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SPINOZA'S RELATIONS WITH THE QUAKERS IN AMSTERDAM Richard H. Popkin* A Hebrew translation of a pamphlet by the English Quaker leader, Margaret Fell, was published in Holland in May 1658 and distributed to the Jews there. For reasons that will be discussed shortly, the translator of this pamphlet, and of at least one more that has not yet been located, was most probably the then recently excommunicated Jew, Baruch de Spinoza. Ifthis is the case, then this text would be the earliest known publication of Spinoza, as well as the only known publication of his in Hebrew. Why should anyone attribute the translation of this pamphlet for the conversion ofthe lews to young Spinoza? The earliest fact that we know about Spinoza after his ejection from the Jewish community is that he met the leader of the Quaker mission in Amsterdam, William Ames, early in 1657 and had a talk with him. Quaker historians since Helen Crosfield in 1913 have referred to this meeting. In 1938 Henry Cadbury and William I. Hull published the text of Ames' letter to Margaret Fell, "the mother ofthe Quakers" and later wife ofGeorge *RichardH. Popkin is Professor of Philosophy at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri. I would like to thank the following persons for their helpful discussions, advice, criticisms, etc. In thanking them I am not suggesting that they would all agree with any or all of my conclusions about my findings: Dr. Yosef Kaplan, Hebrew University , Jerusalem;, Dr. David S. Katz, Tel Aviv University; Prof. Yuri Yovel, Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Dr. K. Offenbach, Biblioteek Rosenthaliana, University of Amsterdam; Prof. Jan van den Berg, University of Leiden; Drs. Ernestine van der Wall, University of Leiden; Prof. Lewis Feuer, University of Virginia; Prof. Amos Funkensten, University ofCalifornia, Los Angeles; and Mr. Michael Fried, University of California, Los Angeles. I am also extremely grateful for the kind assistance of the librarians ofthe Friends Library of London, of the William Andrews Clark Library of Los Angeles, the Henry Huntington Library of Pasadena, and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D. C. And lastly, I must express my gratitude to my wife, her constantly questioning my conclusions and forcing me to produce the very best evidence I could. 14 Spinozas Relations With The Quakers In Amsterdam1 5 Fox, in which he described the event. ' The letter sent from Utrecht on April 17, 1657, states: Theare is a Jew at amsterdam that by the Jews is Cast out (as he himself and others sayeth) because he owneth no other teacher but the light and he sent for me and I spoke toe him and he was pretty tender and doth owne all that is spoken; and he sayde tow read of moses and the prophets without was nothing tow him except he came toe know it within: and soe the name of Christ it is like he doth owne: I gave order that one of the duch Copyes of thy book should be given toe him and he sent me word he would Come toe oure meeting but in the mean time I was Imprisoned.2 Quaker historians have been fairly sure that the person being described by Ames was Spinoza. Leon Roth, Lewis Feuer and the Dutch historian of religion Jan van den Berg have all been sure it was Spinoza.1 Evidence concerning the excommunications from the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue makes it apparent that Spinoza is the only person expelled for ideological reasons who could have met Ames at that time. From other information uncovered in the archives of the Friends Library in London, Spinoza is most likely the Jew described who after the Ames meeting became the Hebrew translator for the Quakers. As the result ofthe researches ofthe late Israel Revah we know that at the time of Spinoza's excommunication in July 1656 four people had been accused or excommunicated from the Amsterdam Syna1 .Cf. Helen Crosfield, Margaret Fox, ofSwarthmoor Hall, (London 1913), p. 50n; Henry J. Cadbury, "Hebraica and the Jews in Early Quaker Interest," in Howard H. Brinton, editor. Children of Light, (New York 1938), p. 160; and William I. Hull, The Rise of Quakerism in Amsterdam, (Philadelphia 1938), Swarthmore College Monographs...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1934-1504
Print ISSN
0033-5053
Pages
pp. 14-28
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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