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RELIGIOUS

AGE e.

Proceedings of Regional Conferences


Held at the University of California, Los Angeles
and Brandeis University in April, 1973

Edited by
S. D. GOITEIN

ASSOCIATION FOR JEWISH STUDIES


CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS
1974
@ COPYRIGHT 1974 ASSOCIATION FOR JEWISH STUDIES

CONTENTS

Preface by Arnold J. Band vii

Introdrrction by S. D. Goitein 1
, ,
Lihrary of Congress Catnloging in Publication Data Religion in Everyday Life nr Refkcred in the Documents of the
Main entry under title. Cairo Geniza by S. D. Goitein . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Remarks by Speros Vryonis, Jr. .............................. 19


Papers from 2 regional conferences of the Association
for Jewish Studies, hcld Apr. 8-9 at the University oi I The Religion of the Thinkers: Free Will and Predestination in
California, 1.0s Angdes and Apr. 19-30, 1973, at Drandeis
University. Saadia, Bahya, and Maimonides by Alexander Altmann 25
Inclirdes hibliogruphies.
I . Jodaism--History-Meclieval and early modern pe-
riod, 425-178 Congresses. 9 . Cairo Genizah. 3. Phi- The Study of Philosophy as a Religious Obligation
losophy, ,Jewis%;--q:J udaism-Relations-Islam. 5. Islam
-Relations--Juda~sm. I. Goitein, Solomon Dob Fritz, by Herbert A. Davidson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
goo- ed. TJ. Association for Jewish Studies.
Religion and Law by Isadore Twersky 69
The Ethics of Medieval Jewish Marriage
DISTRIBUTED BY by Mordechai A. Friedman . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 3
KTAV PUBIlSHING HOUSE, INC.
The Medieval Polemics befween Islam and Judaisnt
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10002
by Moshe Perlmann . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103

Involvement in Geniza Research by S . D. Goitein 139

Seminar on Selected Geniza Texts by S. D. Cioltein 147

Programs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153

MANUFACTURED IN THE UNlTED STATES OF AMERICA


THE STUDY OF PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS
OBLTGATION
A. DAVIDSON
HERBERT
University of California
Los Angeles

8 1. Each of the participants in our colloquiutn is using a set of docu-


ments t o reconstruct the rcligiou character of a scgment of medieval
Jewish society. I havc undertaken to examine a small selection of docn-
n~ents-narrowly philosophic works, and other litcraturc that may have
been aRected hy philosophy; and to illuminate thc religion of a s m d l seg-
ment of medieval Jewish society, thc scgrnent comprising thinkcrs of a
rationalist bcnt.
When we think of the meeting betwecn philosophy and institutionalized
religion in any period of histo~y,we are likely, as if by an involuntary
association of ideas, to think at oncc of conflict. Philosophy and religion,
it would seem, are ways of looking at thc universe. just too nntagonistic
lo permit even a n armistice, let alone peaceful cooperation And indccd
the meeting of philosophy and religion in the Jcwish middle ages did bring
i conflicb conflict in several spheres.' In the strictly philosophical and
thedogical sphere, that conflict expressed itself in what is known as the
problem of reason and re~clation,or faith and reason. The problem of
rcason and rcvclation itself contained at least two aspects. There was a
conflict between diffcring methyds of attaining the truth; and also a con-
flict between different bodics of doctrine resulting from the use of those
methods. That is t o say, thcrc was a conflict between the method of
attaining truth through the unaided cxercise of human reason, on the one
hand, and the method of attaining truth through prophetic revelation, on
the other hand; and also a conflict betwecn the body of doctrine drawn
from Greek philosophy, on the one hand, and thc body of doctrine drawn
from revealed religion, on the other.
Considerable attention has becn paid by scholars to the problem of
reason and revelation in the Middle Ages. The attention is justified, for
the issue left its mark on the mentality of all whom it touched. It was,
of course, a ccntril concern for the philosophers themselves, but it was

53
54 FIERBERT A. DAVIDSON PHILOSDPHl AS A RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION 55

