2 Jewish Sources of the School of Natural Law in Early Modern Europe
Following upon this delicate interplay of reason and revelation, it is interesting to note how the proofs for creation come up again in Saadya's treatment of resurrection. While the reasons Saadya gives for believing in the truth of resurrection have primarily to do with the reliability of Tradition, Saadya additionally invokes his reason-based proofs of creation ex nihilo to support the at least prima facie reasonabless of such beliefs. Since the idea of something's being created ex nihilo is less reasonable than the idea of its being re-created, and since the idea of creation ex nihilo has already been proven true by reason, therefore, a fortiori , surely belief in resurrection is at least reasonable.
Here, Saadya's proof for creation ex nihilo emerges in the service of his belief in resurrection. Preceeding the discussion of resurrection, and following a few chapters after his analyses of creation, Saadya addresses the nature of soul. Although rejecting Plato's creation view, Saadya rests his own theory of soul upon a Platonic tripartite psychology.
Of course, to this Platonic foundation, he adds a number of Tradition-rooted descriptions of soul as well. Scriptural citations coupled with doctrines of resurrection and final judgement set the stage for Saadya's discourse on the nature of soul, leading us once again to consider the delicate interplay of reason and revelation in the pages of his thought.
This interplay can be further seen in Saadya's own Plato-plus-Tradition understanding of soul. Saadya [Saadiah] First published Tue May 6, Life 2. Tradition, Revelation and Prophecy 4. Reason and Revelation in Dialogue 6. Prooftexts, Revelation and Faith 7. Maimonidean Critique? Revelation as Praxis 9. Some there are who have arrived at the truth and rejoice in the knowledge that they possess it…Others have arrived at the truth, but doubt it; they fail to know it for a certainty and to hold on to it…Still others confidently affirm that which is false in the belief that it is true; they hold on to falsehood, and abandon that which is right…Others again base their conduct on a certain belief for a time, and then reject it on account of some defect they find in it; then they change over to another belief and renounce it in turn because of something in it which seems questionable to them…These people are changing continually all their life… Altmann, Concerned to remedy a people's inability to surmount error and doubt, Saadya's epistemological curative is directly in the service of life: Saadya wants to be able to provide his readers with the capacity to know truly and with certainty because he wants to provide them a genuine space in which to live truly and with certainty.
Tradition, Revelation and Prophecy Tradition for Saadya demarcates a unique category of knowing, in that, unlike the 3 other epistemological processes he addresses viz. Here, explicitly identifying Scripture as tradition though elsewhere, he speaks of rabbinic writings as tradition too , he explains: [God] knew that His laws and the stories of His wondrous signs would, through the passage of time, require people to hand them down to posterity, so that they might become as evident to later generations as they were to the earlier ones.
To this question, Saadya can be taken as providing two answers: 1. Later we found that speculation confirms the necessity of the law for us.
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It would, however, not have been appropriate to leave us to our own devices … Altmann, 95; italics added For Saadya, it is only reasonable that God in His kindness reveal to us even those laws which we could, in theory, arrive at on the basis of our own reasoning, for this both expedites as well as ensures our engagement with proper norms for living.
When faced with this statement [viz. Moreover, it would seem that in this way His goodness would have been more beneficial to them, seeing that they would have been free from the necessity of making any laborious effort. My answer to this objection is that, on the contrary, the order instituted by God, whereby everlasting happiness is achieved by man's labours in fulfillment of the law, is preferable.
For reason judges that one who obtains some good in return for work which he has accomplished enjoys a double portion of happiness in comparison with one who has not done any work and received what he receives as a gift of grace. This being so, our Creator has chosen for us the more abundant portion, namely, to bestow welfare on us in the shape of reward, thus making it double the benefit which we could expect without an effort on our part… Altmann, 94 God gives His followers more opportunity to reap rewards by making even the self-evident norms of moral living matters of divine obeisance.
In effect, Saadya explains that, …mankind is fundamentally in need of the prophets, not solely on account of the revelational laws, which had to be announced, but also on account of the rational laws, because their practice cannot be complete unless the prophets show us how to perform them. Thus, for instance, reason commands gratitude toward God for the blessings received from Him, but does not specify the form, time, and posture appropriate to the expression of such gratitude.
Arthur Marmorstein-The Old Rabbinic Doctrine of God, Volume 1 (1927)
So we are in need of prophets. Describing his reaction to the state of his community's ignorance and doubt, Saadya says: …my heart grieved for my race, the race of mankind, and my soul was moved on account of our own people Israel, as I saw in my time many of the believers clinging to unsound doctrine and mistaken beliefs while many of those who deny the faith boast of their unbelief and despise the men of truth, although they are themselves in error. I saw men sunk, as it were, in a sea of doubt and covered by the waters of confusion, and there was no diver to bring them up from the depths and no swimmer to come to their rescue.
The importance of revelation as a ground in Saadya can be further seen in his understanding of the commandments and prohibitions as themselves gracious gifts from God: The first of His acts of kindness towards His creatures was the gift of existence…Thereafter He offered them a gift by means of which they are able to obtain complete happiness and perfect bliss… Altmann, 93 In his sensitive responsiveness to even existence itself as divine gift, Saadya finds in the commandments and prohibitions of revelation a God-given path to salvation: by following these God-given precepts, one can hope to secure his or her welfare.
Revelation as Praxis In considering the possibility of revelation as ground, consider the sense in which, for Saadya, revelation entails praxis. God, Unity, Creation, Soul Saadya upholds the absolute unity of God, and argues firmly for creation ex nihilo. New York: Atheneum, Saadya, Perush Sefer Yezira , edited by J.
Jerusalem, Altmann, Alexander. Wolfson, Harry Austryn. New York, New Haven: Yale University Press, Leiden, Paris, Josef al Fayyoumi. Paris, —. Kafih, ranging from to BJRL 28 : Ben-Shammai, Haggai. Washington, D. Cohen, B.
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Saadia Anniversary Volume. PAAJR , Efros, I. JQR 33 : Malter, H. Saadia Gaon; His Life and Works. Finkelstein, L ed. Rav Saadia Gaon; Studies in his honor. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary, Rosenthal, E. Saadya Studies. Manchester, Sirat, Colette. Pines, S. Wolfson, H. New York, , pp.
In his Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion , vol. II, Cambridge Mass. Academic Tools How to cite this entry. Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers , with links to its database. Other Internet Resources [Please contact the author with suggestions.
Related Entries faith Plato. Open access to the SEP is made possible by a world-wide funding initiative. Mirror Sites View this site from another server:. Edition translated by Alexander Altmann in Lewy, H. Edition translated by Samuel Rosenblatt. Since the material for Marmostein's work is drawn from the Agada, the relationship between law and lore in Judaism should be obvious. Although the requirements for legal observances and responsibilities have played an important role in the unfolding of the religion of the Jewish people, the tradition also drew from the wealth of human experience, rarely negating any source of truth and human instruction.
The development of the Agadic method is depicted with regard to the development of the Doctrine of Merits. Contemporary events in the third century saw the metamorphosis of the teaching that the world was created for the sake of the Patriarchs and the righteous to the teaching that the world was created for the sake of Israel.
This development, the author informs us, was connected with the polemics of the day. The church and the porch, the cathedral and the temple, revived the half forgotten and totally ill-founded abuses against the Jews. The Jews are a useless nation which had done nothing for the good of humanity. The Jews, so the Agadists reply to the Church, are something more than witnesses of the veracity of the Church; they are the source of every blessing and happiness.
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