corner graphic

Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Maimonides

Resource Toolbox
Additional Links

(i.e. son of Maimon), Moses, also called by the Jews Rambam, from the initial letters רמ בם = ר משה בן מיםון, R. Moses b. Maimun, and by the Arabians Abu Arnraman Musa b. Maimun Obeid A hah, one of the greatest of the Jews since the exile the great luminary, the glory of Israel, the second Moses, the reformer of Judaism, as he is called, was born at Cordova, March 30, 1135. As a youth, he received his instruction in the Heb. Scriptures, the Talmud, and Jewish literature from his father, R. Maimon, who held the dignity of judge of the Jews, as also his forefathers had held it for some centuries previous, and was himself renowned as a scholar and author of a commentary on Esther, a work on the laws of the Jewish prayers and festivals, a commentary on the Talmud, etc., etc. But for instruction in the Arabic, then the predominant language of Spain, as the country was in the hands of the Mohammedans, and mathematics, a and astronomy, Moses was handed over to the care of the renowned Arabian philosophers Averroes and Ibn-Thofeil (compare Jost, Gesch. d. Israeliten, 6:168).

Spain, in which the Jews had found an early- home (some say as early as the days of Solomon; compare Rule, Karaites, p. 146 sq.; Lindo, Hist. of the Jews of Spain and Portugal, p. 1 sq.; Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles, p. 211), is by Milman (History of the Jews, 3:155) spoken of as the country in which "the golden age of the Jews shone with the brightest and most enduring splendor." In the early days of Christianity we find the Jew alluded to by Church councils [see ELVIRA], and legislation enacted in his behalf; but, to the shame of Christiainity be it said, the Jew enjoyed his greatest privileges in the Iberian peninsula under Mussulman rule, and from the conquest by the Moors till towards the end of the 10th century, when, while Christian Europe lay in darkness, Mohammedan Cordova might be considered the center of civilization of arts, and of letters,... the Jews, under the enjoyments of equal rights and privileges, rivaled their masters, or, rather, their compatriots, in their advancement to wealth, splendor, and cultivation" (Milman). In Spain alone, and only under Mussulman reign, the Jews in the Middle Ages enjoyed religious liberty and the privilege of their own jurisdiction, and it was in Spain alone that the Jews, since their Babylonian exile, developed a nobility which to this day is considered the aristocracy of the dispersed people of Israel (compare Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles, p. 204). Need we wonder that under such very favorable conditions, which became endangered only now and then, the Spanish Jews developed a very active spiritual life, and a desire for culture and science which produced noteworthy fruits? "The Jews in the Arabic provinces," says Da Costa (p. 223), in speaking of the Saracen rule in Spain, "were rarely bankers, but merchants, trading on a large scale to different parts of the East. They acted as treasurers to the califs, but more frequently as physicians, philosophers, poets, theologians in a word, as savans and men of letters."

Especially worthy to be called the golden age of Spanish Judaism was the age that gave birth to Moses Maimonides. While the Jews, who at that time lived under less favorable circumstances in France and Germany, were disinclined to all scientific endeavors, and all their spiritual activity became absorbed in the study of the Talmud, the Spanish Jews vied in all sciences-in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and in poetry, with the flower of the Arabian genius. Formerly the Jews of the Iberian peninsula had derived their learning of the Biblical writings and their commentators from the famous schools of Babylon and Persia, whither the young were sent for theological instruction; but when, by sheer accident, a noted Eastern rabbi of the 10th century found a home in these Western coasts (see Rabbi Moses, "clad in sackcloth:" compare Milman, 3:156, and other histories of the Jews), and "the light of learning, which, by the rapid progress of the iron age of Judaism in Babylonia, by the extinction of the authority of the prince of the captivity, the dispersion of the illustrious teachers, and the final closing of the great schools, seemed to have set forever, it suddenly rose again in the West in renewed and undismayed splendor." From this time (A.D. 990) the schools of the Spanish Rabbanim (at Cordova, Toledo. Barcelona, and Granada) not only became the center of Jewish civilization and learning, but the auxiliaries of the Arabian philosophers in their endeavor to keep alive the flame of learning during the deep darkness of the Middle Ages, and the Jews became the communicators of Arabian philosophy to the Christian world, or, as Tennemann (Manual of Philosophy. transl. by Morell, p. 231) has it," the interpreters between the Saracens and the Western nations." It was at such a time when the heaven of Spanish Judaism was resplendent with stars of its greatest magnitude Solomon Ibn-Gebirol (1021-1070), Jehudah Halevi (10861142), Aben-Ezra (1092-1167), David Kimchi (11601240), a galaxy of great and learned men of which any nation might well be proud that Moses Maimonides lived, wrote, and flourished as the brightest ornament of them all.

