Paul of Burgos (born Solomon Ha-Levi), a Spanish Archhishop, lord chancellor and exegete, was born at Burgos about 1351 and died on August 29, 1435. He was the most wealthy and influential Jew of Burgos, a rabbi and scholar of the first rank in Talmudic acid rabbinical literature. The irresistible logic of the Summa of St. Thomas led him to become a Catholic. He received Baptism on July 2, 1390. His brothers, Pedro Suarez and Alvar Garcia, together with his daughter and four boys were baptized with him. (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 11, p. 588.)
Bernstein gives more details:
Paul de Burgos, called also Santa Maria. His Jewish name was Solomon ha Levi; born at Burgos 1350, died in 1435. He was the wealthiest and most prominent Jew of the city, and was thoroughly conversant with the Talmud and rabbinical literature, and up to his fortieth year he officiated as Rabbi of Burgos. His scholarship and intelligence, as well as his piety, won the praise of Isaac ben Sheshet. Abrabanel, in his Commentary on Isa. xxxiv., calls him a wise man.
He embraced Christianity in 1370, in his native place, after having studied diligently the O. T., especially Jer. xxxi., the N. T. and the works of Thomas Aquinas. He said later, Paulus me ad fidem convertit. His mother and his children were baptized with him, but not his wife, who refused, yet was later reconciled to him and also baptized. After finishing his theological studies at Paris, he was ordained and appointed Archdeacon of Trevino, and in 1402 became Bishop of Carthagena. Subsequently he became a member of the regency of Castile and Archbishop of Burgos.
He wrote “Dialogus Pauli et Sauli Contra Judæos sive Sive Scrutinium Scripturarum,” but his principal work (in 1427) is “Additiones,” which consists of addenda and emendations to Nicolas de Lyra’s Postiles on the Bible; also, in his old age, he composed a “Historia Universal” in Spanish verse. As Jewish writers assert that ambition and vanity were the motives of his conversion, I give a short extract from his testament to his son, in order that the reader may judge whether this charge is justified:
“What wouldest thou, my dearly beloved son, like best that[ 57] I should give thee while I am still alive, or leave for thee when I die? What better thing could it be than the extension of that knowledge which thou hast already gained from the Holy Scriptures, and which will strengthen thy well-ordered zeal for the Christian truth?” He then quotes Isa. xxxviii. 19: “The father to the children shall make known Thy truth,” and continues: “I was not learned in my youth, but educated in Jewish blindness and unbelief. While I learned to know the Holy Scriptures from unholy teachers, I received the opinions of erring men who obscured the pure letter of the Scriptures with impure devices. But it pleased Him whose mercy is infinite to call me out of darkness to light and out of the pit into the pure air of heaven; so that it appeared to me as if scales fell from the eyes of my understanding. I began to seek the truth, and to trust no more in myself, and so with a humble spirit I prayed to God to shew me what appertained to the salvation of my soul. Day and night I sought help from Him, and so it happened that my love for the Christian truth increased, and finally I received strength publicly to confess the faith which was already in my heart.”
Then after telling his son how God had blessed him in raising him to a high position of usefulness and dignity in the church, and that he had been on intimate terms with King Henry III. and chancellor of his son, the Regent of Spain, he intimates to him that, with all this, he had not accumulated any worldly wealth. Unum est quod silentio committere non possumus nobis[ 58] ex Levitico sanguine descendentibus. “One circumstance which I cannot pass over in silence is this: that we are descendants of Levi, and the promises which were given many centuries ago have been fulfilled—’Wherefore Levi hath no part nor inheritance with his brethren, the Lord is his inheritance according as the Lord thy God promised him’ (Deut. x. 9). Truly God Himself is our inheritance. Christ is our portion. This, my dearly beloved son, is my testament for thee, and let it also be thine inheritance, that the Law of the Lord may be thy joy, and that thou shouldest meditate upon His Word day and night.”
Prayer: Thank you Lord for the depth of prayer, faith and scholarship of Solomon Ha-Levi. Help us to follow his example, and find our chief joy in You. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.