A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
by Isaac Husik
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In respect to the details of ethical doctrine and the classification of the virtues, we find at first the Platonic virtues and their relation to the parts of the soul, in Saadia, Pseudo-Bahya, Joseph Ibn Zaddik and even Abraham Ibn Daud. In combination with this Platonic basis expression is given also to the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean. Maimonides, as in other things, so here also, adopts the Aristotelian views almost in their entirety, both in the definition of virtue, in the division of practical and intellectual virtues, and the list of the virtues and vices in connection with the doctrine of the mean. As is to be expected, the ultimate sanction of ethics is theistic and Biblical, and the ceremonial laws also are brought into relation with ethical motives. In this rationalization of the ceremonial prescriptions of Scripture Maimonides, as in other things, surpasses all his predecessors in his boldness, scientific method and completeness. He goes so far as to suggest that the institution of sacrifice has no inherent value, but was in the nature of a concession to the crude notions of the people who, in agreement with their environment, imagined that God's favor is obtained by the slaughter of animals.

Among the peculiar phenomena of religion, and in particular of Judaism, the one that occupies a fundamental position is the revelation of God's will to man and his announcement of the future through prophetic visions. Dreams and divination had already been investigated by Aristotle and explained psychologically. The Arabs made use of this suggestion and endeavored to bring the phenomenon of prophecy under the same head. The Jewish philosophers, with the exception of Judah Halevi and Hasdai Crescas, followed suit. The suggestion that prophecy is a psychological phenomenon related to true dreams is found as early as Isaac Israeli. Judah Halevi mentions it with protest. Abraham Ibn Daud adopts it, and Maimonides gives it its final form in Jewish rationalistic philosophy. Levi ben Gerson discusses the finer details of the process, origin and nature of prophetic visions. In short the generally accepted view is that the Active Intellect is the chief agent in communicating true visions of future events to those worthy of the gift. And to become worthy a combination of innate and acquired powers is necessary together with the grace of God. The faculties chiefly concerned are reason and imagination. Moral excellence is also an indispensable prerequisite in aiding the development of the theoretical powers.

Proceeding to the more dogmatic elements of Judaism, Maimonides was the first to reduce the 613 commandments of Rabbinic Judaism to thirteen articles of faith. Hasdai Crescas criticised Maimonides's principle of selection as well as the list of dogmas, which he reduced to six. And Joseph Albo went still further and laid down three fundamental dogmas from which the rest are derived. They are the existence of God, revelation of the Torah and future reward and punishment.

The law of Moses is unanimously accepted as divinely revealed. And in opposition to the claims of Christianity and Mohammedanism an endeavor is made to prove by reason as well as the explicit statement of Scripture that a divine law once given is not subject to repeal. The laws are divided into two classes, rational and traditional; the former comprising those that the reason approves on purely rational and ethical grounds, while the latter consist of such ceremonial laws as without specific commandment would not be dictated by man's own reason. And in many of these commandments no reason is assigned. Nevertheless an endeavor is made to rationalize these also. Bahya introduced another distinction, viz., the "duties of the heart," as he calls them, in contradistinction to the "duties of the limbs." He lays stress on intention and motive as distinguished from the mere external observance of a duty or commandment.

Finally, some consideration is given in the works of the majority of the writers to eschatological matters, such as the destiny of the soul after death, the nature of future reward and punishment, the resurrection of the body and the Messianic period, and its relation to the other world. This brief sketch will suffice as an introduction to the detailed treatment of the individual philosophers in the following chapters.





We know next to nothing about the condition of the Jews in Mohammedan Egypt in the ninth and tenth centuries. But the fact that the two first Jewish writers who busied themselves with philosophical problems came from Egypt would indicate that the general level of intellectual culture among the Jews at that time was not so low as the absence of literary monuments would lead us to believe. Every one knows of Saadia, the first Hebrew grammarian, the first Hebrew lexicographer, the first Bible translator and exegete, the first Jewish philosopher of medival Jewry. He was born in Egypt and from there was called to the Gaonate of Sura in Babylonia. But not so well known is his earlier contemporary, Isaac ben Solomon Israeli, who also was born in Egypt and from there went later to Kairuan, where he was court physician to several of the Fatimide Califs. The dates of his birth and death are not known with certainty, but he is said to have lived to the age of one hundred years, and to have survived the third Fatimide Calif Al-Mansur, who died in 953. Accordingly we may assume the years of his birth and death as 855 and 955 respectively.

His fame rests on his work in theory and practice as a physician; and as such he is mentioned by the Arab annalists and historians of medicine.[26] To the Christian scholastics of medival Europe he is known as the Jewish physician and philosopher next in importance to Maimonides.[27] This is due to the accident of his works having been translated into Latin by Constantinus Afer,[28] and thus made accessible to men like Albertus Magnus, Vincent of Beauvais, Thomas Aquinas and others. For his intrinsic merits as a philosopher, and particularly as a Jewish philosopher, do not by any means entitle him to be coupled with Maimonides. The latter, indeed, in a letter which he wrote to Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the translator of the "Guide of the Perplexed," expresses himself in terms little flattering concerning Israeli's worth as a philosopher.[29] He is a mere physician, Maimonides says, and his treatises on the Elements, and on Definitions consist of windy imaginings and empty talk. We need not be quite as severe in our judgment, but the fact remains that Israeli is little more than a compiler and, what is more to the purpose, he takes no attitude in his philosophical writings to Judaism as a theological doctrine or to the Bible as its source. The main problem, therefore, of Jewish philosophy is not touched upon in Israeli's works, and no wonder Maimonides had no use for them. For the purely scientific questions treated by Israeli could in Maimonides's day be studied to much better advantage in the works of the great Arabian Aristotelians, Al Farabi and Avicenna, compared to whom Israeli was mediocre. We are not to judge him, however, from Maimonides's point of view. In his own day and generation he was surpassed by none as a physician; and Saadia alone far outstrips him as a Jewish writer, and perhaps also David Al Mukammas, of whom we shall speak later. Whatever may be said of the intrinsic value of the content of his philosophical work, none can take away from him the merit of having been the first Jew, so far as we know, to devote himself to philosophical and scientific discussions, though not with the avowed aim of serving Judaism. The rest was bound to come later as a result of the impulse first given by him.

The two works of Israeli which come in consideration for our purpose are those mentioned by Maimonides in his letter to Samuel Ibn Tibbon spoken of above, namely, the "Book of the Elements,"[30] and the "Book of Definitions."[31] Like all scientific and philosophic works by Jews between the ninth and thirteenth centuries with few exceptions, these were written in Arabic. Unfortunately, with the exception of a fragment recently discovered of the "Book of Definitions," the originals are lost, and we owe our knowledge of their contents to Hebrew and Latin translations, which are extant and have been published.[32] We see from these that Israeli was a compiler from various sources, and that he had a special predilection for Galen and Hippocrates, with whose writings he shows great familiarity. He makes use besides of Aristotelian notions, and is influenced by the Neo-Platonic treatise, known as the "Liber de Causis," and derived from a work of Proclus. It is for this reason difficult to characterize his standpoint, but we shall not go far wrong if we call him a Neo-Platonist, for reasons which will appear in the sequel.

It would be useless for us here to reproduce the contents of Israeli's two treatises, which would be more appropriate for a history of medival science. A brief rsum will show the correctness of this view. In his "Book of the Elements" Israeli is primarily concerned with a definite physical problem, the definition of an element, and the number and character of the elements out of which the sublunar world is made. He begins with an Aristotelian definition of element, analyzes it into its parts and comes to the conclusion that the elements are the four well-known ones, fire, air, water, earth. Incidentally he seizes opportunities now and then, sometimes by force, to discuss points in logic, physics, physiology and psychology. Thus the composition of the human body, the various modes in which a thing may come into being, that the yellow and black galls and the phlegm are resident in the blood, the purpose of phlebotomy, the substantial character of prime form, that the soul is not an accident, the two kinds of blood in the body, the various kinds of "accident," the nature of a "property" and the manner in which it is caused—all these topics are discussed in the course of proof that the four elements are fire, air, water, earth, and not seed or the qualities of heat, cold, dryness and moisture. He then quotes the definitions of Galen and Hippocrates and insists that though the wording is different the meaning is the same as that of Aristotle, and hence they all agree about the identity of the elements. Here again he takes occasion to combat the atomic theory of the Mu'tazila and Democritus, and proves that a line is not composed of points. In the last part of the treatise he refutes contrary opinions concerning the number and identity of the elements, such as that there is only one element which is movable or immovable, finite or infinite, namely, the power of God, or species, or fire, or air, or water, or earth; or that the number is two, matter and God; or three, matter, form and motion; or six, viz., the four which he himself adopts, and composition and separation; or the number ten, which is the end and completion of number. In the course of this discussion he takes occasion to define pain and pleasure, the nature of species, the difference between element and principle. And thus the book draws to a close. Not very promising material this, it would seem, for the ideas of which we are in search.