As we noticed above, Moses was born in 1135. The Almoravides i.e. men devoted to the service of God who were then the masters of Mohammedan Spain, (See MOHAMMEDANS), like the Ommiades, were tolerant and kind to the Jews. But just at this time the power of the Almoravides was fast declining, and by the middle of the 12th century the Almohades, a fanatical Mohammedan sect, (See IBN-TUMART), landing in Southern Spain, soon gained the upper hand, and superseded the Almoravides altogether. With the accession of these Almohades to power in Southern Spain begins a new chapter in the history of the Jews. On the Seine, on the Rhine, on the Danube, and in the steppes of Africa and Southern Spain, as if by previous arrangement, a bloody chase was now inaugurated, in the name of religion, against the Hebrew tribe both by Mohammedans and Christians, quite unmindful of the fact that whatever of the good and Godlike had found a place in their confession had been derived from the teachings of this very tribe. Hitherto persecutions of the Jew had been only occasional; with the year 1146 they begin to be more frequent, usual, consequent, and severe, as if to make the period in which the light of intelligence began to dawn among men surpass in inhumanity the days of dark barbarism" (Grä tz, 6:175). In that part of Spain controlled by the Almohades no other religion than that of the Crescent was to be tolerated, and Jew and Christian alike were obliged either to abjure the faith of their fathers or to quit the country within a month.

To remain and yet to adhere faithfully to the teachings of the Old or New Testament was to incur the penalty of death. Maimonides's family, like many others to whom emigration was well-nigh impossible, embraced the Mohammedan faith, or rather, for the time being, renounced the public profession of Judaism, all the while, however, remaining faithful to it in secret, and keeping up a close communication with their co-religionists abroad (compare Carmoly, Annalen, 1839, p. 395 sq.; Munk, Archives Israelites, 1851, p. 319 sq.). For more than sixteen years Maimonides thus lived, together with his family, under the assumed character of Mohammedans; but when the death of the reigning sovereign brought no change in the system of religious intolerance, they, with the greater part of the Jewish community, resolved to emigrate and travel about, as he himself tells us, "by land and by sea," without finding a resting-place for the sole of his foot. Their first landing-place was Acco, in Palestine; from thence they went via Jerusalem to Cairo; then to Hebron, and next into Egypt, stopping first a short time at Alexandria, but finally settling at Fostat (compare Israelif. Annal. en, 1840, p. 45 sq.). On their journey Maimonides had lost his father (at Cairo), and, to earn a livelihood for his father's household, he engaged with his younger brother in the jewelry trade; the care of the business mainly falling to David, while Moses devoted most of his time to literary pursuits and to the study of medicine, which he afterwards practiced, and in which profession he attained to great eminence.

Life and Labors. During his boyhood, Moses Maimonides is said to have manifested anything but a promise of those great abilities which were unfolded in his manhood. He was indolent, and so disinclined to study that his father sent him, at a very early ages from his paternal roof. During his absence from home, however, an earnest desire for knowledge was manifested by him, and, by study and intercourse with learned co- religionists and Arabians, he acquired a great treasure of knowledge in the different provinces of science, which his clear, penetrating, and methodical mind mastered with a marvelous power. An elegant oration, delivered by him at fourteen, reconciled father and son. Acquainted with all the writings of ancient philosophers, he became the most eminent of his age. He was an able mathematician and metaphysician.

