The Theology of Abraham Bibago: A Defense of the Divine Will, Knowledge, and Providence in Fifteenth-Century Spanish-Jewish Philosophy

The Theology of Abraham Bibago: A Defense of the Divine Will, Knowledge, and Providence in Fifteenth-Century Spanish-Jewish Philosophy

The Theology of Abraham Bibago: A Defense of the Divine Will, Knowledge, and Providence in Fifteenth-Century Spanish-Jewish Philosophy

The Theology of Abraham Bibago: A Defense of the Divine Will, Knowledge, and Providence in Fifteenth-Century Spanish-Jewish Philosophy

Excerpt

The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 was a cataclysmic tragedy in Jewish history similar to the destruction of the first and second temples at an earlier period and to the European Holocaust in the present century. In the difficult decades of the fifteenth century before the expulsion, rationalist philosophers were a leading faction in the Jewish community. The philosophers consequently bore responsibility in the eyes of their contemporaries for the increasing oppression. The pious attributed Jewish suffering to divine wrath at the assimilationism of the philosophers. For their part, the philosophers did not just attempt to synthesize Judaism and philosophy. They were also more and more concerned with defending Judaism against the force behind the oppression and later the expulsion -- namely, Christianity. There was a growing orthodoxy and supernaturalism among philosophers and a trend toward eclecticism.

One of the foremost Jewish philosophers and communal leaders of this period was Abraham Bibago. His theology exhibits many of the characteristics of the age. He was somewhat more of a consistent Averroist than were other contemporary Jewish philosophers, but he used his Averroism to offer an orthodox defense of the philosophy of Maimonides against the criticisms of Gersonides, Crescas, and the radical Averroists. Further, Bibago used his philosophy to comfort and exalt the Spanish Jews by arguing that divine providence accompanied them because of the intellectual superiority they had acquired through the Torah. His blend of rationalism, supernaturalism, and practical faith soon aroused the praise and criticism of both philosophers and traditionalists.

In spite of their importance, Bibago's ideas and philosophy have not yet been analyzed and published. The purpose of this study is to outline the major trends of Bibago's thought as they present themselves in the theology of his chief work, Derekh 'Emunah (=DE), (The Path of Faith). The investigation undertaken in the following pages reveals the vigor and rigor of philosophy and theology in the last decades of Spanish Jewry.

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