León, Luis de


León, Luis de
(ca. 1527-1591)
   Spanish poet, biblical scholar, and monk. Born into a prosperous converso family, he became an Augustinian friar in 1544. He was educated at Salamanca, where he studied philosophy, theology, and biblical languages, and became professor of theology in 1561. Despite his fame as a scholar, Fray Luis came under attack from the Spanish Inquisition on charges of "Judaizing," by which his accusers and judges did not mean that he practiced Jewish religion but that he taught that at several points the Hebrew text of the Old Testament revealed mistranslations in the traditional Latin Vulgate Bible. Such a critical attitude smacked of the ideas of the Erasmian humanists and the Lutheran heretics. He compounded the offense by supporting the use of rabbinical commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures. The fact that his family were conversos undoubtedly encouraged the attacks. Fray Luis vigorously defended himself and was eventually let off with a mild caution against certain dangerous tendencies in his teaching. He promptly resumed his career as professor of theology at Salamanca. But in the interim, he had had to spend nearly five years in solitary confinement.
   Fray Luis was also a distinguished poet, writing poems in both Latin and Spanish that were not published until 1631 but circulated in manuscript during and after his lifetime. They are now regarded as a landmark in the use of Spanish for lyric poetry and as one of the works that make the late 16th century the Golden Age of Spanish literature. He also produced a prose dialogue, De los nombres de Cristo / The Names of Christ (1583) that presented biblical themes for the use of pious Spanish readers who were forbidden to have the Bible itself in their own language. He published Latin commentaries on several parts of the Bible. The most famous and most extensive of these was his commentary on the Song of Songs (1580-1582). Fray Luis's commentaries on Obadiah and Job contended that those books of the Old Testament contained prophecies of the Spanish discovery and settlement of America.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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