Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mishneh Torah, by Moses ben Maimonides (1135AD-1204).

Dr. Wiki has an article on Maimonides.  The Mishneh Torah was a long running (many volumes) Jewish commentary on the Torah and the Hebrew Bible in general written by Moses ben Maimonides. I came across this at the Fremont Library and was curious about the parallel Hebrew and English text.  Since my fall semester Hebrew class just started yesterday, this book has considerable interest, especially given that the Hebrew type is large and includes the vowel markings.  According to the introduction, the Mishneh Torah was first written in Arabic and translated into Hebrew.  The volume in the library is a greatly abbreviated text that gives some glimpses into Maimonides views.  One of my Hebrew profs tells me that Jewish theological views are literally viewS.  That is, there are many so we cannot speak of a single system of Biblical interpretation that is Jewish.  Maimonides' contribution was to filter a vast literature on Biblical interpretation down to one view on each topic, but this situation apparently did not stay that way.

The usual work of Maimonides that serious students of Philosophy study is The Guide of the Perplexed.  This is included in a list of the "top 100" philosophical works that a doctor of philosophy should be familiar with.  I have my doubts about simply reading works in isolation, given that this may yank the work out of its historical and personal context.  Quoting an unread work is even more problematic.  At the same time, I am not quite sure I want to invest a lot of time in Maimonides studies, since this would require learning much about a context(s) that I know nothing of, excepting for the atheist propaganda that is taught in the US government schools.


James Pate said...

I haven't yet read the Guide to the Perplexed, but I took a class on Jewish medieval philosophy. I think you could probably read it and get things out of it, since you yourself have read a lot of philosophy, such as Aristotle. Essentially, Maimonides tries to do what Aquinas did for Christianity----to reconcile the Torah with Aristotle.

Looney said...

You have me pondering more about the reconciliation of Aristotle with X. I have heard this many times in different contexts (and repeated it a few times), but it has always been just an assertion. I can't disagree, but now I perhaps know enough to consider what kind of survey would be needed to evaluate such a statement. I will post something on this, since it is a good topic and I wonder how a professor might make a defense should she be challenged!

James Pate said...

Part of the issue was that a lot of Aristotle stuff was found in medieval times, and so that led to an Aristotle resurgence. In terms of specific issues, Maimonides wrestles with the eternity of the cosmos---which I think was Aristotelian. There may be other issues as well.

Looney said...

Here are the chapter headings on this topic from Guide to the Perplexed:

XIV Seven Methods by which the Philosophers sought to prove the
Eternity of the Universe
XV Aristotle does not scientifically demonstrate his Theory
XVI The Author refutes all Objections to Creatio ex nihilo

This is from the following link:

I still need to read his work!

Max Coutinho said...

Hi Looney,

Dr Wiki? LOL LOL LOL loved that one.

"Quoting an unread work is even more problematic." - so true. You should advise Mr Romney on this fact.

I haven't read the Guide of the Perplexed yet.
I have started reading the Mishnah (an online edition, English version) and this post reminded me that I must go back to it.

Have a great Hebrew semester :D.