Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought

BookDogma in Medieval Jewish Thought

Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought

From Maimonides to Abravanel

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


July 22nd, 2004

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Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought is an essay in the history of ideas which traces the development of creed formation in Judaism from its inception with Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) to the beginning of the sixteenth century when systematic attention to the problem disappeared from the agenda of Jewish intellectuals. The dogmatic systems of Maimonides, Duran, Crescas, Albo, Bibago, Abravanel, and a dozen lesser-known figures are described, analysed, and compared. Relevant texts are presented in English translation. For the most part these are texts which have never been critically edited and translated before.

Among the theses defended in the book are the following: that systematic attention to dogma qua dogma was a new feature in Jewish theology introduced by Maimonides (for reasons examined at length in the book); that the subject languished for the two centuries after Maimonides’ death until it was revived in fifteenth-century Spain in response to Christian attacks on Judaism; that the differing systems of dogma offered by medieval Jewish thinkers reflect not different conceptions of what Judaism is, but different conceptions of what a principle of Judaism is; and that the very project of creed formation reflects an essentially Greek as opposed to a biblical/rabbinic view of the nature of religious faith and that this accounts for much of the resistance which Maimonides’ innovation aroused.

'An important contribution to the history of dogma in Judaism and to the history of fifteenth-century Jewish thought in particular.' Chava Tirosh-Rothschild, Critical Review 'A work of serious scholarship. It will no doubt become the standard work on the subject for many years to come.'
Jewish Book News & Reviews
'A detailed analysis of Maimonides's position and its aftermath ... a scholarly analysis ... Kellner steers us deftly through the complex argument. His is the most thorough treatment so far of this still relevant chapter in the history of Jewish thought.'
Jonathan Sacks, L'Eylah
'The first study of its kind.'
P. T. Stella, Salesianum

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 Page4
1. Maimonides 25
I. The Text of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles25
II. What is a 'Foundation of the Torah'?32
III. Maimonides' Statement of the Principles in the Mishneh Torah36
IV. Divisions into which the Principles Fall39
V. Why Maimonides Posited his Principles49
VI. The Thirteen Principles and the Guide of the Perplexed64
VII. Missing Principles68
VIII. Maimonides' Principles and Other Torah Beliefs76
IX. The Special Status of the Twelfth Principle (Messiah)78
X. Summary80
2. From Maimonides to Duran 81
I. Introduction81
II. Abba Mari84
III. Falaquera89
IV. David ben Samuel Kokhavi d'Estella90
V. David ben Yorn Tov ibn Bilia 92
VI. Shemariah ben Elijah ben Ya'akov ha-Ikriti of Negro pont94
VII. Transition to the Fifteenth Century 95
3. Duran 98
I. The Texts 98
II. Duran's Principles110
III. Was Duran Decisively Influenced by Averroës?118
IV. Duran's Influence120
4. Hasdai Crescas123
I. Introduction 123
II. The Texts 125
III. Crescas's System of Principles 131
IV. Crescas's Use of the Concept 'Principle of Faith' 140
V. Does the Torah Command Belief?142
VI. Crescas on Inadvertent Heresy144
VII. Crescas, Rabbenu Nissim, and Duran 152
5. Joseph Albo 155
I. Albo's System of Principles155
II. Ikkarim, Shorashim, and Anafim161
III. Judaism as a Science164
IV. Heresy166
V. Duran, Crescas, and Albo 170
6. Shalom, Arama, and Yaveẓ?172
I. Abraham Shalom172
II. Isaac Arama174
III. Joseph Yaveẓ176
7. Abraham Bibago 180
I. Bibago's System of Principles 180
II. Bibago's Analysis of Maimonides' Principles185
III. Bibago, Maimonides, and Abravanel190
8. Isaac Abravanel 194
I. Abravanel's Analysis of Maimonides 194
II. Does Abravanel Truly Reject the Claim that Judaism has Principles of Faith?199
9. Four Minor Figures 211
I. Muehlhausen211
II. Delmedigo212
III. David hen Judah Messer Leon212
IV. Mabit213
10. Summary and Conclusions 215
I. Statements of the Creed215
II. Dogma, Heresy, and Schisms222
III. Creation and Messiah228
Appendix: Texts and Translations of Maimonides' Commentary on Perek Ḥelek233
General Index318
Index of Biblical Citations324