We can pass over Aaron ben Elijah's discussion of prophecy very briefly because there is no new attitude or contribution in his views. Without saying it, he reluctantly perhaps, leans upon Maimonides, and with apparent variations in form really adopts the classification of the "Guide" (p. 277). He gives no psychological explanation of prophecy because he disagrees with the philosophers, to whom prophecy is a purely natural gift which cannot fail to manifest itself when the requisite conditions are there, namely, perfection in intellect and imagination. In fact when he gives the different views on the nature of prophecy, he refuses to identify what seems to stand in his book for the view of Maimonides (the fourth view) with that of the followers of the Mosaic law. Whereas Maimonides following the philosophers insists on the two important elements in prophecy, namely, intellect and imagination, adding thereto also moral perfection, Aaron ben Elijah in giving the opinion of those who follow the law of Moses, says nothing of the imagination. He insists only on perfection in intellect and in ethical character. This difference is, however, only apparent; and further on he refers to the imagination as an important element, which determines, in its relation to the reason, the character of a man as a prophet or a mere statesman or philosopher—all in the manner of Maimonides.
His idea of the purpose of prophecy he develops, as it seems, with an eye to the criticism of the Brahmins of India, whom he quotes as denying prophecy, though admitting Providence, on the ground that it can serve no purpose. The reason alone, they say, is sufficient to decide what is right and what is wrong. Accordingly Aaron ben Elijah meets their objection as follows: It is true that man might have gotten along without prophecy through the laws which his own reason established for right and wrong, good and evil. Those who followed these rational laws would have attained long life, and the others would have perished. But a good man living in a bad environment would have been involved in the downfall of the majority, which would not be just. Hence it was necessary that God should warn the man, that he might save himself. This is the first beginning of prophecy. Witness Noah and Lot. Abraham was a great advance on his predecessors. He endeavored to follow God's will in respect to both body and soul. Hence God saved him from the danger to which he was exposed in Ur of the Chaldees, and wanted to benefit his descendants also that they should perfect their bodies and their souls. This is impossible for a whole nation without special laws to guide them. This is particularly true of the "traditional" laws (ceremonial), which are not in themselves good or bad, but are disciplinary in their nature.
A prophet must have both intellectual and ethical perfection. For he must understand the nature of God in order to communicate his will; and this cannot be had without previous ethical perfection. Hence the twofold requirement. This is the reason, he says, why we do not believe in the religions of Jesus and Mohammed, because they were not possessed of intellectual perfection. And besides they tend to the extinction of the human species by reason of their monastic and celibate ideal. They were misled by the asceticism of the prophets, who meant it merely as a protest against the material self-indulgence of the time, and called attention to the higher life. But those people in their endeavor to imitate the prophets mistook the means for the end, with the result that they missed both, perfection of soul as well as of body, and merely mortified the flesh, thinking it the will of God. Hence, Aaron ben Elijah continues, we shall never accept a religion which does not preach the maintenance of this world as well as of the next. Not even miracles can authenticate a religion which preaches monasticism and celibacy.
Moses was superior to the other prophets. All the others received their messages in a vision or a dream, Moses had his inspiration while awake. The others were inspired through the medium of an angel, i. e., through the imagination, hence their language abounds in allegories and parables. Moses did not use the imagination, hence the plain character of his speech. The others were overcome by the vision and physically exhausted, as we read in Daniel (10, 17), "There remained no strength in me, and no breath was left in me." Moses was free from this weakness—"And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his neighbor" (Exod. 33, 11). The others required preparation, Moses did not. Moses's testimony, too, was stronger than that of all the rest. His authority in the end was made plain to all the people directly and openly, so that there remained not a shred of a doubt. This is why we accept his law and no other, because none is so well authenticated. The Law cannot change without implying that the standard of perfection has changed, or the world has changed, or God's knowledge has changed. All this is impossible. The Law says besides, "Thou shalt not add thereto, and thou shalt not diminish therefrom" (Deut. 13, 1). Therefore, concludes Aaron ben Elijah the Karaite, we do not believe in the oral or traditional law because of the additions to, and subtractions from, the written law which it contains.
Aaron ben Elijah agrees with Maimonides that all the commandments of the Bible, including the ceremonial laws, have a purpose and are not due to the arbitrary will of God. The ceremonial laws are for the sake of the rational, serving a pedagogical and disciplinary purpose, and the Law as a whole is for the purpose of teaching the truth and inculcating the good. He goes further than Maimonides in vindicating the rational and ethical purpose of all the details of the various laws, and not merely of the several commandments as a whole (cf. above, p. 294).
A problem that occupied the minds of the Mutakallimun, Arabs as well as Karaites, but which Maimonides does not discuss, is the purpose of God's giving commandments to those who he knew would remain unbelievers, and refuse to obey. That God's knowledge and man's freedom co-exist and neither destroys the other, has already been shown. If then God knows, as we must assume, that a given person will refuse to obey the commandments, what is the use of giving them to him? And granting that for some reason unknown to us they have been given, is it just to punish him for disobedience when the latter might have been spared by not giving the man in question any commandments?
Aaron ben Elijah answers these questions by citing the following parallel. A man prepares a meal for two guests and one does not come. The absence of the guest does not make the preparation improper, for the character of the act does not depend upon the choice of the guest to do or not to do the desire of the host. The invitation was proper because the host meant the guest's benefit. To be sure, the case is not quite parallel, and to make it so we must assume that the host expects that the guest will not come. His intention being good, the invitation is proper. In our problem knowledge takes the place of expectation. God does not merely expect, he knows that the man will not obey. But as God's desire is to benefit mankind and arouse them to higher things, the command is proper, no matter what the person chooses to do.
To punish the man for disobedience is not unjust because God intended to benefit him by the command. If he disobeyed, that is his lookout. If the benefit could have been had without the command, then the punishment would be unjust, but not otherwise.
If only good men were commanded and the rest ignored, the danger would be that the former being thereby assured of reward, might be tempted to do wrong; and the others in despair might be worse than they would be under ordinary circumstances. God saw that man has evil tendencies, and needs warning and guidance from without. And just as he gave men understanding and ability to believe though he knew that a given person would not avail himself thereof, so he gave all men commandments, though he knew that some would not obey.
The rest of the book is devoted to such questions as reward and punishment after death, immortality of the soul, the problem of the soul's pre-existence, the nature of the future life, repentance—questions which Maimonides left untouched in the "Guide" on the ground that whatever religion and tradition may say about them, they are not strictly speaking scientific questions, and are not susceptible to philosophical demonstration.
Aaron ben Elijah proves that there must be reward and punishment after death. For as man is composed of body and soul, there must be reward for each according as man endeavors to maintain and perfect them. Thus if a man cares for his body alone, he will be rewarded in his body, i. e., in this world. The other man who looks out for both body and soul must have the same reward in this world as the other, since their physical efforts were similar. At the same time he must have something over and above the other in the nature of compensation for his soul, and this must be in the next world.
The prosperity of the wicked and the misery of the righteous are also to be explained in part, as we have seen (p. 376), by reference to their respective destinies in the next world, where the inequalities of this world will be adjusted.
Finally, material reward cannot be the consequence of intellectual and spiritual merit; it would mean doing the greater for the sake of the smaller. And besides the soul is not benefited by physical goods and pleasures, and would remain without reward. Hence there must be another kind of reward after death. In order to deserve such reward the soul must become wise. At the same time the common people, who observe the ceremonial commandments, are not excluded from a share in the world to come, because the purpose of these laws is also intellectual and spiritual, as we said before (p. 382), and hence their observance makes the soul wise, and gives it immortality. This last comment is clearly directed against the extreme intellectualism of Maimonides and Gersonides, according to whom rational activity alone confers immortality (p. 339).