When only 23 years old (1158), he proved the possession of extraordinary powers of comprehension and elucidation in a treatise on the Jewish calendar, based on astronomical principles (השבון חעבור ), which he composed for a friend. In the same year also, whilst wandering about from place to place, and deprived of the aid of a library, he yet began his stupendous Commentary on the Mishna (פירוש המשניות ). At this time also (about 1160) he composed the Letter on Religious Persecution (אגרת השמד ), or A Treatise on Glorifying God (מאמר קידוש השם ) i.e. by suffering martyrdom a most ingenious plea for those who have not the courage to lay down life for their religion, and who, having outwardly renounced their faith, continue secretly to practice it which was provoked by the attack of a zealous co-religionist against Moses's public profession of Mohammedanism and private devotion to Judaism. (It was published by Geiger, Moses ben-Maimon, part 1 [Bresl. 1850].)

The sudden loss of his brother David and of their possessions threw upon Moses the responsibility of providing alone for his own, his father's, and his brother's family. Without means to continue in mercantile life, he now entered the medical profession; at the same time he also delivered lectures on philosophy. But his mind was mainly upon the work in which he had engaged years ago. Neither misfortune, nor bodily infirmities, nor even misinterpretation, could turn Moses Maimonides from the goal he was striving to reach. He had assigned to himself the task of harmonizing religion with science, Judaism with philosophy; to exhibit Judaism in such a light that it might become not only endeared to its thinking adherents, but that it might claim the respect also of other religionists. and even of philosophers; and though the wants of so many dependent upon him obliged him to labor assiduously as a physician, he yet found time for the completion of his commentary on the Mishna, and, in 1168, finally brought it before the public under the title The Book of Light (Arabic כתאב אלסראג, Hebrew המאור ספר ). This remarkable production, which he wrote in Arabic (for editions, see below), is designed to simplify the study of the exposition of the Law or Pentateuch, handed down by tradition, rendered exceedingly difficult by the super- commentaries and discussions which had accumulated thereon since the close of the Mishna to the days of Maimonides. It is preceded by a general elaborate introduction, in which he discourses on the true nature of prophecy, shows its relationship to the law given on Sinai, treats of the figurative language occurring in the Pentateuch and the Prophets, etc. In the special introduction to the Tract Sanhedrim he, for the first time, defined and formally laid down the Jewish creed (see our article JUDAISM, in vol. 4, p. 1057). In consequence of this work which has now for more than 500 years been deemed so essential a part of the Talmud itself that no edition of the latter is considered complete without it Maimonides gradually became the great oracle in all matters of religion. He was appealed to (in 1175) by the Jews from different parts of the world for his opinion on difficulties connected with the law, and in 1177 was called to the rabbiship of Raheia. Though constantly beset by crowds who came to consult him on all questions, philosophical, medical, and religious, yet, by intruding on the night for his profounder studies, he was able, after ten years' further labor (1170-80), to complete (Nov. 7, 1180) another work, of even greater magnitude than the foregoing, which he called Deuteronomy, Second Law (משנה תורה ), or Jad Hachezaka = The Mighty Hand (יד החזקה, in allusion to Deuteronomy 34:12, and because the work consists of fourteen books, יד =14), which created a new epoch in Judaism. The fourteen books, subdivided into eighty-two Tractates (הלכות ), of which the work consists, form a cyclopaedia comprising every department of Biblical and Judaistic literature.