also a concern for thinking men who were not philosophers, yet who felt rethinking three essential elcmcnts in their religion, with thi: aid of phi-
either a sympathetic interest, or more likely than not, an antipathetic losophy: belief in the existence of God, love of God, and the religious
interest in philosophy. A many-colored spectrum could be painted to dutyof study. And I shall try to show that in the case of the men I am
represent the different positions taken on the issue of reason a i d revela- d d i n g with, the appearance of Greck philosophy was not an ill omen for
tion. Those positioris would range from an ultra-reliance on rea,son at religion. The appearance of philosophy allowed them to rethink their
one end of the spectrum, to what might be called an infra-reliance on religion in a form morc satisfacivry for them, from a strictly religious
reason at the otller end, with every medieval Jewish thinker who inter- viewpoint. Atld therefore, the Jewish thinkers in question bccame cull-
ested himself in the problcm finding his' place on the spectrum.? Tools vinccd that they hod to study philosophy, for purely religious reasons.
were.claborated to deal with the problcnl. Liberal thinkers developed the
theory that truth can be-and for psychological reasons most bc-pre- Let us bcgin by drawing a pnAile of a kwish intellectual in the
sented in different forms Lo different audiences; Scripture could accnrd- medieval period. He is someone who is nincerely religious, a sincere ad-
ingly be viewed as a popular and fi@~rativcversion of the vcry truth put herent of the religion of his fathers. He is, hourever, interested in ideas,
forward by philosophy. Conservative thinkers for their part, dcvelopcd a and open-minded; he is willing, even cager to examine theoretical prob-
critique of human reason and of the philosophic method, establishing lems in an analytic, rationalist manncr. Purthw he is possessed of the
areas where philosophy is intrinsically incapable of attaining the tmth. medieval mentality in the following important sense: He. has a com-
Virtually all parties along thc spectrum employed the allegorical intcr- pletcly static view of history. He cannot evcn imagir-e that people in
pretatia~of Scripture, rccognieing at least some verses of Scripture that Biblical timcs and rabhinic times had looked at the universe differently
most not be accepted literally bui mmst be intcrpretcd figumtively; the from the way hc looks at the universc. And by the same token he never
extel!t to which Lhe allegorical method was applicd depcnded on the place questions that the schools of Greck philosophy had achieved, definitively,
along the spectrum that any given thinkcr occupied. These remarks- once and for all, the most accurate description of thc univcrse possible
and those that follow-apply, to medieval Islam and Chrisiianity as well for the unaidcd human intellect. I want to trace how such a Jewish in-
as lo mcdicval Judaism. tellectual cuuld analyze lundanlenral elements in the Iewisb rcligion, and
Granted that the cnnflicl betwcen philosophy and rcligion was highly how in each instance his analysis co~ildlead to the obligation of studying
siguificant in the Middle A p s , the meeting of philosophy and religiou philosophy-to a religio~rsobligation to study philosophy. The medieval
shnnld be viewed as a two-sided coin. The appearance of philosophy on thinker whose reasoning I am going to trace is not a single individual,
the medieval religious scme was not merely a force threalening destmc- but a conlposite d sercral: in particular, Hahya ibn Paqudn, Abraham
lion for religion. For some medieval thinkcrs it was a chnllenge that- ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides, and to a lesser degree, Saadia,
if we allow ourselves Lhe clichLclicitcd a fruitful response; it was an Joseph ihn Saddiq, and Albo. All tile positions I am going to present are
opportunity to rethink essential elements ill thcir religion in a: form that quotations, paraphrases, or explications of these writers.
was more satisfactory precisely for religious reasons.
The p i n t can bc made as follows: We may, it is true, think of the 5 2. Our composite medieval thinker is, to begin, certain that an cssen-
efforts of medieval Jewish philosophy as a ratioizalizafion in the pejorativc tial, if not the most essential elcmcnt in the Jewish religion is the belief
seuse of that term. We can think of the medieval thinker as ovcrwl~el~r~ed ic the existence of God. Some scholars, of course, undcrstand that in
by Greek philosophy. If he did not flee illto obsc.urantism, be was forced Diblical times, pcople were so naivc that they never questioned the exist-
to join th2 enemy and salvage his religion by shallow and hypocritical ence of God. Whether or not that is true oC B'iblical times, medieval
reinterpretations that hardly could have convinced him, let alone others. thinkers were not so naive.. Some modern theologians have, on the con-
But we may also think of the efforts of medieval Jewish philosophy as a trary, co~llendedthat a Jewish religion without a dcity is possible and
rationalizurion in the favorable sense of the tcrnl. We can think of Greek even desirablc. Whcther or not such il rcligiou is indeed possible and de-
philosophy as highlighting, for the medieval thinker, elements in tho Jew- sirable, medieval thinkers wcre not s o sophisticated. For an intelligent
ish religion that were vague and problematical, and then providing him ~ncdicvalJew it was obvious that thc Jewish religion is meaningless, in
with the means for clarifying those problematical elements; for understand- fact that Judaism as a wl~oleis mcaninglcss, withoul a belief in the exist-
ing them in a more rational way. ence of God."nt it was vcry far from obvious just what the belief in
I am goirlg to describe how nledieval Jewish ratioualists went about the existence uh God might consist in. Asking the question, asking just
56 HERBERT A. DAYIDSON PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS OBLlGATlON 57

what belief consists in, was one result of the meeting with Greek phi- he, the believer by tradition, trails after." Furthcrnmorc, there is always
losophy.' And once the question was askcd, there was a degree of in- the chance that the ostensibly rcliable source of tradition is in errol., and
evitability in the way medieval Jewish intellectuals answered. t h e ~ d o r eknowledge through it can never be completely certain. Believers
Thc medieval rationalist whom we are considering is careful to insist by tradition are like "blind men" walking singlc file, "each with his hand
that belief in the existence of God cannot consist merely in saying sonle- on the shoulder of the man preceding." If by chance the lcader of the
thing; hilief cannot, lor example, consist merely in saying the. words: line is ui~faithful,if he is treacherous, if he is simply lost, or if by chance
"God exists." The theory that belief consists mcrely in saying something, someone in the nliddle of thc line should stumble, tlvn all those who fol-
had to be ruled out because certain Moslem theologians actually had held low after will go astray. They may even fall into the pit."' Our mcdieval
that that is all true belicf docs consist i n . 3 u t for thc medieval Jewish Jewiah intellectual therefore finds that tradition by itself is insuficient.
thinker, as fur most men of intelligence, such belief would b e worthless, The most aclcqnate bclief in the existcncc oC God, or-sumc went so far
if not paradoxical: A person may say things hc has not rcally thought as t o hold-the only adequate belief in the existcnce of God must consist
about; a person can even be described as saying things he does not be- in certain knowledge atlained by the belicver through his own powers,
licvc. Bclief, therefore, clearly must consist in more than saying a few through a rational demonstration."
words." Once he is satisfied that belief must consist in more than just The medieval rationalist, whom wc are following, has, then, reached
saying something, our medieval Jewish intellectual procecds to ask whether tfle stage where he is sure that an adequate belief in the existcnce of God
belicf in the cxistencc of God may consist simply in thinking something, is a matter not merely, 21s he put3 it, for "the tonguu," but also for "the
in having an opinion. Some bcliefs surely do consist exclusively in think- heart."l"dcquate bclief furtherrnorc consists not merely in thinking
ing that something is so, but they are not necessarily true beliefs. A that God exists, but in knowing that God exists. And the most adequate
pauper, for example, may arbitrarily believe he has money in his pocket; way of knowing God exists is by demonstrating the existence of God
the man with a mort:~l memy may arbitrarily believe that Iris cnerny has rationally to oneself. The train of reasoning. it should b e added, closely
died? But such belicls are not merely false, they are foolish: and a re- followed ~slainicn ~ o d e l s . ' ~
ligion bascd upon belicls of that type would be a religion of fools.' The How is one to go about demonstrating the eiistencc of God employing
n~edieval Jews who thought about the question were sure that they rc- only unaided human reason? For onr medieval thinker, the al.swex was
quircd a much sounder foundation for their religion. again obvious: Greek philosophy ofercd a set of proofs of the cxistence
Thcy wcw sure that the only ;rdcquatz basis for rcligion is a true and of God. Those proofs, togcthcr with new proofs growiug out of medieval
cerluin belief, a belief cnnsisting not mcrely in thinking that somelhing adaptations of Greek philosophy, wcre accordingly embraced by medieval
is so, but in knowing with ccrtainly that it is so. In othcr words, an ade- thinkers or a rationalist bent as a welcome and indispensable underpinning
quate helie! in the existence 01' God as demanded by the Jewish religioll for religious belief: An adequate belief in the existmce id God as re-
must consist in true and ccrtain knowl~dgcof thc cxistencc of Gud." quired precisely by religion must, it was understood, consist in thc ahility
In the Middle Ages, sevcral ways were recognized in which true and "to adduce proofs of the existence of God in a theoretical manner,""
ccrtain knowledge can be acquired."' But therc wcre only two recognized that is lo say, in the ability t o present philosophic prooCs of the existence
ways for ordinary people to acquire knowledge of ihc exislcncc of God. of God.
Ordinary people, people who are not prophets or semi-prophets," can Wc assumed at the outset that our medieval thirtker was a sincere
acquire knowledge of lhe cxistence of God either through reliablz tra- adherent of thc religion of his fathem Hc had no intelltion of construct-
dition or through rational demonstration. The medieval i~~lcllectual was ing a new religion; he considered himself only an expositor of the old
thus faced with the necessity of adjudicating the relative value of those rcligion. Having arrived at his conception of a philosophic and scientific
two sources of knowledge. faith in Gnd-faith bascd on philosophic knowledge-he would there-
Exclusive reliance on the traditional routc to knowlcrlge of the exist- fore ask himsclf whether the conception finds contirination in the Holy
ence of God would bc tempting. The tradition 01 the Jewish nation going Books. Fortunately, as he read those books, it docs. Scripture repeatedly
back to Sinai, thc writtcn L.aw, thc oral Law-these are the pillars of the summons mankind t o knowledge of the Lord. Scripture says: "Know
Jewish religion. But the traditional roiltc tl:, kuowledge has drawbacks. this day . . . that the Lord is God" (Deut. 4:39). "Know the Lord of
To bclieve by tradition means to relegate oncself to an inferior class. The thy father, serve Him with a whole heart and a willing soul" (I Chron.
bdicver by tradition allows someone else to attain the primary belief; then 28:9). One biblical verse, as scad in the Middle Ages, explicitly teaches:
PHILOSOPHY 4 S A RELlGlOUS OBLIGATION 59

