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Let us read the Torah with an open mind and think about the lessons it is trying to teach. Although it may leave some questions unanswered, in my view that is a good thing.

Moshe Halbertal: "Maimonides: Life and Thought" Book Launch

It is this fact that allows art, literature, and philosophy to raise questions and explore a range of possible answers. The importance of these questions is what allows a document composed in the ancient world to continue to speak with authority in this one. You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account.

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Imitation of God

Notify me of new comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email. Skip to content Kenneth Seeskin is Philip M. Share this: Twitter Facebook Pinterest. Like this: Like Loading Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:. Email required Address never made public. Name required. Previous Previous post: News and Reviews. Most scholars believe that Maimonides defends creation out of nothing ex nihilo. The esotericist interpretation states that he espouses necessary emanation from an eternal source.

Another group argues that he defends a Neoplatonic view according to which the world was created from pre-existing matter. Kenneth Seeskin states that Maimonides' view on creation is based around two central points: [1] He aims to place God far 'above' or away from the created order and [2] he pleads agnostic concerning the actual details of creation and states that prophecy should be trusted when faced with such a level of uncertainty.

At the beginning of the Guide of the Perplexed 1 , Maimonides spends a great deal of time discussing the incorporeality of God. For him, God is far more transcendent than what the Hebrew Bible depicts when read at face value; He is a 'distant God' and therefore the question of how God created the universe and the world, is just as unknowable or mysterious as the nature of God. The two are related, "because if we do not know what God is, we cannot know by what means God conferred existence on things. It will also explore the notions of time and motion, creation ex nihilo out of nothing and de novo anew as well as Maimonides' arguments against Aristotle and those in favour of the Mosaic view.

The first view of creation is "the opinion of all those who believe in the Law of Moses our Master. The Mosaic view states that the entire universe "was brought into existence by God after having been purely and absolutely nonexistent. Creation ex nihilo does not solely mean that something came from nothing but insists that God does not need a material cause in creating.

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And creation de novo does not mean that God exists in time and space and picks a particular moment to begin His creation. To say that God 'was' existent before creation implies that He existed in time.


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It is difficult for us to imagine something that was or is outside of time. But as Maimonides states, the fact that we cannot conceive of something extant outside of time has less to do with God's limits than ours. As Maimonides states, "God's bringing the world into existence does not have a temporal beginning, for time is one of the created things. A moment resides in the middle of a 'before' and an 'after'. Therefore, there cannot be a first moment because it must have something 'before' it.

For Aristotle to argue that the world is eternal, he must prove that there cannot be a first moment because there cannot be a first motion. For him, motion "requires the actualization of a potentiality. He fears that "nothing" may appear to some as the substance out of which the universe was created. For Maimonides, the main question is: must creation have a material cause? The answer is yes only if creation is equated with change such as when something loses a characteristic and acquires another one. This view of change implies that there is something, which remains unchanged throughout the process.

However, Maimonides states at Guide 2. At Guide 2. The Platonic position rejects the former belief but accepts the latter while the Aristotelian view rejects both.

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Maimonides states that the philosophers who posit that God cannot create the world ex nihilo are taking too much of a materialistic view. It is true that God cannot do this if we believe that God transforms nothing as a substance into something or that nonexistence is transformed into existence. But, this is not what the Mosaic position puts forth.

Rather, it states that God, and God alone, is responsible for creation. Maimonides states that, to avoid creation ex nihilo, philosophers bring into the equation another element that is eternal along with God. Like a sculptor working with clay, they believe that God created the world out of this eternal 'matter'. They are willing to compromise the power of God and the uniqueness of creation in order that our view of both is understood according to principles derived from earthly experience.

Maimonides points out that there is no reason to believe that this should be the case. For the Platonists, their view of creation does not compromise the power of God.

They state that God must operate within what is possible because "what is impossible has a firmly established nature that is not produced by an agent and that consequently cannot be changed. Nevertheless, Maimonides rejects this view and states, "he does not believe what we believe.


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Maimonides ascribes the third view of creation to Aristotle and his followers. Both the Aristotelian and the Platonic view contend that something cannot come from nothing. The Platonic view, as we have seen, ascribes another something as being eternal along with God. The Aristotelian view simply states that everything has always existed. The deity, in the Aristotelian view, "has never ceased to be as it is in the present and will be as it is in the future eternity.

Creation does not come from what God does but from what God is. In other words, "it is in the nature of a perfect being not to remain unto itself but to produce offspring or effects. Maimonides realizes that he cannot prove Aristotle wrong because the absolute beginning cannot be explored. He simply wants to weaken the edifice upon which the Aristotelian view stands and then show the Mosaic view to be preferable.


  1. Kenneth Seeskin | Book Authors | The Jewish Publication Society;
  2. Imitation of God;
  3. Rambam and creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) and de novo (anew);
  4. At Guide II. As mentioned earlier, Maimonides seems to be warning his audience on several occasions as to what "we believe. When something has been proven to be true, Maimonides states, the truth of it is not heightened either by castigating its opponents or backing it with "men of knowledge". Thus he thinks that "Aristotle never at any time had the fantasy that what he said in this connection constituted a demonstration.

    As Seeskin states, "having restricted knowledge of God as severely as he does, he cannot claim certainty about how God is responsible for the world.

    From the Desk of Kenneth Seeskin

    He states that when faced with such uncertainty, "it is preferable that a point for which there is no demonstration remain a problem. Modern science has not proven Maimonides to be wrong. In , Edwin Hubble studied light reaching the earth from far off galaxies "and found that the Frauenhofer lines of such lights are shifted, sometimes substantially, into the red region of the spectrum. The farthest galaxies were moving the fastest "almost as though everything in the universe had been blown apart from a great initial explosion.

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