When it is added that Maimonides has given in every article a lucid abstract of the ancient traditional expositions of those who were regarded as the oracles in their respective departments, the immense importance of this remarkable production to the Biblical student can hardly be overrated. It is written in very clear and easy Hebrew, as Maimonides was anxious that it should be accessible to the Jewish people generally. Within a few years after its appearance the work was copied and circulated most extensively in Arabia, Palestine, Africa, Southern France, and Italy, and throughout the world wherever Jews resided. It soon became the text-book of the Jewish religion, and was regarded as a new Bible or Talmud. A detailed account of its contents is given by Wolf, Bibliotheca Heb. 1:840 sq. Most of the young Israelites of his days were spending their best time in acquiring a mediocre knowledge of the sixty books of the Talmud, to the neglect and exclusion of all secular science and philosophy. To obviate this, Maimonides wrote these systematical works, comprising the main contents of the whole Talmud. "If the Talmud," says Gritz (6:339)," may be likened to a Dsedalic structure, in which one can scarcely find his way even with the aid of an Ariadne thread, Maimonides has transformed it into a well-regulated edifice, with side-wings, halls, apartments, chambers, and closets, in which the stranger, led by the fitting superscriptions and numbers, may make his way without a guide, and gain a view of all the contents of the Talmud... One might almost say that Maimonides created a new Talmud. It is true these are the old elements; we know their origin, their rise, their original connection; but in his hands it looks like another work; the mist is removed; the disfiguring addenda done away with; it appears remolded, smoother, fresher, and newer. The Mishna, the foundation-structure of the Talmud, opens by propounding the question on the law: At what time of the night is the chapter Shema to be read?' and closes with the discussion, when this or that thing becomes levitically unclean. Maimonides, on the other hand, thus opens his Talmoudical codex: The foundation of foundations, and the pillar of wisdom, is to know that there exists a first Being which called all other beings into existence, and that all things existing in heaven or on earth, and whatever is between them, exist only through the medium of this first Being,' and closes with the words, The earth will one day be covered with knowledge as the ocean's ground is by water.'

The whole work is permeated by a peculiar savor; it breathes the spirit of complete wisdom, cool reflection, and deep morality. Maimonides, so to speak, has Talmudized philosophy and metaphysicized the Talmud. He has admitted philosophy within the precincts of the religious codex, and there conceded her a citizenship of equality beside the Halacha. Though philosophy had, previous to his day, been cultivated by Jewish thinkers (here comp. Sachs, Religiose Poesie der Juden in Spanien, p. 185 sq.), and applied to Judaism from Philo down to Abraham Ibn-David, (See CHAYUG), she had always been regarded as something outside of the Jewish camp as a something which had nothing in common with practical Judaism as exercised daily and hourly. Maimonides, however, introduced her into the very holiest of Judaism, and, so to speak, gave Aristotle a place by the side of the sages of the Talmud." "The master-mind of Maimonides only," says Dr. Wise (Israelite, Dec. 1, 1871), "could accomplish such a gigantic task, and codify that immense mass of laws and customs as systematically and linguistically exact as he did. Nobody before or even after him has been able to do it so well and completely as he has done it. He alone has brought the rabbinical law within a compass, to be mastered in a few years, and under a system to find particular laws or customs without roaming over a mass of rabbinical sources. thereby affording students an opportunity to master the rabbinical laws, and to save time for other studies." His fame now became world-wide. Not only, however, as a law-giver in Judah did he advance to the first place among the great and learned; as a physician also he excelled his colleagues, and for his attainments in this field of labor his name was carried to many foreign lands. Richard Coeur de Lion, learning of his medical skill, anxiously sought to secure the services of this noted Jew as his court physician. Maimonides, however, preferred to remain in the land of his adoption, and declined the proffered honor (compare Weil, Chalifen, 3:423 sq.). It was about this time that the vizier of Saladin, the Kadhi al-Fadhel, who had taken Maimonides under his protection, appointed Moses chief (Reis, נגיד ) of all the congregations in Egypt (about 1187): The numerous and onerous duties now put upon him as the spiritual head of Judaism, and the constant demand for his great medical skill, were, however, alike unable to overcome the powers of his intellect, which he had consecrated to the elucidation of the Bible and the traditional law, and to the harmonizing of revelation with philosophy, and in the midst of all his engagements Maimonides entered upon the preparation of a third religio-philosophical work, which became, of all his productions, the most valued and important. Its object was to reclaim one of his disciples, Ibn-Aknin (q.v.), from the prevailing skepticism about a future world, the destiny of man, sin, retribution, revelation, etc.