"Glory only in this, in inleNectira1 understanding and knowledge" of God To summarize: The composite medieval rationalist whose reasolling
(Jer. 9:23).IS And other verses echo the theme.'" Our n~edievalrational- we have been following understands that adequatc belicf in Lhe existence
ist was in no way co~~scious of reading anything into thesc vcrses. On the of God as required by religion must consist in true and certain knowledge
contrary, for him they had just one clear meaning: Scripture is exhorting of thc existence of God. The best way to true and certain knowledge, and
mankind to learn to know thc Lord in the only manner whereby sotne- consequently the best way to adequate belief in the existence of God, is not
thing invisible can be known with cerkainty and truth-through a scicn- through tradition but through scientific dcmonstration. Therefore in order
tific and philosophic demonstration. Sunport f o r a scientific bclicf in the to be adequate from a purely religious standpoint, belief reqnired study
existence of God was thus forthcoming from the Bible, as the Bible was of the philosophic proofs of the existence of God. This position was
rcad in the Middle Ages. reached through an analysis of tho concept of belief and was supported
Support was forthconling from rabbinic literature as well. There the by texts from Scripture and rabbinic literature. It was thc positiou of a
patriarch Abraham h~tdbeen described as discovering tho existcncc of line of mcdieval thinkers of different schools and different temperaments,
God through a praccss of inquiry. Abmham had been compared to a but d l having in common that they werc sincerely religious and yct all
wayfarer who sees a castle a11 lit up and asks, "Call the castle have no rationalists.
governor?': like that wayJarer, Abraham askcd, "Can the world have no The point I have been making here-that medieval Jcwish rationalists
governor?" And only after this inquiry was Abraham vouchsafcd pro- recognized an obligation to study philosophic proofs of thc existcnce of
phetic converse with the dcity. Such is the rabbinic account.20 Our God for purely religions rcasons-can also be made with regard to the
medieval thinker approached the rabbinic account already understallding unity and incorporeality of God. Proper bdief in God, from the strictly
that man can estahlish the existeuce of God through inquiry only by religious standpoint, w a understood to include belief in His unity and
formulating philosophic proofs. Accordingly. Abraham's inquiry con- i n ~ o r p o r e a l i t y . ~ 3adequatc
n belicf in the unity and incorporeality of
cerning the deity had to refer to such a proof. The rabbinic account of God, it was argued, must consist in true and certain knouledge; such
Abraham's con~crsionsignified that-more than a millennium before the knowledge rests on the ability to demonstrate the unity and incorporeality
appearance of philosophy among the Greeks-the fathcr uC the Jewish of God; and the requisite demonstrations are available only from phi-
people had formulated a philosophical proof of the existence of God.ZL losophy." Hut instead of following the details of that train of rcasoning,
Several nlidreshim current in the Middlc Ages offer a different, more let us leavo thc coguitivt side of religion and turn to another side of re-
elaborate accvunt of the way Abraham came to learn of the existence of ligion, the emotional side.
the true God. One day, the prescnt account runs, Ablaham prayed to
the sun. In thc evening, whcu the sun set, he directed his prayers to the 1 3. I wish to considcr the quality of love of God, unquestionably another
muol~. But by morning the moon too had set; then Abraham understood essential clemeilt in the Jewish religion. Love of God is prescribed by
that the heavenly bodics have ":I master above them," and he began to Scripture, by rabbinic lileraturc, and in thc liturgy; and it was especially
worship the invisible being who is the truc deity. Although the Hebrew praised in Lhe Middle Ages a? a religious virtue.2'
sources of this other account of Abraham's conversion are late, the story Love is something that we suppose we intuitively understand. But whcn
itself is Iairly early, for it appcars in the K ~ r a n . ~ V
a medieval
o student one stops to analyze just what is meant by love, in just what love con-
of specifically Aristotelian philosophy, the implication was cleor. Kot sists, it turns out to be a puzzling phcnomcnon. And it is particularly
merely did Abraham demonstrate the existence of God philosophically. puzzling when the object of love is an invisible being. The mcdicval
He was led to his demonstration precisely by contemplating the heavenly thinkers whom we are following did ask theinsclves what lovc of God
bodies. Whcn translated from figurativc, to scientific language, the story should consist in, and Lhey found that lovc of God presupposes knowledge
means that Abraham studicd the phenun~cnonof celestial motion. He of God.
must have asked himself "how it could be possible for thc celestial sphere As onc writer states: "No one. can experience the enormous lovc [due
to move continually without a mover"; and he must have concluded that the deity] without knowing the object of his l~ve";"~you cannot love
there "exists a deity who movcs the celestial sphere." Abraham, in other something you do not know. The principle is far-reaching. T o bepin, it
wo'rds, must have demonstratcd t l ~ cexistence of God through the well- means that the exirt~nceof the objcct of lovc I~asto he known: You
known proof lrom motion, the very proof to be uscd-rcdiscovered-by cannot love something if you do not know it exists. And so the vcry first
Aristotle many hundreds of years later.z4 step in analyzing the obligation to love the deity reinforces the result
60 H E R B E R ~A. DAVIDSON PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION 61