The considerations just adduced imply the immortality of the soul, to which they lend indirect proof. But Aaron ben Elijah endeavors besides to furnish direct proof of the soul's continuance after the death of the body. And the first thing he does is to disarm the criticism of the philosophers, who deny immortality on the ground that the soul being the form of the body, it must like other material forms cease with the dissolution of the things of which they are the forms. He answers this by showing that the soul as the cause of knowledge and wisdom—immaterial faculties—is itself immaterial. Being also the cause of the body's motion, it is not itself subject to motion, hence not to time, and therefore not destructible like a natural form. Besides the composition of body and soul is different from that of matter and form in the ordinary sense. For in the former case each of the constituent parts is already a composite of matter and form. The body has both matter and form, and the soul has likewise. For the acquired intellect is the form of the soul, which is the matter. Other proofs are as follows: The rational soul performs its functions without help from the body, hence it is independent in its existence. The proof of the last statement is that the power of the rational soul is not limited, and does not become weary, as a corporeal power does. Hence it can exist without the body. Again, as the corporeal powers grow stronger, the intellectual powers grow weaker, and vice versa as the corporeal powers grow weaker in old age, the intellect grows stronger. Hence the soul is independent of the body, and when the physical powers cease entirely in death, the intellect is at its height.
The question of the soul's pre-existence before coming in contact with the body, Aaron ben Elijah answers in the affirmative, though his arguments in favor of the opposite view are stronger. His sole argument in favor of its pre-existence is that the soul, being a self-subsisting substance and not an accident, is not dependent upon the body, and must have existed before the body. The consequence which some have drawn from this supposition combined with the soul's immortality, namely, that the soul is eternal, he refuses to adopt. The soul existed before the body, but like all things which are not God it was created in time.
Though we have thus seen that the soul existed before the body, it is mistaken to suppose that it was completely developed. For though the gradual progress in knowledge and understanding as the individual matures proves nothing for the soul's original imperfection, as we may account for this progress by the gradual adaptation of the physical elements to the functions of the soul, there is a more valid objection. If the soul was perfectly developed before entering the body, all souls should be alike when they leave it, which is not the case. We come to the conclusion therefore that the soul does acquire knowledge while in contact with the body. The human soul is a unit, and from its connection with the body arise the various powers, such as growth, life, reason. When the soul is separated from the body, those powers which functioned with the aid of the body perish; the others remain.
In the matter of eschatology Aaron ben Elijah gives a number of views without declaring himself definitely for any of them. The main difference among the three points of view quoted concerns the possibility of the resurrection of the body, and the meaning of the terms "revival of the dead" ("Tehiyat ha-metim") and "the world to come" ("Olam ha-ba"). Aaron ben Elijah seems to incline to the first, in favor of resurrection.
We must endeavor, he says, to get some notion of final reward and punishment. For without any idea of its nature a man's hope or fear is taken away from him, and he has no motive for right conduct. To be sure it is not possible to get a clear understanding of the matter, but some idea we must have. The first view which he seems to favor is that revival of the dead and world to come are the same thing; that the end of man is the resurrection of the body and its reunion with the soul. This is the future life, and this is meant by reward and punishment. There is Biblical support for this view in such expressions as, "Thy dead shall live, thy dead bodies shall arise" (Isa. 26, 19). "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up" (1 Sam. 2, 6). There is nothing to object in this, he says, for the same God who made man of the dust can revive him after death. Besides, there seems to be a logical propriety in bringing soul and body together for reward and punishment just as they were during conduct in life. When the soul is once reunited with the body in the resurrection, it is never separated again. The expression "garden of Eden" for paradise is a figure of speech for eternal life free from pain.
The second opinion is expressed by those who do not believe in bodily resurrection. The end of man according to these is the return of the soul to the world of souls. This is the meaning of "world to come"; and "revival of the dead" means the same thing. For it is not possible that the soul should be reunited with the body, which is temporary in its nature and subject to dissolution. Besides, the body has organs, such as those of food and reproduction, which would be useless in the future life. The advocates of this theory also believe in transmigration of souls as a punishment. Aaron ben Elijah rejects metempsychosis on the ground that there is some relation between a soul and its body, and not every body can receive every soul.
Aaron ben Elijah also quotes without comment the classification, already familiar to us (p. 119), of human souls into (1) dead, (2) alive, (3) healthy, and (4) sick. Death denotes evil deeds; life, good deeds; health, intellectual knowledge; disease, ignorance. This classification is applied in determining the destiny of the soul after death. If one is alive and healthy, i. e., has knowledge and good deeds, he has a share in the world to come. If he is healthy and dead (knowledge + evil deeds), the soul is kept in an intermediate world forever. If he is alive and sick (good deeds + ignorance), the soul rises to the upper air, whence it returns again and again to the body until it acquires wisdom to be able to rise to the world of angels. If he is dead and sick (evil deeds + ignorance), the soul dies like an animal.
Finally, the third opinion is a combination of resurrection and "future world." Seeing that some of the functions of the soul are performed with the help of the body, while others are not, the advocates of this view maintain that the soul will be rewarded in both conditions—with the body, in resurrection, without the body, in the world to come.
If a man has merits and demerits, his good and evil deeds are balanced against each other, and the surplus determines his reward or punishment according to its nature.
HASDAI BEN ABRAHAM CRESCAS (1340-1410)
The influence of Aristotle on Jewish thought, which began as early as Saadia and grew in intensity as the Aristotelian writings became better known, reached its high water mark in Ibn Daud, Maimonides and Gersonides. To Maimonides Aristotle was the indisputable authority for all matters pertaining to sublunar existence, but he reserved the right to differ with the Stagirite when the question concerned the heavenly spheres and the influences derived from them. Hence he denied the eternity of motion and the fundamental principle at the basis of this Aristotelian idea, that necessity rules all natural phenomena. In his doctrine of creation in time, Maimonides endeavored to defend God's personality and voluntary and purposeful activity. For the same reason he defended the institution of miracles. Gersonides went further in his rationalistic attitude, carried the Aristotelian principles to their inevitable conclusions, and did not shrink from adopting to all intents and purposes the eternity of the world (strictly speaking the eternity of matter), and the limitation of God's knowledge to universals. Aristotle's authority was now supreme, and the Bible had to yield to Aristotelian interpretations, as we have seen abundantly. Maimonides and Gersonides were the great peaks that stood out above the rest; but there was any number of lesser lights, some who wrote books and still more who did not write, taking the great men as their models and looking at Jewish literature and belief through Aristotelian spectacles. Intellectualism is the term that best describes this attitude. It had its basis in psychology, and from there succeeded in establishing itself as the ruling principle in ethics and metaphysics. As reason and intellect is the distinguishing trait of man—the part of man which raises him above the beast—and as the soul is the form of the living body, its essence and actuating principle, it was argued that the most important part of man is his rational soul or intellect, and immortality was made dependent upon theoretical ideas. Speculative study made the soul; and an intellect thus constituted was immortal, for it was immaterial. The heavenly world, consisting of the separate Intelligences and culminating in God, was also in its essence reason and intellect. Hence thought and knowledge formed the essence of the universe. By thought is man saved, and through thought is he united with the Most High. All else that is not pure thought acquires what value it has from the relation it bears to thought. In this way were judged those divisions of Judaism that concerned ceremony and ethical practice. Their value consisted in their function of promoting the ends of the reason.
Judah Halevi, influenced by Al Gazali, had already before Maimonides protested against this intellectualistic attitude in the name of a truer though more naive understanding of the Bible and Jewish history. But Judah Halevi's nationalism and the expression of his poetical and religious feelings and ideas could not vie with the dominating personality of Maimonides, whose rationalistic and intellectualistic attitude swept everything before it and became the dominant mode of thinking for his own and succeeding ages. It remained for Hasdai Crescas (born in Barcelona, in 1340), who flourished in Christian Spain two centuries after Maimonides and over a half century after Gersonides, to take up the cudgels again in behalf of a truer Judaism, a Judaism independent of Aristotle, and one that is based more upon the spiritual and emotional sides of man and less upon the purely intellectual, theoretical and speculative. Himself devoid of the literary power and poetic feeling of Judah Halevi, Crescas had this in common with the medival national poet that he resented the domination of Jewish belief and thought by the alien Greek speculation. In a style free from rhetoric, and characterized rather by a severe brevity and precision, he undertakes to undermine the Aristotelian position by using the Stagirite's own weapons, logical analysis and proof. His chief work is the "Or Adonai," Light of the Lord.
Agreeing with all other Jewish writers that the existence of God is the basis of Judaism, he sees in this very fact a reason why this principle cannot be regarded as one of the six hundred and thirteen commandments. For a commandment implies the existence of one who commands. Hence to regard the belief in the existence of God as a commandment implies the very thing which the commandment expresses. The existence of God therefore as the basis of all commandments cannot itself be a commandment. Besides only those things can form the objects of a command which can be controlled by the will. But a matter of belief like the existence of God is not subject to will, it is a matter of fact and of proof.