The design of the work is explained by Maimonides himself in the following terms: "I have composed this work, not for the common people, neither for beginners, nor for those who occupy themselves only with the law as it is handed down without contemplating its principle. The design of my work is rather to promote the true understanding of the real spirit of the law, to guide those religious persons who, adhering to the truth of the Torah have studied philosophy, and are embarrassed by the contradictions between the teachings of philosophy and the liberal sense of the Torah." The work, consisting of three parts in 204 sections, and entitled in Arabic דלאלת אל חאירין, in Heb. מורה הנבוכים , Moreh Nebuchim (The Guide of the Perplexed), in allusion to Exodus 14:3, and, according to Gratz (6:363), "constituting the summit of the Maimonical mind and the justification of his inmost convictions," created a new epoch in the philosophy of the Middle Ages. "Ce livre," says Frank (Etudes Orientales, p. 360), "inspire egalement le respect par les puissantes facultes de l'auteur, la prodigieuse souplesse de son esprit, la variete de ses connaissances, l'elevation de son spiritualisme enfin par la lumiere quil repand sur quelques-uns des points les plus obscurs de l'histoire de l'esprit humain." Not only did Mohammedans write commentaries upon it, but the Christian schoolmen learned from it how to harmonize the conflicts between religion and philosophy (compare Joel, Eiiflsuss d. .uid. Philos. auf die christl. Scholastik, in Frankel's Monatsschrift [Bresl. 1860, p. 210 sq.]; Munk, Melanges, p. 486). The contents of this great and noble work, which has become for Jewish thinkers, as it were, a "touchstone of philosophy," are, in the three parts into which it is divided, as follows: The first part is especially devoted to the explanation of all sensual expressions which are made use of in the Bible in regard to God; this is really but a mere detailed explication of what Maimonides had already laid down in the first book of his aforementioned code, namely, that such expressions must be taken only in a spiritual and figurative sense; this part contains also the rational arguments by which philosophy proves the existence, the unity, and spirituality of God. The second part treats, first, of natural religion and its deficiencies; secondly, of the creation of the world and the different graduations of the world's system; and, thirdly, of revelation, prophecy, and of the excellence and perfectness of the divine law. The third part, after giving an explanation of the first vision of the prophet Ezekiel, treats of the opposition of good and evil in the world, of God's providence and omniscience, and their relation to the free will of man; a number of chapters of this last part are taken up in explaining the general design of the Mosaic law, and the reason for each separate law.

But while, on the one hand, the Moreh Nebuchim contributed more than any other work to the progress of rational development in Judaism, it, on the other hand, also provoked a long and bitter strife between orthodoxy and science carrying out, as it did, to its last consequences the broad principle that "the Bible must be explained metaphorically by established fundamental truths in accordance with rational conclusions." So bitter, indeed, was the contest which broke out between the subsequent spiritualistic Maimonidian and the "literal Talmudistic" schools, that the fierce invectives were speedily followed by anathemas and counter- anathemas issued by both camps; and, finally, about the middle of the 13th century, the decision was transferred into the hands of the Christian authorities, who commenced by burning Maimonides's books, continued by bringing to the stake all Hebrew books on which they could lay their hands, and followed this decision up by a wholesale slaughter of thousands upon thousands of Jewsmen, women, and children irrespective of their philosophical views. Under these circumstances, the antagonistic parties, chiefly through the influence of David Kimchi and others, came to their senses, and gladly enough withdrew their mutual anathemas; they even went so far as to send a deputation (in 1232) to Maimonides's grave at Saphet "to ask pardon of his ashes" (Lindo, p. 65); and, as time wore on, the name of Moses Maimonides became the pride and glory of the nation. Moses, himself, however, never witnessed the end of the conflict into which he had the mortification to see his nation plunged, caused by his own labors, which had been intended solely for their good. In the midst of the conflict (the opposition begun by Samuel ben-All, the gaon of Bagdad, was particularly strong in Southern France and Spain, see Gritz, Gesch. d. Juden, vol. 7, chap. 2), "the Great Luminary" of the Jewish nation was extinguished Dec. 13,1204. Both Jews and Mohammedans of Fostat had public mourning for three days. At Jerusalem the Jews proclaimed a day of extraordinary humiliation, reading publicly the threatenings of the law (Deuteronomy 28) and the history of the capture of the ark by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4, etc.), for they regarded Maimonides as the ark containing the law. His remains, in accordance with a personal request before his decease, were conveyed to Tiberias; and the reverence which the Jewish nation still cherish for his memory is expressed by the well-known saying, לא קם כמשה ממשה ועד משה, "From Moses, the lawgiver, to Moses (Maimonides), no one hath arisen like Moses," in allusion to Deuteronomy 34:10. "No man since Ezra had exercised so deep, universal, and lasting an influence on Jews and Judaism as Moses Maimonides. His theologico-philosophical works gained an authority among the progressive thinkers equal to his Mishna-Torah among rabbinical students. All Jewish thinkers up to date Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and the writers of the 19th century included-are more or less the disciples of Maimonides; so that no Jewish theologico-philosophical book, from and after A.D. 1200, can be picked up in which the ideas of Maimonides form not a prominent part" (Dr. Wise).