reached in analyzing the obligation to believe in the deity. Both require I universe. Studying the words and dceds of God will lcad to knowledge
study of whatever proofs thcre are of the existencc of God. But love of the attributes of God. And knowlcdge of the attributcs of God will
requirw something more. Simply knowing the existence of an object is inspire love of Cod. It follows that only the man of knowledge can fulfill
still obviously not sufficient to inspire love on t h e p a r t of any rational 1 the obligation of loving GodFQnd the greater one's knowledge, the
person. The nature of the proposed object of love must also be known; I
grcater the love that will be i n ~ p i r c d . Furthennore,
~~ since human rea-
a sensible person loves an objcct only becausc he finds in it characteristics 1 soning is the more certain source of knowlcdgc, special attention must
inspiring love. The emotional duty of 1,oving God thus opens up into a be given to that source of knowledge of divinc attributes. Knowledge
widc-ranging cognitive obligation, the obligation to acquire true and cer- of God's attributes through human reasoning is the high road, as it were,
tain knowledge not only of the existence of God, but also, as far as pos- to love of God.
sible, of the nature of God.ZY I
In that instance, when knowlcdge of divine attributes is pursued
Unfortunately, acquiring knowledge of the nature of God is not easy. through unaided human reasoning, a systematic and scientific knowledge
In the Middle Ages philosophers and non-philosophers alike agreed that ! of the physical univcrse is clearly necessary, for ouly such knowlcdge can
the very essence of God is unknowable. All that call he known is a num- serve the human reason as valid grounds for inferring what lies beyond
ber of divine attributes; and knowledge of those attributes is necessarily the physical universe. In addition, at the juncture whcre human reason
limited, for such knowledge is both indirect and incomplete. The att~ibutes does go beyond the physical universe and draws inferences regarding the
of God can be know^^ not in themselves but only insofar as they are re- invisible divine rcalm, the infcrcnccs too must be drawn in a systematic
flected in what has come from God, in what God has said and done.ao and scicntific way. A systematic and sciCntific knowledge of the physical
From an examination of what God has said and donc one may infer what ! universe is what is called the science of physics, and such knowledge of
attributes God must have, always with the understanding that man never the invisible divine realm, standing behind thc physical universe, is what
can reach the essence of God or the attributes of God in themselves. is called the science of metaphysics. Thus in order properly to under-
Two sources of knowledge wcrc recognized whereby ordinary people stand God's attributes, a man must study both the science of physics and
may learn what God has said and done, thc same two sourccs of knowl- the science of metaphysics. Only mastcry of physics and metaphysics
edge whereby man can acquirc knowlcdge of the existence of God. First, can provide the true and certain knowledge that inspircs the very highest
such knowledge is possible through reliable tradition, the tradition crystal- love of God, and, consequently, only thc master of those sciences, only
lized in Scripture and rabbinic literature: From God's recorded.words ! the complete philoso.pher, is fully able to fulfill the religious obligution of
and deeds, such attributes as goodness and wisdom can be inferred and loving God." The emotional aspect in love of God can, on this theory,
those attributes will inspirc love of God. Secondly, the requisite knowl- be explained as the "supreme pleasure in our knowledge of God.""
edge is also available through a rational investigation of the physic:ll uni- Scriptural support was discovered for the theory of a philosophic love
verse: Many may discover what God has done by examining the physical of God. The Bible enjoins: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all
universe, and from the handiwork he may learn of the Maker; from a ! thy heart and all thy soul . . ." (Deut. 6 : 5 ) . The heart or the soul was
rational investigation of the universe, such attributes of God as goodness universally understood to be thc locus of thc human cognitive fa~ulties;~'
and wisdom can again be inferred, and those attributes will, again, in- accordingly, an obvious interpretation of the verse suggcstcd itsclf t o our
spire love of God." Our medieval rationalist, as will be recalled, dis- composite thinker. The injunction to lovc God with all one's heart and
covered drawbacks in knowledge based on tradition, and he detcrmined all one's soul must be an injunction to dcvotc one's cognitive faculties
that the bettcr of the two sources of knowlcdge of the existence of God completely fo the study of "those sciences . . . that teach man about his
is human reasoning. By the same token, rational examination of the nni- God";3R it must be an injunction to inspirc in oneself the love of God
verse will be the better of the two sources of knowlcdge of the attributes that flows from a complcte knowlcdgc of the science of physics and the
of God. science of mctaphysics.'"
The route lo love of God has now been plotted: Man "loves God only The medieval thinker wlio~sereasoning we have been following thus
through his knowledge of God."32 Man must begin with what God has added a theory oi philosophic love of God to his fheory of philosophic
! faith; and he suppotted this theory too with what was for him a natural
said and done, that is to say, with an examination of the words and deeds
exegesis of Scripture. The theory of philosophic love of God did not, of
of God as recorded in religious tradition, and with an examination of the
course, satisfy the religious needs of every medieval Jewish thinker. But
deeds of God as discovcrablc by a rational investigation of the physical for those who developed it, it arose from an analysis of the specifically