Maimonides, as we know, based his proofs of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God upon twenty-six philosophical propositions taken from the works of Aristotle and his Arabian interpreters. As he was not writing a book on general philosophy, Maimonides simply enumerates twenty-five propositions, which he accepts as proved by Aristotle and his followers. To these he adds provisionally another proposition, number twenty-six, concerning the eternity of motion, upon which he bases his proof of the existence of God in order to be safe from all criticism. In the sequel he discusses this last proposition and shows that unlike the other twenty-five, it is not susceptible of rigid demonstration, and the arguments in favor of the origin of motion and the world in time are more plausible.
Crescas goes further than Maimonides, and controverts most of the other propositions as well, maintaining in particular against Aristotle and Maimonides that an infinite magnitude is possible and exists actually; that there is an infinite fulness or void outside of this world, and hence there may be many worlds, and it need not follow that the elements would pour in from one world into the next, so that all earth should be together in the centre, all fire together in the outer circumference, and the intermediate elements, air and water, between these two. The elements may stay in their respective worlds in the places assigned to them. It will not be worth our while to wade through all the technical and hair-splitting discussions of these points. The results will be sufficient for our purpose.
The proof of the existence of an unmoved mover in Aristotle and Maimonides is based upon the impossibility of a regress to infinity. If Hasdai Crescas admits the infinite, the Aristotelian proof fails. Similarly God's unity in Maimonides is among other things based upon the finiteness of the world and its unity. If infinite space is possible outside of this world, and there may be many worlds, this proof fails for God's unity. So Crescas takes up in detail all the Maimonidean proofs of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God and points out that they are not valid because in the first place they are based upon premises which Crescas has refuted, and secondly were the premises granted Maimonides's results do not follow from them. It remains then for Crescas to give his own views on this problem which, he says, the philosophers are unable to solve satisfactorily, and the Bible alone is to be relied upon. At the same time he does give a logical proof which in reality is not different from one of the proofs given by Maimonides himself. It is based upon the distinction insisted upon by Alfarabi and Avicenna between the "possible existent" and the "necessary existent." Whatever is an effect of a cause is in itself merely possible, and owes the necessity of its existence to its cause. Now, argues Crescas, whether the number of causes and effects is finite or infinite, there must be one cause of all of them which is not itself an effect. For if all things are effects they are "possible existents" as regards their own nature, and require a cause which will make them exist rather than not. This self-subsisting cause is God.
He then endeavors to prove the unity of God in the two senses of the term; unity in the sense of simplicity, and unity in the sense of uniqueness. Unity as opposed to composition—the former sense of the term—is neither the same as the essence of a thing, nor is it an accident added to the essence. It cannot be essence, for in that case all things called one would have the same essence. Nor is it accident, for that which defines and separates the existing thing is truly called substance rather than accident; and this is what unity does. Accordingly Crescas defines unity as something essential to everything actually existing, denoting the absence of plurality. This being true, that existent which is before all others is most truly called one. Also that being which is most separated from other things is best called one.
Crescas disagrees with Maimonides's opinion that no positive attributes can be applied to God, such as indicate relation to his creatures, and so on. His arguments are that we cannot avoid relation to creatures even in the term "cause," which Maimonides admits; and in the attributes of action—the only kind of positive attributes allowed by Maimonides—it is implied that before a given time God did not do a particular thing, which he did later, a condition in God which Maimonides will not admit. Besides, if there are no positive attributes, what could be the meaning of the tetragrammaton, about which Maimonides has so much to say? If it expressed a negative attribute, why was its meaning kept so secret? Crescas's own view is that there are positive attributes, and that there is a relation between God and his creatures, though not a similarity, as they are far apart, the one being a necessary existent, the other a possible existent; one being infinite, the other finite.
We must now try to show that God is one in the sense that there are no other Gods besides. We may proceed as follows: If there are two Gods, one of them controls only part of the world or he does not control it at all. The first is impossible because the unitary world must be due to one agent. But there may be more than one world and hence more than one agent. This is, however, answered by the thought that being infinite in power one could control them all. There is still another alternative, viz., that one agent controls the whole world and the other does nothing. Here speculation can go no further, and we must have recourse to Scripture, which says, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." We see here that Crescas is interested in discrediting the logic chopping of the philosophers. No merely logical argument, is his idea, can give us absolute certainty even in so fundamental a doctrine as the unity of God. Like Judah Halevi, Crescas took his inspiration from Algazali, whose point of view appealed to him more than that of Maimonides and Gersonides, who may be classed with Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes.
Having discussed the fundamental principles of all religion and philosophy, namely, the existence and nature of God, Crescas next takes up the following six fundamental dogmas of Judaism, God's knowledge of existing things, Providence, Power, Prophecy, Freedom, Purpose.
There are three things to be remembered in the matter of God's knowledge. He knows the infinite, for he knows particulars. He knows the non-existent, as he knows the future; and his knowledge of the contingent does not remove its contingent character. Maimonides and Gersonides had difficulty with this problem and we know their respective solutions. Gersonides, for reasons metaphysical as well as ethical, does not scruple to limit God's knowledge to universals. Maimonides endeavors to reconcile the dilemma by throwing the blame upon our limited understanding. In God's knowledge which is toto coelo different from ours, and of which we have no conception, all oppositions and contradictions find their ultimate harmony. Crescas, as we might naturally expect, agrees with Maimonides in this matter rather than with Gersonides. To limit God's knowledge is opposed to the Bible, and would involve us in greater difficulties than those we endeavor to escape.
Related to the question of God's knowledge is the problem of Providence. For God must know the individual or thing for which he provides, and if God has no knowledge of particulars, there can be no such thing as special providence. This latter as we know is virtually the opinion of Gersonides (cf. p. 345). Crescas, we have seen, defends God's knowledge of particulars, hence he sees no difficulty in special providence on this score. He takes, however, the term in a broad sense. All evidence of design in nature, all powers in plant and animal which guide their growth, reproduction and conservation are due to God's providence. Providence, he says, is sometimes exercised by God directly, without an intermediate voluntary agent, sometimes with such mediation. God's relations to Moses and to the Israelites in Egypt at the time of the tenth plague were without intermediate agency. In all other cases there is mediation of angels, or prophets, or wise men, or, according to some, the heavenly bodies, which are living and intelligent beings.
Providence itself is of different kinds. There is the most general and natural exhibited in the equipment of the various species of plant and animal life for their protection and growth and conservation. There are the more special powers found in the human race. These forms of providence have little to do with the person's deserts. They are purely dependent upon the constitution and influence of the stars. Then there is the more special providence of the Jewish nation, then of the male members of this nation, and of the priests and the levites. Finally comes the special providence of the individual, who is rewarded and punished according to his conduct. The reward and punishment of this world are not strictly controlled by conduct, the reward and punishment of the next world are. In this last remark Crescas cuts the knot which has been the cause of so much discussion in religious philosophy. If the real reward and punishment are in the next world, the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous in this world do not form so great a problem. At the same time an explanation of this peculiar phenomenon is still wanting. For surely the righteous man does not deserve to suffer for his righteousness, even though his good deeds will not go unrewarded in the next world. In this discussion also Crescas takes issue with the intellectualistic point of view of Maimonides and particularly Gersonides. The solution of these men that evil does not come from God directly but by accident and by reason of matter, and the corollary drawn therefrom that God does not punish the wicked directly, that he merely neglects them, leaving them to the accidents of nature and chance, Crescas does not approve. Nor is he more favorably inclined to the theory that the good man is provided for because the more he cultivates his mind, the more closely he comes in contact with God, in whom are contained actually all the ideas of which man has some potentially. His main criticism is that the theory is opposed to clear statements in the Bible, which imply special and individual reward and punishment in a miraculous and supernatural manner, which cannot be due to intellectual perfection, nor to the order of the heavenly bodies. Besides, if a man who is highly intellectual did much wrong, he should be punished in his soul, but on the intellectualist theory such a soul is immortal and cannot be destroyed.