Maimonides as a Jewish Theologian and Philosopher. His importance for the religion and science of Judaism, and his influence upon their development, is so great that he truly deserves to be placed second only to Moses, the great lawgiver, himself. Maimonides first of all brought order into those almost boundless receptacles of tradition, and the discussions and decisions to which they had given rise, which, without the remotest attempt at system or method, lie scattered up and down the works of Haggada and Halacha-Midrash, Mishna, Talmuds. Imbued with the spirit of lucid Greek speculation, and the precision of logical thought of the Arabic Peripatetics, aided by an enormous knowledge, he became the founder of rational scriptural exegesis. The Bible, and all its written as well as implied precepts, he endeavored to explain by the light of reason, with which, as the highest divine gift in man, nothing really divine could, according to his theory stand in real contradiction. The fundamental idea in his works is that the law was given to the Jews, not merely to train them to obedience, but also as a revelation of the highest truths, and that, therefore, fidelity to the law in action is by no means sufficient, but that the knowledge of the truth is also a religious duty. By this teaching he offered a powerful incitement to speculation in religious philosophy, yet he also contributed by his enunciation of definite articles of faith to a narrow determination of Jewish dogmas, although his own investigations bear throughout a rationalizing character.

Maimonides is no friend to astrological mysticisms. We are only to believe that which is either attested by the senses, or strictly demonstrated by the understanding, or transmitted to us by prophets and godly men. In the province of Science he regards Aristotle as the most trustworthy leader, and only differs from him when the dogma requires it, as, especially, in the doctrine of the creation and providential guidance of the world. Maimonides holds firmly to the belief (without which, in his opinion, the doctrines of inspiration and of miracles, as suspensions of natural laws, could not be maintained) that God called into existence out of nothing not only the form but also the matter of the world, the philosophical proofs to the contrary not appearing to him conclusive. If these proofs possessed mathematical certainty, it would be necessary to interpret those passages in the Bible which appear to oppose them allegorically, which is now not admissible. Accordingly Maimonides condemns the hypothesis of the eternity of the world in the Aristotelian sense, or the doctrine that matter is eternal ab inzitio, and has always been the substratum of an order or form arising from the tendency of all things to become like the eternal and divine Spirit; "the Bible," he says, "teaches the temporal origin of the world." Less discordant with the teachings of the Bible, according to Maaimonides, is the Platonic theory, which he interprets with the exactest strictness according to the literal sense of the dialogue Timoeus. He understands the theory as assuming that matter is eternal, but that the divinely-caused order, by the addition of which to matter the world was formed, had a beginning in time. Yet he does not himself accept this theory, but adheres to the belief that matter was created by God. In Ethics, Maimonides, holding reason in man if properly developed and tutored by divine revelation to be the great touchstone for the right or wrong of individual deeds, fully allows the freedom of will, and, while he urges the necessity, nay, the merit of listening, to a certain degree, to the promptings of nature, rigorously condemns a life of idle asceticism, and dreamy, albeit pious contemplation. No less is it, according to him, right and praiseworthy to pay the utmost attention to the healthy and vigorous development of the body, and the care of its preservation by the closest application to hygienic rules. Providence, he argues, reigns in a certain broad manner over humanity, and holds the sway over the destinies of nations; but he utterly denies its working in the single event that may befall the individual, who, subject above all to the great physical laws, must learn to understand and obey them, and to shape his mode of life and action in accordance with existing conditions and circumstances the study of natural science and medicine being therefore a thing almost of necessity to everybody. The soul, and the soul only, is immortal, and the reward of virtue consists in its strictly unbodily bliss in a world to come; while the punishment of vice is the "loss of the soul." "Do not," says Maimonides, "allow thyself to be persuaded by fools that God predetermines who shall be righteous and who wicked. He who sins has only himself to blame for it, and he can do nothing better than speedily to change his course. God's omnipotence has bestowed freedom on man, and his omniscience foreknows man's choice without guiding it. We should not choose the good, like children and ignorant people, from motives of reward or punishment, but we should do good for its own sake, and from love to God; still retribution does await the immortal soul in the future world." The resurrection of the body is treated by Maimonides as being simply an article of faith, which is not to be opposed, but which cannot be explained.

