Dogma in Medieval Jewish Thought

From Maimonides to Abravanel

Menachem Kellner

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ISBN: 9781904113218

Publication: July 22, 2004

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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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.

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.



1 Maimonides
The Text of Maimonides’ Thirteen Principles • What is a ‘Foundation of the Torah’? • Maimonides’ Statement of the Principles in the Mishneh Torah • Divisions into which the Principles Fall • Why Maimonides Posited his Principles • The Thirteen Principles and the Guide of the Perplexed • Missing Principles • Maimonides’ Principles and Other Torah Beliefs • The Special Status of the Twelfth Principle (Messiah) • Summary
2 From Maimonides to Duran
Introduction • Abba Mari • Falaquera • David ben Samuel Lolhavi d’Estella • David ben Yom Tov ibn Bilia • Shemariah ben Elijah ben Ya’akov ha-Ikriti of Negropont • Transition to the Fifteenth Century
3 Duran
The Texts • Duran’s Principles • Was Duran Decisively Influenced by Averroës? • Duran’s Influence
4 Hasdai Crescas
Introduction • The Texts • Crescas’s System of Principles • Crescas’s Use of the Concept ‘Principle of Faith’ • Does the Torah Command Belief? • Crescas on Inadvertent Heresy • Crescas, Rabbenu Nissim, and Duran
5 Joseph Albo
Albo’s System of Principles • Ikkarim, Shorashim, and Anafim • Judaism as a Science • Heresy • Duran, Crescas, and Albo
6 Shalom, Arama, and Yavez
Abraham Shalom • Isaac Arama • Joseph Yavez
7 Abraham Bibago
Bibago’s System of Principles • Bibago’s Analysis of Maimonides’ Principles • Bibago, Maimonides, and Abravanel
8 Isaac Abravanel
Abravanel’s Analysis of Maimonides • Does Abravanel Truly Reject the Claim that Judaism has Principles of Faith?
9 Four Minor Figures
Muehlhausen • Delmedigo • David ben Judah Messer Leon • Mabit
10 Summary and Conclusions
Statements of the Creed • Dogma, Heresy, and Schisms • Creation and Messiah

Appendix: Texts and Translations of Maimonides’ Commentary on Perek Helek

General Index
Index of Biblical Citations

'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

Format: Paperback

Size: 215 x 135 x 18 mm

324 Pages

ISBN: 9781904113218

Publication: July 22, 2004

Series: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

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