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From Esotericism To Science: The Account Of The Chariot In Maimonidean Philosophy Till The End Of The Thirteenth Century

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Chapter Summary

In his commentary on the Guide of the Perplexed, written at the turn of the fifteenth century, Don Isaac Abarbanel presents 28 strictures to Maimonides' interpretation of the Account of the Chariot. Abarbanel's stricture points to a remarkable development in medieval Jewish thought. The cream of Jewish esoteric wisdom, the Account of the Chariot, is identified by Maimonides and his disciples with Aristotelian philosophy-both metaphysics and the natural sciences, at least according to Abarbanel's description. How and why this identification came about and its implications for the study of the Bible and of rabbinic midrash-that is to say, for the study of Judaism-encompasses much of the history of Jewish philosophy. This chapter touches upon some of the salient points of this story, from its rabbinic origins to Jewish philosophy in Provence at the end of the thirteenth century.

Keywords: Account of the Chariot; Aristotelian philosophy; Don Isaac Abarbanel; Guide of the Perplexed; Jewish esoteric wisdom; Maimonides; medieval Jewish thought



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