Listen to this podcast from Melvyn Bragg on the BBC, In Our Time on Maimonides
Widely regarded as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the medieval period, Maimonides was also a physician and rabbinical authority. Also known as Rambam, his writings include a 14-volume work on Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah, which is still widely used today, and the Guide for the Perplexed, a central work of medieval philosophy. Although undoubtedly a titan of Jewish intellectual history, Maimonides was also profoundly influenced by the Islamic world. He exerted a strong influence on later Islamic philosophy, as well as on thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to Leibniz and Newton. With:John Haldane Professor of Philosophy at the University of St Andrews Sarah Stroumsa Alice and Jack Ormut Professor of Arabic Studies and currently Rector at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Peter Adamson Professor of Ancient and Medieval Philosophy at King’s College.
Whhen in 1148 the Berber/North African based Almohad Dynasty launched an offensive campaign in Andalusia they abolished the legal status and recognition of non-Muslims, known as dhimmis. This forced Maimonides and his family to seek exile. He left for Fez in Morocco where the famous Qarawiyyin University was and there he compiled some of his major works. Later in 1168 he moved to Cairo, Egypt. He was instrumental in securing the release of Jewish hostages held by the Christians during the Crusades. He continued his writing and work until his death in Cairo. Maimonides would write in Arabic and Hebrew.
Maimonides’ most famous work is his Guide for the Perplexed. Written in three volumes it takes the reader carefully through an epistemology of Jewish sacred terms and a glossary of the theological meanings of words found in Hebrew. In it Maimonides interweaves opinions on recent philosophy, such as the question of the corporeal or bodily nature of God, which he denies (Part 1, Chapter 1)