him, here in Senigallia in the month of Iyar, in the year 5236 [7-12 May 1476], the weekly portion "for it is a day of atonement" (Lev. 23:28). May the Lord blessed be He in His mercy give me and my seed to the end of days the merit to study it. In strength, the copyist Joseph, the son of Nehemiah Poah of blessed memory. 28

[My note: Hames 2012 and 2013 have "Nehemiah Foah"; a note in Hames 2013 says "Foah probably indicates a southern French origin in the town of Foix.']
27. These words seem to indicate another name for Pinhas or his father Nethanel.
28. MS New York, Jewish Theological Seminary, Mie 2312, fols. 41r-v.
First, a certain "Raimundus [the] Christian", or just "Raimondus", gives thanks for having finished the work in the month of Ab, 5234, i.e. August 1474, in the town of Sanigalia. Second, he describes his labor in terms of biblical quotes, about an ascent to the highest of 13 peaks (the 13 chapters of and the difficulties encountered in doing so: brambles, bottomless holes, fortified rocks, etc. Third, with "ladder of ascent" language and a Hebrew date equivalent to November, 1474, in the same town, on the Adriatic Sea, the document is signed by the copyist, Pinhas Tzvi, son of Nethanel Macon or Vaison. And fourth, another copyist, at the right side of Maestro Pinhas, also in Senigallia, signs himself; the Hebrew date is equal to May 1476; this copyist is Joseph son of Nehemia Poah or Foah.

So Joseph copied from Pinhas, who copied from somebody else, perhaps the translator himself.

First I want to discuss the significance of the descriptions the two copyists give to themselves. The second copyist's family seems to be from a French-speaking area. Foix is just north of the Pyrenees and formerly very much part of the troubadour culture that linked this region with Catalonia and Aragon to the south.

Pinhas is the son of Nethanel Macon or Vaison. If it is "Macon", that is a city in Bourgogne near Lyon. If "Vaison", that is in Provence about 50 km. north and east of Avignon, a place the family could reasonably have stayed for a generation. So we have another family originating in French speaking territory. This is also where Alemanno said he came from.

