in Medieval Jewish Thought is an essay in the
history of ideas which traces the development of creed formation in Judaism
from its inception with Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) to the beginning of the
sixteenth century when systematic attention to the problem disappeared from the
agenda of Jewish intellectuals. The dogmatic systems of Maimonides, Duran,
Crescas, Albo, Bibago, Abravanel, and a dozen lesser-known figures are
described, analysed, and compared. Relevant texts are presented in English
translation. For the most part these are texts which have never been critically
edited and translated before.
Among the theses defended in the book are the
following: that systematic attention to dogma qua dogma was a new feature in Jewish theology introduced by
Maimonides (for reasons examined at length in the book); that the subject
languished for the two centuries after Maimonides' death until it was revived
in fifteenth-century Spain in response to Christian attacks on Judaism; that
the differing systems of dogma offered by medieval Jewish thinkers reflect not
different conceptions of what Judaism is, but different conceptions of what a
principle of Judaism is; and that the very project of creed formation reflects
an essentially Greek as opposed to a biblical/rabbinic view of the nature of
religious faith and that this accounts for much of the resistance which
Maimonides' innovation aroused.
Menachem Kellner is chair of the Department of Philosophy and Jewish Thought, Shalem College, Jerusalem and Wolfson Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought, University of Haifa.