Maimonides, The Jewish Scholar For All Times

Maimonides lived around 1100 CE. His writing about religion and his life as a Rabbi, scientist and physician, is beyond my understanding. And, it is about an invisible God. But, he seems to dwarf other ancient writing. A friend introduced me years ago.

He was chased out of countries by both Christians and Muslims. It is unfortunate to this day the more popular narratives of Judaism, Islam and Christianity have kept of Maimonides somewhat less prominent than he might have been.

He is considered the first physician to describe the symptoms asthma, diabetes, hepatitis and pneumonia. He was doctor to a royal family and served patients off the street at other hours. While doing both he wrote about religion.

Like all discussions of religion there has been endless hair splitting about the teachings of Maimonides. In much of his writing he seemed to stay with resurrection of the soul, not of the body.

He is called a “rationalist.” He thought it inaccurate to describe  God with positive statements. Instead of saying “God is wise,” believers should say, “God is not ignorant.” He thought prophets resulted from study and that one need not be a Jew to be one.

He thought of God as a big picture being who does not pay any attention to individuals. God does not get “angry with man” because man is not that important in the vast universe.

But, it is helpful for people to believe God gets angry, Maimonides wrote, because it helps keep them in line.


12 Responses

      1. Adam Heckathorn

        They have written and quoted about him often in their magazines. They did an article on him that and summed it up with “He was OK but of course we know better cause the Bible is the final word and were the final word on the Bible.” They have had lots of articles like that. Here is the last paragraph from that article. *** w95 3/1 p. 23 Maimonides—The Man Who Redefined Judaism ***
        Maimonides might be considered a Renaissance man who lived before the Renaissance. His insistence that faith be consistent with reason is still a valid principle. This principle led him to speak out vehemently against religious superstition. Yet, Christendom’s bad example and Aristotle’s philosophic influence often prevented him from reaching conclusions fully in harmony with Bible truth. Though not all would agree with the comment inscribed on Maimonides’ grave—“From Moses to Moses, there was no one like Moses”—it must be admitted that he redefined the course and content of Judaism.

        Don’t get me started on JW’s saying faith must be consistent with reason, That is an absurd statement from people who believe the demons will get you if you watch the wrong cartoon. They site him and other note worthy historical figures in their writings but I wouldn’t assume that they are careful about not taking him out of context.

        1. Adam 5:45 They have written and quoted about him often in their magazines. They did an article on him that and summed it up with “He was OK but of course we know better cause the Bible is the final word and were the final word on the Bible.”

          Thanks for that, Adam. My guess it we would find a similar review of Maimonides in other Christian places as well.

    1. entech

      Centuries before Maimonides there was Rabbi Hillel the elder. He said it all in as few words as possible without any mysticism or magic but without denying them to those that wanted to believe.

      That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”
      Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

  1. Steven

    As an agnostic who has studied Maimonides famous work “the guide to the perplexed” I find it amusing that a blog that caters to atheists and routinely exposes christianity would glorify a talmudic scholar. I guess political correctness trumps ethics. Maybe next we need a post that exalts the prophet Mohammed?

    1. Steven 10:28 I pointed out he believed in an invisible god which I do not so I don’t know what you mean about being “political correct”. Splitting hairs over the god which he and his critics did does not interest me. He had a cleverness, the god in a negative sense and the god that who found individuals too insignificant to be bothered with, which had, in my opinion, more intellectual honesty than lots of other religious writing. I did make the disclaimer I don’t know a lot about this.

    1. Henry 11:15 This is too funny, an atheist carrying water for a medieval writer the JW crew cite often

      I happen to prefer Jews who cured people through science and medicine. You prefer one who cured through magic. We’re good.

      1. Rob

        From your previous blog post, I’d like you to give some examples of atheist organizations that help the poor. Since you said Christian groups need to ‘step it up’ when it comes to the poor, I would like to know of some atheist organizations that are doing things right and perhaps providing a shining example for religious groups to use as a guide. Thank you.

      2. entech

        Jon, Henry does poke his oar into the water to muddy things up, I am sure he is far to intelligent to believe even half (probably much less) of what he says. Maimonides with his examination of religious traditions and general examination of the world and the way it works is the very epitome of a freethinker. So many people are so blinded by their own belief system that they cannot imagining that the result of deciding independently rather than accepting the dogma of religious or civic authorities. can lead to other results than disbelief.
        My favourite Jesuit, George Coyne, talks long and passionately about the origin of the universe, the starts and life as an evolutionary process, but states quite simply that it does not hinder his faith. Others take the faith they have been given blindly and don’t think, freely or otherwise.

  2. Catcher

    No surprises here, to expect Maimonides or Hillel to be Christian apologists would be equal to Luther speaking in favor of all the decrees contained in Trent.

    It is also no surprise for the JW’s to selectively use Maimonides, He being a Jew, would naturally be against Jesus as Messiah. And the JW’s being strongly against the tri-unity of the Godhead., Both in the person of the Holy Spirit, and the divine and human natures of Jesus.

    To expect agreement is foolish

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