Accordingly Crescas goes back to the religious doctrine of reward and punishment as ordinarily understood. God rewards and punishes because man obeys or disobeys his will and command. The complaint raised on account of the misery of the good and the prosperity of the wicked he answers by saying that real reward and punishment are in the next world. The goods and evils of this world are also to be considered, and he gives the ordinary excuses for the apparent deviation from what ought to be, such as that evil is sometimes a good in disguise and vice versa; that one sometimes inherits evil and good from one's parents; that the individual is sometimes involved in the destinies of the majority, and so on, and so on. Evil in the sense of moral evil, i. e., wrong, does not come from God, it is true, but punishment does come from God, and as its aim is justice, it is a good, not an evil. The providence extended to Israel is greatest. There is more Providence in Palestine than elsewhere, not because there is any difference in the relation on God's side, but there is on the side of the man enjoying this providence. His character and disposition change with the place, and similarly with the time and the season. Hence certain seasons of the year, like that about the time of the Day of Atonement, are more propitious for receiving God's providence.
Another fundamental doctrine of Judaism is God's omnipotence. Weakness would be a defect. Hence God can do everything except the contradictory. His power is infinite not merely in duration, but also in intensity. From Aristotle's proof of the necessity of an immovable mover as based upon the eternity of motion (p. 256 f.), we gather only that God's power is infinite in duration; whereas our doctrine of creation ex nihilo shows that there is no relation at all between God's power and the work he does; hence his power is infinite. This is shown also in the miracles, some of which took place instantaneously, as the destruction of the first born in Egypt at midnight precisely. Crescas insists that the ass of Balaam did speak, and refers with disapproval to those who doubt it and say it was in a vision (Gersonides).
In his discussion of Prophecy the interest lies once more in his anti-intellectualistic attitude. Maimonides agrees with the philosophers that the prophetic power is a psychological process attainable by the man who in addition to moral perfection possesses a highly developed intellect and power of imagination. To anticipate the objection that if this be so, why are there no prophets among the philosophers, Maimonides adds that divine grace is necessary besides, and that if this is lacking, one may have all the qualifications and yet not be a prophet. Crescas sees the forced nature of this explanation, and once more frankly returns to the plain intent of Scripture and Jewish tradition that the prophet is the man chosen by God because he is a student of the Torah and follows its commandments, and because he cleaves to God and loves him. The prophet receives his inspiration from God directly or through an intermediate agent, and the information received may concern any topic whatsoever. It is not to be limited to certain topics to the exclusion of others, as Gersonides tries to make out; and its purpose is to give guidance to the prophet himself or to others through him.
The most original contribution of Crescas to philosophical theory is his treatment of the ever living problem of freedom. So fundamental has it seemed for Judaism to maintain the freedom of the will that no one hitherto had ventured to doubt it. Maimonides no less than Judah Halevi, and with equal emphasis Gersonides, insist that the individual is not determined in his conduct. This seemed to be the only way to vindicate God's justice in reward and punishment. But the idea of man's freedom clashed with the doctrine of God's omniscience. If nothing in the past determines a man's will in a given case, then up to the moment of the act it is undetermined, and no one can know whether a given act will take place or its opposite. On the other hand, if God does know everything in the future as well as in the past, man is no longer free to act in a manner contrary to God's foreknowledge. This difficulty was recognized by Maimonides as well as by Gersonides, and they solved it in different ways. Maimonides gives up neither God's omniscience nor man's absolute freedom, and escapes the dilemma by taking refuge in his idea of God's transcendence. Human knowledge is incompatible with human freedom; God's knowledge is not like human knowledge, and we have no conception what it is. But it is consistent with human freedom. Gersonides, who objects to Maimonides's treatment of the divine attributes, and insists that they must resemble in kind though not in degree the corresponding human attributes, can avoid the difficulty only by a partial blunting of the sharp points of either horn of the dilemma. Accordingly he maintains freedom in all its rigor, and mitigates the conception of omniscience. God's omniscience extends only to the universal and its consequences; the contingent particular is by definition not subject to foreknowledge, and hence it argues no defect in God's knowledge if it does not extend to the undetermined decisions of the will.
Crescas embraces the other horn of the dilemma. God's omniscience must be maintained in all its rigor. It is absurd to suppose that the first universal and absolute cause should be ignorant of anything pertaining to its effects. Is man then not free? Has he no choice at all, no freedom in the determination of his conduct? If so how justify God's reward and punishment, if reward and punishment are relative to conduct and imply responsibility? Crescas's answer is a compromise. Determinism is not fatalism. It does not mean that a given person is preordained from eternity to act in a given way, no matter what the circumstances are. It does not mean that command and advice and warning and education and effort and endeavor are useless and without effect. This is contradicted by experience as well as by the testimony of Scripture. But neither is it true on the other hand that a person's will and its conduct are causeless and undetermined until the moment of action. This idea is equally untrue to reason and experience. We know that every effect has a cause and the cause has a cause, and this second cause has again a cause, until we reach the first necessary cause. Two individuals similar in every respect would have the same will unless there is a cause which makes them different. We have already intimated that God's foreknowledge, which we cannot deny, is incompatible with absolute freedom, and in the Bible we have instances of God's knowing future events which are the results of individual choice, as in the case of Pharaoh. The only solution then is that the act of will is in a sense contingent, in a sense determined. It is contingent in respect to itself, it is determined by its cause, i. e., the act is not fated to take place, cause or no cause. If it were possible to remove the cause, the act would not be; but given the cause, the effect is necessary. Effort is not in vain, for effort is itself a cause and determines an effect. Commandments and prohibitions are not useless, for the same reason. Reward and punishment are not unjust, even though antecedent causes over which man has no control determine his acts, any more than it is unjust that fire burns the one who comes near it, though he did so without intention. Reward and punishment are a necessary consequence of obedience and disobedience.
This is a bold statement on the part of Crescas, and the analogy between a man's voluntary act in ethical and religious conduct and the tendency of fire to burn irrespective of the person's responsibility in the matter can be valid only if we reduce the ethical and religious world to an impersonal force on a plane with the mechanism of the physical world order. This seems a risky thing to do for a religionist. And Crescas feels it, saying that to make this view public would be dangerous, as the people would find in it an apology for evil doers, not understanding that punishment is a natural consequence of evil. This latter statement Crescas does not wish to be taken in its literal strictness, nor should the analogy with the burning fire be pressed too far. For it would then follow even if a person is physically compelled to do evil that he would be punished, just as the fire would not refrain from burning a person who was thrown into it by force. The determination of the will, he says, must not be felt by the agent as a constraint and compulsion, else the act is not free and no punishment should follow; for command and prohibition can have no effect on a will constrained. Reward and punishment have a pedagogical value generally, even if in a given case they are not deserved. Even though in reality every act is determined, still where there is no external compulsion the person is so identified with the deed that it is in a real sense the product of his own soul, bringing about a union with, or separation from God; and hence reward and punishment are necessarily connected with it. Where there is external compulsion, on the other hand, the act is not in reality his own and hence no reward or punishment.
The question arises, however, why should there be punishment for erroneous belief and opinion? These have nothing to do with the will, and are determined if anything is, i. e., the person having them is constrained to believe as he does by the arguments, over which he has no control. This matter offers no difficulty to those who, like Maimonides and Gersonides, regard intelligence as the essence of the soul, and make immortality dependent upon intellectual ideas. A soul acquiring true ideas, they say, becomes ipso facto immortal. It is not a question of right and wrong or of reward and punishment. But this is not the Biblical view, and if it were true, there would be no need of the many ceremonial regulations. Geometry would play a greater rle in immortality than the Torah. Crescas's answer is that reward and punishment in this case are not for the belief itself, but rather for the pleasure one finds in it and the pains one takes to examine it carefully. Even in conduct one is not rewarded or punished for deeds directly, but for the intention and desire. Deed without intention is not punished. Intention without deed is; though the two together call for the greatest punishment or reward. "A burnt offering," say the Rabbis, "atones for sinful thoughts; sin committed through compulsion is not punished."
It is of interest here to know that Spinoza, as has been shown by Joel, owed his idea of man's freedom to Crescas. He also like Crescas denies the absolute indeterminism of a person's conduct that is insisted upon by the majority of the medival Jewish philosophers. And Joel shows moreover that Spinoza's final attitude to this question as found in his Ethics was the outcome of a gradual development, and the result of reading Crescas. In some of his earlier writings he insists that anything short of absolute omniscience in God is unthinkable. He sees the difficulty of reconciling this with man's freedom, but is not ready to sacrifice either, and like Maimonides decides that we must not deny it simply because we cannot understand it. Later, however, he maintains that God's omniscience and man's freedom are absolutely incompatible, and solves the difficulty in a manner similar to that of Crescas by curtailing freedom as formerly understood.