Pinhas seems to confirm his French connection by calling himself "the youngest of the disciples of the French doctors". The word "ha-Tzarfatim" means "French". But according to Hames the word also has more particular associations. Hames links the term with one family in particular, which was numerous in Mantua (p. 292):
Pinhas refers to himself as the "youngest of the disciples of the French [ha Tzarfatim] doctors." This appellation "ha-Tzarfatim" was one used by the Trabot family. There is some debate as to the origin of this family, but the consensus of opinion is that the name derives from the Latin Trevoltium or Trevoux, situated in the Bourgogne. When the family arrived in Italy, they referred to themselves as being "from Trabot" - de-Trabot - and that became Trabot, Traboto, or Trabotti. 37 The most famous member of the family during this century was without doubt Rabbi Joseph ben Solomon Colon (ca. 1420-1480), more commonly referred to as "Maharik." His father is often referred to as Solomon Trabot, even though Joseph and his descendants seemed to have used the surname Colon, perhaps the name of a place, or derived from colombe, meaning dove. He was a well-known Rabbi in Mantua who received requests for Halachic decisions from all over Italy and further afield. Based on Gedaliah ibn Yahya's Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah, earlier scholarship claimed that Joseph disputed with Judah Messer Leon in Mantua, which led to their being expelled from the town by the Duke. 38 However, Gedaliah was writing some hundred years after the event, and no trace of this dispute is to be found in other sources. Indeed, in Joseph Colon's Responsa, as collected by his disciples, the former is found to cite Judah Messer Leon and his rulings approvingly. 39 [293] Pinhas's father was Nathanel ben Levi, who was Joseph Colon's brother-in-law and disciple. It is likely that Pinhas also studied with his uncle. 40 Given the relations between Joseph Colon and Judah Messer Leon in Mantua, and Alemanno's presence there after 1470, it is reasonable to assume that they knew of one another. Indeed, in his Heshek Shlomo, Alemanno speaks highly of Joseph Colon. 41 Thus, it is likely that Pinhas made Alemanno's acquaintance in Mantua, and evidence of his great influence can be seen from the use made of the Ars brevis by these scholars.
37. See Gross, Gallia Judaica (Amsterdam, 1969), 219-20 and J. Green, "The Trabot Family" (in Hebrew), Sinai 79 (1977): 147-63. It is likely that the family left France during the fourteenth century (along with many other Jews as the expulsions became more frequent), making their way to Savoy and from there into Italy.
38. Gedaliah ibn Yahya, Sefer Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah (Amsterdam, 1697), fol. 49.
39. Rabbi Joseph Colon, Responsa (Venice, 1579) and see also A. D. Pines, ed., New Responsa of Rabbi Joseph Colon (Jerusalem, 1970). On the supposed disagreements between Joseph and Messer Leon, see H. Rabinowicz, "Rabbi Colon and Messer Leon," Journal of Jewish Studies 6 (1955): 166-70. Joseph Colon was also in correspondence with Elijah del Medigo, see his Responsa, nos. 54, 77.
40. See MS Oxford Bodleian 2218, fol. 210v: "By Nethanel, the son of Levi, a disciple of Rabbi Colon."
41. See Johanan Alemanno, Sha'ar ha-Heshek (in fact Heshek Shelomo) (Livorno, 1790), fol. 7.
I wish Hames had said more about the "use made of the Ars brevis by these scholars". Which scholars? And what use? The part about the connection between Trabot and Trevoux, however, is interesting. Trevoux is where the Jewish silk industry was relocated after Jews were expelled from Lyons (see an earlier post here). It is also close to Germany. In 1394 the Jews were expelled from Trevoux and elsewhere in France. They might have followed a kind of "silk road" toward where silk had been grown, to Provence (e.g., Savoy and then Northern Italy. Savoy or Provence could well be the country with a different language where Alemanno said he moved from to Florence. Once in Italy, silk would not be as important a factor in choosing where to live in comparison to where one could expect good treatment from the authorities. Mantua was hospitable. However we do know that Jews were involved in silk production in Mantua. Online, the Jewish Virtual Library says ( ... 14921.html):
MANUELE DA NORCIA moved from Rimini to Mantua in 1428 and obtained permission to open a loan bank (condotta). LEONE DE NURSIA and others were authorized in 1482 to trade in wool and silk cloths.
I read in some source recently that Judah Messer Leon himself was a member of a family involved in the silk trade, I think even silk production; but I cannot at the moment locate the reference.

In 2013 (p. 140) Hames has another connection between Pinhas and the Trabot family. This is through the odd Hebrew name that Pinhas says is another name for his father, Abin Abinu ibn Tura Hafetz Hazak. Hames observes that "when the order of the letters of 'ibn Tura' are changed, one gets "en Trabo" which might refer to the family surname Trabot".

Now I will turn to the translator, probably the person referred to as "Raimundus", who may or may not have "Christian" after that name. (If that word is actually there, I surmise it is to make clear that the translator, unlike the copyists, was not a Jew.) Hames points out that the beginning of the colophon corresponds in many ways to the colophon of Llull's Latin text. Here is an English translation of the Latin, from Selected Works of Ramon Llull, vol. 1, ed. and trans. by Anthony Bonner, p. 646, with the translator's notes:
To the honor and praise of God and for the public good Raymond finished this book in the monastery of Saint Dominic (1) of Pisa in the month of January of the year 1307 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2) Amen.
1. The oldest MSS of works written by Llull at Pisa in 1307-8 refer to the Cisterian monastery of San Donnino, for which "Saint Dominic" might well be an error (a lectio facilior) introduced by a few later scribes and copied by the rest. Cf. Hillg. p. 99 and no. 204; for a contrary opinion see M. Batllori in OE i, 52, n. 153.
2. January 1308 by our reckoning.
If you compare this to the beginning of the Hebrew Colophon (repeated below), you will see what Hames is talking about:
To thank, praise, and honor the blessed and exalted Lord who has helped me to finish this famous wisdom. Raimundus [Christian?] completed (hishlim) this book in the town of Senigallia in the month of Ab, in the year 5234 [July-Aug. 1474].
"Famous wisdom" has been added, to indicate the recognition that the work has received, and the place is now Senigallia rther than Pisa, in 1474 rather than 1308, So probably the "Raimundus" in the Hebrew version is not Raymon Llull, but the current translator. Hames proposes (1999, p. 291):
It is not inconceivable that the translator Raimundus, who adds "the Christian" to his name, was the famous Flavius Guillelmus Raimundus Mithridates who on Good Friday, 1481 preached before the pope and the cardinals in the Vatican. 30 Mithridates was the son of a rabbi, Nissim Abu I-Faraj of Girgenti (Agrigento in Sicily), and he probably converted as a young man in or around 1470. 31 He was ordained priest, studied in Naples, and received various benefices from popes and kings. 32
30. See C. Wirszubski, ed., Flavius Mithridates, Sermo de Passione Domini (Jerusalem, 1963).

