In This Article Moses Maimonides

  • Introduction
  • Studies: Short Introductions and Encyclopedia Entries
  • Studies: Biographies and General Introductions
  • Dictionaries and Grammars
  • Concordances
  • Dienstag Bibliographies: The Writings of Maimonides
  • Dienstag Bibliographies: The Reception of Maimonides’ Writings
  • Dienstag Bibliographies: Themes in Maimonides
  • Other Bibliographies
  • Edited and Collected Volumes

Jewish Studies Moses Maimonides
by
James T. Robinson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0085

Introduction

“From Moses to Moses there was no one like Moses.” This famous apothegm sums up the extraordinary life and influence of Moses Maimonides, the most influential medieval Jewish sage. This man of many skills was born in Islamic Cordoba in 1138, fled the Almohad persecution in 1148 to Morocco and Acre, then settled in Egypt (Fustat), where he remained for the rest of his life. There he quickly became the leader of the Jewish community (in Fustat and throughout Egypt and the Islamic world) and, during the last decade of his life, a major figure in the Ayyubid court in Cairo where he served as court physician. The literary corpus Maimonides produced is prodigious, including writings in Arabic and Hebrew on philosophy, law, and medicine. He also produced a large collection of occasional letters in response to legal, political, and philosophical queries. Already during his lifetime he was revered and consulted by scholars from throughout the Jewish world, and his influence only grew after his death, in the Islamic world and Christian Europe. There are few developments in later Jewish thought and law that were not affected by the work of the “Master” and “Teacher of Righteousness.”

Writings: Editions and Translations

The Maimonidean oeuvre covers a wide range of topics, from philosophy and law to commentary on traditional texts to medicine and responses to contemporary issues. The early “Treatise on Logic” (Efros 1938, Qafih 1996) presents a brief and accessible introduction to Aristotelian logic. The Commentary on the Mishnah (Qafih 1963–1968) includes a line-by-line explication of the entire Mishnaic text; it stands at the beginning of a commentary tradition going forward. This work, together with the “Book of Commandments” (Qafih 1971), laid the foundations for the Mishneh Torah (Qafih 1983, Rabinowitz 1985), Maimonides’ complete code of Jewish law. As for philosophical theology, Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed (Munk 1856–1866, Joel 1930–1931, Qafih 1972, Atay 1974) has been the most influential Jewish work of this type, read avidly by Jews and non-Jews alike. Maimonides was invested in the practical side of life too, as evidenced by his large body of Letters and Responsa and substantial corpus of Medical Writings.

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