Problems and Parables of Law: Maimonides and Nahmanides on Reasons for the Commandments (Ta'Amei Ha-Mitzvot)

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Overview

A rigorous analysis of Maimonides' and Nahmanides' explanations of the Mosaic commandments that challenges received notions of the relation between these two seminal thinkers.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
In this first book-length treatment of a subject that has been relatively overlooked by scholars since Isaac Heinemann’s classic work in the 1950s, Josef Stern offers an original analysis of two major themes in Maimonides’ explanation of the Law and its impact on Nahmanides. The first theme is Maimonides’ reconceptualization of the huqqim, those commandments that were traditionally asserted either to have no reason or a reason that is unknown or unknowable. The second theme is Maimonides’ application of his method of multi-leveled interpretation that treats texts as parables with “external” and “internal” meaning to the explanation of commandments with multiple reasons. Both of these innovative modes of explanation are adopted by Nahmanides, who refined and adapted Maimonides’ structures of interpretation to express diametrically opposed contents. From this perspective there emerges a picture of the relation between these two seminal figures of medieval Judaism that is much more subtle than the received opinion that bluntly opposes them, the radical arch rationalist against the mystical traditionalist.
Booknews
A comparative examination of two Jewish philosophers views on Old Testament laws. Arguing that the two are not as radically opposed as has previously been argued, the author explore the impact of two elements of the Maimonidean revolution on the thought of Nahmanides. The first is Maimonides' idea of the problematic (or arbitrary) commandment, which he viewed as having reasons related to contingent historical context. The second, related idea was that explanations for all commandments should be modelled after the multilevel interpretations of parables, because often reasons were hidden from the people lest the commandments lose their impact. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Josef Stern is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Committee on Jewish Studies, and in the College, The University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Primary Sources

Chapter 1 Ta'amei Ha-Mitzvot and the Philosophical Foundations of Judaism

Chapter 2 Problematic Commandments I: Maimonides on the Huqqim and Antinomianism

Chapter 3 Problematic Commandments II: Maimonides on Decrees of Scripture

Chapter 4 Maimonides and Nahmanides on the Interpretation of Parables and Explanation of Commandments

Chapter 5 Maimonides on the Parable of Circumcision

Chapter 6 Problematic Commandments III: Maimonides and Nahmanides on the Huqqim, Astrology, and Idolatry

Notes

Bibliography

Index

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