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October 8, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

Yom Kippur and Christopher Columbus

Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492.  He had originally been scheduled to sail the day before, but August 2 was a Jewish fast day, Tisha b’Av, or the day the first and second Temples in Jerusalem were destroyed.  Why would this be significant to the man who carried the name of “Christopher,” or Christ bearer?  The answer is that Columbus was a Converso, or what we would call a Messianic Jew.  His family background is difficult to ascertain, but it seems he was born into a Converso family.

Columbus landed in the new world on October 12, 1492, or sixty-nine days after he left Spain. On the Jewish calendar this would land him in the New World in the midst of the Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot.  He would have been in the Atlantic on Yom Kippur, some eighteen days previous.

The voyage of Columbus was not funded by the royal house of Ferdinand and Isabella.  It was rather financed by prominent business men who were Messianic Jews, or Conversos.  Their names were Louis Santangel and Gabriel Sanchez.  He was also supported by Jewish statesman and Rabbi, Isaac Abrabanei.  The first two letters sent back from the expedition were not to Ferdinand and Isabella, but to Santangel and Sanchez.

The voyages of Columbus did have to be approved by the royal house.  When Columbus presented his plan to Queen Isabella in 1487 he built his argument on the evangelistic aspects of reaching the world with the Christian Gospel.  It does seem however he had additional motivation.  He may have been looking for a new home for the Jewish population that was being forced out of Spain.  Spain had been home for the Jews ever since the first Jewish rebellion against Rome in 70 AD when the Temple was destroyed.  After about 200 AD Spain became a second homeland for Jews.  The Apostle Paul was deeply concerned to get to Spain to evangelize the Jews of the diaspora (Rom. 15:28).  The eastern Jews are to this day called Sephardim, meaning Spanish Jews.

He was also concerned to find the wealth needed to mount a final Crusade to take back Jerusalem.   He speaks about this in his book written following his third voyage in about 1501 entitled “Book of Prophecies.”  In Spain it was crystal clear that the Crusades were a defensive war of the Christian West to take back the conquest of Christian lands (the Byzantine Empire) from the Islamic invasions from Arabia.  Spain finally ousted the last of the Moors in 1492 with the conquest of Granada.  This fact likely energized Columbus to move forward with his plans to find a new home for Israel and to finish the work of world evangelism.

Columbus was convinced that Messiah would not return until Jerusalem was liberated from the Muslims.  “Book of Prophecies” is still available having been published by the University of Florida Press in 1991.

Would Columbus have celebrated Yom Kippur in the Atlantic and Feast of Tabernacles upon landing in the New World?  It is not improbable.  Of course, we will never know.  In the midst of the Spanish Inquisition this was not a piece of information he was apt to put in his report to the throne of Spain.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at  END-whs