When Maimonideans and Kabbalists convert to Christianity

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This article examines how three major Jewish leaders who converted to Christianity in medieval Spain – Abner of Burgos, Pablo de Santa Maria and Pedro de la Caballeria – viewed Maimonides and the kabbalists. I establish that each came from a different Jewish intellectual tradition, and my analysis shows that the way they related to Jewish sources, and in particular the esoteric messages they found in them, did not seem to change significantly in the process of conversion. While they employed different ideological arguments in their post-conversion polemical works, their personalities remained constant, even as their identities shifted from one social construct to another. Thus, an affinity with kabbala or philosophy might not be the reason for converting, but this affinity could become the intellectual tool the convert used to explain, both to himself and to others, the religious meaning of his conversion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-167
Number of pages23
JournalJewish studies quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2017


  • Pedro de la Cabra, 15th cent
  • Abner, of Burgos, approximately 1270
  • Pablo de Santa Maria, Bishop of Burgos, approximately 1351-1435
  • Maimonides, Moses, 1135-1204
  • Cabala and Christianity
  • Judaism -- Influence
  • Christian converts from Judaism


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