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The Rise of the Inquisition

The History and Background to the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions

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The Inquisition typically conjures up images of intolerance, persecution, and violence and rightly so. Many people think of it as a reflection of the spiritual, scholastic, and scientific darkness of the medieval period. Hundreds of thousands of trials were processed during its lengthy reign. Thousands died at its hand. It seems hard to believe that the Inquisition ended as recently as the third decade of the nineteenth century and then only with some reservations.

The Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions that began in the late 15th and 16th centuries and lasted well into the 19th century were rooted in the papal inquisitions of the earlier medieval period. The purpose of these tribunals was to arrest and punish persons who deviated from accepted beliefs and practices of the Church. These courts, in turn, were ultimately linked to the religious panels established as early as the reigns of the Roman Emperors Theodosius in the West and Justinian in the East. This explores the events that led to the rise of the Inquisitions in Spain and Portugal.

The institution as it is now known, began in the thirteenth century when it was set up to combat the heretical sect of the Albigenses. The Papacy entrusted the Inquisition to the mendicant orders of Dominicans and Franciscan friars. The mendicant orders were bound by a vow of poverty and an ascetic lifestyle. Local bishops had the authority to investigate heresy, but the mendicant orders provided a more extensive organization. The medieval Inquisition had the power to punish Jews who aided Jewish converts to return to Judaism. The Inquisition also had the authority to order testimony by Jews against lapsed converts. In its early years, however, little attention was paid to Jews other than an occasional action focused on banning or burning certain Jewish books which had been deemed heretical or offensive to Christianity.

Uncover the lost history of the Inquisition, with this expanding course.


Your Instructor


Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez
Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez

Rabbi Dr. Juan Marcos Bejarano Gutierrez is a graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas where he earned a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. He studied at the Siegal College of Judaic Studies in Cleveland and received a Master of Arts Degree in Judaic Studies. He completed his doctoral studies at the Spertus Institute in Chicago in 2015. He studied at the American Seminary for Contemporary Judaism and received rabbinic ordination in 2011 from Yeshiva Mesilat Yesharim.

Rabbi Dr. Bejarano Gutierrez was a board member of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies from 2011-2013. He has published various articles in HaLapid, The Journal for Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian Crypto-Jews, and Apuntes-Theological Reflections from a Hispanic-Latino Context. He is the author of twenty books including What is Kosher?and What is Jewish Prayer?, Who is a Jew?, Secret Jews: The Complex Identity of Crypto-Jews and Crypto-Judaism, and Against the Greeks, He is currently the director of the B’nai Anusim Center for Education at CryptoJewishEducation.com.


Course Curriculum


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  Christianity and Forced Conversions
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  Towards 1391
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  The Violence Unleashed
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  The Inquisition
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  The Inquisition Begins
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  The Expulsion Decrees
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  The Kingdom of Portugal
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  Assisting Lapsed Converts
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  The Inquisition's Uncompromising Pursuit
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  The Inquisition in Portugal
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  A Sample Case of the Inquisition
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  Debating the Inquisition
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