ACOSTA, URIEL (originally Gabriel da Costa): Jewish rationalist; b. at Oporto, Portugal, 1594; d. at Amsterdam 1647. He belonged to a noble family of Jewish origin but Christian confession, and was educated as a Roman Catholic. In early manhood he wished to return to the faith of his fathers; and, as an open change from Christianity to Judaism was not allowed in Portugal, he fled to Amsterdam, where he was circumcised and admitted to the synagogue. Disappointed in the teaching and practice of the Amsterdam Jews, he criticized them unsparingly; in particular he aroused their resentment by declaring that the Law made no mention of the immortality of the soul or a future life. After the publication of his Examen dos tradicoens phariseas con feridas con a ley escrita (1624) they put him out of the synagogue and brought him to trial before the magistrates on a charge of atheism. He was imprisoned, fined, and his book was burned. After some years he made public recantation of his alleged errors, was scourged in the synagogue, and trampled upon at the door. According to rumor, he died by his own hand. He left an autobiography, Exemplar humanae vitae, published by Philip Limborch (Gouda, 1687; republished in Latin and German, with introduction, Leipsic, 1847).
BIBLIOGRAPHY: T. Whiston, The Remarkable Life of Uriel Acosta an Eminent Free-Thinker. London, 1740; H. Jellinek, U. Acosta's Leben und Lehre, Zerbst, 1847; I. da Costa, Israel en de volke, Haarlem, 1849, Eng. transl., London, 1850; H. Graets, Geschichte der Juden. 3d ed., x. 120-128, 399-401.