The other book, that dealing with definitions of things, is more promising. For while there too we do not find any connected account of God, of the world and of man, Israeli's general attitude can be gathered from the manner in which he explains some important concepts. The book, as its title indicates, consists of a series of definitions or descriptions of certain terms and ideas made use of by philosophers in their construction of their scheme of the world—such ideas and terms as Intelligence, science, philosophy, soul, sphere, spirit, nature, and so on. From these we may glean some information of the school to which Israeli belongs. And in the "Book of the Elements," too, some of the episodic discussions are of value for our purpose.

Philosophy, Israeli tells us, is self-knowledge and keeping far from evil. When a man knows himself truly—his spiritual as well as his corporeal aspects—he knows everything. For in man are combined the corporeal and the spiritual. Spiritual is the soul and the reason, corporeal is the body with its three dimensions. In his qualities and attributes—"accidents" in the terminology of Israeli—we similarly find the spiritual as well as the corporeal. Humility, wisdom and other similar qualities borne by the soul are spiritual; complexion, stature, and so on are corporeal. Seeing that man thus forms an epitome, as it were, of the universe (for spiritual and corporeal substance and accident exhausts the classes of existence in the world), a knowledge of self means a knowledge of everything, and a man who knows all this is worthy of being called a philosopher.

But philosophy is more than knowledge; it involves also action. The formula which reveals the nature and aim of philosophy is to become like unto God as far as is possible for man. This means to imitate the activities of God in knowing the realities of things and doing what the truth requires. To know the realities of things one must study science so as to know the various causes and purposes existing in the world. The most important of these is the purpose of the union in man of body and soul. This is in order that man may know reality and truth, and distinguish between good and evil, so as to do what is true and just and upright, to sanctify and praise the Creator and to keep from impure deeds of the animal nature. A man who does this will receive reward from the Creator, which consists in cleaving to the upper soul, in receiving light from the light of knowledge, and the beauty of splendor and wisdom. When a man reaches this degree, he becomes spiritual by cleaving to the created light which comes directly from God, and praising the Creator. This is his paradise and his reward and perfection. Hence Plato said that philosophy is the strengthening and the help of death. He meant by this that philosophy helps to deaden all animal desires and pleasures. For by being thus delivered from them, a man will reach excellence and the higher splendor, and will enter the house of truth. But if he indulges his animal pleasures and desires and they become strengthened, he will become subject to agencies which will lead him astray from the duties he owes to God, from fear of him and from prayer at the prescribed time.

We look in vain in Israeli's two treatises for a discussion of the existence and nature of God. Concerning creation he tells us that when God wanted to show his wisdom and bring everything from potentiality to actuality, he created the world out of nothing, not after a model (this in opposition to Plato and Philo), nor for the purpose of deriving any benefit from it or to obviate harm, but solely on account of his goodness.

But how did the creation proceed? A fragment from the treatise of Israeli entitled "The Book of Spirit and Soul"[33] will give us in summary fashion an idea of the manner in which Israeli conceived of the order and connection of things in the world.

In the name of the ancients he gives the following account. God created a splendor. This having come to a standstill and real permanence, a spark of light proceeded from it, from which arose the power of the rational soul. This is less bright than the splendor of the Intelligence and is affected with shadow and darkness by reason of its greater distance from its origin, and the intervening Intelligence. The rational soul again becoming permanent and fixed, there issued from it likewise a spark, giving rise to the animal soul. This latter is endowed with a cogitative and imaginative faculty, but is not permanent in its existence, because of the two intervening natures between it and the pure light of God. From the animal soul there likewise issued a splendor, which produced the vegetative soul. This soul, being so far removed from the original light, and separated from it by the Intelligence and the other two souls, has its splendor dimmed and made coarse, and is endowed only with the motions of growth and nourishment, but is not capable of change of place. From the vegetative soul proceeds again a splendor, from which is made the sphere (the heaven). This becomes thickened and materialized so that it is accessible to the sight. Motion being the nature of the sphere, one part of it pushes the other, and from this motion results fire. From fire proceeds air; from air, water; from water, earth. And from these elements arise minerals, plants and animals.

Here we recognize the Neo-Platonic scheme of emanation as we saw it in Plotinus, a gradual and successive emanation of the lower from the higher in the manner of a ray of light radiating from a luminous body, the successive radiations diminishing in brightness and spirituality until when we reach the Sphere the process of obscuration has gone so far as to make the product material and visible to the physical sense. The Intelligence and the three Souls proceeding from it in order are clearly not individual but cosmic, just as in Plotinus. The relation between these cosmic hypostases, to use a Neo-Platonic term, and the rational and psychic faculties in man Israeli nowhere explains, but we must no doubt conceive of the latter as somehow contained in the former and temporarily individualized, returning again to their source after the dissolution of the body.

Let us follow Israeli further in his account of the nature of these substances. The Intelligence is that which proceeds immediately from the divine light without any immediate agency. It represents the permanent ideas and principles—species in Israeli's terminology—which are not subject to change or dissolution. The Intelligence contains them all in herself eternally and immediately, and requires no searching or reflection to reach them. When the Intelligence wishes to know anything she returns into herself and finds it there without requiring thought or reflection. We can illustrate this, he continues, in the case of a skilful artisan who, when he wishes to make anything, retires into himself and finds it there. There is a difference, however, in the two cases, because Intelligence always knows its ideas without thought or reflection, for it exists always and its ideas are not subject to change or addition or diminution; whereas in the smith a difficulty may arise, and then his soul is divided and he requires searching and thinking and discrimination before he can realize what he desires.

What has been said so far applies very well to the cosmic Intelligence, the [Greek: nous] of the Neo-Platonists. It represents thought as embracing the highest and most fundamental principles of existence, upon which all mediate and discursive and inferential thinking depends. Its content corresponds to the Ideas of Plato. But the further account of the Intelligence must at least in a part of it refer to the individual human faculty of that name, though Israeli gives us no indication where the one stops and where the other begins.

He appeals to the authority of Aristotle for his division of Intelligence into three kinds. First, the Intelligence which is always actual. This is what has just been described. Second, the Intelligence which is in the soul potentially before it becomes actual, like the knowledge of the child which is at first potential, and when the child grows up and learns and acquires knowledge, becomes actual. Third, that which is described as the second Intelligence. It represents that state of the soul in which it receives things from the senses. The senses impress the forms of objects upon the imagination ([Greek: phantasia]) which is in the front part of the head. The imagination, or phantasy, takes them to the rational soul. When the latter knows them, she becomes identical with them spiritually and not corporeally.

We have seen above the Aristotelian distinction between the active intellect and the passive. The account just given is evidently based upon it, though it modifies Aristotle's analysis, or rather it enlarges upon it. The first and second divisions in Israeli's account correspond to Aristotle's active and passive intellects respectively. The third class in Israeli represents the process of realization of the potential or passive intellect through the sense stimuli on the one hand and the influence of the active intellect on the other. Aristotle seems to have left this intermediate state between the potential and the eternally actual unnamed. We shall see, however, in our further study of this very difficult and complicated subject how the classification of the various intellects becomes more and more involved from Aristotle through Alexander and Themistius down to Averroes and Levi ben Gerson. It is sufficient for us to see here how Israeli combines Aristotelian psychology, as later Aristotelian logic and physics, with Neo-Platonic metaphysics and the theistic doctrine of creation. But more of this hereafter.