I
I
62 HERBERT A. DAVIDSON PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION 63
religions obligation to love God; and thc scriptural support" was adduced theological subjects. Three terms used in rabbinic literature with refer-
ingenuously, without hypocrisy. The theory was worked out to serve a ence to theological study are of interest here. These are parries, "the
purely religious purpose, to satisfy the purely religious needs. of the pleasure garden"; macaeh beredzit, "the account of crcation"; and maca.veh
medieval ratiomalist." merkubah, "the account of the Chariot." Preciscly what the three terms
Other religious obligations related to love were explored along similar originally represented is impossible to delemine. We, however, are in-
rationalist lines, notably the duty to fear God,*Z and to worship fim.- terested not in what they originally signified, but rathcr in the way they
But I wish to turn now to a different sphere of Jewish religious activity, were understood by our medicval rationalist.
the sphere of study. The well-known Talmudic account of "four" who "entered thc pleasure
garden" was, iu the Middle Ages, widely taken to refer to an esoteric
B 4. Study of the Holy Law, the Torah, is another essential element in doctrine." The rabbinic sourccs had also stresscd the dangers lurking,
the Jewish religion. Such study is prescribed by Scripturc; and for the
as it were, in the pleasure garden." Still, inasmuch as R. Akibah had
ancient rabbis it was unquestionably the most important single human
been described as an adept therein, and as having "entered in peace and
activity. The rabbis vigorously opposed the study of subjects other than
the Law, including a subject they called "Greek wisdom,"" and their come out in peace," the esotcric doctrine in question was taken to be
highly approved for all who are properly qualified. The only theological
opposition stemmed not merely from fear of heretical opinions; it stemmed
subject recognized by a n~tionalistis philosophic or scientific theology-
equally from concern about the loss of time that would result. All avail-
what is today called rlaturrrl theology. Furthermore, philosophers in the
able time should, according to the rabbis, be devoted to a single discipline,
Middle Ages, it so happened, did regard philosophy as an esoteric sub-
the study of God's written and oral Law, and therefore the study of any-
ject, to bc pursucd only by the propcrly q~alified.~'It was thus natural
thing else was forbidden as a misuse of time.45 The medieval thinker for medieval Jcwish rationalists to surmise that the pleasure garden sanc-
whom we are following, therefore had to ask himself whether his growing
tioned by the Talmudic rabbis was a philosophic study of the nature of
attachment to philosophy could harmonize with the religious obliga t'~ o n
God.64
to study only the Torah.
When the nledicval rationalist began to consider the religious duty of
A rationalist analysis uf the account of creatio~iand the account of the
studying the Law, he found that duty itself problen~atical. In the Middle chariot lcd further. Both ?he account of creation and the account of the
chariot had been cxpressly included by the ancient rabbis within the
Ages as in rabbinic times, the study of the Law was generally undcrstood
Holy Law taken in the broad sense; study of them thus was sanctioned
to consist in the study of the intricacies of rituals, torts, marriage law,
as part of the gcneral obligation to study the L a ~ . ~ V u r t h e r m o r ae ,well-
and the like.*"ut conlmoll sense would suggcst that if study is indced a
known passage in the Talmud offers an evaluation of one of the two.
religious virtue then there are other, perhaps more important, things to
The passage in question compares the account of the chariot with ordi-
study.*' There seemed, for example, to be at lcast as much religious value
nary legal disputations; and it describes intricate lcgal disputations as
in pursuing a course of study leading to knowledge of Cod and of God's
only "a small matter," in contrast with the account of the chariot, which
workings in the ~niverse.'~A mcdicval Jcwish thinker who was both an
it charactcrizes as a "great matler."" Thus the two areas of theological
adherent of the Jewish rcligion and also of a rationalist temperament
study under consideration had not only been sanctioned as part of the
would thus be faced with a dilemma. On thc one hand, exclusive atten-
study of the law; at least one of the two had been rated as a subject of
tion to the divine Law is prescribed by thc authoritative sources of the
study superior to merely legal disputations.
Jewish religion. On the other hand; cominon sensc suggests that pursuing
As for their original contcnt, virtually nothing was known in the Middle
knowledge of God and God's workimgs has at least as much religious
Agcs, just as virtually nothing is known today. It was known Only that
value as studying ritual and civil law, even God-given ritual and civil
lnw 4s
the account of creation was an csoteric interpretatior~ of the creation
story in the book of Genesis, and the account. of thc chariot was an
Certajn meclieval intellectuals found a solution to the dilemma within
esoteric interpretation of the divine chariot in the vision of the prophet
the authoritative religious sources themselves. For while the ancient rab-
E ~ e k i e l : ~Anything
? further was, as it still is, conjecture. Yet there was
bis did insist that only the divine Law is worthy of study, the rabbis at
an obvious direction for the conjecture of a medieval rationalist to take:
the same time conceived of thc Law as much wider than a corpus of civil
The account of creation was in effect a mbbinic description of the man-
and ritual regulations. In addition to strictly lcgal wbjects, the Law, ac-
ner in which God constructed the physical universe. And the account of
cording to ancient rabbis, includes other subjects; specifically it includes
the chariot was in effcct a rabbinic description of the structure of the
64 HERBERT A. DAVIDSON PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION

divine realm, the realm standing behind thc physical universe.. Now a NOTES
systen~aficdescription of the physical universe is what is known as the 1. Por example, the social ,and legal spheres.
science of physics; and a systematic description of the structure of the 2. Men like Isaac Albalag and Joseph Caspi would appear at one end of the
invisible divine realm is what is known as the science of metaphysics. spectrum; those like Moses Taku and Shem Toh h. Shem Tab at the other end.
It was therefore natural t o infer that the ancient rabbinic account of c r e 3. Cf., e.g., Babya, Holm ha-Lebabot, ed. Sifroni (lon~salem,1928), I, I; Abra-
ham Ibn Ezra, Cm~irnenloryon Exodus, 20:2; Maitnonides, 3. ha-Mipmr, Posi-
ation contained a rabbinic science of physics, and the ancient rabbinic
live Command B 1: Nahtnanides, commentary to idem; ibid. Nesative Com-
account of the chariot contained a rabbinic science of metaphysics. To mand 5 5; H. Crescas, 0,. Ira-Slzcm, Introduction.
replace the lost rabbinic sciences, recourse had to bc had t o other sources. 4. Cf. H. Wolfson, Philosophy of the Church FoNzers (Cambridge, 19561, pp.
And, indeed, a reliable science of physics and of metaphysics, in fact the 112-119.
most reliable science of physics and metaphysics that could ever be pro- 5. Cf. ~ s h a r iMnqnlit,
, ed. H. Ritter (Wiesbaden, 1963), p. 141.
duced through unaided human reason, was available. Greek philosophy 6. Saadia. Emsnor w e - D e w , Introd.. P 4, Bahya, Hcbor ha-Lcbahol, I, 2; Mai-
monides. Guide for ftre Perplex&/, I, SO; l. Albo, clqqarim, I, 19.'
offered those sciences. It followed that the only source now available t o 7. Saadia, Entirnor, Introd., 9 4.
those who wished t o fulfdl the religious duty of study at its highest level, 8. Ibid.: Maimonides. Guide, I. 50.
at the level of thc account of the chiuiot, was Greek p h i l o ~ o p h y . ~ ~ 9. Saadia, Emunor, Introd., 9 4; Bahya, Hobot, 1, 2; Maimonides, Guide, 1, 50;
On a priori grounds o u r medieval rationalist thus found that the re- Albo, Clqqarim, I, 19.
ligious,obligation to study must include more than merely legal subjech; 10. Saadia, Emunor, Introd., B 5: Maimonides, Millor ha-lligpayon, chap. 8; G.
for knowledge of God and knowledgc of God's workings in the universe Vaida. "Autour de la T h h i c dc la Connaissance chez Saadia." RL'IWCdes
are surely appropriate subjects of religious study. The study of philosophy
rides Juives, CXXVl (1967), pp. 135 &, 375 ff.
1 1 . The "divine degrec" of mankind i n Judah Hallevi comprises semi-prophets,
was not, however, then recommended in opposition to the old injunction possessing a peculiar faculty that provides knawledgc of Gad. Cf. H. Davidson,
t o study only the Holy Law. On the contrary, the study of philosophy 'The Active Intellect in the Cuzari and Hallevi's Theory of Causality," Rsvne
was recom~nendedas an integral part of study of the Law. In fact, Greek d a Erudes Jr'ivcs, CXXXI (1972), pp. 382-385.
philosophy, it ironically turned out, provided the only available means 12. Implied in Saadia, Enrunof. Intmd., 5 6 ; Bahya, Hobol. Introduction.
13. Bahya, Hobor, I, 2.
for fulfilling the obligatiorl of studying the Law a t the very highest level 14. Saadia, Emunor, I, 5 6; Bahya, Hobot, Introduction; I, 3; 111, 4; Joseph ibn
recognized by the ancient rabbis themselve~.~" Saddiq, COlunz Qntan, ed. S. Horovitz (Breslau, 19031, 11, introd.. p. 21; 111,
This result confirmed and reinforced the results reached when o u r pp. 43-44; IV, i, p. 60; Ibn Ezra, Commmfary on Exodus, 20:Z Cornme,ilory
medieval rationalist analyzed the religious obligation to believe in the orr Proverbs, 9:10; Abraham ibn Daud. Enrtrrrah Romah, ed. S. Weil (Frankfurt,
existence of God, and the religious obligation t o love God. H e analyzed 18521, D. 47; Maimonides, Mishneh Toruh. Ycsode ho-Torah, 1, 1-6; Gaidc, I,
SO: Aaron ha-Levi, S. ha-Hinnuk, 5 25; Albo, clqpnrim, I, 19; 24. A contrary
the religious obligation to believe. in the existence of God; and, h e found, position is taken by Hallevi, Cuzuri I, 13; 20.
that obligation could properly be fulfilled only through knowledge of IS. Bahyd, @ohor, J, 2; cf. Md,monides, Guide, I, 50.
proofs of the existence of God. H e analyzed the religious obligation to 16. Cf. Encyclopedia of Isslrn" art. lmdn; F. Rosenthal; K,rotvled~~eTriarnphanr
love God; and, hc found, that obligation could properly be fulfilled o d y (Leiden, 1970), pp. 29-30; 98-108; C. Hourani, lslamic Ralio~ralism (Oxford,
through knowledge of the science of physics and the science of meta- 19711, pp. 17-18.
17. Bahya, fluhot, I, 2. CI. rcferenccs in n. 14.
physics. H e , further analyzed the obligation to study the Law, and that
18. "Huskrl wa-ymiocu mi": sckel had become the established term for intellect.
obligation too, he found, can be fulfilled only through studying the sci- 19. Bahyn, Hobol, I, 2-3; Abraham ibn Ezra, Ycsod Mom, chap. 1 . Saadia. Emu-
ences of physics a n d metaphysics. nor, 111, 1, cites the vcrse from Chronicles; Joseph ibn Saddiq, cOlrrm Qnron, 11,
It is well known, of course, that some medieval thinkers approved of p. 21, and Abraham ihn Daud. Emuriah Rsrnah, p. 46, cite the verse from
the study of Greek philosophy. 1 am not making that point; The point Jeremiah; Hallevi, Cazari. V, 21, refers to a Karaile interpretation o f the verse
I have been attempting to makc is a different one. Given medieval Jewish from Chronicles as commanding study of philosophy. N. Krochmal, Moreh
Nebuke ha-Zeman, ed. S. Rawidowicz (Waltbam, 1961), pp. 313-315, still cites
thinkers who were faithful adhercnts of the religion of their fathers and these verses to justify study of philosophy.
yet of a rationalist temperarncnt-to these men, religious obligations could 20. Berefiit Rabbah, 5 39.
make sense only when analyzed and understood in a rational manner. 21. Joseph ibn Saddiq, COIam Qalan, 11, p. 21; Judah hen Barzilai, Cotnm, on
For them, only a rationalized religion was a satisfactory religion, and thus Sefer Y q i w h (Berlin, 1885), py. 2-3; Hallevi, Cuzori, 1V. 27. Cf. Ashari,
the study of philosophy became necessary o n religio~rs grounds. T h e
K. a/-Larnuc, ed. R. McCarthy (Beyrouth, 19531, P 11; Faklir al-Din al-Razi,
Muha.& (Cairo, 19051, p. 106.
study of philosophy itself b e c a n ~ ea religious obligation.
66 HERBERT A. DAVIDSON PHILOSOPHY AS A RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION 67

22. Ber ha-Midrurch, ed. A. Jellinek (Leipzig, 1853), 11, xxxiv; 118; Mrdraslr tions of ihe prohibition in a manner sympathetic to the study of philosophy, cf.
ha-Gndol, Genesis, ed. M. Margulm (Jerusalem, 19471, pp. 204, 210 (apparently Maimonides, Commentrrry orr rlze Mirhnah, So?ah, IX, 14; Meiri's Commentary
influenced by the passage in Maimonides cited below, n. 24); Scfer itn-Ynshar on Baha Qomnin, 83a; R. M. Isserles on Tur Yorch Decah, 9 246, n. 9; S . I-ieber-
(Tel Aviv, n.d.1, p. 24; L. Ginzberg, Legend3 of the Jews, V (Philadelphia, man, Hellerrism in Jewi.& P~nlesthze(N.Y., 1950), pp. 100-105. Also cf. Isaac b.
1 9 7 0 Y . ?tn
----,2 Sheshet, Rcsponsa (N.Y., 1954), 5 45.
23. Koran, 6:76-80. Similar stories are to he found in Jubilees, 12:16-18, and Philo, 45. Sanhedrin, 100b; Lieberman, ihid., pp. 100-101.
De Ahrahanm, XV, 5 % 68-71. 46. Cf. Qiddrcslzih, 30.1, and R. Tam's comrnenl.
2 4 . Maimonides, Mi~hneh Torah, CAhodal Kokabim. I:?. Maimonides proceeds to 47. Bahya, Hobor, Introd., p. 12; Ibn Ezra, Yesod Morn, chap. 1; Abraham ibn
interpret additional midrashic passages as. meaning that Abraham instructed Daud, Emunaiz Ramoh, p. 45.
others in his philosuphic faith; also cf. Sefcr ha-Mi~wot,Positive Command § 3 . 48. I cannot recall a medieval argument to the effect that studying God-given ritual
Averroes too understood that Abraham was a philosopher; cf. Fari a1 May& and civil law will enn nit inferences ahoot the nature of the divine legislator.
chap. 1, transl. G. Hourani (London, 1961J , p. 45; Long Conzmcntary or! Meln- 49. Bahya, Hobot, In<rod., p. 7 ; 111, 4, p. 93; Ibn Ezra, Yesod Mora, ch,ap. 1;
physics, ed. M. Bouyges (Beyrouth, 1948), p. 1634; TnhZffur al-TahZfuf, ed. Maimonides, Grridr, 111, 51.
M. Bouygcs (Beyrouth, 1930). p. 416; transl. S. van den Bereh (London, 1954), 50. B a g i ~ n h ,14b, and parallels.
p. 251. For Aristutle's proof from motion. see Physics VIII; Maimonides, Cuidcl, 51. See, however, Raslli's commentary, ad luc.
--, .
T i -11.)
,-, 52. Ha&ah, 14b.
Cf. H. Wolfson, Philo (Cambridge; 19481, 11. p. 152. Nan-philosophers and 53. Cf. Maimonides, i d Introd.; Averroes, K. 01-KoshJ, lntrod.; transl.
critics of philosophy agreed. Sce the text of Eleazar of Worms edited by J. Dan M. Miiller, as Phiiosoyhie und Theologip (Munich, 1875), p. 26.
in Teinirin I (19721, 156-7; Hallwi, Clrznri, I, 89; Crescas2 Or haShem, I, iii, 6. 54. Abraham ibn Dattd, Emarrah Romolr, p. 2; Mairnonides, Mi.dmrh Torah, Yesode
Babya, Hobol, I, 2; 8; Joseph ibn Saddiq. COlnnl Qalnrz, 11. p. 21; IN, p. 44; Ira-Torah, 1V, 13; Taimnrl Toruh, 1, 12. Cf. I. Twersky, "Aspects of the Mishneh
Ibn Ezra, Commentary on Proan.b.r, 9: 10; Abraham ibn D u d , Ernroroh Ramoh, Torah." Jewish Medieval and Rennissoncr S!adi~.s,o d . A. Altmann (Cambridge,
p. 47; Maimonides, Mirhneli Tumh, Yrsode h w T o r d , 1, 1-7: Guide, I, XI. Cf. 1967), p. 111.
H. Wolfson, "Maimonides on the Unity and Incorpureality uf God," Jewish Hagigah, 11, 1; Midrrish Mmldc, chap. 10.
Q~rarterlyReview, LVI (1965), pp. 112-136. .Srrkkah, 2811, and parallel.
Cf. G. Vaida, L'Amour de Dieu (Paris. 1957). Ezekiel, chaps. 1, 10.
Abraham ibn Daud, Emrrnah Ramah, p. 100. Implied in Ibn Ezra, Ycsod Mom, chap. 10; Conznrentury on Genesis, 3:23;
Ibid; Bal~ya,Lfohor, X , 1; 7 . Abraham ihn Deud. Enzurzoit RnmuR, o. 2 (the reference to R. Yol~ananben
- ~~

