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David Nieto

Birthplace: Venice, Veneto, Italy
Death: January 10, 1728 (74)
London, UK
Place of Burial: Mile End - Velho (Old) Jewish Cemetery Sephardi, Mile End Road. E1
Immediate Family:

Son of Phinehas Nieto
Husband of Sarah Nieto
Father of Isaac Nieto and Moses Nieto
Brother of Felipe Nieto

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Immediate Family

About David Nieto

David Nieto (1654, Venice–10 January 1728, London) was the Haham of the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish community in London, later succeeded in this capacity by his son, Isaac Nieto. Nieto was one of the most accomplished Jews of his time and was equally distinguished as philosopher, physician, poet, mathematician, astronomer, and theologian. A prolific writer, his connection with Christian scholars was extensive, especially with Ungar, the bibliographer.

He first practised as a physician and officiated as a Jewish preacher at Livorno, Italy. There he wrote in Italian a work entitled "Paschologia" (Cologne, 1702), in which he dealt with the differences of calculation in the calendars of the Greek, Roman, and Jewish churches, and demonstrated the errors which had crept into the calendar from the First Council of Nicaea until 1692.

In 1702 Nieto succeeded Solomon Ayllon as ecclesiastical chief of the Portuguese Jews in London; and two years after his settlement in that city he published his theological treatise, Della Divina Providencia, ó sea Naturalezza Universal, ó Natura Naturante (London, 1704). He explained that 'nature' was a modern word, and in reality referred to the action of God in governing natural phenomena.

This work provoked opposition against him, including accusations of Spinozism (which in the atmosphere of the time meant pantheism or atheism), but some of the accusers were believed to be heretics motivated by their support for Shabbetai Zevi. Tzvi Ashkenazi, who was called in as arbitrator, decided in his favor (Hakham Tzvi, Responsa, No. 18). Not only was he exonerated, but he was highly praised for his teachings. Nieto was also highly praised by Rabbi Chaim Azulay (the 'Chida').

Nieto was a powerful controversialist. In his Matteh Dan, or Kuzari Heleq Sheni (London, 1714), written in Hebrew and Spanish on the model of the Kuzari of Judah ha-Levi, he defended the Oral Torah against the Karaites, and showed that the disagreements in the Talmud lay not in essential laws but in minor matters. (Within the fictional framework of the book, his spokesman argues against the historic Karaite etc., even quoting from Karaite literature, but as there were few if any actual Karaites in Western Europe at the time of writing, the real attack was against Jewish dissidents such as Uriel Acosta.)

He also waged war untiringly on the supporters of the Shabbethaian heresies, which he regarded as dangerous to the best interests of Judaism, and in this connection wrote his Esh Dat (London, 1715) against Hayyun (who supported Shabbetai Zevi).

Nieto was the first to fix the time for the beginning of Sabbath eve for the latitude of England.

Paperback book published concerning his life: David Nieto: Haham of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews' Congregation Kahal Kados Sahar Asamaim, London, 1701-1728 Unknown Binding – January 1, 1931 by Israel Solomons (Author)

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David Nieto's Timeline

January 10, 1654
Venice, Veneto, Italy
Livorno, Livorno, Tuscany, Italy
January 10, 1728
Age 74
Mile End - Velho (Old) Jewish Cemetery Sephardi, Mile End Road. E1