From the Intelligence, as we have seen, proceeds the rational soul. In his discussion of the general nature of the three-fold soul (rational, animal and vegetative) Israeli makes the unhistoric but thoroughly medival attempt to reconcile Aristotle's definition of the soul, which we discussed above (p. xxxv), with that of Plato. The two conceptions are in reality diametrically opposed. Plato's is an anthropological dualism, Aristotle's, a monism. For Plato the soul is in its origin not of this world and not in essential unity with the body, which it controls as a sailor his boat. Aristotle conceives of the relation between soul and body as one of form and matter; and there is no union more perfect than that of these two constituent elements of all natural substances. Decomposition is impossible. A given form may disappear, but another form immediately takes its place. The combination of matter and form is the essential condition of sublunar existence, hence there can be no question of the soul entering or leaving the body, or of its activity apart from the body.

But Israeli does not seem to have grasped Aristotle's meaning, and ascribes to him the notion that the soul is a separate substance perfecting the natural body, which has life potentially, meaning by this that bodies have life potentially before the soul apprehends them; and when the soul does apprehend them, it makes them perfect and living actually. To be sure, he adds in the immediate sequel that he does not mean temporal before and after, for things are always just as they were created; and that his mode of expression is due to the impossibility of conveying spiritual ideas in corporeal terms in any other way. This merely signifies that the human body and its soul come into being simultaneously. But he still regards them as distinct substances forming only a passing combination. And with this pretended Aristotelian notion he seeks to harmonize that of Plato, which he understands to mean not that the soul enters the body, being clothed with it as with a garment, and then leaves it, but that the soul apprehends bodies by clothing them with its light and splendor, and thus makes them living and moving, as the sun clothes the world with its light and illuminates it so that sight can perceive it. The difference is that the light of the sun is corporeal, and sight perceives it in the air by which it is borne; whereas the light of the soul is spiritual, and intelligence alone can perceive it, not the physical sense.

Among the conceptual terms in the Aristotelian logic few play a more important part than those of substance and accident. Substance is that which does not reside in anything else but is its own subject. It is an independent existence and is the subject of accidents. The latter have no existence independent of the substance in which they inhere. Thus of the ten categories, in which Aristotle embraces all existing things, the first includes all substances, as for example, man, city, stone. The other nine come under the genus accident. Quantity, quality, relation, time, place, position, possession, action, passion—all these represent attributes which must have a substantial being to reside in. There is no length or breadth, or color, or before or after, or here or there, and so on except in a real object or thing. This then is the meaning of accident as a logical or ontological term, and in this signification it has nothing to do with the idea of chance. Clearly substance represents the higher category, and accident is inferior, because dependent and variable. Thus it becomes important to know in reference to any object of investigation what is its status in this respect, whether it is substance or accident.

The nature of the soul has been a puzzle to thinkers and philosophers from time immemorial. Some thought it was a material substance, some regarded it as spiritual. It was identified with the essence of number by the Pythagoreans. And there have not been wanting those who, arguing from its dependence upon body, said it was an accident and not a substance. Strange to say the Mutakallimun, defenders of religion and faith, held to this very opinion. But it is really no stranger than the maintenance of the soul's materiality equally defended by other religionists, like Tertullian for example, and the opposition to Maimonides's spiritualism on the part of Abraham ben David of Posquires. The Mutakallimun were led to their idea by the atomic theory, which they found it politic to adopt as more amenable to theological treatment than Aristotle's Matter and Form. It followed then according to some of them that the fundamental unit was the material atom which is without quality, and any power or activity in any atom or group of atoms is a direct creation of God, which must be re-created every moment in order to exist. This is the nature of accident, and it makes more manifest the ever present activity of God in the world. Thus the "substantial" or "accidental" character of the soul is one that is touched on by most Jewish writers on the subject. And Israeli also refers to the matter incidentally in the "Book of the Elements."[34] Like the other Jewish philosophers he defends its substantiality.

The fact of its separability from the body, he says, is no proof of its being an accident. For it is not the separability of an accident from its substance that makes it an accident, but its destruction, when separated. Thus when a white substance turns green, the white color is not merely separated from its substance but ceases to exist. The soul is not destroyed when it leaves the body.

Another argument to prove the soul a substance is this. If the soul were an accident it should be possible for it to pass from the animal body to something else, as blackness is found in the Ethiopian's skin, in ebony wood and in pitch. But the soul exists only in living beings.

We find, besides, that the activity of the soul extends far beyond the body, and acts upon distant things without being destroyed. Hence it follows that the soul itself, the agent of the activity, keeps on existing without the body, and is a substance.

Having made clear the conception of soul generally and its relation to the body, he next proceeds to treat of the three kinds of soul. The highest of these is the rational soul, which is in the horizon of the Intelligence and arises from its shadow. It is in virtue of this soul that man is a rational being, discriminating, receptive of wisdom, distinguishing between good and evil, between things desirable and undesirable, approaching the meritorious and departing from wrong. For this he receives reward and punishment, because he knows what he is doing and that retribution follows upon his conduct.

Next to the rational soul is the animal soul, which arises from the shadow of the former. Being far removed from the light of Intelligence, the animal soul is dark and obscure. She has no knowledge or discrimination, but only a dim notion of truth, and judges by appearance only and not according to reality. Of its properties are sense perception, motion and change in place. For this reason the animals are fierce and violent, endeavoring to rule, but without clear knowledge and discrimination, like the lion who wants to rule over the other beasts, without having a clear consciousness of what he is doing. A proof that the animals have only dim notions of things is that a thirsty ass coming to the river will fly from his own shadow in the water, though he needs the latter for preserving his life, whereas he will not hesitate to approach a lion, who will devour him. Therefore the animals receive no reward or punishment (this in opposition to the Mutakallimun) because they do not know what to do so as to be rewarded, or what to avoid, in order not to be punished.

The vegetative soul proceeds from the shadow of the animal soul. She is still further removed from the light of Intelligence, and still more weighed down with shadow. She has no sense perception or motion. She is next to earth and is characterized by the powers of reproduction, growth, nutrition, and the production of buds and flowers, odors and tastes.

Next to the soul comes the Sphere (the heaven), which arises in the horizon and shadow of the vegetative soul. The Sphere is superior to corporeal substances, being itself not body, but the matter of body. Unlike the material elements, which suffer change and diminution through the things which arise out of them as well as through the return of the bodies of plants and animals back to them as their elements, the spiritual substances (and also the sphere) do not suffer any increase or diminution through the production of things out of them. For plants and animals are produced from the elements through a celestial power which God placed in nature effecting generation and decay in order that this world of genesis and dissolution should exist. But the splendor of the higher substances, viz., the three souls, suffers no change on account of the things coming from them because that which is produced by them issues from the shadow of their splendor and not from the essence of the splendor itself. And it is clear that the splendor of a thing in its essence is brighter than the splendor of its shadow, viz., that which comes from it. Hence the splendor of the vegetative soul is undoubtedly brighter than that of the sphere, which comes from its shadow. The latter becomes rigid and assumes a covering, thickness and corporeality so that it can be perceived by sight. But no other of the senses can perceive it because, although corporeal, it is near to the higher substances in form and nobility, and is moved by a perfect and complete motion, motion in a circle, which is more perfect than other motions and not subject to influence and change. Hence there is no increase or diminution in it, no beginning or end, and this on account of the simplicity, spirituality and permanence of that which moves it. The Intelligence pours of her splendor upon it, and of the light of her knowledge, and the sphere becomes intelligent and rational, and knows, without investigation or reflection, the lordship of its Creator, and that he should be praised and glorified without intermission. For this reason the Creator assigned to the Sphere a high degree from which it cannot be removed, and gave it charge of the production of time and the four seasons of the year, and the month and the day and the hour, and made it ruler of the production of perishable things in this world of generation and dissolution, so that the upper souls may find bodies to apprehend, to clothe with their light, and to make visible in them their activities according to the determination of God.

The Sphere by its motion produces the four elements, fire, air, water, earth; and the combinations of these in various proportions give rise to the minerals, plants and animals of this world, the highest of whom is man.

