Today is Columbus Day. Do you know the source of inspiration behind the historic voyage of Christopher Columbus?
Did the Jews Discover America?
As the darkness of the Medieval Inquisition swept through Spain in 1492, an explorer prepared to embark on an expedition that would change the world. Recorded in personal diaries, some of the details of his voyage appeared in a book titled The Book of Prophecies. Published around 1501 the book is a collection of the author’s writing, spiritual insights, prophetic statements, and a passion for Israel. I was astounded when I discovered The Book of Prophecies.
Christopher Columbus wrote this book in the late fifteenth century during the Inquisition, a scourge that spread through Spain and Europe. People were tormented, burned at the stake, and expelled from the country. The Jewish population, which had multiplied considerably in European countries, was particularly terrorized. Jewish conversos (converts) were arrested, tortured until they confessed to being heretics, then executed.1
Jews in Spain were called Sephardim, from the Hebrew term for Spain, Sepharad (see Obadiah 20). The growth of this Jewish community drew the Apostle Paul to visit (Romans 15:24-28).
In the 1400s this Sephardim community included Christopher Columbus, a man dedicated to his Christian faith. His possible Jewish ancestry has been examined and hotly debated. Was Christopher Columbus Jewish? The evidence is compelling.
“The story of Jews in America begins with Christopher Columbus,” declares one Muslim source.2
Several Jewish resources, including the Jewish American Hall of Fame, claim him as one of their own: “It was Spanish Jewry, not Spanish jewelry, that paid for Columbus’ voyage of discovery,” they insist.3
Columbus earned the Spanish king and queen’s respect with his vision and knowledge. He raised the needed funds from Jewish conversos and embarked on his voyage.
But it was a dangerous time for all Jews, even favored ones. The voyage was originally scheduled for later in 1492, but an edict had been signed demanding the expulsion of all Jews by August 2, 1492, Tish B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning.
Columbus gathered his crew, boarded his three ships that night, and set sail for the New World on August 3, 1492. With this action, Christopher Columbus obeyed the edict along with almost 300,000 fellow Jews.
Chosen for a Mission
For me, a whole new light was shed on the discovery of America.
Columbus truly believed he was on a mission from God. Repeatedly in his written logs he dedicated his voyage to Jesus Christ. He brilliantly combined and used the practical knowledge gathered by scientists, but in the letter he drafted to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to make his appeal, he said, “I base what I say only on holy and sacred scripture.”4
He was motivated by prophecy as much as a longing for discovery. In his Book of Prophecies he collected passages from the Bible that inspired him to plan his voyage.
The Book of Prophecies shows an uncanny knowledge of prophetic events, vision for the future, foresight, a deep faith—and a mission. Columbus wanted nothing less than the universal conversion to Christ of all people.
His book includes several passages from the works of Augustine. Columbus also loved the book of Isaiah from which he quoted at length; he included lengthy commentary by a fourteenth-century Franciscan monk on the prophetic eighth chapter of Daniel.
Columbus remains a mysterious and controversial figure. I know that he has been variously described as one of the greatest mariners in history, a visionary genius, a mystic, a man of faith, a hero, a failed administrator, and a naive entrepreneur. He has also been described as a ruthless and greedy imperialist, responsible for afflicting America’s native population.
Was he Jewish? The evidence points heavily in that direction.
We do know he had a unique call on his life, which he fulfilled. Christopher Columbus’ mission, begun in the crucible of persecution, was fueled by his passion and faith.
History often leaves us inspiring, controversial, and sometimes difficult “heroes.” Great men and women with flaws and shortcomings, and a mission to fulfill.
Sinners saved by grace, like us all.
If you would like to read a more detailed article by Pastor Ray on this subject, you can find it here: http://thisdaywithray.com/2017/10/08/did-the-jews-discover-america/
You can also find more of the story of Columbus in his book, The Holy Land Key.
4. Columbus, Christopher; Rusconi, Roberto, The Book of Prophecies, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon, 1997.