Exception continues to be taken to Maimonides's theologico-philosophical views even in our day, by many who recognize his ability and the importance of his labors. The great Italian Jewish theologian, the late David Luzatto (q.v.), is quite decided in his opposition Maimonides, he holds, brought trouble with all his philosophy. What the Talmud left indefinite, he fastened by irons. His creed is an invention, of which the ancients had no idea. With more of a Mohammedan than a Jewish and Talmudic despotism, he constructed a codex, in order that all articles of faith and practices of the least consequence should be regulated and decided upon by its decisions (see Israelitische Annalen, 1839, p. 6, 405). No less decided is Isaac Reggio (q.v.), who approves of Luzatto's critique, and demands the removal of the yoke which Maimonides put upon the Israelites, and which robs of all freedom in thinking (ibid, p. 22). As unjust as these criticisms must appear to a careful and unprejudiced student of Maimonides, they are not the most weighty charges brought against him. There are some who even charge him with extreme Rationalism. Says Da Costa (p. 273, 274), "The system of Maimonides, by its arbitrary explanations and inventions attacked the authority, not of tradition only, but also of Holy Scripture... Learned Jews have not hesitated to suspect Maimonides of a design to weaken the basis of the two fundamental doctrines of the Jewish religion-the resurrection of the dead, and the expectation of a Messiah." Not only is this statement refuted by the fact that Maimonides inserted these dogmas in the thirteen articles of his Creed [see JUDAISM], but when, in his later productions, he has occasion to treat of them, he does so with great consideration of his relation to the synagogue, as we have seen above.

Editions and Translations of the principal Works of Maimonides

(1) His כתאב אלסראג was translated into Hebrew from the original Arabic by a number of contemporary literati, and is now printed with the text of the Mishna (ed. Naples, 1492; Venice, 1546; Sabionetta, 1559; Mantua, 1561-62, etc.), and the Talmud (ed. Soncino, 1484; Vienna, 1520- 30, 1540-50; Basle, 1578-80; Cracow, 1603-1606; Lublin, 1617-28; Amsterdam, 1644 -47, etc.). Milman incorrectly states that this "great work on the Mishna, the Porta Mosis, was translated by Pococke" (History of the Jews [3d edit. Lend. 1863], 3:150). This celebrated Orientalist only translated portions of it, chiefly consisting of the introductions to the different Tractates (Theological Works [ed. Twells, London, 1740], vol. i). The Arabic original of these portions is given for the first time with this translation. Surenhusius has given an abridged version of the whole commentary in his edition of the Mishna (Amsterdam, 1678). There are also extant Spanish versions of the whole, and German translations of various parts of this work.

(2) The Sefer Hammiz-woth, or Book of the Precepts, in Arabic (translated into Hebrew by Abr. Ibn-Chasdai, and, from the author's second edition, by Moses Ibn-Tibbon), which contains an enumeration of the 613 traditional laws of the Halacha, together with fourteen canons on the principle of numbering them, chiefly directed against the authors of certain liturgical pieces called Asharoth (Warnings); besides thirteen articles of belief, and a psychological fragment. This book is to be considered chiefly as an introduction to the Mishna Torah.