That the elements are those mentioned above and nothing else is proved by the definition of element and its distinction from "principle." A principle is something which, while being the cause of change, and even possibly at the basis of change, is not itself subject to change. Thus God is undoubtedly the cause of everything that happens in the world. He may therefore be called a principle of the world, but he does not enter with his essence the changing things. Hence it is absurd to speak of God as an element of the sublunar world. Matter, i. e., primary formless matter, does enter all changing things and is at the basis of all change; but it does not itself change. Hence matter also is a principle but not an element. An element is something which is itself a composite of matter and form, and changes its form to become something else in which, however, it is contained potentially, not actually. The product ultimately goes back to the element or elements from which it was made. When we follow this resolution of a given composite into its elements back as far as we can until we reach a first which is no longer produced out of anything in the same way as things were produced from it, we have the element. Such is the nature of fire, air, water, earth. All things are made from them in the manner above indicated. But there is nothing prior to them which changes its form to become fire, continues to reside potentially in fire and returns to its original state by the resolution of fire. The same applies to the other three.

The matter is now clear. The elements stand at the head of physical change and take part in it. Prior to the elements are indeed matter and form, but as logical principles, not as physical and independent entities. Hence it would seem, according to Israeli, that matter and form are side-tracked in the gradual evolution of the lower from the higher. For the elements, he tells us, come from the motion of the Sphere, the Sphere from the shadow of the Soul, the Soul from the shadow of the Intelligence, the Intelligence is created by God. To be sure he tells us that the Sphere is not body, but the matter of body. Yet the Sphere cannot take the place of prime matter surely, for it is undoubtedly endowed with form, nay is rational and intelligent, as we have seen.

When Israeli says that prior to the four elements there is nothing but the Omnipotence of God, he means that the sublunar process of change and becoming stops with the elements as its upper limit. What is above the elements belongs to the intelligible world; and the manner of their production one from the other is a spiritual one, emanation. The Sphere stands on the border line between the corporeal and the intelligible, itself a product of emanation, though producing the elements by its motion—a process apparently neither like emanation nor like sublunar becoming and change.

Creation in Israeli seems to be the same as emanation, for on the one hand he tells us that souls are created, that nothing precedes the four elements except the Omnipotence of God, and on the other that the elements come from the motion of the Sphere, and the souls issue from the shadow of the Intelligence. For matter and form there seems to be no room at all except as logical principles. This is evidently due to the fact that Israeli is unwittingly combining Aristotelian physics with Neo-Platonic emanationism. For Aristotle matter and form stand at the head of sublunar change and are ultimate. There is no derivation of matter or form from anything. The celestial world has a matter of its own, and is not the cause of the being of this one except as influencing its changes. God is the mover of the Spheres, but not their Creator, hence he stands outside of the world. This is Theism. In Israeli there is a continuity of God, the intelligible world and the corporeal, all being ultimately the same thing, though the processes in the two worlds are different. And yet he obviates Pantheism by declaring that God is a principle not an element.

We said before that Israeli takes no avowed attitude to Jewish dogma or the Bible. He never quotes any Jewish works, and there is nothing in his writings to indicate that he is a Jew and is making an effort to harmonize Judaism with philosophy and science. In words he refers to creation ex nihilo, which is not necessarily Jewish, it might be just as well Mohammedan or Christian. But in reality, as we have seen, his ideas of the cosmic process are far enough removed from the orthodox doctrine of creation as it appears in Bible and Talmud.

Incidentally we learn also something of Israeli's ideas of God's relation to mankind, of his commandments, and of prophecy. God created the world, he tells us, because of his goodness. He wanted to benefit his creatures. This could not be without their knowing the will of God and performing it. The will of God could not be revealed directly to everybody because the divine wisdom can speak only to those in whom the rational soul is mistress and is enlightened by the Intelligence. But people are not all of this kind; for some have the animal soul predominating in them, being on that account ignorant, confused, forward, bold, murderous, vengeful, unchaste like animals; others are mastered by the vegetative soul, i. e., the appetitive, and are thus stupid and dull, and given over to their appetites like plants. In others again their souls are variously combined, giving to their life and conduct a composite character. On this account it was necessary for God to select a person in whom the rational soul is separated, and illumined by the Intelligence—a man who is spiritual in his nature and eager to imitate the angels as far as it is possible for a man to do this. This man he made a messenger to mankind. He gave him his book which contains two kinds of teaching. One kind is spiritual in its nature, and needs no further commentary or interpretation. This is meant for the intellectual and discriminating. The other kind is corporeal, and requires spiritual interpretation. This is intended for the various grades of those who cannot understand directly the spiritual meaning, but who can grasp the corporeal teaching, by which they are gradually trained and prepared for the reception of higher truths. These people therefore need instructors and guides because a book alone is not sufficient for the purposes of those who cannot understand.

Dreams and prophecy are closely related, hence an explanation of the former will also throw light on the latter. A dream is caused by the influence of the Intelligence on the soul in sleep. The Intelligence receives its knowledge directly from God, and serves as a mediator between him and the soul, like a prophet who mediates between God and his creatures. In communicating to the soul the spiritual forms which it received from God, the Intelligence translates them into forms intermediate between corporeality and spirituality in order that they may be quickly impressed upon the common sense, which is the first to receive them. The common sense stands midway between the corporeal sense of sight and the imagination, which is in the anterior chamber of the brain, and is known as phantasy (Aristotelian [Greek: phantasia]).

That the forms thus impressed on the common sense in sleep are intermediate between corporeal and spiritual is proved by the fact that they are different from the corporeal forms of things seen in the waking state. The latter are obscure and covered up, whereas those seen in sleep are finer, more spiritual and brighter. Proof of this is that a person sees himself in sleep endowed with wings and flying between heaven and earth. He sees the heavens opening and someone speaking to him out of the heaven, and so on. There would be no sense in all this if these phenomena had no spiritual meaning, for they are contrary to nature. But we know that they have real significance if interpreted by a really thoughtful person. The prophets also in wishing to separate themselves from mankind and impress the latter with their qualities, showed them spiritual forms of similar kind, which were preternatural. Hence all who believe in prophecy admit that dreams are a part of prophecy.

Now these intermediate forms which are impressed upon the common sense in sleep are turned over by it to the phantasy and by the latter to the memory. When the person awakes, he recovers the forms from the memory just as they were deposited there by the phantasy. He then consults his thinking power; and if this is spiritual and pure, the Intelligence endows him with its light and splendor and reveals to him the spiritual forms signified by the visions seen in sleep. He is then able to interpret the dream correctly. But if his powers of thought are not so good and are obscured by coverings, he cannot properly remove the husk from the kernel in the forms seen in sleep, is not able to penetrate to the true spirituality beneath, and his interpretation is erroneous.

This explanation does not really explain, but it is noteworthy as the first Jewish attempt to reduce prophecy to a psychological phenomenon, which was carried further by subsequent writers until it received its definitive form for the middle ages in Maimonides and Levi ben Gerson.

To sum up, Israeli is an eclectic. There is no system of Jewish philosophy to be found in his writings. He had no such ambitions. He combines Aristotelian logic, physics and psychology with Neo-Platonic metaphysics, and puts on the surface a veneer of theistic creationism. His merit is chiefly that of a pioneer in directing the attention of Jews to the science and philosophy of the Greeks, albeit in Arab dress. There is no trace yet of the Kalam in his writings except in his allusions to the atomic theory and the denial of reward and punishment of animals.



Nothing was known of Al Mukammas until recently when fragments of his philosophical work were found in Judah ben Barzilai's commentary on the Sefer Yezirah.[35] The latter tells us that David Al Mukammas is said to have associated with Saadia, who learned a good deal from him, but the matter is not certain. If this account be true we have a second Jewish philosopher who preceded Saadia. His chief work is known by the title of "Twenty Chapters," fifteen of which were discovered in the original Arabic in 1898 by Abraham Harkavy of St. Petersburg.[36] Unfortunately they have not yet been published, and hence our account will have to be incomplete, based as it is on the Hebrew fragments in the Yezirah commentary above mentioned.

These fragments are sufficient to show us that unlike Israeli, who shows little knowledge of the Mu'tazilite discussions, Al Mukammas is a real Mu'tazilite and moves in the path laid out by these Mohammedan rationalists. Whether this difference is due to their places of residence (Israeli having lived in Egypt and Kairuan, while Al Mukammas was in Babylon), or to their personal predilections for Neo-Platonism and the Kalam respectively, is not certain. Saadia knows the Kalam; but though coming originally from Egypt, he spent his most fruitful years in Babylonia, in the city of Sura, where he was gaon. The centres of Arabian rationalism were, as we know, the cities of Bagdad and Basra, nearer to Babylon and Mesopotamia than to Egypt or Kairuan.

