Maimonides and Abrabanel on Prophecy

EISBN 9780878201556

Alvin Jay Reines

In Abrabanel’s Commentary on the Moreh Nebukhim, two remarkablemen meet. One is Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), extraordinary metaphysician-scientist, master talmudist, and court physician; the other is Isaac Abrabanel (1437–1508), religious thinker, biblical exegete, and statesman. Neither lived a cloistered life, both were sophisticated men of the world, and leaders in great Jewish communities.

Yet their religious philosophies differed radically from one another: Maimonides is an apex of Jewish rationalism and naturalism; Abrabanel, a faithful adherent of rabbinic Judaism and miracles. Maimonides and Abrabanel on Prophecy attempts to detail the confrontation that takes place in Abrahanel’s Commentary with respect to his exposition of Maimonides’ theory of prophecy. This confrontation is truly a dialogue between two systems, for despite the fact that Maimonides was long dead when Abrabanel wrote his Commentary, Maimonides’ thought is presented as still alive and vibrant.

Abrabanel is above all a faithful student, and he first sets forth a fair and exacting exposition of Maimonides’ theory of prophecy. Only after he has clarified Maimonides’ thoughts, so that they speak for themselves, does Abrabanel enter into a criticism of Maimonides and a discussion of his own beliefs. Hence the two systems of prophecy, Maimonides’ and Abrabanel’s, both stand objectively revealed in the Commentary, and the reader can decide who has come closest to the truth. For these two systems of prophecy represent theological forces that are still alive. Maimonides is a constant inspiration to contemporary Jewish rationalism, and Abrabanel’s position is substantially still subscribed to in Jewish traditionalism.

Maimonides and Abrabanel on Prophecy consists primarily of an explanatory translation of the sections of Ahrabanel’s Commentary that pertain to the theory of prophecy presented by Maimonides in the Moreh Nebukhim.