Babya, Hobor, Introd., pp. 16, 20; Ihn Ezra, Ycsod Mom, chop. I; Cmwnentnry Zakkai is a referenck to Sukkah, 28a). knplicit in Maimonides, Cornnrentary on
on Exodus, 31:18; Abraham ibn D;iud. Emenoh Kernah, p. 100; Maimonides, Mishurh, Hagigah, 11, I; Mishneh Torah, Ycsodc ha-Torah, 11, 11; IV, 13;
Guide, I, 54. Guide, Introd. Cf. A. Heschel, Torah min lroSlzamayinz (London-N.Y., 1962)
Maimonides, Sefer h a - M i y o t , Positive Command. P 3. I. pp. xxi-xriii; Twersky, "Aspects of the Mishneh Torah," pp. 112-116.
Maimunides, Mishneh Torah, Te.rirehuh. X , 6. Cf. also Bobya. Hobot, I n t r ~ d pp.
. ~ 6-7; Ibn Ezra, Y e m d Mum, foreword; chap.
Bahya, Boboi, X, 1; 7: Ibn Ezra, Cwnnwruu,:,. on Exodus, 31:18; Ahreham ibn I; Comnterzlnry o n Proverbs, 9:lO; Averroes, F n ~ lnl-MnqZl, transl. G. Hourani.
Daud, Emunah Rnmah, p. 100; Maimonides, Sefer kn-Mi;sor, Positive Com-
mand P 3; Mishneh Tornlt, T w h u b d ~ ,X , 6; Albo, clqqarim, 111, 35.
Maimonides, Misimeir Torah, Trsli,rbeh, X , 6 ; Albo, Clqyn~irn, Ill, 35. BIBLIOGRAPHY
Maimonides, ibid.
Maimonides, Sefer ha-Mipot, Positive Command 5 3. I . Primary Sources
Cf. Maimonides, Guide, 1, 39.
Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Trsbubak, X , 6. Abraham ibn Daud. Etrninah Ramah (Frankfurt, 1852).
Cf. Saadia, Emunor, 11, 13; Ibn Ezra, Commentary on Deuteronomy, 6:s; Albo. =laaarifn.Ed. and transl. I. Hubik (Philadel~hia,1946).
Abraham ibn Daud, Eminoh Rumah, p. 100; Maimonides, Mi.dtrzeh Torah, ~ n a t o 1 i d . j Malrnad
. ha-Talrrridim (Lyck, 18661.'
Yesode ha-Torah, 11, 2; C u i < / ~I,. 39; In, 28; Albo, Clqqarirn, 111, 35.
Support was also adduced from rabbinic litwature. Cf. Main~onides'interpreta- Averroes. Fasl al-MaqCI.
tion of the rahhinic &scriplion of Abraham's love of God, Scfer ha-Mi?wor, Enrrlish translation: Or1 the Harmony o/ Relrgions and P h i l o ~ o p h y ,transl.
Positive Command S 3. ~ . h o u r a n (London,
i 1961 ) .
Cf. also F. Rosenthal, K~~owlrdge Triuq~lronl,p. 141; Spinoua, Ethics, V, Averroes. Kitrib nl-Knshf.
xxxii-xxniii. German translation: Philosophi<, wlrl Thcologie vort Averrors, transl. M .
Saadia, Eniunot, It, 13; Maimonides, Mishneh Toruh, Yesode ha-Torah, 11, 2. Mueller (Munich, 1875).
A. A l t m a n n S . Stern, isaac ismeli (Oxford, 1958), p. 124, Saadia, Emunot, 11, B a b y a i b n Paquda, [fohot ha-Lel~uhot.
13: Babya, flobor, 111. 2; 3; 6; Maimonides, Guide, 111, 51. English translation: Du1ir.i of t l v Heorr, trensl. ha. Hyamson (New York,
Baba Qamma, 82b-83a. Y e f c i ~CEnoyim, ad loc., lists parallels. For interpreta- 1925-1947).
I 68 HERBERT A. DAVIDSON

Ibn Ezra, Ahraham. Curnmenmry on Ecclesiasfes.


Ibn Ezra, Ahraham, Yesod Mora.
Ihn Saddiq, Joscph. eOIan~Qnran (Breslau, 1903).
Ibn Tufail. Hayy b. Yaq?rin.
English translation: Hirtnry of Hnyy ibn I'uq~rin,_tmnsl. S . Ockley (Lon-
don, 1711). Transl. by L. Goodman (New York, 1972).
Mahonides. Mishneh Torah: Sefer ha-Madria=.
English translation: Book o f Knowledge, transl. M . Hyamson (New York,
-.-
1917),.
Maimonides Moreh Nebrrkirn.
English translation: Guide o f thc Perplexed, transl. S. Pines (Chicago,
1963).
Maimonidcs. S e f e ~ha-Mi6wot.
English translation: The Cornmnndrnenta, transl. C. Chavel (London,
1967)
Saadia. Emuriot w e - D e w .
English translation: Book o f Beliefs and Opinions, transl. S. Rosenhlatt
(New Haven, 1948).
Shem Tnb b. Shem Tob. Sefer ha-Emu~zot(Ferrara, 1556).
Spinoza. Ethics, Part V.
Spinom. Tmrtutuu Theologico-Politicus.

11. Secondnry Works


Dekker, Y. Sodo ~ h e Moreh
l h'ebukbn (Tel-Aviv, 1957)
Oilson, E. Keasori and Revelation (New York, 1938).
Guttman, 3. Dut ir-Maddoc (Jerusalem, 1955). pp. 1-65.
Hcschel, A. "Quest for Certainty in Saadia's Philosophy," Jewish Qunrterly
Review, XXXIII (1942), pp. 213.264,
Mahdi, M. "Alfmhi on Philusuphy and Religion," Philosophical Forum, IV
.. 5-25.
(1972),un.
Sarachek, J. Faith ond Reason (Williamspart, 1935).
Strauss, L. "Literary Character of the Gaide for the Perplexed," in Persecution
arrd the Art o f Writitrg (Glencoe. 1952), pp. 38-94.
Twersky, I. "Some Non-Halakic Aspects of the Mishneh Torah," leiuish
Medicval and Henairsancc Studicr, ed. A. Altmann (Cambridge, 1967), pp.
1R
9T.1-A".
>-

Vajda, G. L'Arnovr de Dieu (Paris, 1957)


WulIson, H. "Double Faith Theory," Jewish Quarterly Review, XXXIII (1 942),
pp. 213-261. Partly reprinted in H. A. Wolfson, Studies in the History o f
Philosophy and Religion, vul. I , ed., I. Twersky and G. H. Williams (Cam-
bridge, 1973) pp. 583-618.
Wolfson, H. Philosophy o f the Church Fathers (Cambridge, 1956), chapters