31. This dating is based on a diary entry from 1481 claiming that Mithridates had been baptized some fourteen years earlier. See S. Simonsohn, "Some Well-Known Jewish Converts during the Renaissance,"Revue des etudes juives 148 (1989): 21, 9.

32. He received a benefice from Pope Sixtus IV in 1474 and another from John II of Aragon in 1475, as well as being the beneficiary of a number of prebends from different churches. See S. Simonsohn, "Some Well-Known Jewish Converts during the Renaissance," 21-25.
However in 2012 and 2013 Hames does not make this suggestion, preferring to say that "the identity of the translator remains a mystery" (213, p. 140). He still rejects the suggestion that Pinhas might have been the translator, even though Pinhas did do translations from Latin to Hebrew (2012, p. 309, note 24), because "had he been the translator, he would surely have stated it clearly" as he did elsewhere (213, p. 140).

To me the colophon is quite clear on one point: the Raymundus who "completed this book" is the one in Senigallia in 1474, not the original Latin writer. We just don't know who this "Raymundus" was. Mithridates is one idea. I don't know why Hames rejected it in 2012. Perhaps Mithridates' apostate status makes him an unlikely collaborator with practicing Jews and rabbis, I don't know. Also, neither the Colophon nor, as Hames says in 2013, the body of the work shows any sign of Christianizing. But it wouldn't, if he was working with Jews to produce a Jewish project.

If Alemanno had the Latin version, and Mithridates translated it into Hebrew, they might have known each other, and the mystery of why Pico's work, based on Mithridates' translations, and Allemano's are so similar would be closer to a solution: some of what came out later might have been worked out, along with the Jewish sources, between Mithridates and Alemmano before either of them knew Pico. There would be good reason later for both to keep this a secret; it would not look good for either of them if an apostate Jew had extensive contacts with a Platonistically inclined rabbi.

Regardless of Mithridates' role, it is possible that Pico met Alemanno around the same time he met del Medigo, i.e. 1480. I would expect Alemanno and del Medigo to have known each other. Del Medigo was interested in Averroes. Alemanno had studied Averroes with Judah Messer Leon ten years before; and Leon was probably recognized as a teacher of Averroist texts.

Another point in favor of Alemanno's involvement that Hames (1999) raises is that Alemanno said, in 1488, that he first thought of writing about the Song of Songs 20 years earlier, but then set it aside. Why 1468? That would have been about the time he probably first read the Ars Brevis.

Against Alemanno's involvement, however, is that he was for many years a student of Judah Messer Leon, and later probably a teacher in Leon's yeshiva. Leon had been a foe of Kabbalah for many years, at least since 1455, and according to his son forbade him from studying it, so that the son could not tell his father about his high regrd for those writings.

However I am not convinced that there was not a break between teacher (Judah Messer Leon) and student (Alemanno) at some point, perhaps even by 1474. First, there is the story of the quarrel between Judah Messer Leon and Joseph Colon, of the Trabot family. The story must have originated from something; it was not likely simply made up a century later. The support Judah Messer Leon gave Joseph Colon for his legal decisions does not prove that there was no quarrel. There are other reasons to quarrel besides legal matters. In 1455, it is documented that Joseph Colon and Judah Messer Leon were on opposite sides in a dispute about the extent of Leon's authority in trying to ban the reading of Gersonides (Tirosh-Rothschild p. 23); Colon among others thought that Leon had overstepped his authority; so probably he thought reading Gersonides was permissible. I think it likely that Colon supported reading Kabbalist writings. That is reason enough for a quarrel, and for Alemanno to perhaps seek other employment.

Second, in 1474 Leon accused a Spanish-born teacher in his Mantua yeshiva of using philosophy to spread heresy (Tirosh-Rothschild p. 30); Rabinowitz, p. xxxii ff of the introduction to his transltion of Judah Messer Leon's Book of the Honeycomb's Flow, prints letters that Leon wrote in 1474 to the Jewish communities of Bologna and Florence defending himself after the teacher made accusations against him.

The business with the Spaniard might have helped Alemanno decide to withdraw before he was accused of something himself. It seems fairly clear to me that Alemanno parted ways with Leon at some point before 1480, because if he hadn't, he would have gone with the yeshiva to Naples, where Leon took it after Mantua. If so, we would most likely have heard about him there, if not in his own writings then from Judah Messer Leon's son David, who grew up there and then went to visit the da Pisas in Florence during the time Alemanno was staying there. David, whose works written after 1497 are mostly preserved, said he started reading Kabbalah, against his father's orders, at the time he left home, i.e. after 1489. (The reason the works after 1497 are preserved is that he published them in the Ottoman Empire; in contrast, we only know his works published in Italy from allusions to them elsewhere.)

The long second paragraph of the Hebrew colophon is strongly suggestive of a Kabbalist orientation. It speaks of an ascent to 13 peaks, which are the 13 chapters of the Ars Brevis. But the one peak named Hor ha-Har is what is most suggestive, Hames 2012 says that this is the mountain "on whose peak,according to the Torah and the later interpretation by the Rabbis, Aaron died by the kiss of God" (2013, p. 141).This "kiss" was an important part of Alemanno's thought, Hames says. It was a kiss of unification with God, one of two "kisses" experienced by Aaron--and Moses and Miriam, too--one in life and another at death.

Then there is the language used in this part: it uses sefirotic language, of a type used by Alemanno as well,.to describe the yearning for unification with God. Hames says (1999, p. 294).
The use of sefirotic imagery to describe the ascent beyond the "vault of heaven" - rakia ha-shamayim - which is ascribed to the tenth sefirah, Malchut), via the "tower" - migdal (which is a common reference to the ninth sefirah, Yesod), to ezer (which possibly refers to the sixth sefirah, Tiferet), also points toward that desire.44
44. Alemanno referred to the tenth sefirah, Malchut, as The Gate of Heaven (sha'ar ha-sha mayim), and it would stand to reason that ezer refers to the sixth sefirah, Tiferet, as the peak attained through death by divine kiss. On Yesod being referred to as a "tower," see M. Idel, "Jerusalem in Thirteenth-Century Jewish Thought" (in Hebrew), in The History of Jerusalem: Crusaders and Ayyubids (1099-1250), ed. J. Prawer and H. Ben Shammai (Jerusalem, 1991), 274-75. Idel, in the aforementioned article, shows how the connection between the temple and Jerusalem are used as sexual symbols to express the intimate relations among the three sefirot Tiferet, Yesod, and Malchut.
In 2012 and 2013 Hames says that the "tower" is not Yesod but Tiferet, and that the word he read as "ezer" is actually "oz", meaning "strong." How do we know which sefira is the "tower"? It seems to me that the tower might be the line from one to the other, perhaps even going further up. In his 2013 discussion of this point, Hames simply interprets this passage as being about the ascent through the sefirot. That seems uncontroversial enough.

There remains the possibility that the word he now reads as "oz" might really have been "ezer". In that case, it seems to me there could have been an association with the sefira Binah. According to Lesley in "Jewish Adaptation of Humanist Concepts" (In Ruderman, ed., Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy, 1992, on p. 51) the Hebrew word "ezer" means "helpmate" and is a term applied to Eve in Genesis. If so, "ezer" would probably not be a reference to the masculine Tiferet, but rather to a feminine-imaged sefira such as Hochma (Wisdom, the helpmate of Yahweh in Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon) or Binah. Since Moses was said to have ascended to Binah, and been the only one to ascend so high, probably that is the sefira meant. All this is generic Kabbalah, with no particular link to Alemanno.

