The Guide for the Perplexed

The Guide for the Perplexed

by Moses ben-Maimon

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Overview

There is a saying that the history of Jewish doctrine goes runs from 'Moses to Moses'; the second of which is Moses Maimonides. Maimonides (1120-1190) was a brilliant Hispanic Jewish scholar who lived in Spain and Egypt in the 12th century. In addition to being a philosopher, Maimonides also worked as a medical doctor. The Guide for the Perplexed, originally written in Arabic, and soon translated into Hebrew and widely read, is his best known work. The framing story is that it is a letter written to one of his students, to prepare him to understand the background of the Merkabah (the Chariot of Ezekiel) narrative. In the course of this, Maimonides delves into the most difficult questions of theology and reality itself, many of which are still controversial today. Did the universe have a beginning? Will it ever end? What is the nature of evil? Does the complexity of organic life imply some kind of rational design?
The Guide consists of three books. The first book deals with the nature of God, concluding that God cannot be described in positive terms. He uses this argument to systematically deconstruct the Islamic Kalam literalist school of thought, which anthropomorphized God. The second book examines natural philosophy, particularly Aristotle's system of concentric spheres, and theories of the creation and duration of the universe, and the theory of angels and prophecy. In the last Book, he expounds the mystical Merkabah section of Ezekiel, skirting the traditional prohibition of direct explanation of this passage. After this he covers the 613 laws of the Pentateuch, organized into 14 branches, attempting to present rational explanations for each law. Throughout, Maimonides stresses that the student needs to consider all theories.

He draws from Jewish, Islamic and ancient Greek philosophers, and evaluates each one on their merits. Most notably, he scrutinizes Aristotle's natural science in the light of scripture and physcial evidence--sometimes critically, foreshadowing the spirit of the Renaissance. The seed of the scientific method is also present in his discussion of permitted cures (p. 335), reflecting his medical background: "the Law permits as medicine everything that has been verified by experiment." Controversial when it was written, the Guide continues to be a key reference point in the evolution of philosophy, and will be a rewarding journey for the modern reader.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940013636521
Publisher: 613 Development
Publication date: 10/04/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Sales rank: 660,320
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Moses ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Mūsā ibn Maymūn (موسى بن ميمون) in Arabic, or Rambam (רמב"ם – Hebrew acronym for "Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon"), was a preeminent medieval Jewish philosopher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages. He was born in Córdoba, Spain on Passover Eve, 1135, and died in Egypt (or Tiberias) on 20th Tevet, December 12, 1204.[6] He was a rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt.
Although his writings on Jewish law and ethics were met with acclaim and gratitude from most Jews even as far off as Spain, Iraq and Yemen, and he rose to be the revered head of the Jewish community in Egypt, there were also vociferous critics of some of his rulings and other writings particularly in Spain. Nevertheless, he was posthumously acknowledged to be one of the foremost rabbinical arbiters and philosophers in Jewish history, his copious work a cornerstone of Jewish scholarship. His fourteen-volume Mishneh Torah still carries canonical authority as a codification of Talmudic law. In the Yeshiva world he is known as "haNesher haGadol" (the great eagle) in recognition of his outstanding status as a bona fide exponent of the Oral Torah.

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