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Guide for the Perplexed, Maimonides (12th c.)

A bridge from the sacred to the secular

by
Adam Kirsch
September 17, 2013

Moses ben Maimon, who lived in the Islamic world in 12th century C.E., is widely regarded as the most important thinker in Jewish history. Not only was he a master of Jewish law, writing a definitive Jewish legal code; he was also a master of the most up-to-date Aristotelian philosophy and theology. Guide for the Perplexed, written in Arabic, was his attempt to reconcile those two very different ways of thinking—Jewish and Greek, sacred and secular. In particular, Maimonides argued that much of the Bible had to be read metaphorically, not literally. The Guide was so radical that it was banned and burned by some Jewish communities, yet it remains to this day one of the greatest monuments of Jewish thought, and of the medieval mind.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

Adam Kirsch is a poet and literary critic, whose books include The People and the Books: 18 Classics of Jewish Literature.

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