The first quotation in Judah ben Barzilai has reference to science and philosophy, their definition and classification. Science is the knowledge of the reality of existing things. It is divided into two parts, theoretical and practical. Theoretical science aims at knowledge for its own sake; practical seeks an end beyond knowledge, viz., the production of something. We call it then art. Thus geometry is a science in so far as one desires to know the nature and relations to each other of solid, surface, line, point, square, triangle, circle. But if his purpose is to know how to build a square or circular house, or to construct a mill, or dig a well, or measure land, he becomes an artisan. Theoretical science is three-fold. First and foremost stands theology, which investigates the unity of God and his laws and commandments. This is the highest and most important of all the sciences. Next comes logic and ethics, which help men in forming opinions and guide them in the path of understanding. The last is physics, the knowledge of created things.

In the ninth and tenth chapters of his book Al Mukammas discusses the divine attributes. This was a very important problem in the Mu'tazilite schools, as we saw in the Introduction, and was treated in Mu'tazilite works in the first division, which went by the title of "Bab al Tauhid," the chapter on the unity.

God is one—so Al Mukammas sums up the results of his previous discussions—not in the sense in which a genus is said to be one, nor in that in which a species is one, nor as the number one is one, nor as an individual creature is one, but as a simple unity in which there is no distinction or composition. He is one and there is no second like him. He is first without beginning, and last without end. He is the cause and ground of everything caused and effected.

The question of God's essence is difficult. Some say it is not permitted to ask what God is. For to answer the question what a thing is is to limit it, and the limited is the created. Others again say that it is permitted to make this inquiry, because we can use in our answer the expressions to which God himself testifies in his revealed book. And this would not be limiting or defining his glory because his being is different from any other, and there is nothing that bears any resemblance to him. Accordingly we should answer the question what God is, by saying, he is the first and the last, and the visible and the hidden, without beginning or end. He is living, but not through life acquired from without. His life is not sustained and prolonged by food. He is wise, but not through acquired wisdom. He hears without ears, sees without eyes, is understanding in all his works, and a true judge in all his judgments. Such would be our answer in accordance with God's own testimony of himself.

We must on no account suppose that the expressions living, wise, seeing, hearing, and so on, when applied to God mean the same thing as when we ascribe them to ourselves. When we say God is living we do not mean that there was a time when he was not living, or that there will be a time when he will not be living. This is true of us but not of God. His life has no beginning or end. The same thing applies to his wisdom. It is not acquired like ours, it has no beginning or end, and is not subject to error, forgetfulness, addition or diminution. It is not strange that his attributes should be so unlike ours, for it is fitting that the Creator should be different from the thing created, and the Maker from the thing made.

We must, however, analyze the matter of divine attributes more closely. When we say God is living, we may mean he is living with life as his attribute, i. e., that there is an attribute life which makes him living, or we may deny that there is any such attribute in him as life, but that he is living through himself and not through life as an attribute. To make this subtle distinction clear we will investigate further what is involved in the first statement that God is living with life. It may mean that there was a time when God was not living and then he acquired life and became living. This is clearly a wrong and unworthy conception. We must therefore adopt the other alternative, that the life which makes him living is eternal like him, and hence he was always living from eternity and will continue to be living to eternity. But the matter is not yet settled. The question still remains, Is this life through which he lives identical with his being, or is it distinct from his being, or is it a part of it? If we say it is distinct from his being, we are guilty of introducing other eternal beings beside God, which destroys his unity. The Christians are guilty of this very thing when they say that God's eternal life is the Holy Ghost, and his eternal Wisdom is the Son. If we say that his life is a part of his being, we do injury to the other aspect of his unity, namely, his simplicity. For to have parts in one's being implies composition. We are forced therefore to conclude that God's life is identical with his being. But this is really tantamount to saying that there is no attribute life which makes him living, or that he is living not through life. The difference is only in expression.

We may make this conception clearer by illustrations from other spheres, inadequate though they be. The soul is the cause of life to the body, i. e., the body lives through the soul, and when the latter leaves it, the body loses its life and dies. But the soul itself does not live through anything else, say through another soul. For if this were the case this other soul would need again another soul to make it live and this again another, and so on ad infinitum, which is absurd. The soul lives through itself. The same thing applies to angels. They live through their own being; and that is why souls and angels are called in the Sacred Scriptures spirits. A spirit is something that is fine and light and incomposite. Hence their life cannot be due to anything distinct from their being, for this would make them composite.

This statement, however, that souls and angels are living through their own being must not be understood as meaning that they have no creator who gave them being and life. The meaning merely is that the being which God gave them is different from the being he gave to bodies. Bodies need a soul to become living, the soul is itself living. So in material things, also, the sun shines with its own light and not with light acquired. The odor of myrrh is fragrant through itself, not through anything else. The eye sees with its own power, whereas man sees with the eye. The tongue does not speak with another tongue, man speaks with a tongue, and so on. So we say of God, though in a manner a thousand-fold more sublime, that he is living, but not with a life which is distinct from his being; and so of the other attributes, hearing, seeing, and so on, that we find in the Scriptural praises of him.

It is necessary to add that as on the one hand we have seen that God's attributes are identical with his being, so it follows on the other that the various attributes, such as wise, seeing, hearing, knowing, and so on, are not different from each other in meaning, though distinct in expression. Otherwise it would make God composite. The reason we employ a number of distinct expressions is in order to remove from God the several opposites of the terms used. Thus when we say God is living we mean to indicate that he is not dead. The attribute wise excludes folly and ignorance; hearing and seeing remove deafness and blindness. The philosopher Aristotle says that it is truer and more appropriate to apply negative attributes to God than positive. Others have said that we must not speak of the Creator in positive terms for there is danger of endowing him with form and resemblance to other things. Speaking of him negatively we imply the positive without risking offence.

In the sequel Al Mukammas refutes the views of the dualists, of the Christians and those who maintain that God has form. We cannot afford to linger over these arguments, interesting though they be, and must hurry on to say a word about the sixteenth chapter, which deals with reward and punishment. This no doubt forms part of the second Mu'tazilite division, namely, the "Bab al 'Adl," or section concerning God's justice.

He defines reward as the soul's tranquillity and infinite joy in the world to come in compensation for the sojourn in this world which she endured and the self-control she practiced in abstaining from the pleasures of the world. Punishment, on the other hand, is the soul's disquietude and sorrow to the end of days as retribution for indulging in the world's evil pleasures. Both are imposed by God with justice and fairness. It is fitting that the promises of reward and threats of punishment consequent upon obedience and disobedience should be specified in connection with the commandments and prohibitions in the Scriptures, because this is the only way to train the soul to practice self-control. A child who does not fear his teacher's punishment, or has no confidence in his good will will not be amenable to instruction. The same is true of the majority of those who serve kings. It is fear alone which induces them to obey the will of their masters. So God in commanding us to do what is worthy and prohibiting what is unworthy saw fit in his wisdom to specify the accompanying rewards and punishments that he who observes may find pleasure and joy in his obedience, and the unobservant may be affected with sorrow and fear.

As the world to come has no end, so it is proper that the reward of the righteous as well as the punishment of the wicked should be without end. Arguments have been advanced to show that unlike reward which is properly infinite as is becoming to God's goodness, punishment should have a limit, for God is merciful. On the other hand, it is claimed on the basis of the finiteness of human action that both reward and punishment should be finite. But in reality it can be shown in many ways that reward and punishment should be infinite. Without naming all the arguments—as many as ten have been advanced—in favor of this view, we may urge some of the more important.

It was God's own goodness that prompted him to benefit mankind by giving them laws for their guidance, and not any prior merits on their part which gave them a claim on God's protection. God himself is not in any way benefited by man's obedience or injured by his disobedience. Man knows that it is for his own good that he is thus admonished; and if he were asked what reward he would like to have for his good deeds he would select no less than infinite happiness. Justice demands that punishment be commensurate with reward. The greater the reward and the punishment the more effective are the laws likely to be. Besides in violating God's law a person virtually denies the eternity of him who gave it, and is guilty of contempt; for he hides himself from men, fearing their displeasure, whereas the omnipresence of God has no deterring effect upon him. For such offence infinite punishment is the only fit retribution.

