Judie's Reviews > The Heretic

The Heretic by Lewis M. Weinstein
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it was amazing

I would assume that most people who consider reading THE HERETIC are familiar with the details of that tragic period of Jewish and Catholic history. While Lewis Weinstein’s scholarly novel does give the usual details about the predetermined trials, the tortures, and the burning of its victims, particularly at the end of the book, THE HERETIC goes much deeper into its causes.
Gabriel Catalan ’s Jewish father was forcibly converted to Catholicism,thus becoming a converso. While some Jews were able to remain Jews, the converso were to be considered full Christians. Many, however, practiced Judaism in secret. Gabriel was a jeweler in Seville, Spain, when he was introduced to Johann Gutenberg who had recently invented the printing press. His jewelry making skills proved very useful in helping him become a printer and most of his books were in Hebrew. He became an enemy of Friar Ricardo Perez who realized that “These books will allow Judaism to live....”
Gabriel’s son, Tomas, raised as a Christian, did not know about his Jewish roots as he grew up. One day, Tomas rescued the son of a Moorish prince and that relationship was to grow and prove very beneficial later on as the battles between the Moslems and the Christians raged on, each wanting control of the area.
The primary villain is Friar Ricardo Perez whose hatred of Jews is unsatiable but who carries a big secret. After being found guilty of the death by torture of a Jewish man, Perez is sent away for three years where he is able to work on his treatise, a list of all the references from Jewish sources that support his claims that the Jews are plotting to kill Christians and take over the country. Upon his release, he is able to spread his lies to the illiterate populous who believe Jews are the devil and to the more educated Old Christians whose lives have been diminished because success of the conversos.
Weinstein tells how Christianity developed as Jews rejected the message of the original Christians. He suggests that a major reason for the anti-Semitism was the fear that if the Jews were right in their beliefs, the Christians must be wrong. Gabriel tells Friar Ricardo Perez: “These false Christians are a grievous threat to Your Church. They introduce doubt where only certainty must reign.” Perez pondered the questions : “What if the Jews are still God’s Chosen People? What if Christ is not the Jewish Messiah?” “What if the Old Law of Moses is not invalid?” “If the Jews are right, then what is left to Christianity?”
Weinstein provides information about the lives of the rulers of Spain at that time beginning with King Enrique, a rather inept monarch and brother to the future Queen Isabella. He also provides a theory of why Isabella, who had good relationships with Jews, became a supporter of the Inquisition.
THE HERETIC provides an intriguing story of life in Spain during the 15th Century. It grabbed and held my interest, making me want to learn more about the characters, both the good and bad ones. The book presents well-told explanations of the political situation at the time, not only between Jews and Christians but also between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. It tells why and how Spain introduced the Inquisition and what it meant to the people involved.
The end of the book includes references for further reading. A study guide is also available at the author's blog.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in not only in the Inquisition or the history of printing, but to anyone interested in the history of Christianity and relationships between it and other religions.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
October 1, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 19, 2013 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Lewis Weinstein Thank you.

message 2: by Lilo (new) - added it

Lilo OMG! When will I finally get around to read this highly interesting book, which has been waiting to be read for many years in one of my many boxes with still unread books?

I am trying to work myself backward in history with my reading, and I am still far from the era of the Inquisition.

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