This volume explores how the poetic technique of biblical metaphor was analyzed within the Jewish exegetical tradition that developed in Muslim Spain during the Golden Age of Hebrew poetry and was then transplanted to a Christian milieu. Abraham Ibn Ezra and Maimonides applied concepts from Arabic poetics, hermeneutics and logic to define metaphor and interpret it within their philological-literary readings of Scripture. David Kimhi integrated their methodologies with the midrashic creativity and sensitivity to nuance typical of his native Provence to create a new literary interpretive system that highlights the expressiveness of metaphor.
This study is important for readers interested in metaphor, the Bible as literature, the history of biblical interpretation and the inter-relation between Arabic and Hebrew learning.
The biblical hermeneutics of the illustrious philosopher-talmudist Moses Maimonides (1138-1204) has long been underappreciated, and viewed in isolation from the celebrated philological schools of “plain sense” (
peshat) Jewish Bible exegesis. Aiming to redress this imbalance, this study identifies Maimonides’ substantial contributions to that interpretive movement, assessing its achievements in cultural context. Like others in the rationalist Geonic-Andalusian school, Maimonides’ understanding of Scripture was informed by Arabic learning. Drawing upon Greco-Arabic logic, poetics, politics, physics and metaphysics, as well as Muslim jurisprudence, he devised sophisticated new approaches to key issues that occupied other exegetes, including a variety of interpretive cruxes, the reconciliation of Scripture with reason, a legal hermeneutics for deriving
halakhah (Jewish law) from Scripture, and the nature of interpretation itself.
"It is a valuable contribution to the entire study of medieval biblical exegesis and will undoubtedly serve as the basis of all subsequent discussions of Maimonides' hermeneutics."
Daniel J. Lasker,
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev