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Kabbalah, Philosophy, and the Jewish-Christian Debate: Reconsidering the Early Works of Joseph Gikatilla

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Joseph Gikatilla's early works, composed during the 1270s, have been understood by many scholars as a fusion of Kabbalah and philosophy—an approach that he abandoned in his later compositions. This paper argues that Gikatilla's early works are in fact consistent with his later works, and that the differences between the two can be explained by the polemical engagement during his early period with Jewish philosophy and Christian missionizing. By subtly drawing Jewish students of philosophy away from Aristotelian speculation and towards Kabbalah, Gikatilla sought in his early works to lay the foundation for an understanding of Judaism based on kabbalistic mytho-poesis and ecstatic mystical experience.

Affiliations: 1: Muhlenberg College


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