(3) The Mishna Torah or Jad Hachazaka. The first edition of the text appeared in Italy, in the printing-office of Solomon b. Jehuda and Obadja b. Moses, about 1480, two vols. folio; then in Soncino, 1499; the text, with different commentaries, Constantinople, 1509; Venice, 1524, 1550-51, 1574-75; with an alphabetical index and many plates, 4 vols. folio, Amsterdam, 1702. It is to this edition that the references in this Cyclopaedia are made. Translations of portions of this work in Latin have been published, and also two in English; one by H. H. Bernard, Main Principles of the Creed and Ethics of the Jews exhibited in Selections from the Yad-Hachazakah of Maimonides (Cambr. 1832, 8vo).

(4) The Moreh Nebuchim. or The Guide of the Perplexed, was, till lately, read in the Hebrew translation of Ibn-Tibbon, first published about 1480; then in Venice, 1551; Sabionetta, 1553; Berlin, 1791-96; Sulzbach, 1828, etc.

It was translated into Latin by Justinian, bishop of Nebio, R. Mossei AEgyptii Dux sive Director dubitantium (Paris, 1520); then again by Buxtorf jun., Doctor Perplexorumn (Basle, 1629). The first part was translated into German by Furstenthal (Krotoschin, 1839); the second by M. E. Stein (Vienna, 1864); and the third by Scheyer (Frankfort-on-the- Main, 1838). Part 3:26-49, has been translated into English by Dr. Townley, The Reasons of the Laws of Moses (Lond. 1827). The original Arabic, with a French translation and elaborate notes, was published by Munk (Paris, 1856-66, 3 vols. 8vo). Commentaries on Moreh Nebuchim. or parts of it, have been written, in particular, by Ibn-Falaguera (1280; Pressburg, 1837); Ibn-Caspi (about 1300; Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1848); Moses b. Josua of Norbonne (1355-62; edited by Goldenthal, Vienna, 1852); and Isaiah Abrabanel (15th century; edited by Landau, Leips. 1863). Of his smaller works, we may enumerate, in conclusion, a translation of Avicenna's Canon; an extract from Galen; several medical, mathematical, logical, and other treatises, spoken of with the highest praise by Arabic writers; legal decisions, theological disquisitions, etc., for which see Fü rst, Biblioth. Judaica, s.v.

Literature. Besides the authorities already quoted, see O. Celsius, De olaimonide (1727); Revue Orientate (Brux. 1841); Beer, Leben und Wirken des Maimonides (Prag. 1844); Lebrecht, in Magazinz J: d. Liter. d. Auslandes, 1844, No. 45, p. 62 sq.; Scheyer, Psychol. Syst. des Maimonides (Franktfrt, 1845); Stein, M. Maimonides (1846); R. M. Maimonides, LifJ, etc., of A. Maimnonides (Lond. 1837); Edelmann, Cheruda Genusa; Joel, Religions-philosophie d. Maimonides, in the Programme of the Jewish theol. sem. at Breslau (1859); Jarac-Zewsky, in Zeitschr. f. Philos. u.philos. Kritik, new ser. 46 (Halle, 1865), p. 5 sq.; Franck, Dict. des Sciences Philosoph.iv. 31 sq.; Grä tz, Gesch. d. -ud. 6, ch. 10 and 11; 7, ch. 1 and 2; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u. s. Sekten, 2:428 sq.; ibid. in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.; Ueberweg, Hist. Philos. (translated by Prof. Morris), 1:97; Dr. Milziener, in the Jewish Times (N.Y. 1872), p. 765 sq.; Kitto, Bibl. Cyclopaedia, s.v.; Chambers, Cyclopaedia, s.v.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Maimonides'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/m/maimonides.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

Search for…
Enter query in the box:
 or 
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M 
N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  Y  Z 

 
Prev Entry
Maimon, Solomon
Next Entry
Main, Thomas, d.d.
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology