Opening the Gates of Interpretation
Mordechai Z. Cohen
The biblical hermeneutics of the illustrious philosopher-talmudist Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) has long been underappreciated, and viewed in isolation from the celebrated philological schools of “plain sense” (peshat) Jewish Bible exegesis. Aiming to redress this imbalance, this study identifies Maimonides’ substantial contributions to that interpretive movement, assessing its achievements in cultural context. Like others in the rationalist Geonic-Andalusian school, Maimonides’ understanding of Scripture was informed by Arabic learning. Drawing upon Greco-Arabic logic, poetics, politics, physics and metaphysics, as well as Muslim jurisprudence, he devised sophisticated new approaches to key issues that occupied other exegetes, including a variety of interpretive cruxes, the reconciliation of Scripture with reason, a legal hermeneutics for deriving halakhah (Jewish law) from Scripture, and the nature of interpretation itself.
"It is a valuable contribution to the entire study of medieval biblical exegesis and will undoubtedly serve as the basis of all subsequent discussions of Maimonides' hermeneutics."
Daniel J. Lasker, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev