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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Jew Converted to Christianity by Going to Rome
By Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375)
 
AS I, gracious ladies, have heard said, there was in Paris a great merchant, a very good man, who was called Gianotto di Chevigné, a man most loyal and just, who had a great business in stuffs, and who had a singular friendship with a rich Jew named Abraham, who also was a merchant and also an honest and loyal man. Gianotto, seeing his justice and loyalty, began to feel great sorrow that the soul of so worthy and good a man should go to perdition through want of religion, and on that account he began to beg in a friendly way that he would abandon the errors of the Jewish faith and become converted to Christian truth, in which he could see, being holy and good, that he would always prosper and enrich himself; while in his own faith, on the contrary, he might see that he would diminish and come to nothing. The Jew replied that he did not believe anything either holy or good outside of Judaism; that he in that was born and intended therein to live, and that nothing would ever move him out of it.  1
  Gianotto did not cease on this account to repeat after a few days similar exhortations, showing him in a coarse manner, which merchants know how to employ, for what reasons our faith was better than the Jewish; and though the Jew was a great master in the Jewish law, nevertheless either the great friendship which he had with Gianotto moved him, or perhaps the words which the Holy Spirit put on the tongue of the foolish man accomplished it, and the Jew began finally to consider earnestly the arguments of Gianotto; but still, tenacious in his own faith, he was unwilling to change. As he remained obstinate, so Gianotto never ceased urging him, so that finally the Jew by this continual persistence was conquered, and said:—“Since, Gianotto, it would please you that I should become a Christian and I am disposed to do so, I will first go to Rome and there see him whom you call the vicar of God on earth, and consider his manners and his customs, and similarly those of his brother cardinals; and if they seem to me such that I can, between your words and them, understand that your religion is better than mine, as you have undertaken to prove to me, I will do what I have said; but if this should not be so, I will remain a Jew as I am.” When Gianotto heard this he was very sorrowful, saying to himself: I have lost all my trouble which it seemed to me I had very well employed, believing that I had converted this man; because if he goes to the court at Rome and sees the wicked and dirty life of the priests, he not only, being a Jew, will not become a Christian, but if he had become a Christian he would infallibly return to Judaism.  2
  Therefore Gianotto said to Abraham:—“Alas, my friend, why do you desire to take this great trouble and expense of going from here to Rome? By land and by sea, even to a rich man as you are, it is full of trouble. Do you not believe that here we can find one who will baptize you? and if perchance you have still some doubts as to the religion which I show you, where are there better teachers and wiser men in this faith than there are here, to immediately tell you what you want to know or may ask? On which account my opinion is that this voyage is superfluous: the prelates whom you would see there are such as you can see here, and besides they are much better, as they are near to the chief Shepherd; and therefore this fatigue you will, by my counsel, save for another time,—for some indulgence in which I may perhaps be your companion.” To this the Jew replied:—“I believe, Gianotto, that it is as you say to me; but summing up the many words in one, I am altogether, if you wish that I should do what you have been constantly begging me to do, disposed to go there; otherwise I will do nothing.” Gianotto seeing his determination said, “Go, and good luck go with you;” but he thought to himself that Abraham never would become a Christian if he had once seen the court of Rome, but as he would lose nothing he said no more.  3
  The Jew mounted his horse, and as quickly as possible went to the court of Rome, where arriving, he was by his fellow Jews honorably received; and living there without saying to anybody why he came, began cautiously to study the manners of the Pope and the cardinals and the prelates and all the other courtesans; and he learned, being the honest man that he was, and being informed by other people, that from the greatest to the lowest they sinned most dishonestly, not only in natural but in unnatural ways, without any restraint or remorse to shame them; so much so that for the poor and the dissolute of both sexes to take part in any affair was no small thing. Besides this he saw that they were universally gluttons, wine-drinkers, and drunkards, and much devoted to their stomachs after the manner of brute animals; given up to luxury more than to anything else. And looking further, he saw that they were in the same manner all avaricious and desirous of money, so that human blood, even that of Christians, and sacred interests, whatever they might be, even pertaining to the ceremonies or to the benefices, were sold and bought with money; making a greater merchandise out of these things and having more shops for them than at Paris of stuffs or any other things, and to the most open simony giving the name and support of procuration, and to gluttony that of sustentation: as if God, apart from the signification of epithets, could not know the intentions of these wretched souls, but after the manner of men must permit himself to be deceived by the names of things. Which, together with many other things of which we will say nothing, so greatly displeased the Jew, that as he was a sober and modest man it appeared to him that he had seen enough, and proposed to return to Paris.  4
  Accordingly he did so; upon which Gianotto, seeing that he had returned, and hoping nothing less than that he should have become a Christian, came and rejoiced greatly at his return, and after some days of rest asked him what he thought of the Holy Father, the cardinals, and the other courtesans; to which the Jew promptly replied:—“It seems to me evil that God should have given anything to all those people, and I say to you that if I know how to draw conclusions, there was no holiness, no devotion, no good work or good example of life in any other way, in anybody who was a priest; but luxury, avarice, and gluttony,—such things and worse, if there could be worse things in anybody; and I saw rather liberty in devilish operations than in divine: on which account I conclude that with all possible study, with all their talent and with all their art, your Shepherd, and consequently all the rest, are working to reduce to nothing and to drive out of the world the Christian religion, there where they ought to be its foundation and support. But from what I see, what they are driving at does not happen, but your religion continually increases; and therefore it becomes clearer and more evident that the Holy Spirit must be its foundation and support, as a religion more true and holy than any other. On which account, where I was obstinate and immovable to your reasoning and did not care to become a Christian, now I say to you distinctly that on no account would I fail to become a Christian. Therefore let us go to church, and there according to the custom of your holy religion let me be baptized.”  5
  Gianotto, who had expected exactly the opposite conclusion to this, when he heard these things was more satisfied than ever a man was before, and with him he went to Notre Dame of Paris and requested the priest there to give Abraham baptism: who, hearing what he asked, immediately did so; and Gianotto was his sponsor and named him Giovanni, and immediately caused him by competent men to be completely instructed in our religion, which he at once learned and became a good and worthy man and of a holy life.  6
 
 
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