Principles of Faith

BookPrinciples of Faith

Principles of Faith

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


September 1st, 1982

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Moses Maimonides was the first medieval Jewish thinker to posit a set of dogmas for Judaism, his ‘Thirteen Principles of Faith’. His statement initiated an extensive discussion among other medieval Jewish thinkers on the subject of dogma, which had an important impact on subsequent Jewish thought. The reaction to Maimonides’ innovation was complex: some scholars accepted his position without reservation; others accepted the idea that Jewish beliefs could be reduced to a creed but disagreed with Maimonides’ formulation; still others rejected the project of creed formulation in Judaism altogether. The locus classicus of this last position is the Rosh Amanah of Isaac Abranavel (1437–1508).

Abravanel’s ostensible aim in writing Rosh Amanah was to defend Maimonides’ creed from the attacks of its critics, notably Hasdai Crescas and Joseph Albo, and it contains the most exhaustive and systematic analysis of the Thirteen Principles ever written. After twenty-two chapters of sustained and zealous defence of Maimonides, however, Abravanel seems to contradict himself, arguing at the end of his book that in fact Judaism has no dogmas whatsoever and that all its beliefs are equally valid, fundamental, and precious.

This is the first complete English translation of Abravanel’s classic work, and includes a comprehensive introduction and notes.

Author Information

Menachem Kellner is chair of the Department of Philosophy and Jewish Thought, Shalem College, Jerusalem and Wolfson Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought, University of Haifa.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Half Title2
Title Page 4
List of Tables10
Note on the Text and Translation12
Principles of Faith (Rosh Amanah)52
A List of the Chapters in This Treatise54
1: On the Opinion of Maimonides Concerning the Foundations of the Torah and Its Principles57
2: On the Opinions of Post-Maimonidean Scholars Concerning the Principles65
3: On the Objections Raised Against the Principles67
4: On Three Objections Which R. Hasdai Raised Against Maimonides with Respect to the Principles Which the Latter Enumerated from Among the Commandments73
5: On Eight Other Objections Against Maimonides Which I Raised Myself75
6: On the First Proposition Necessary for This Enquiry81
7: An Explanation of the Second Proposition Necessary for This Enquiry86
8: An Explanation of the Third Proposition Necessary for This Enquiry93
9: An Explanation of the Fourth Proposition Necessary for This Enquiry97
10: An Explanation of the Fifth Proposition Necessary for This Enquiry99
11: An Explanation of Four Other Propositions Necessary for This Enquiry107
12: Solutions to the First Three Objections112
13: A Solution to the Fourth Objection121
14: A Solution to the Fifth Objection136
15: A Solution to the Sixth Objection141
16: Solutions for Eleven Other Objections145
17: Solutions for Two Other Objections153
18: A Solution to the Twentieth Objection157
19: Solutions to Three Other Objections167
20: Solutions for Three Other Objections174
21: Solutions for the Remaining Objections to the Principles188
22: A Study of the Opinions of Other Scholars on the Principles191
23: An Explanation of the Correct Opinion in This Matter195
24: On an Objection Which May Occur with Respect to This Position and Its Solution202
Table 1: The Twenty-eight Objections to Maimonides' Principles Listed in the Rosh Amanah211
Table 2: Abravanel' s Nine Propositions214
Biblical Pas sages Appearing in the Text265
Rabbinic Passages Appearing in or Referred to in the Text269