A Hebrew Encyclopedia of the Thirteenth Century. Natural Philosophy in Judah ben Solomon ha-Cohen’s Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah.

Edition, Translation, Study. Officina Philosophica Hebraica Volume 3


The first of the three major thirteenth-century Hebrew encyclopedias of science and philosophy, the Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah presents a survey of philosophy and mathematical sciences. Originally written in Arabic, the author, Judah ben Solomon ha-Cohen, who was inspired by Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed, translated his own work into Hebrew in the 124os in Italy when he was in the service of Frederick II. The part on natural philosophy edited and translated in this volume is the first Hebrew text to draw extensively on Averroes’ commentaries on Aristotle. Over several chapters, Resianne Fontaine explores Judah’s ambivalent attitude towards Aristotelian philosophy.

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Resianne Fontaine, Ph.D. (1986), is Senior Lecturer Emerita in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the University of Amsterdam. She publishes on medieval Jewish thought. She is co-editor of Aleph. Historical Studies in Science and Judaism.

Part 1 Judah ha-Cohen’s Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah: Sources, Critique, Context

1 Introduction: Previous Research and Biographical Details
 1 Biographical Details

2 Judah ha-Cohen’s Introduction to the Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah
 1 The Sciences: Division, Names, and Titles of Books
 2 The Contents and Structure of the MḤ
 3 The Hierarchy of the Sciences and the Three Worlds
 4 Judah’s Motivation
 5 Criticism and Ambivalence

3 Sources and Use of Sources in the Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah’s Section on Natural Philosophy
 1 Authors and Sources Mentioned in the MḤ
 2 Sources Actually Used in the MḤ’s Survey of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy
 3 Judah ha-Cohen’s Use of Sources
 4 Brevity vs Clarity: Confusion and Errors
 5 The Language of the MḤ

4 Judah ha-Cohen’s Critique of Aristotelian Natural Philosophy
 1 Judah’s Comments on Aristotelian Doctrines in His Survey of Natural Philosophy
 2 Criticism of Aristotelian Philosophy as a Whole

5 The Controversy between Aristotle and Galen
 1 On the Parts of Animals
 2 On the Generation of Animals

6 Judah ha-Cohen’s Explanation of Biblical Verses
 1 Thematic Survey of Judah’s Philosophical Explanations of Biblical Verses
 2 Comments That Criticize the Aristotelian System of Thought
 3 Additions to Judah’s Philosophical Survey
 4 Judah’s Biblical Exegesis in Context

7 Judah ha-Cohen’s Place in the History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy
 1 The Reception of Averroes
 2 Maimonides and the Maimonidean Controversy
 3 Judah’s Attitude towards Aristotle’s Philosophy
 4 The Three Worlds
 5 The MḤ as the First Hebrew Encyclopedia of Science and Philosophy
 6 Reception
 7 The MḤ within the Context of the Thirteenth Century

Appendix A: Examples of Judah’s Manner of Excerpting Averroes’ Commentaries

Appendix B: Arabic Words in the Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah

Part 2 Critical Edition and English Translation of the Introduction and the Section on Natural Philosophy of the Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah

Introduction to the Edition

Appendix: Additional Material in MS O

Author’s Introduction to the MḤ


On the Heaven

On Generation and Corruption


On Animals
The Parts of Animals
The Generation of Animals

On the Soul

On Sense and Sensible Objects

Hebrew-Arabic Glossary
Scholars and students of medieval Jewish philosophy and science, readers interested in the Arabic-Hebrew translation movement, readers interested in the reception of Aristotelian philosophy.
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