The next topic of which it is necessary to have a clear idea for a complete understanding of Judaism, is the purpose of the Law, and in general the purpose of man. Here also appears clearly the anti-intellectualism of Crescas and his disagreement with Maimonides and Gersonides. The final purpose of the Law is of course, he says, a good. The Bible teaches us to perfect our morals; it inculcates true beliefs and opinions; and it promises by means of these happiness of body and happiness of soul. Which of these four is the ultimate end? Clearly it must be the best and most worthy. And it seems as if this quality pertains to the eternal happiness of the soul, to which as an end the other three tend. Corporeal happiness is a means to the perfection of the soul since the latter acts through the means of bodily organs. Similarly moral perfection assists in purifying the soul. As for perfection in ideas, some think that it alone makes the soul immortal by creating the acquired intellect, which is immaterial and separate, and enjoys happiness in the next world incomparably greater than the joy we feel here below in the acquisition of knowledge. There is a difference of opinion as to the subject-matter which bestows immortality. According to some it is all knowledge, whether of sublunar things or of the separate substances. According to others it is only the knowledge of God and the angels that confers immortality. All these views are wrong from the Scriptural as well as the philosophical point of view.
The Bible makes it clear repeatedly that eternal life is obtained by performance of the commandments; whereas according to the others practical observance is only a means and a preparation to theory, without which practice alone is inadequate. According to Scripture and tradition certain offences are punished with exclusion from eternal life, and certain observances confer immortality, which have nothing to do with theoretical truths.
But philosophically too their views are untenable. For it would follow from their opinions that the purpose of the Law is for something other than man, for the acquired intellect is "separate," and hence cannot be the form of man. It is different in kind from man, for unlike him it is eternal as an individual. Besides it is not true that the acquired intellect is made as a substance by its ideas, while being separate from the material intellect; for as immaterial it has no matter as its subject from which it could come into being. It must therefore come into being ex nihilo, which is absurd.
And there are other reasons against their view. For if all knowledge confers immortality, one may acquire it by studying geometry, which is absurd. And if this privilege can be gained only by a knowledge of God and the separate substances, the objection is still greater; for, as Maimonides has shown, the only knowledge that may be had of these is negative; and it is not likely that such imperfect knowledge should make an eternal intellect.
If then theoretical knowledge does not lead to immortality as they thought, and the other perfections are preparatory to theoretical, it follows that the ultimate purpose of the Law and of man is attained primarily neither by theory alone nor by practice alone, but by something else, which is neither quite the one nor the other. It is the love and fear of God. This is demanded alike by Scripture, tradition and philosophy. That it is the view of religion is clear enough from the many passages in the Bible urging love of God. But it is also demanded by philosophy. For the soul is a spiritual substance, hence it is capable of separation from the body and of existing by itself forever, whether it has theoretical knowledge or not; since it is not subject to decay, not being material. Further, the perfect loves the good and the perfect; and the greater the good and the perfection the greater the love and the desire in the perfect being. Hence the perfect soul loves God with the greatest love of which it is capable. Similarly God's love for the perfect soul, though the object as compared with him is low indeed, is great, because his essence and perfection are great. Now as love is the cause of unity even in natural things, the love of God in the soul brings about a unity between them; and unity with God surely leads to happiness and immortality. As love is different from intellectual apprehension, the essence of the soul is love rather than intelligence.
There are many Talmudical passages confirming this view logically derived. We are told that the souls of the righteous enjoy the splendor of the Shekinah, and the wicked suffer correspondingly. This agrees with our conception of immortality and not with theirs. For enjoyment is impossible on their showing, though they try to make it plausible. Pleasure is different from apprehension; and as the essence of the acquired intellect is apprehension, there is no room for the pleasure, the intellect being simple. According to our view love is rewarded with pleasure. The pleasure we feel here below in intellectual work (Gersonides, p. 339) proves nothing, for it is due to the effort and the passing from potential knowledge to actual knowledge, i. e., to the process of learning. Proof of this is that we find no pleasure in axioms and first principles, which we know without effort. But the acquired intellect after the death of the body does not learn any new truths, hence can have no pleasure.
The Rabbis also speak of definite places of reward and punishment, which cannot apply to the acquired intellect, since it is a "separate" substance and can have no place. The soul as we understand it can have a place, just as it is connected with the body during life.
The Rabbis often speak of the great reward destined for school children. But surely the acquired intellect cannot amount to much in children. The truth is that the soul becomes mature and complete as soon as it acquires the rational faculty in the shape of the first principles or axioms. Then it is prepared for immortality as a natural thing without regard to reward.
The purpose of the soul as we showed is to love God. This object the Bible attains by the commandments, which may be classified with reference to their significance in seven groups. They exalt God; they show his great kindness to us; they give us true ideas concerning the nature of God; they call our attention to his providence; they give us promises of corporeal and spiritual reward; they call our attention to God's miracles in order to keep our attention from flagging; and finally they command love of God and union with him as the final aim of man.
In addition to the six fundamental doctrines of Judaism mentioned above (p. 392), there are true beliefs which are essential to Judaism, and the denial of which constitutes heresy; though they are not as fundamental as the other six, in the sense that the Law would continue to exist without them. They are (1) Creation, (2) Immortality, (3) Reward and Punishment, (4) Resurrection, (5) Eternity of the Law, (6) The superiority of Moses to the other prophets, (7) The priest's learning the future through the Urim and Tumim, (8) Belief in the Messiah. The list of thirteen articles of the creed given by Maimonides (cf. below, p. 409) is open to criticism. If he meant fundamental dogmas, there are not as many as thirteen; there are no more than seven or eight—the six mentioned before (p. 392), and, if one chooses, the existence of God, making seven, and revelation as the eighth. On the other hand, if Maimonides meant to include "true beliefs," there are more than fifteen, the six enumerated above (p. 392), existence of God and revelation, and the eight "true beliefs" named at the head of this section, not counting a great many specific commandments.
Having made this criticism of Maimonides's thirteen articles, Crescas proceeds to discuss every one of the eight true beliefs named at the beginning of the last paragraph. For our purpose it will not be necessary to reproduce the minute arguments here. We will select a few of the more important topics and state briefly Crescas's attitude.
The doctrine of creation formed the central theme in Maimonides and Gersonides. It was here, as we have seen, that Maimonides stopped short in his devotion to Aristotle and took pains to show that the arguments of the latter in favor of eternity are not valid, and that Aristotle knew it. He endeavored to show, moreover, that the doctrine of creation can be made more plausible than its opposite, and hence since creation is essential to Judaism, it must be regarded as a fundamental dogma. Gersonides could not see his way clear to accepting creation ex nihilo, among other things because as matter cannot come from form, the material world cannot come from God. Accordingly he compromised by saying that while the present world as it is is not eternal, it came from a primitive "hyle" or matter, which was eternal. Thus our world is dependent for its forms upon God, for its matter upon the prime and eternal "hyle."
Here Crescas takes up the problem and points out that whether we accept or not an eternal "hyle," everything that exists must be dependent upon God as the only necessary existent. Everything outside of him, be it eternal matter or not, is only a possible existent and owes its existence to God. Creation ex nihilo means no more. To be sure, if we assume that the existence of the world and its emanation from God is eternal, because his relation to his product is the same at all times, it will follow that the emanation of the world from God is a necessary process. But necessity in this case does not exclude will, nay it implies it. For the only way in which anything can come from a rational cause is by way of conception. The rational cause forms a conception of the world order and of himself as giving existence to this world order as a whole and in its parts. Will means no more than this. This will also solve the old philosophic difficulty, how can the many come from the One. Our answer is that the good God created a good world. The goodness of the world is its unity, i. e., the parts contribute to making a whole which is good. On the other hand, an agent is perfectly good when he acts with will. God's will also makes miracles possible. Moreover, eternal creation is not inconsistent with continued creation, and we have creation ex nihilo every moment. Maimonides is wrong therefore when he thinks that eternity would upset Judaism and make miracles impossible. Creation in time is therefore not a fundamental dogma with which Judaism stands and falls. At the same time it is a true belief as taught in the first verse of Genesis.
Another of the true beliefs is reward and punishment. This consists of two kinds, corporeal and spiritual. Corporeal is spoken of in the Bible and is not opposed to reason. For as the purpose of creation is to do man good and enable him to achieve perfection, it stands to reason that God would remove any obstacles in the way of man's perfecting himself, and this is the kind of reward mentioned first, "All the diseases which I put upon the Egyptians I shall not put upon thee, for I the Lord am thy healer" (Exod. 15, 26). Punishment is primarily for the same purpose.
As for spiritual reward and punishment, they are not mentioned specifically in the Bible, but the Talmud is full of it. Rationally they can be explained as follows. As the soul is spiritual and intellectual, it enjoys great pleasure from being in contact with the world of spirit and apprehending of the nature of God what it could not apprehend while in the body. On the other hand, being restrained from the world of spirit and kept in darkness gives it pain; and this may lead to its ultimate destruction. The essence of the soul, as was said above, is not intellectuality, but love and desire; hence pain may destroy it.
The reason spiritual reward and punishment, which is the more important of the two, is not mentioned in the Bible, is because it was taken as a matter of fact. Corporeal reward and punishment was not so regarded, hence the need of specifying it.
A difficulty that presents itself is, How is it consistent with justice to punish the soul by itself, when it was the composite of body and soul that sinned? This may be answered by saying that the soul is the form of the body and does not change when separated. Hence, being the more important of the two elements composing man, it receives the more important punishment, namely, spiritual.
Besides, it is true that the composite also receives compensation. And this is the purpose of resurrection.
Resurrection of the body is not universal, but is reserved only for some, as is clear from the passage in Daniel (12, 2), "And many of those that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to disgrace and everlasting abhorrence." At the same time it is difficult to know who these some are. It cannot be the perfect and the good only, since some of those rising will go "to disgrace and everlasting abhorrence." We can decide this better later, when we have learned more of resurrection.
The variety of opinions concerning the time of the resurrection Crescas endeavors to reconcile by supposing that all agreed it would take place as soon as the Temple was built, but that the Messiah would precede the building of the Temple by some length of time.
The purpose of the resurrection is to strengthen belief in those who have it and to impress it upon those who have it not. At the time of the resurrection those who come back to life will tell the living how they fared when their souls left their bodies. Another purpose of resurrection is, as mentioned above, in order to reward and punish the composite of body and soul which acted during life.
The dogma of resurrection is regarded so seriously by the Rabbis, who exclude the unbeliever in it from a portion in the world to come, because in this act is completed the form of man; and because thereby is realized the justice of God, and the faith is strengthened in the minds of the believers.
It seems at first sight impossible that the elements of the body, which were dispersed at the time of the body's death and formed part of other substances, can be gathered together again. But it is not really so strange, for in the first place God may so arrange matters that these elements may be in a position to return. Besides, this is not really necessary. It is quite sufficient that God create a body exactly like the first in temperament and form, and endow it with the old soul, which will then behave like the old person; and being endowed with memory besides, the identity of personality will be complete.
For the purpose of showing God's justice and strengthening man's faith it is sufficient to resurrect the perfectly good and the completely bad. The intermediate classes do not deserve this extraordinary miracle, and their spiritual reward will be sufficient.
JOSEPH ALBO (1380-1444)
Of the post-Maimonidean philosophers Crescas is the last who contributes original views of philosophical value. Joseph Albo, of Monreal in Aragon, is of little importance as a philosopher. He rehashes the problems which occupied a Maimonides, a Gersonides and a Crescas, and sides now with one, now with the other. He benefited by the writings of his predecessors, particularly Maimonides, Crescas, and Simon Duran;[403a] and the philosophical discussions in the last three sections of his "Book of Roots" ("Sefer Ikkarim") give the impression of an eclectic compilation in the interest of a moderate conservatism. The style is that of the popularizer and the homilist; and to this he owes his popularity, which was denied his more original teacher, Crescas.
But philosophy as such was not Albo's forte, nor was it his chief interest. While it is true that all the Jewish thinkers of the middle ages were for a great part apologetes, this did not prevent a Maimonides or a Gersonides from making a really thorough and disinterested study of science and philosophy; and often their scientific and philosophic conviction was so strong that the apologia was pro philosophia sua rather than pro Judaismo. The central theme therefore in the majority of Albo's philosophical predecessors was the equally metaphysical and theological, of God and his attributes. These were proved by reason and confirmed by Scripture and tradition. Judaism had to be formulated and defended with a view not so much to the dangers threatening from Christianity and Mohammedanism as to those endangering all religions alike, namely, the opinions of science and philosophy as taught especially by the Aristotelians. Hence Maimonides treated for the most part of the same problems as the Mohammedan Mutakallimun before him, and Thomas Aquinas the Christian had no scruple in making the Jewish philosopher's method his own when he undertook to defend the Catholic faith "contra Gentiles."
Different were the circumstances as well as the attitude of Joseph Albo. The purely philosophic interest was not strong in his day. He was not confronted by the necessity of proving the existence and incorporeality of God by reason. No one doubted these things and they had been abundantly written about in times gone by. In the interest of completeness and for the benefit of those who were not trained in technical philosophy, Albo found it desirable to restate the results of previous discussions of these topics in a style more accessible to the readers of his day. But the central interest in his age was shifted. It was a time of religious disputations and forced conversions. Albo himself had taken part in such a disputation held at Tortosa in 1413-14, and he had to defend Judaism against Christianity. He had to show his own people that Judaism was the true religion and Christianity spurious. Hence it was religion as such he had to investigate, in order to find what marks distinguished a divine law from a human, and a genuine divine law from one that pretended to be such. To make this investigation logically complete he had to show that there must be such a thing as a divine law, and that no such law can be conceived without assuming certain basal beliefs or dogmas. A discussion of religious dogma was essential, for upon the nature of these fundamental beliefs depended one's judgment of a given law and its character as divine or human, genuine or spurious. Hence the title of Albo's treatise, "Book of [religious] Roots [dogmas]." And while it is true that Maimonides, the systematizer and codifier, could not fail to put down in his commentary on the Mishna a list of articles of the Jewish creed, nothing is said of this in his philosophical work, the "Guide of the Perplexed." With Albo the establishment of the fundamental dogmas is the central theme.
At the same time Albo was anticipated even in this, his more original contribution. Crescas, his teacher, had written, beside the "Or Adonai," a work against Christianity. And in the "Or Adonai" itself he devotes considerable space to the question of the fundamental dogmas of Judaism, and takes occasion to criticize Maimonides for his faulty method in the selection of the thirteen articles, on the ground that he did not distinguish between what was fundamental and what was derivative. This suggestion gave Albo his cue, which he developed in his own way.[404a]
Human happiness, Albo tells us, depends upon theory and practice, as Aristotle says. But the human mind is inadequate to know by itself the truth touching these two. Hence there is need of something superior to the human mind which will define right practice and the true ideas. This can be only by divine guidance. Hence everyone must be able to tell the divine legislation from those which are not divine. For this it is necessary to know what are the principles without which a divine law cannot exist. This is the purpose of the book, to explain the essential principles of a divine law.
A knowledge of the principles of religion would seem easy, for all people profess some religion or other, and hence are presumed to know upon what their religions are based. But this question has not been treated adequately before, and there is no agreement among previous writers about the number of the principles or their identity. Some say there are thirteen (Maimonides), some say twenty-six, some six (Crescas), without investigating what are the principles of divine religion generally. For we must distinguish between the general principles which pertain to divine legislation as such and hence are common to all religions, and special principles which are peculiar to a particular religion.
Seeing the importance of this subject, Albo continues, I undertook this investigation. I came to the conclusion that there are three general principles of divine religion, existence of God, Revelation, and Reward and Punishment after death. Then there are special principles peculiar to a particular religion. From the general principles ("Ikkarim") follow particular or derivative principles ("Shorashim.")
The investigation of the principles of religion is a delicate matter because one is in danger of being reckoned an infidel if he denies what is considered by others a fundamental dogma. Thus according to Maimonides the belief in the Messiah is fundamental, and he who denies it is a heretic and has no share in the world to come. And yet Rabbi Hillel in the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 99a) said, "Israel need expect no Messiah, for they had the benefit of one in the days of Hezekiah, King of Judah." On the other hand, Maimonides does not regard creation ex nihilo as fundamental, whereas others do; and to their mind Maimonides is open to the charge of unbelief.
The truth is that only he is an unbeliever who deliberately and knowingly contradicts the Bible. A person who believes in the Bible but is led mistakenly to misinterpret it, and denies real principles because he thinks the Bible does not require us to believe them as principles, or does not require us to believe them at all, is guilty of error and in need of forgiveness, but is not a heretic.
Having thus defined his attitude and purpose, Albo proceeds to criticize the list of dogmas laid down by Maimonides and modified by Crescas, and then defends his own view. A fundamental principle ("Ikkar," lit. root) is one upon which something else depends and without which this latter cannot exist. Maimonides counts thirteen principles of Judaism as follows: (1) Existence of God, (2) Unity, (3) Incorporeality, (4) Eternity, (5) He alone must be worshipped, (6) Prophecy, (7) Superiority of the prophecy of Moses, (8) Revelation, (9) Immutability of the Law, (10) God's Omniscience, (11) Reward and Punishment, (12) Messiah, (13) Resurrection. This list is open to criticism. If Maimonides intended to admit strict principles only without which Judaism cannot exist, we understand why he named (1), (6), (8), (10), (11), which are general principles of any divine religion, and (7) and (9) as special principles of Judaism. But we cannot see why he included (2) and (3). For while they are true, and every Jew should believe them, Judaism can be conceived as existing without them. It is still more strange that (5) should be counted as a principle. To be sure, it is one of the ten commandments, "Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.... Thou shalt not bow thyself down to them, nor serve them" ... (Exod. 20, 35), but Judaism can be conceived to exist even with the belief in a mediator. Similarly it is not clear why (13) should be considered as a fundamental dogma. On the other hand, he omitted Tradition and Free Will as beliefs essential to any divine religion.
If, in defence of Maimonides, we say that he intended to name not only fundamental principles, but also true beliefs, whether fundamental or derivative, then there are many others he might have mentioned, such as creation ex nihilo, belief in miracles, that God rests in Israel through the Torah, and so on.
Another writer counts twenty-six principles, including everything that occurred to his mind, such as the attributes of eternity, wisdom, life, power, will and others, counting paradise and hell as two, and other absurd ideas. Others again, criticizing Maimonides's principles, reduce them to six, viz. (1) God's knowledge, (2) Providence, (3) Power, (4) Prophecy, (5) Free Will, (6) Purpose, adding thereto the three proved by Maimonides, God's existence, unity and incorporeality. The objection to this list is that it does not contain the special dogmas of Judaism, and does not give us a principle by which we can distinguish between the genuine and spurious divine religion. For the dogmas named in the above list give us the necessary requirements for a divine law, but not the sufficient. We may have all these principles and yet not have a divine religion. As to Free Will and Purpose, they are essential to divine legislation to be sure, but not qua divine; they are also essential to a conventional human law. Divine religion has a special purpose peculiar to it.
Having laid bare the defects in the attempts at a list of fundamental dogmas of Judaism made by his predecessors, Albo categorically lays down the following three principles as fundamental to divine religion: (1) Existence of God, (2) Providence, and reward and punishment, (3) Revelation.
To justify this statement Albo finds it necessary to make clear what is meant by divine law or religion, and what relation it bears to other laws, not divine. This necessitates an explanation of existing laws and their motives and causes.
Animal life, we are told, may be divided into three classes according to the mode of living adopted by each. Beasts of prey live separately and not in groups. Mankind must live in communities, as one individual is dependent upon the work of another, and social life is essential to their existence. Intermediate between beast of prey and man are the gregarious animals, which keep together not as a matter of necessity, as is the case in man, but for convenience, for the sake of being together. Man is social by nature; and in order to make communal life possible, there must be some order in the community which prohibits violence, robbery, and so on. This is known as "natural law." In addition to this there are in many places "conventional laws," made by kings and emperors, regulating more carefully and with greater detail than the natural law the affairs of the members of the community.
But this is not all. There is still another kind of law due directly to God's providence. The providence of God is seen even in the lower animals, in the constitution of their bodies, not merely in matters essential to the preservation of the animal, but also in the interest of comfort and convenience, as for example the duplication of the sense organs. It stands to reason therefore that there is a divine influence which provides for man even to a greater degree. This providence may extend only to one individual, but this person brings about the perfection of the race; just as in the individual man the heart is instrumental in giving life to all the other limbs. The law which is promulgated through this person is a "divine law."
The term "law" ("Dat") applies to any system of directions embracing a large aggregate of men, whether it contains many commands or one. There are thus three kinds of law, natural, conventional and divine. Natural law is the same for all persons, times and places. Conventional law is ordered by a wise man or men in conformity with the necessity of the persons, times and places, as the reason dictates, without special divine suggestion. Divine law is ordered by God through a prophet. The purpose of natural law is to remove wrong and promote right, keeping men from robbery and theft so that society may be able to exist. Conventional law goes further and tends to remove the unseemly and to promote the becoming. Divine law has for its purpose to guide men to true happiness, which is the happiness of the soul and its eternal life. It points out the way to follow to reach this end, showing what is the true good for man to pursue, and what is the real evil which one must shun; though it also lays down the law of right and wrong like the other two.
The conventional law is inferior to the divine in a number of ways.
The conventional law only orders human conduct for the purpose of improving social life, but does not concern itself with perfection in theoretical speculation and knowledge, which leads the soul to eternal life. The divine law embraces both the parts upon which human perfection depends, conduct and theory. It embraces the becoming and unbecoming (practice), and the true and untrue (theory). As the Psalmist has it, "The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul" (Psal. 19, 8).
The conventional law, being human, cannot always decide with certainty what is becoming and what unbecoming. It is liable to error. This is particularly the case in matters of theory, such as the creation or eternity of the world. The divine law gives us certainty in all things, "The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (ib.).
The person guided by the conventional law is not sure that he is always guided aright; hence he cannot feel the satisfaction and the joy of the man whose guide is the divine law, making him certain of being right—"The precepts of the Lord are upright, rejoicing the heart" (ib. 9).
The conventional law can give general rules only, but is unable to advise in a particular case. So Aristotle in the Ethics points out that virtue is a mean, but he cannot determine exactly the proper measure at a given time. This is the function of the divine law—"The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes" (ib.).
The conventional law is subject to change in the course of time. Witness the marriage of sisters in the early period of Adam and Abel. The divine law alone does not change—"The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever" (ib. 10).
The conventional law cannot estimate exactly the merited amount and kind of reward and punishment; whereas, "The ordinances of the Lord are the truth; they are just altogether" (ib.).
Freedom and Purpose are principles of conventional law. Without freedom there is no sense in giving orders. For this reason Freedom and Purpose are not correctly given as fundamental dogmas of divine law, for while the latter cannot get along without them, they are not peculiar to divine law as such, but are common also to conventional law. This is why Maimonides omitted Freedom in his creed. The same is true of Purpose in general. The divine law, however, has a special purpose, perfection and eternal life, hence Maimonides did include it in his list.
The fundamental dogmas of divine law are, as we said before, Existence of God, Revelation, Reward and Punishment. It is evident that there cannot be a divine law without the first two. The third is also necessary; for the purpose of divine law must be a perfection greater than the conventional law can accomplish. This is eternal life, and is signified by Reward and Punishment.
As all agree that the Law of Moses is divine, it is proper to use it as a standard in order to discover what a divine law must have. Accordingly if we examine the first four chapters of Genesis, we find the principle of the existence of God in chapter one, describing creation. The second and third chapters give evidence of revelation, or communication of God with man for the purpose of directing his conduct. Finally in the Cain incident in chapter four is illustrated the third dogma of Reward and Punishment.
Creation ex nihilo is a true belief but not a fundamental principle. For though the Aristotelian view of eternity is heretical, as it takes away the possibility of miracles, nay even the possibility of Moses and the Messiah (for these could exist only after the lapse of an infinite number of individuals), one who believes like Plato in a primitive matter is not necessarily in contradiction with the Biblical miracles, for they were not ex nihilo (cf. above, p. 358).
It is not sufficient to believe in the three principles mentioned to be considered a believer and to be entitled to a share in the world to come. One must believe also in the derivative principles following from them. Thus from the existence of God follow his unity and incorporeality. And if a man does not believe in incorporeality, he disbelieves in the real nature of God, and it is as if he denied the original principle.
The derivative principles ("Shorashim" = roots) are as follows. From existence of God are derived four: (1) Unity, (2) Incorporeality, (3) Independence of time, (4) Freedom from defects. From Revelation are derived three: (1) God's knowledge, (2) Prophecy, (3) Authenticity of God's messenger. From Reward and Punishment is derived one—Providence in the sense of special Providence. In all there are eleven dogmas.
A particular commandment of the Law is not reckoned either as a fundamental principle or as a derivative. He who trangresses it is a sinner and is punished for his misdeed, but is not a heretic who loses his share in the world to come, unless he denies that the commandment in question is from God. In that case he comes in the category of those who deny revelation. Similarly the belief in tradition is not a principle because it is a particular commandment. Unity of God is a principle though it is apparently a special commandment, because the term unity contains two concepts; first, that God is one and there is not another like him; second, that being one and free from any multiplicity or composition, he is the cause of all the multiplicity in the world. The latter is not a particular commandment, but a principle derived from the existence of God. The former is a particular commandment. If particular commandments were regarded as principles, we should have as many principles as there are commandments in the Bible.
The above distinction between the two senses of the term unity, one of which is rationally derived from the existence of God, whereas the other not being so derivable is not a principle, and is given in the Bible as a special commandment, is clearly due to Crescas, who after a few attempts at proving the unity of God in the sense of excluding dualism, gives it up as incapable of proof logically, and falls back upon the testimony of Scripture, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One." The other sense of the word unity Crescas proves by reason. Hence Albo counts it among the derivative principles (cf. above, p. 392).
If a particular commandment is not a principle, which means that a fundamental or derivative dogma cannot itself be a commandment, but must lie at the basis of all commandments, the question arises whence come these principles, and who is to warrant their truth. In the sciences we know that the basal principles of a given science are not proved in that science itself, but are borrowed from another science in which they are proved. Thus physics takes the concepts of substance and accident from metaphysics. In turn the latter takes the idea of a first mover from physics. Among the laws, too, the conventional law takes its principles, freedom and purpose, from political philosophy. Whence does divine law take its principles? The existence of God can be demonstrated philosophically from premises going back to axioms and first principles. But this is not true of Prophecy and Providence.
The answer Albo gives to this question is that of Judah Halevi and Crescas. The principles of the divine law are known empirically, i. e., by experience. Adam knew of the existence of God, of prophecy and reward and punishment from personal experience. Similarly Noah and Abraham. Nowadays we know the law by tradition, but the majority of the principles thus known are so certain that there is neither difference of opinion nor doubt entertained by anyone concerning them. Such is the status for example of the principle of Revelation. Other principles again, like the existence of God, are, as was said before, known by theoretical speculation.
To find out whether a religion professing to be of divine origin is really so or not, it must be examined first with reference to the three fundamental, and the other derivative principles. If it opposes them, it is spurious and not genuine. If it is not opposed to the principles in question, it must be further examined with a view to determining whether the promulgator is a genuine messenger of God or not. And the test here must be a direct one. Miracles and signs are no conclusive proof of prophecy, and still less do they prove that the person performing them is a messenger sent by God to announce a law. They merely show that the person is considered worthy of having miracles performed through him, provided the miracles are genuine and not performed through magic. The test of the prophet and the messenger of God must be as direct as it was in the case of Moses, where the people actually saw that he was addressed by God and commissioned with a message for them.
This opinion of Albo is clearly intended as a defence of Judaism against Christianity's claim that Jesus performed miracles, a claim which the Rabbis of the middle ages were inclined to recognize.
In addition to the three fundamental and eight derivative principles of divine legislation, there are six dogmas, which every follower of the Mosaic law must believe. They are (1) Creation ex nihilo, (2) Superiority of Moses to other prophets, (3) Immutability of the Law, (4) That human perfection can be attained by any one of the commandments of the Law, (5) Resurrection, (6) Messiah.
Creation ex nihilo is neither a fundamental nor a derivative principle of religion generally or of Judaism specially because, as we saw before (p. 413), they can exist without this dogma. At the same time it is a truth which it behooves every religionist and particularly every Jew to believe. It follows from the principle of the existence of God. If God cannot create ex nihilo, there is a defect in him. For creation ex nihilo is admitted in a certain sense even by those who hold that the world is eternal. They admit that God is the cause of everything else; hence matter is his effect through the mediation of the separate Intellect. But how can a separate Intellect be the cause of matter if there is no creation ex nihilo. This is ex nihilo as much as anything can be. To say that we can find no reason why he should create at a particular time rather than at another, and hence the world must be eternal, is no argument; for this reasoning can apply only to action from necessity. Voluntary action is just of this kind, that it takes place at a particular time.
In the above argument for creation the reader will not fail to see reminiscences of Maimonides as well as Crescas (cf. pp. 271 and 403).
The superiority of Moses to other prophets is not essential to Judaism, nevertheless it behooves every Jew to believe it, as it is included in the principle of Revelation, and the Bible tells us, "And there arose not a prophet since then in Israel like unto Moses" (Deut. 34, 10).
The Immutability of the Law will be treated in detail later. Here it will suffice to say that while it is not a sine qua non of Judaism, every Jew should believe it, as it is included in the derivative principle of the Authenticity of God's messenger.
It stands to reason that human perfection can be attained by the performance of any one of the commandments of the Law. For if it requires the performance of all the commandments for this purpose, then the Law of Moses makes it more difficult to reach perfection than the previous laws, which is not in consonance with the statement of the Rabbis that "God gave Israel so many laws and commandments because he wished to make them meritorious" (Tal. Bab. Makkot, 23 b).
Resurrection will be treated more at length later. It must be believed because it has been accepted by Israel and has come down to us by tradition. The same thing applies to the belief in the Messiah. This is also a traditional belief and is related to the principle of Reward and Punishment, though it is not like the latter indispensable either to religion in general or to Judaism in particular.
The difference, it will be seen, between Albo and Maimonides in the question of Jewish dogmas is simply one of classification and grading. Albo includes in his enumeration all the thirteen dogmas of Maimonides with the exception of the fifth, namely, that God alone be worshipped, but instead of placing them all on the same level of importance as equally essential to the structure of Judaism, as Maimonides apparently intended, Albo divides them into three categories of descending rank as follows: fundamental principles, derived principles, true beliefs. Of Maimonides's list the last two, Messiah and Resurrection, belong to the last category. None the less Albo believed strictly in both and held it incumbent upon every Jew to believe in them. It was only a question of the status of a person who mistakenly denies these true beliefs. According to Maimonides, it would seem, he would be called a heretic and be excluded from a share in the world to come equally with one who denied the existence of God; whereas according to Albo a person so guilty is a sinner and needs forgiveness, but is not a heretic. Of the other eleven dogmas of Maimonides, (1), (8) and (11) are placed by Albo in his first class, (2), (3), (4), (6) and (10) belong to the second class, while (7) and (9) come under true beliefs along with Messiah and Resurrection. The difference between the first and the second class is purely logical and not practical. As we saw before (p. 413), one who denies incorporeality (a principle of the second class) disbelieves in the true nature of God, which is tantamount to denying the principle of the existence of God.
Before concluding this general discussion of the fundamental dogmas of religion and Judaism, Albo undertakes to answer two questions which must have been near his heart, and which were on the tongues no doubt of a great many honest people in those days of religious challenge and debate. The first question is, Is it proper, or perhaps obligatory, to analyze the fundamental principles of one's religion, to see if they are true; and if one finds another religion which seems to him better, is one permitted to adopt it in place of his own? Albo sees arguments against both sides of the dilemma. If a man is allowed to analyze his religion and to choose the one that seems best to him, it will follow that a person is never stable in his belief, since he is doubting it, as is shown by his examination. And if so, he does not deserve reward for belief, since belief, as Albo defines it elsewhere (Pt. I, ch. 19), means that one cannot conceive of the opposite being true. Again, if he finds another religion which he thinks better and is allowed to exchange his own religion for the new one, he will never be sure of any religion; for he may find a third still better, and a fourth, and so on, and as he cannot examine all the possible religions, he will remain without any religious convictions.