Synopses & Reviews
This authoritative biography of Moses Maimonides, one of the most influential minds in all of human history, illuminates his life as a philosopher, physician, and lawgiver. A biography on a grand scale, it brilliantly explicates one mans life against the background of the social, religious, and political issues of his time.
Maimonides was born in Córdoba, in Muslim-ruled Spain, in 1138 and died in Cairo in 1204. He lived in an Arab-Islamic environment from his early years in Spain and North Africa to his later years in Egypt, where he was immersed in its culture and society. His life, career, and writings are the highest expression of the intertwined worlds of Judaism and Islam.
Maimonides lived in tumultuous times, at the peak of the Reconquista in Spain and the Crusades in Palestine. His monumental compendium of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, became a basis of all subsequent Jewish legal codes and brought him recognition as one of the foremost lawgivers of humankind. In Egypt, his training as a physician earned him a place in the entourage of the great Sultan Saladin, and he wrote medical works in Arabic that were translated into Hebrew and Latin and studied for centuries in Europe. As a philosopher and scientist, he contributed to mathematics and astronomy, logic and ethics, politics and theology. His Guide of the Perplexed, a masterful interweaving of religious tradition and scientific and philosophic thought, influenced generations of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish thinkers.
Now, in a dazzling work of scholarship, Joel Kraemer tells the complete story of Maimonides rich life. MAIMONIDES is at once a portrait of a great historical figure and an excursion into the Mediterranean world of the twelfth century. Joel Kraemer draws on a wealth of original sources to re-create a remarkable period in history when Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions clashed and mingled in a setting alive with intense intellectual exchange and religious conflict.
"In 1947, when he was 14, Kraemer started to study Maimonides. Now, the 75-year-old professor emeritus at the University of Chicago has produced his magnum opus, a definitive biography of medieval Judaism's chief intellectual sage. To prepare himself, Kraemer mastered many languages, traveled throughout the world and studied innumerable documents, including those found in the Genizah, the storeroom of Cairo's Ben Ezra synagogue. The impressive results of Kraemer's diligent research are set forth in this learned book, supported by 90 pages of footnotes. He offers a splendid analysis of Maimonides's major works: Commentary on the Mishnah; Mishneh Torah and Guide to the Perplexed (which Kraemer calls Guide of the Perplexed.) The erudite presentation includes vital information about the life of Maimonides, tracing his path from his birth in Spain to his move to Morocco, his visit to Palestine and, finally, to his settling in Egypt. Kraemer's imposing contribution is designed for his fellow scholars. General readers should turn to the more fathomable 2005 biography, Maimonides by Sherwin B. Nuland, from Nextbook/Schocken's Jewish Encounters series and just published in paper." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
As a physician, Maimonides is associated with Hippocrates as a founder of modern medicine; his influence in philosophy is equal to that of Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, and Kant; in religion, he is as significant as Moses, Martin Luther, and Saint Augustine; and as a lawgiver, he has been recognized by the United States Congress as one of the greatest, alongside Hammurabi and Thomas Jefferson. Now, in a dazzling work of scholarship, Joel Kraemer tells the complete story of Maimonides’s rich life.
MAIMONIDES is at once a portrait of a great historical figure and an excursion into the Mediterranean world of the twelfth century. Joel Kraemer draws on a wealth of original sources to re-create a remarkable period in history when Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions clashed and mingled in a setting alive with intense intellectual exchange and religious conflict.
Moses Maimonides was born in Muslim-ruled Spain in 1135. His family intermingled with Muslim neighbors, and like other learned Jews, was deeply conversant with Arabic philosophy and literature. By the time he was thirty he was known for his seminal works on Jewish practices and law. In Egypt, his training as a physician earned him a place in the entourage of the great Sultan Saladin, and his books earned him respect and admiration in medical circles throughout the Mediterranean world. It was during this time that he wrote The Mishneh Torah and The Guide of the Perplexed, a masterful interweaving of religious tradition and scientific and philosophic thought, which influenced generations of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish thinkers.
About the Author
JOEL L. KRAEMER, John Henry Barrows Professor Emeritus in the Divinity School and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, is the author of Humanism in the Renaissance of Islam and Philosophy in the Renaissance of Islam, and is the editor of Perspectives on Maimonides. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.