Orobio, Balthasar

, a famous Spanish Jew, was carefully educated in that religion by his parents, who were Jews, though they outwardly professed themselves Roman catholics; abstaining from the practice of Judaism in every thing, except only the observation of the fast of expiation, in the month Tisis, or September. Our author studied the scholastic philosophy as it was then taught in Spain, and became such an adept that he was made professor of metaphysics in the university of Salamanca: but, afterwards applying himself to the study of physic, he practised that art at Seville with success, till, being accused of Judaism, he was thrown into the inquisition, and suffered the most dreadful cruelties, in order to force him to confess. According to his own account, he was put into a dark dungeon, so straight, that he could scarce turn himself in it; and suffered so many hardships, that his brain began to be disturbed. He frequently asked himself, “Am I indeed that Don Balthasar Orobio, who walked freely about in Seville, who was entirely at ease, and had the blessings of a wife and children!” sometimes imagining that his past life was only a dream, and that the dungeon where he then lay was his true birth-place, and to all appearance would prove the place of his death. At other times, he used to form metaphysical arguments, and resolve them, acting the three different parts of opponent, respondent, and moderator, at the same time. In this whimsical way he diverted himself from time to time, but when examined by the inquisitors, constantly denied that he was a Jew. At length he was put to the torture, in the most cruel manner, yet without extorting any confession from him, and his tormentors, after three years’ confinement, finding themselves baffled by his perseverance, ordered his wounds to be cured, and so discharged him. As soon as he had got his liberty, he resolved to quit the Spanish dominions; and, going to France, was made professor of physic at Thoulouse. The theses, which he made as candidate for this place, were upon putrefaction and he maintained them with such a metaphysical subtlety as | embarrassed all his competitors. He continued in this city some time, still outwardly professing the popish religion: but at last, growing weary of dissembling, he repaired to Amsterdam, where he was circumcised, took the name of Isaac, and professed Judaism; still continuing here also to practise physic, in which he was much esteemed. Upon the publication of Spinoza’s “Tractatus Theologico-Politicus,” he saw its fallacy, but did not think it worthy of an answer, until Bredenbergh, who had at one time written a confutation of it, published another treatise as objectionable as that of Spinosa’s. Orobio then took up his pen against both the authors, and published a piece to that purpose, entitled “Certamen philosophicum adversus J. B. principia,1684, 4to. But the dispute which he held with the celebrated Philip Limborch against the Christian religion (see Limborch), did him most credit, on the score of acuteness, moderation, and temper. The three papers which he wrote on the occasion were afterwards printed by his antagonist, in an account which he published of the controversy, under the title of “Arnica collatio cum Judæo, &c.” Orobio died in 1687. 1