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3 - Spinoza on Ibn Ezra's “secret of the twelve”

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 January 2011

Yitzhak Y. Melamed
Affiliation:
The Johns Hopkins University
Michael A. Rosenthal
Affiliation:
University of Washington
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Summary

The renowned Spanish Bible commentator and philosopher, Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–1164), is without doubt the medieval author who, with the exception of Maimonides, had the greatest influence on the Theological-Political Treatise. Like Spinoza, he was a rare combination of metaphysician and grammarian – a man engaged by both the big questions about God and Nature and the small ones about conjugations and declensions. His influence may be detected in many places throughout the TTP. He is cited expressly by name in six different contexts.

In Chapter 1, Annotation 1, Spinoza endorses Rashi's interpretation of the word nabi` (prophet) as meaning originally “translator,” and adds that Ibn Ezra criticized this interpretation but “did not know the Hebrew language so exactly.”

In Chapter 2, Spinoza writes that according to the Hebrews the “God of gods” ruled the land of Israel but allotted other lands to other gods. He cites Jacob's words to his family before they entered the land, “put away the foreign gods” (Gen. 35:2), and refers the reader to Ibn Ezra's comments on the verse. The reference, however, is mistaken, for Ibn Ezra rejects the interpretation advanced by Spinoza.

In Chapters 7 and 10, Spinoza cites approvingly Ibn Ezra's view that the Book of Job was translated into Hebrew from another language, but complains he did not prove it sufficiently.

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Chapter
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Spinoza's 'Theological-Political Treatise'
A Critical Guide
, pp. 41 - 55
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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