His Writings

The Writings of Maimonides

The majority of Maimonides' works were composed during his years in Egypt. They were written in Judeo-Arabic (i.e. Arabic in Hebrew characters), with the exception of his great halakhic work Mishneh Torah and responsa and letters in Hebrew (in reply to those who had written to him in that language). His extensive writings, both in manuscript form and in early and later printed editions, reached Jewish communities everywhere. During his lifetime and the period following his death, most of his books were translated into Hebrew, largely thanks to two members of the Ibn Tibbon family: Samuel ben Judah Ibn Tibbon, one of the sages of Provence, and his son Moses. Another important translator was Judah Alharizi. Most of his works were translated more than once, and more recently, versions in modern Hebrew, particularly that of the late Joseph Qafih, have appeared. His works have also been translated into many European languages.  
 
Despite widespread recognition of Moses Maimonides' greatness, his writings were not exempt from criticism. His philosophical works were considered especially daring. He sought to interpret the Bible and the basic principles of Judaism in a rational manner, tying them to philosophical, non-mystical theories. He based his ideas on the thought of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle, and the neo-Platonists as transmitted in the writings of Moslem thinkers such as Averroes, al-Farabi, Avicenna and others. His philosophical writings were strongly condemned during his lifetime by the leading scholars of the time. In Europe and especially in Toledo, the opposition was led by Rabbi Meir Halevi Abulafia and in the East, in Baghdad, by Rabbi Samuel ben Ali. The controversy surrounding his philosophical works intensified after his death. 
 
In the 1230's the controversy was again raised by Rabbi Shlomo Min-ha-Har of Montpellier in Provence, who sought to ban Moreh Nevukhim and Sefer ha-Mada (The Book of Science). At the height of the controversy, Maimonides' philosophical writings were publicly burnt at the stake. Opposition was also recorded in Acre in the 1280's, when Rabbi Shlomo Pettit failed in his endeavor to ban Moreh Nevukhim. Even the halakhic works were not exempt from criticism and during his lifetime many objections were voiced to his rulings in Mishneh Torah and to his responsa. The fact that he brought halakhic decisions without designating their sources ignited opposition on the part of prominent halakhic authorities, such as Rabbi Abraham ben David of Posquieres in Provence. Rabbi Samuel ben Ali, head of the Yeshiva of Baghdad, disagreed with Maimonides' responsa and later Nahmanides (Rabbi Moses ben Nahman or Ramban) argued against Sefer ha-Mizvot (the Book of Commandments). Yet, at the same time, the esteem in which his writings were held grew among Jews and non-Jews alike.