The question whether the soul alone is rewarded or the body alone or both has been answered variously. In favor of the soul alone as the subject of reward and punishment it has been urged that reward raises man to the grade of angels, who are pure spirits. How then can the body take part? And punishment must be of the same nature as reward. On the other hand, it is claimed that the Bible says nothing of man being raised to the status of angels, and we know in this world of physical reward and punishment only. The Garden of Eden of which the Bible speaks is not peopled with angels, and that is where the righteous go after death.

The true solution is that as man is composed of body and soul, and both share in his conduct, reward and punishment must attach to both. As we do not understand the nature of spiritual retribution so the composite is equally inconceivable to us. But everyone who believes in the resurrection of the dead has no difficulty in holding that the body has a share in future reward and punishment.



Saadia was the first important Jewish philosopher. Philo of Alexandria does not come within our purview as he was not medival. Besides his work is not systematic, being in the nature of a commentary on Holy Writ. Though Philo was a good and loyal Jew, he stood, so to speak, apart from the real centre of Jewish intellectual and spiritual development. He was on the one hand too closely dependent on Greek thought and on the other had only a limited knowledge of Jewish thought and tradition. The Bible he knew only in the Greek translation, not in the original Hebrew; and of the Halaka, which was still in the making in Palestine, he knew still less.

It was different with Saadia. In the tenth century the Mishna and the Talmud had been long completed and formed theoretically as well as practically the content of the Jew's life and thought. Sura in Babylonia, where Saadia was the head of the academy, was the chief centre of Jewish learning, and Saadia was the heir in the main line of Jewish development as it passed through the hands of lawgiver and prophet, scribe and Pharisee, Tanna and Amora, Saburai and Gaon. As the head of the Sura academy he was the intellectual representative of the Jewry and Judaism of his day. His time was a period of agitation and strife, not only in Judaism but also in Islam, in whose lands the Jews lived and to whose temporal rulers they owed allegiance in the East as well as in Spain.

In Islam we saw in the introduction how the various schools of the Kadariya, the Mu'tazila and the Ashariya arose in obedience to the demand of clarifying the chief problems of faith, science and life. In Judaism there was in addition to this more general demand the more local and internal conflict of Karaite and Rabbanite which centred about the problem of tradition. Saadia found himself in the midst of all this and proved equal to the occasion.

We are not here concerned with the vicissitudes of Saadia's personal life or of his literary career as opponent of the Karaite sect. Nor can we afford more than merely to state that Jewish science in the larger sense begins with Saadia. Hebrew grammar and lexicography did not exist before him. The Bible had been translated into several languages before Saadia's day, but he was the first to translate it into Arabic, and the first to write a commentary on it. But the greatest work of Saadia, that which did the most important service to the theory of Judaism, and by which he will be best remembered, is his endeavor to work out a system of doctrine which should be in harmony with the traditions of Judaism on the one hand and with the most authoritative scientific and philosophic opinion of the time on the other. Israeli, we have seen, was interested in science before Saadia. As a physician he was probably more at home in purely physical discussions than Saadia. But there is no evidence that he had the larger interest of the Gaon of Sura, namely, to construct a system of Judaism upon the basis of scientific doctrine. Possibly the example of Islam was lacking in Israeli's environment, as he does not seem to be acquainted with the theories and discussions of the Mutakallimun, and draws his information from Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic sources. Saadia was in the very midst of Arab speculation as is evident from the composition of his chef d'oeuvre, "Emunot ve-Deot," Beliefs and Opinions.[37]

The work is arranged on the Mu'tazilite model. The two main divisions in works of this character are Unity and Justice. The first begins with some preliminary considerations on the nature and sources of knowledge. It proceeds then to prove the existence of God by showing that the world cannot have existed from eternity and must have been created in time. Creation implies a creator. This is followed by arguments showing that God is one and incorporeal. The rest is devoted to a discussion of the divine attributes with the purpose of showing that God's unity and simplicity are not affected by them. The section on unity closes with a refutation of opposing views, such as those of the dualists or Trinitarians or infidels. The section on Justice centres about the doctrine of free will. Hence psychology and ethics are treated in this part of the work. To this may be added problems of a more dogmatic nature, eschatological and otherwise. We shall see in the sequel that Saadia's masterpiece is modeled on the same plan.

But not merely the plan and arrangement of his work give evidence of the influence upon Saadia of Islamic schools, many of his arguments, those for example on the existence of God and the creation of the world, are taken directly from them. Maimonides, who was a strong opponent of the Mutakallimun, gives an outline of their fundamental principles and their arguments for the existence, unity and incorporeality of God.[38] Some of these are identical with those of Saadia. Saadia, however, is not interested in pure metaphysics as such. His purpose is decidedly apologetic in the defence of Judaism and Jewish dogma. Hence we look in vain in his book for definite views on the constitution of existing substances, on the nature of motion, on the meaning of cause, and so on. We get a glimpse of his attitude to some of these questions in an incidental way.

The Mutakallimun were opposed to the Aristotelian theory of matter and form, and substituted for it the atomic theory. God created atoms without magnitude or quality, and he likewise created qualities to inhere in groups of atoms. These qualities they called accidents, and one of their important discussions was whether an accident can last more than a moment of time. The opinions were various and the accidents were classified according to their powers of duration. That is, there were some accidents which once created continued to exist of their own accord some length of time, and there were others which had to be re-created anew every moment in order to continue to exist. Saadia does not speak of matter and form as constituting the essence of existing things; he does speak of substance and accident,[39] which might lead us to believe that he held to the atomic theory, since he speaks of the accidents as coming and going one after the other, which suggests the constant creation spoken of by the Mutakallimun. On the other hand, when he answers an objection against motion, which is as old as Zeno, namely, how can we traverse an infinitely divisible distance, since it is necessary to pass an infinite number of parts, he tells us that it is not necessary to have recourse to the atomic theory or other theories adopted by some Mu'tazilites to meet this objection. We may believe in the continuity and infinite divisibility of matter, but as long as this divisibility is only potentially infinite, actually always finite, our ability to traverse the space offers no difficulty.[40] Finally, in refuting the second theory of creation, which combines Platonism with atomism, he argues against an atomic theory primarily because of its implications of eternity of the atoms, but partly also on other grounds, which would also affect the Kalamistic conceptions of the atoms.[41] These points are not treated by Saadia expressly but are only mentioned incidentally in the elucidation of other problems dealing with the creation of the world and the existence of God.

Like Israeli Saadia shows considerable familiarity with Aristotelian notions as found in the Logic, the Physics and the Psychology. It is doubtful, however, whether he really knew Aristotle's more important treatises at first hand and in detail. The "Categories," a small treatise forming the first book of Aristotle's logic, he no doubt knew, but the other Aristotelian concepts he probably derived from secondary sources. For while he passes in review all the ten categories showing that none of them is applicable to God,[42] we scarcely find any mention of such important and fundamental Aristotelian conceptions as matter and form, potentiality and actuality, the four causes, formal, material, efficient and final—concepts which as soon as Aristotle began to be studied by Al Farabi and Avicenna became familiar to all who wrote anything at all bearing on philosophy, theology, or Biblical exegesis. Nay, the very concepts which he does employ seem to indicate in the way he uses them that he was not familiar with the context in which they are found in the Aristotelian treatises, or with the relation they bear to other views of Aristotle. Thus no one who knew Aristotle at first hand could make the mistake of regarding his definition of the soul as making the latter an accident.[43] When Saadia speaks of six kinds of motion [44] instead of three, he shows clearly that his knowledge of the Aristotelian theory of motion was limited to the little of it that is contained in the "Categories."

We are thus justified in saying, that Saadia's sources are Jewish literature and tradition, the works of the Mutakallimun, particularly the Mu'tazilites, and Aristotle, whose book on the "Categories" he knew at first hand.

Saadia tells us he was induced to write his book because he found that the beliefs and opinions of men were in an unsatisfactory state. While there are some persons who are fortunate enough to possess the truth and to know that they have it and rejoice thereat, this is not true of all. For there are others who when they have the truth know it not, and hence let it slip; others are still less fortunate and adopt false and erroneous opinions, which they regard as true; while still others vacillate continually, going from one opinion and belief to another. This gave him pain and he thought it his duty to make use of his limited knowledge to help them. A conscientious study of his book will tend to remove doubt and will substitute belief through knowledge for belief through tradition. Another result of such study, not less important, will be improvement of character and disposition, which will affect for the better a man's life in every respect, in relation to God as well as to his fellowmen.[45]

One may ask why it is that one encounters so many doubts and difficulties before arriving at true knowledge. The answer is, a human being is a creature, i. e., a being dependent upon another for its existence, and it is in the nature of a creature as such that it must labor for the truth with the sweat of its brow. For whatever a man does or has to do with is subject to time; each work must be accomplished gradually, step by step, part by part, in successive portions of time. And as the task before him is at the beginning complex, he has to analyze and simplify it. This takes time; while certainty and knowledge cannot come until the task is accomplished. Before that point is reached he is naturally in doubt.[46]

The sources of truth are three. First is that to which the senses testify. If our normal sense perceives under normal conditions which are free from illusion, we are certain of that perception.

The judgment is another source of truth. There are certain truths of which we are certain. This applies especially to such judgments of value, as that truth is good and falsehood is bad. In addition to these two sources of immediate knowledge, there is a third source based upon these two. This is logical inference. We are led to believe what we have not directly perceived or a matter concerning which we have no immediate knowledge of the second kind, because we infer it from something else which we have perceived or of which we have immediate certainty. Thus we believe man has a soul though we have never seen it because we infer its presence from its activity, which we do see.

These three sources are universal. They are not peculiar to a given race or religious denomination, though there are some persons who deny the validity of some or all of them. We Jews believe in them and in still another source of truth, namely, authentic tradition.[47]

Some think that a Jew is forbidden to speculate or philosophize about the truths of religion. This is not so. Genuine and sincere reflection and speculation is not prohibited. What is forbidden is to leave the sacred writings aside and rely on any opinions that occur to one concerning the beginnings of time and space. For one may find the truth or one may miss it. In any case until a person finds it, he is without a religious guide; and if he does find what seems to him the truth and bases his belief and conduct upon it, he is never sure that he may not later be assailed by doubts, which will lead him to drop his adopted belief. But if we hold fast to the commandments of the Bible, our own ratiocination on the truths of religion will be of great benefit to us.[48]

Our investigation of the facts of our religion will give us a reasoned and scientific knowledge of those things which the Prophets taught us dogmatically, and will enable us to answer the arguments and criticisms of our opponents directed against our faith. Hence it is not merely our privilege but our duty to confirm the truths of religion by reason.[49]

Here a question presents itself. If the reason can discover by itself the truths communicated to us by divine revelation, why was it necessary to have recourse to the latter? Why was it not left to the reason alone to guide us in our belief and in our conduct? The answer is, as was suggested before, that human reason proceeds gradually and does not reach its aim until the end of the process. In the meantime one is left without a guide. Besides not everybody's reason is adequate to discover truth. Some are altogether incapable of this difficult task, and many more are exposed to harassing doubts and perplexities which hinder their progress. Hence the necessity of revelation, because in the witness of the senses all are equally at home, men and women, young and old.[50]

The most important fact of religion is the existence of God. We know it from the Bible, and we must now prove it by reason. The proof is necessarily indirect because no one of us has seen God, nor have we an immediate certainty of his existence. We must prove it then by the method of inference. We must start with something we do know with certainty and proceed from it through as many steps of logical inference as may be necessary until we reach the object of our search.[51]

The world and the things in it are directly accessible to our senses and our judgment. How long has the world been in existence and how did it come to be? The answers to these questions also we do not know through our senses, and we must prove them by a chain of reasoning. There are several possibilities. The world just as it is may have existed from eternity. If so nobody made it; it just existed, and we have no proof of God. The world in its present form might have proceeded from a primitive matter. This hypothesis only removes the problem further back. For, leaving aside the question how did this prime matter develop into the complex world of our experience, we direct our attention to the prime matter itself, and ask, Has it existed from eternity or did it come to be? If it existed from eternity, then nobody made it, and we have no proof of a God, for by God we mean an intelligent being acting with purpose and design, and the cause of the existence of everything in creation. The third alternative is that whether the world was developed out of a primitive matter or not, it at any rate, or the primitive matter, as the case may be, was made in time, that is, it was created out of nothing. If so there must have been someone who created it, as nothing can create itself. Here we have proof of the existence of God. It follows therefore that we must first show that the world is not eternal, that it came to be in time, and this is what Saadia does.

Here are some of his proofs. The world is finite in magnitude. For the world consists of the earth, which is in the centre, and the heavens surrounding it on all sides. This shows that the earth is finite, for an infinite body cannot be surrounded. But the heavens are finite too, for they make a complete revolution in twenty-four hours. If they were infinite it would take an infinite time to complete a revolution. A finite body cannot have an infinite power. This Saadia regards as self-evident, though Aristotle, from whom this statement is derived, gives the proof. Hence the force or power within the world which keeps it going is finite and must one day be exhausted. But this shows also that it could not have gone on from eternity. Hence the world came to be in time.[52]

Another proof is based on the composite character of all things in heaven and earth. Minerals, plants and animals are made up of parts and elements. The heavens consist of spheres, one within the other. The spheres are studded with stars. But composition implies a time when the composition took place. In other words, the parts must have been there first and somebody put them together. Hence the world as we see it now is not eternal.[53]

A special form of composition, which is universal, is that of substance and accident. Plants and animals are born (or sprout), grow and decay. These manifestations are the accidents of the plant or animal's substance. The heavenly bodies have various motions, lights and colors as their accidents. But these accidents are not eternal, since they come and go. Hence the substances bearing the accidents, without which they cannot exist, are also temporal like them. Hence our world is not eternal.[54]

Finally, past time itself cannot be eternal. For this would mean that an infinite time has actually elapsed down to our day. But this is a contradiction in terms. What is already accomplished cannot be infinite. Infinity is possible only as a potentiality, for example, we may speak of a given length as infinitely divisible. This merely means that one may mentally continue dividing it forever, but we can never say that one has actually made an infinite number of divisions. Therefore not merely the world, but even time must have begun to be.[55]

It will be seen that the first three arguments prove only that the world in the form which it has now is not eternal. The possibility is not yet excluded of an eternal matter out of which the world proceeded or was made. The fourth argument proves a great deal. It shows that nothing which is subject to time can be eternal, hence not even prime matter. God can be eternal because he is not subject to time. Time, as we shall see later, cannot exist without motion and moving things, hence before the world there was no time, and the fourth argument does not apply to premundane existence.

To complete the first three arguments Saadia therefore proceeds to show that the world, which we now know came to be in time, must have been made by someone (since nothing can make itself), and that too out of nothing, and not out of a pre-existing eternal matter.

If an eternal matter existed before the world, the explanation of the origin of the world is open to two possibilities. One is that there is nothing outside of this matter and the world which came from it. This is absurd, for it would mean that an unintelligent dead thing is the cause of intelligence and life in the universe. We must therefore have recourse to the other alternative that someone, an intelligent being, made the world out of the primitive, eternal matter. This is also impossible. For if the matter is eternal like the maker of the world, it is independent of him, and would not be obedient to his will to adapt itself to his purpose. He could therefore not make the world out of it.

The only alternative left now is that the author of the universe is an intelligent being, and that nothing outside of him is eternal. He alone is responsible for the existence of the world, which was at one time nothing. Whether he first created a matter and then from it the universe, or whether he made the world outright, is of secondary importance.[56]

There is still a possibility that instead of making the world out of nothing, God made it out of himself, i. e., that it emanated from him as light from the sun. This, as we know, is the opinion of the Neo-Platonists; and Israeli comes very close to it as we saw before (p. 6). Saadia is strongly opposed to any such doctrine.

It is unlikely, he says, that an eternal substance having neither form, condition, measure, place or time, should change into a body or bodies having those accidents; or that a wise being, not subject to change or influence, or comprehensibility should choose to make himself into a body subject to all of these. What could have induced a just being who does no wrong to decree that some of his parts should be subject to such evils as matter and material beings are afflicted with? It is conceivable only in one of two ways. Either they deserved it for having done wrong, or they did not deserve it, and it was an act of violence that was committed against them. Both suppositions are absurd. The fact of the matter is that the authors of this opinion to avoid the theory of creation ex nihilo went from the frying pan into the fire. To be sure, creation out of nothing is difficult to conceive, but this is the reason why we ascribe this power to God alone. To demand that we show how this can be done is to demand that we ourselves become creators.[57]

The question what existed in place of the earth before it was created evinces ignorance of the idea of place. By place is meant simply the contact of two bodies in which the one is the place of the other. When there is no earth and no bodies there is no such thing as place.

