Moses Maimonides

Medieval Jewish philosopher and theologian

Summary

Born
March 30, 1135
Died
December 13, 1204
Related topics
Egypt, Early works, Rabbis, Maimonides, Moses,--1135-1204, Jewish ethics,
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Biography

Maimonides, also known as Moses Ben Maimon, was born in Cordoba, the center of Jewish learning and Islamic culture. There is disagreement about his date of birth. It is widely stated to be 1135, however other sources give the date as 1138, based on recent research. His was born into a family of rabbinic scholars and his father was his first and most important teacher. Even at the age of 16, Maimonides showed a marked interest in theology, writing a paper on the proper linguistic usage of theological terms.

After being persecuted by the puritanical Almohades during a time of great political upheaval in Spain, Maimonides and his family fled to Fostat in Egypt. He was a great leader of the Jewish community in Egypt, and because rabbis were not paid in that time, he trained to become a physician. Thanks to his intellectual ability he quickly rose to be one of the most influential physicians of his time, and became the official doctor to Saladin, the ruler of Egypt.

However, it is his commentary on Jewish texts that mark him out as one of the most influential and important Jews in history. He wrote three major essays on Jewish law, the most famous being 'The Guide for the Perplexed', and each of them is still regarded as hugely important in Jewish philosophy. This monumental work laid the foundation for all subsequent Jewish philosophic inquiry known as Chakirah, and stimulated centuries of philosophic Jewish writing.

Maimonides, living in the religious melting pot of North Africa, was hugely influenced by all the faiths surrounding him. The Arab and Greek ideas he was exposed to at the time probably made him among the most tolerant of religious leaders. He did not believe that true prophecy was confined to only the Jews, but rather stressed a difference in the degree of responsibility.

He was one of the few Jewish leaders whose teachings also influenced the non Jewish world during that period, and Christian leaders, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, referred to him in writings as 'Rabbi Moses'. He was successful in bringing four cultures (GrecoRoman, Arab, Jewish, and Western) together in one person, and in doing so, remains one of the most influential religious philosophers of the intellectual world.

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