"Ezer", or "azar", is also, in Eleazar's commentary, a word for the golem, the Kabbalist's helpmate ( ... eazar.html). But I see no reason to think that the colophon is assigning any golems to the region "above the vault of heaven".

It is of interest that while the second paragraph of the colophon speaks of an ascent "above the vault of heaven", the third paragraph, which begins by saying he is the copyist and ends with the writer identifying himself as Pinhas, only says "I ... behold a ladder positioned on the ground and its top reaches to the heavens". It makes no claim to have ascended, not even to the heavens, much less above it. Hames assumes that both paragraphs, the one about the ascent above the vault and the one about beholding the ladder, were written by Pinhas. It seems to me that the first was probably written by the translator, since it speaks of the great struggles he was engaged in.

Finally, there is the location of the translation and the making of its copies, Senigallia, just north of Ancona but part of its March. Italy Jewish Travel Guide says of it (p. 166):
Great fairs and markets were held in this city during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Jews were active as moneylenders.
Judah Messer Leon, it will be recalled, had a yeshiva in Ancona in the 1450s. Perhaps he came again in the 1470s, or used his connections to get his student a job there. If Alemanno was there with Mithridates, that would explain the close match-up between Pico's views and Allemano's: Allemano instructs Mithridates; and then Allemano and Mithridates instruct Pico. (Pico, however, only speaks of one "kiss" in his ["Cabalist Conclusions Confirming the Christian Religion"; Alemanno's thought, at least by the 1490s, is more evolved.)

An association to Mithridates as early as 1474 would account for the unusually large number of manuscripts that he completed for Pico. Farmer, p. 344f, says it amounts to 5500 folio pages of text, supposedly all in 6 months, May to December, 1486. Since Pico he only got the Recanati manuscript in May of 1486 (from del Medigo), his main source in the work published in December of that year, Mithradites must have been busy explaining Recanati to Pico. Even allowing for an extra year, 1487, there is not enough time for Mithradites to do all that. He, and maybe others, might have been working on it a while, on commission from somebody.

Why would either Alemanno or Mithradites be interested in translating the Ars Brevis? After all, both knew Latin. For Mithridates, if the work is indeed an adaptation to Christianity of a Jewish methodology for union with the divine, the work would be of interest in virtue of its potential for converting Jews to Christianity. It was well known that Llull had conversion as a major objective for all he did, especially but not only the Arabs at whose hands he allegedly died a martyr. Conversion was also a motive for Pico, who argues that Kabbalah implies not only Christianity, but the precise form it takes in the Catholic Church.

Allemano would not have had that motive. Allemano, who remained faithful to Judaism, did not believe that Kabbalah leads to Christianity, or much of anything Pico said in his "Cabalistic Conclusions Confirming the Christian Religion". He explicitly rejects the idea that God would become material. Here is a quote from Alemanno's Song of Solomon's Ascents (I find it in Lesley's "The Place of the Diologhi d'Amore in Contemporaneous Jewish Thought", on p. 183 in Ruderman Volume):
The good for man is not to become absolutely separated from matter, but this way to a degree, and the good for God is not--God forbid!--that He become material, but only that His overflow become attached to matter in an attachment that perfects the flaws in everything outside Him.
However there remains the goal stated in the colophon, to ascend the ladder to Malkut and beyond, helped by the divine energy that comes down to our world. That was Abulafia's goal and Allemano's as well. Llull's combining of letters may not have been much like Abulafia's (his were those of the Sefer Yetzirah, not of Llull's 54 word chart, with the goal of ecstatic union, not of a conclusion reached by rational argument), but at least one goal, knowledge about divine matters, was similar.

So what I get from the colophon is that the project of translating Llull was undertaken by Jews with an interest in the Kabbalah of ascent to the realm of the sefirot, an interest articulated by Alemanno and Pico later. The translator was probably named Raimundus, perhaps the same as Pico's translator Mithridates. The copyists are of Jewish families or masters of French descent, like Alemanno, and like him probably connected to the city of Mantua. The location, quite a distance from Mantua, is explained first as an area where Alemanno's teacher had worked in the 1450s, but also as a place away from where this same teacher was in 1474. It is a project of which the teacher probably would not have been in favor.

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 10 guests