The same thing applies to time. Time means the persistence of existing things in heaven and earth under changing conditions. Where there is no world, there is no time. This answers the objection raised by some, namely, how is it possible that before all these bodies were made time existed void of objects? Or the other difficulty which is closely related, viz., Why did not God create the world before he did? The answer to both is, there was no before and there was no time, when the world was not.

The following question is a legitimate one, Why did God create all things? And our answer is, there was no cause which made him create them, and yet they were not made in vain. God wished to exhibit his wisdom; and his goodness prompted him to benefit his creatures by enabling them to worship him.[58]

We have now proved the existence of God as the cause of the existence of all things. We must now try to arrive at some notion of what God is as far as this is in our power. God cannot be corporeal or body, for in our proof of his existence we began with the world which is body and arrived at the notion of God as the cause of all corporeal existence. If God himself is corporeal our search is not at an end, for we should still want to know the cause of him. Being the cause of all body, he is not body and hence is for our knowledge ultimate, we cannot go beyond him. But if God is not corporeal, he is not subject to motion or rest or anger or favor, for to deny the corporeality of God and still look for these accidents in him is to change the expression and retain the idea. Bodily accidents involve body.[59]

The incorporeality of God proves also his unity. For what is not body cannot have the corporeal attributes of quantity or number, hence God cannot be more than one.[60] And there are many powerful arguments besides against a dualistic theory.

A unitary effect cannot be the result of two independent causes. For if one is responsible for the whole, there is nothing left for the other, and the assumption of his existence is gratuitous. If the effect consists of two parts of which each does one, we have really two effects. But the universe is one and its parts cannot be separated.[61] Again, if one of them wishes to create a thing and cannot without the help of the other, neither is all-powerful, which is inconsistent with the character of deity. If he can compel the other to help him, they are both under necessity. And if they are free and independent, then if one should desire to keep a body alive and the other to kill it, the body would have to be at the same time alive and dead, which is absurd. Again, if each one can conceal aught from the other, neither is all-knowing. If they cannot, they are not all-powerful.[62]

Having proved God's existence, unity and incorporeality, he proceeds to discuss his most essential attributes, which are, Life, Omnipotence, and Omniscience. These easily follow from what was said before. We cannot conceive a creator ex nihilo unless he is all-powerful; power implies life; and the thing made cannot be perfect unless its maker knows what it is going to be before he makes it.

These three concepts our reason discovers with one act of its thinking effort, for they are all involved in the concept, Maker. There is no gradual inference from one to the other. The reason we are forced to use three expressions is because of the limitations of language. Hence it must not be thought that they involve plurality in God. They are simply the implications of the one expression, Maker, and as that does not suggest plurality in God's essence, but signifies only that there is a thing made by the maker, so the three derivative terms, Living, Omnipotent, Omniscient, imply no more.

The Christians erred in this matter in making God a trinity. They say one cannot create unless he is living and wise, hence they regard his life and his wisdom as two other things outside of his essence. But this is a mistake. For in saying there are several attributes in him distinct one from the other, they say in effect that he is corporeal—an error which we have already refuted. Besides they do not understand what constitutes proof: In man we say that his life and his knowledge are not his essence because we see that he sometimes has them and sometimes not. In God this is not the case. Again, why only three? They say essence, life, wisdom; why do they not add power, or hearing and seeing? If they think that power is implied in life, and hearing and seeing in wisdom, so is life implied in wisdom.

They quote Scripture in their support, for example, the verse in II Samuel (23, 2), "The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me, and his Word was upon my tongue." "Word" denotes, they say, his attribute of wisdom, and "Spirit" his life, as distinct persons. But they are mistaken. The expressions in question denote the words which God puts into the mouth of his prophets. There are other similar instances which they cite, and in their ignorance of Hebrew take metaphorical expressions literally. If they are consistent, they should add many more persons in the Godhead, in accordance with the many phrases of the Bible concerning the hand of God, the eye of God, the glory of God, the anger of God, the mercy of God, and so on.[63]

The above discussion, as also that of Al-Mukammas (p. 19), shows clearly the origin of the doctrine of attributes as well as its motive. Both Al-Mukammas and Saadia and the later Jewish philosophers owed their interest in this problem primarily to the Mohammedan schools in which we know it played an important rle (see Introduction, pp. xxiii, xxvi). But there is no doubt that the problem originated in the Christian schools in the Orient, who made use of it to rationalize the dogma of the Trinity.

There is extant a confession of faith attributed to Jacob Baradus (sixth century), the founder of the Syrian Church of the Monophysites or Jacobites, in which the phrase occurs that the Father is the Intellect, the Son is the Word and the Holy Ghost is Life. In the works of Elias of Nisibis of the Nestorian Church, who lived shortly after Saadia (975-1049), we also find a passage in which the three expressions essence, life and wisdom are applied to the three persons of the Trinity. The passage is worth quoting. It reads as follows: "As the essence of God cannot receive accidents, his life and his wisdom cannot be accidents. But whatever is not accident is either substance or person. Hence as the essence of the Creator and his life and his wisdom are not three substances or three accidents, it is proved that they are three persons."[64]

Monotheism was a fundamental dogma of the Mohammedan faith. Hence it was necessary for their rationalizing theologians to meet the Trinitarians with their own weapons and show that the multiplicity of the divine attributes which they could not deny, since the Koran was authority for it, does in no way affect God's unity. The problem was quite as important for Judaism as it was for Islam, and for the same reason. Hence Saadia's insistence that inadequacy of language is alone responsible for our expressing God's essential attributes in the three words, Living, Omnipotent, Omniscient; that in reality they are no more than interpretations of the expression Maker.

We have now shown that God is one in the two important senses of the word. He is one in the sense that there is no second God beside him; and he is one in his own essence, i. e., he is simple and not composed of parts. His Life and his Power and his Wisdom are not distinct one from the other and from his essence. They are all one. We have also proved God's incorporeality. Nevertheless Saadia is not satisfied until he has shown in detail that God cannot be compared to man in any sense, and that the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible must not be taken literally. In reference to Biblical interpretation Saadia makes the general remark that whenever a verse of Scripture apparently contradicts the truths of reason, there is no doubt that it is figurative, and a person who successfully interprets it so as to reconcile it with the data of sense or reason will be rewarded for it. For not the Bible alone is the source of Judaism, Reason is another source preceding the Bible, and Tradition is a third source coming after the Bible.[65]

In order to show that God is not to be compared to any other thing in creation Saadia finds it convenient to use Aristotle's classification of all existing things under the ten categories.[66] Everything that exists is either a substance, or it is an accident, i. e., an attribute or quality of a substance. Substance is therefore the first and most important of the categories and is exemplified by such terms as man, horse, city. Everything that is not substance is accident, but there are nine classes of accident, and with substance they make up the ten categories. The order of the categories as Aristotle gives them in his treatise of the same name is, substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, possession, action, passion. If these categories include all existing things and we can prove that God is not any of them, our object is accomplished. The one general argument is one with which we are already familiar. It is that God is the cause of all substance and accident, hence he is himself neither the one nor the other. Scripture supports our view, as in Deuteronomy 4, 15: "Take ye therefore good heed of yourselves; for ye saw no manner of form on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the heaven; the likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away," etc. And tradition is equally emphatic in this regard. Our sages, who were the disciples of the prophets, render the anthropomorphic passages in the Bible so as to avoid an objectionable understanding. This is particularly true of the Aramaic translation of the Targum.

Such terms as head, eye, ear, mouth, lip, face, hand, heart, bowels, foot, which are used in relation to God in the Bible, are figurative. For it is the custom of language to apply such terms metaphorically to certain ideas like elevation, providence, acceptance, declaration, command, favor, anger, power, wisdom, mercy, dominion. Language would be a very inadequate instrument if it confined itself to the literal meaning of the words it uses; and in the case of God we should be limited to the statement that he is.

What was said of the nouns above mentioned applies also to other parts of speech, such as verbs attributing human activity to God. Such phrases as "incline thine ear," "open thine eyes," "he saw," "he heard," "he spoke" are figurative. So the expression, "the Lord smelled," which sounds especially objectionable, denotes acceptance.

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