Primo was one of the earliest followers of Sabbatai Zevi, the self-proclaimed Jewish messiah. Primo became Zevi's private secretary on Zevi's journey from Jerusalem to Smyrna in 1665, cleverly managing to give to the advent of the pseudo-Messiah an air of dignity. From Smyrna, Primo spread the news among foreign Jews that the Messiah had actually appeared. With certain of his confidants he was the first to plan the abolition of rabbinic Judaism. In the name of Zevi, Primo sent a circular to the Jews (December 1665) advising the abolition of the fast-day of the tenth of the tenth day of the month of Ṭebet on the Hebrew calendar.
In February, 1666, Primo accompanied Zevi to Constantinople. After Zevi converted to Islam, Primo explained this apparent apostasy as having been foreordained in the Messianic role. Concerning the rest of his life not much is known.
Jewish Encyclopedia Bibliography
- Hottinger, Thesaurus. xxx. 287-361, Zurich, 1649
- Weiss, in Bet ha-Midrash, 1868, pp. 64, 100;
- Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., x. 199 et seq. and note 3.
- Scholem, Gershom. "Primo, Samuel." Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. 2nd ed. Vol. 16. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 527-528. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Nov. 2013. Note that Scholem says he was "probably" born in Cairo, whereas the original source article in the Jewish Encyclopedia stated that he "probably" died in Constantinople. Here we have kept the two places not qualified otherwise as "probable" for the respective places of birth and death.