The Beginning of the World in Renaissance Jewish Thought

Ma’aseh Bereshit in Italian Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah, 1492-1535

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In The Beginning of the World in Renaissance Jewish Thought, Brian Ogren offers a deep analysis of late fifteenth century Italian Jewish thought concerning the creation of the world and the beginning of time. Ogren’s book is the very first to seriously juxtapose the thought of the great Jewish thinker Yohanan Alemanno, Alemanno’s famed Christian interlocutor, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, the important Iberian exegete active in Italy, Isaac Abravanel, and Abravanel’s renowned philosopher son Judah, known as Leone Ebreo. By bringing these thinkers together, this book presents a new understanding of early modern uses of Jewish texts and hermeneutics. Ogren successfully demonstrates that the syntheses of philosophy and Kabbalah carried out by these four intellectuals in their quests to understand the beginning itself marked a new beginning in
Western thought, characterized by simultaneous continuity and rupture.
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Biographical Note

Brian Ogren, Ph.D. (2008), Hebrew University of Jerusalem, is the Anna Smith Fine Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion at Rice University. He has authored works on Kabbalah and Jewish philosophy, including Renaissance and Rebirth (Brill, 2009).

Table of contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: In the Beginning
PART ONE: BERESHIT – THE WISDOM OF THE BEGINNING
Chapter One: On the Wisdom of Language – Yohanan Alemanno on the Word of God and the Simulacrum of Creation
Chapter Two: On the Wisdom of Christ – Giovanni Pico della Mirandola on the Truth of the Son and the Creation of the World
Chapter Three: On the Wisdom of Angels – Isaac Abravanel on the Separate Intellects, Bodies, and the Garments of Creation
Chapter Four: On the Wisdom of Beauty – Leone Ebreo on Art and Creation
PART TWO: TOHU VA-VOHU – ASTOUNDING AND SUBSTANTIAL BEGINNINGS
Chapter Five: Hylomorphic Time – Yohanan Alemanno on Form, Matter, and the Days of Creation
Chapter Six: Edifices and Days – Giovanni Pico della Mirandola on Formation, Teshuvah, and the Return to Christ
Chapter Seven: Ex-Nihilo Creation – Isaac Abravanel on the Formation of the World, Evil, and Peace
Chapter Eight: Chaos and Divine Spirit – Leone Ebreo on Greek Mythology, Jewish Lore, and the Gendered Creation of the Universe
Concluding Remarks – On Sources and Influences in Relation to “The Beginning”
Bibliography
Index

Readership

All those interested in Jewish thought, Jewish mysticism and Jewish philosophy, as well as all interested in intellectual history and Italian Renaissance thought.