Academic journal article Shofar

Gersonides: Judaism within the Limits of Reason

Academic journal article Shofar

Gersonides: Judaism within the Limits of Reason

Article excerpt

Gersonides: Judaism within the Limits of Reason, by Seymour Feldman. Oxford: Littman Library, 2010. 254 pp. $59.50.

"Levi ben Gershom (Gersonides ) stands out as one of the more creative and philosophically daring figures within the medieval Jewish world. Mathematician, astronomer, biblical exegete and philosopher-he assumed all these roles and excelled in each." Thus Feldman opens the introduction to his translation of Gersonides' major book, The Wars of the Lord.

In 1973 Charles Touati wrote an important comprehensive book, La pensée philosophique et théologique de Geronide, but this was not translated into English, and the English reader had no convenient way of getting acquainted with Gersonides' thought. The need for such a book has been recently increased due to the renewed interest in the work of this original medieval thinker. This need was satisfied by Professor Feldman in two stages: first with his translation of Gersonides' major book, The Wars of the Lord, and now with the present book. Feldman worked for many years on the translation of The Wars into English. The first volume (which includes an introduction) was completed in 1984, the third and the last volume in 1999. As is often claimed, a person best familiar with a book, after the author, is the translator, and indeed Feldman's presentation is based on a close acquaintance with the text.

Feldman's book is a comprehensive survey, which focuses mainly on Gersonides' theology and philosophy. After the first, introductory chapter Feldman analyzes in Chapters 2-8 the main subjects with which Gersonides deals in The Wars of the Lord: The story of creation, God and his attributes, divine omniscience, divine providence, divine omnipotence, prophecy, and humanity and its destiny. The presentation is roughly in the reverse order, starting in Chapters 2-3 with books VI and V of the Wars, proceeding in Chapters 4-6 to books III-IV; Chapter 7 deals with book II and Chapter 8 mainly with book I of the Wars. The "reverse" order of the presentation is by no means accidental. …

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