|Faith Strengthened||Two Biographies of Isaac Ben Abraham of Troki|
Isaac ben Abraham Troki: Karaite polemical writer; born at Troki 1533; died in the same city 1594. He was instructed in Bible and Hebrew literature by the Karaite scholar Zephaniah ben Mordecai, and in Latin and Polish literatures by Christian teachers. Moving in Christian circles, Troki was often called upon to take part in religious controversies; and this prompted him to study religious philosophy and Christian theology and to acquaint himself with the tenets of the various Christian sects. In the course of his studies he became interested in the anti-Christian and anti-Jewish writings of his contemporaries and compatriots Nicholas Paruta, Martin Czechowic, and Simon Budni. To refute the arguments of the writers against the Jewish religion and to show the superiority of Judaism, Troki wrote his epoch-making “Hizzuk Emunah”.
This work is in two volumes, containing ninety-nine chapters in all. The author begins by demonstrating that Jesus was not the Messiah predicted by the Prophets. “This”, he says, “is evident (1) from his pedigree, (2) from his acts, (3) from the period in which he lived, and (4) from the fact that during his lifetime the promises that related to the advent of the expected Messiah were not fulfilled.” His arguments on these points are as follows: (1) Jesus’ pedigree: Without discussing the question of the relationship of Joseph to David, which is more than doubtful, one may ask, What has Jesus to do with Joseph, who was not his father? (2) His acts: According to Matt. x. 34, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to make peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother-in-law.” On the other hand, Holy Writ attributes to the true and expected Messiah actions contrary to those of Jesus. (3) The period of his existence: It is evident that Jesus did not come at the time foretold by the Prophets; for they predicted the advent of the Messiah in the “last days” (Isa. ii.2). (4) The fulfillment of the Messianic promises: All the Prophets predicted that at the advent of the Messiah peace and justice would reign in the world, not only among men, but even among the animals; yet there is not one sincere Christian who would claim that this has been fulfilled.
Among Troki’s objections to the divinity of Jesus the following may be mentioned: The Christian who opposes Judaism must believe that the Jews tormented and crucified Jesus either with his consent or against his will. If with his consent, then the Jews had ample sanction for what they did. Besides, if Jesus was really willing to meet such a fate, what cause was there for complaint and affliction? And why did he pray in the manner related in Matt. xxvi. 39? On the other hand, if it be assumed that the crucifixion was against his will, how then can he be regarded as God-he, who was unable to resist the power of those who brought him to the cross? How could one who had not the power to save his own life be held as the Savior of all mankind (“Hizzuk Emunah,” ch. xlvii.). In the last chapter Troki quotes Rev. xxii. 18, and asks how Christians could consistently make changes of so glaring a nature; for the change of the Sabbath from the seventh to the first day of the week was not authorized by Jesus or by any of his disciples. Moreover, partaking of the blood and flesh of a strangled beast is a palpable infringement of the dictates of the Apostles.
Troki died before completing his work, the index and preface to which were made by his pupil Joseph ben Mordecai Malinovski Troki. The “Hizzuk Emunah” remained for many years in manuscript, and the text underwent many changes at the hands of the copyist. One rabbi went so far as to substitute for many of Troki’s philosophical arguments Talmudic sayings. The work was first published, with a Latin translation, by Wagenseil in his “Tela Ignea Satanae” (Freiberg, 1681), and was reprinted in Amsterdam (1705), Jerusalem (1845) and Leipsic (1857). It was also translated into Judaeo-German (Amsterdam, 1717), into English by Mocatta (London, 1851), into German by David Deutsch (Sohran, 1865, 2d ed. 1873, with the Hebrew text) and into Spanish, the last-mentioned translation being extant in manuscript. Through its Latin translation the “Hizzuk Emunah” became the object of passionate debates in Christian circles; and it’s arguments against Christianity were used by all freethinkers. Voltaire gives the following appreciation of it: “Il a rassemble troutes les difficultes que les incredules ont prodiguees depuis. Enfin les incredules les plus determines n’ont presque rien allegue qui ne soit dans le Rempart de la Foi du rabbin Issac” (“Melanges,” iii. 334).
Simhah Luzki mentions two other works by Troki; namely, a treatise on the new moon, according to the “Gan ‘Eden” of Aaron the Younger, and a work, in the form of questions and answers, on the slaughtering of animals, also according to the “Gan Eden.” Troki composed also liturgical poems, some of which have been inserted in the Karaite Siddur.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Furst, Gesch. des Karaert. iii. 30 et seq.; Neubauer, Aus der Petersburger Bibliothek, p. 64; Geiger, Nachgelassene Schriften, pp. 178-224, Berlin, 1876; Gottlober, Bikkoret le-Toledot ha-Kara’im, p. 184; Gratz, Gesch. ix. 490; Fuenn, Kenest Yisrael, p. 614. J. I. BR.
ISSAC BEN ABRAHAM TROKI, polemical writer (b. Troki, 1533; d. Troki, 1594 [or eight years earlier, in both cases, according to Jacob Mann’s hypothesis]). His knowledge of the Latin and Polish languages and of Christian dogmatics enabled him to engage in amicable conversations on religious subjects not only with Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Greek Orthodox clergymen, but also with Socinian and other sectarian elders. The fruit of these personal contacts, and of Isaac Troki’s concurrent extensive reading in the New Testament and the Christian theological and anti-Jewish literature, was his famous apology of Judaism entitled Hizzuk Emunah (Fortification of Faith). He himself did not live to complete it, but his pupil, Joseph Malinovski Troki, supplied the preface and index from the author’s own written notes and oral remarks.
The work at once won extensive popularity both because of its powerful defense of the Jewish faith and because of its calm and reasonable emphasis of the vulnerable points in Christian tradition and dogmatics. It was studiously copied by interested Jewish readers, some of whom inevitably felt called upon to modify the work in the light of their own views and beliefs. A suggestion, made about 1629 by Zerah ben Nathan Troki to Manasseh ben Israel at Amsterdam, to print the work was, as was to be expected, rejected by that eminently wise Jewish leader. But one manuscript copy, modified and amplified by a Rabbinite copyist, came into the hands of the anti-Jewish Hebraist Johann Christoph Wagenseil, who published it, with a Latin translation and an extensive refutation, under the sensational title of Tela ignea Satanae (The Fiery Darts of Satan; Altorf, 1681). Far from squelching Isaac’s work, Wagenseil’s violent refutation of it merely publicized it and gave rise to numerous debates and controversies in Christian circles, while Isaac’s anti-Christian arguments were eventually taken over by the non-Jewish anti-clerical and liberal writers and philosophers of the 18th cent. No less an expert in polemics than Monsieur de Voltaire characterized the Hizzuk Emunah as a masterpiece in the treatment of its subject.
Wagenseil’s text of Hizzuk Emunah was reprinted for Jewish use at Amsterdam in 1705; a Yiddish translation appeared in the same place in 1717; an English translation by Moses Mocatta was printed for private circulation at London in 1851; a German translation, accompanied by a revised Hebrew text, was published by David Deutsch (2nd ed., Sohrau, 1873).
Two hymns by Isaac Troki are incorporated in the Karaite liturgy; he is also said to have composed works on Karaite ritual law.