The reception of Aristotelianism by medieval Jews differed widely from one community to another. Whereas it was rejected by the northern com- munities of Ashkenaz and Northern France, it was appropriated by the southern communities of Spain, Provence, and Italy; but the patterns of appropriation differed significantly among these three. For several years Gad Freudenthal has been dealing with the different patterns of reception of the “foreign wisdoms” in medieval Jewish communities. A recent vol- umeheeditedfocusesontheAshkenazipattern.1 He has studied, first in general and then in greater detail, the very beginnings of the accommo- dation of secular knowledge in Provence;2 in two recent papers he com- pares the Provençal and the Italian patterns of cultural appropriation.3 But he refers only briefly to the Iberian Peninsula and concludes that “the matter calls for further research.”4 Hoping to contribute to his research, I offer here an initial, preliminary study of the Spanish pattern and com- pare it to the Provençal.
* I am grateful to Hagar Kahana-Smilansky for reading a first draft of the paper and for her very helpful comments and suggestions. 1 Gad Freudenthal, ed., Science and Philosophy in Early Modern Ashkenazic Culture: Rejection, Toleration, and Appropriation. Jahrbuch des Simon-Dubnow-Instituts VIII (). 2 Gad Freudenthal, “Les sciences dans les communautés juives médiévales de Pro- vence: Leur appropriation, leur rôle,” Revue des études juives (): –; idem, “Arabic into Hebrew: The Accommodation of Secular Knowledge in Twelfth-Century Provençal Judaism,” in D. Freidenreich and M. Goldstein, eds, Border Crossings: Inter- religious Interaction and the Exchange of Ideas in the Islamic Middle Ages (Philadelphia, forthcoming). 3 Gad Freudenthal, “Arabic and Latin Cultures as Resources for the Hebrew Trans- lation Movement: Comparative Considerations, Both Quantitative and Qualitative,” in idem,ed.,Science in Medieval Jewish Cultures (Cambridge, forthcoming); “#Arav and Edom as Cultural Resources for Medieval Judaism: Contrasting Attitudes toward Arabic and Latin Learning in the Midi and in Italy,”forthcoming in E. Alfonso and C. Caballero- Navas, eds., Late Medieval Jewish Identities: Iberia and Beyond. 4 Freudenthal, “Arabic and Latin Cultures,” §.. ruth glasner
Aristotelianism meant a more scientific “rationalist” perspective than rival philosophies. It also meant a more systematic study of texts, using the genre of the commentary. “Aristotelians were particularly devoted to crafting, fine-tuning and commenting upon their texts.”5 Throughout the Middle Ages Aristotelianism followed a more “scholastic” pattern than Neoplatonism, and Averroism was more scholastic than Avicennism. The scholastic orientation of Aristotelianism culminated in the universities in the Latin west. Jewish Aristotelianism began and ended in Spain. The first recep- tion was in Muslim Spain in the second half of twelfth century; the last, in Christian Spain three centuries later.6 In between—in the thir- teenth and fourteenth centuries—Aristotelianism was non-existent in Spain but thrived among the Jews in Provence and Italy, where its car- riers were mainly Spanish Jews living outside Spain. The early and late Spanish episodes were quite different cultural phenomena: the early Aris- totelians studied from Arabic sources and wrote mainly in Arabic; the later ones employed Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin sources and wrote mainly in Hebrew. Although referred to as “the autumn” or the “swan song” of medieval Jewish philosophy,7 it was, nevertheless, a lively and dynamic movement. The Jews turned with fresh interest and even enthusiasm to the study of Aristotle as well as Christian scholastic texts. Mauro Zonta designated this phenomenon “Hebrew Scholasticism” and noted that it “constituted a far more systematic phenomenon and appears to reflect a surprisingly extensive absorption of Christian culture” than before in medieval Jewish societies.8 Before turning to the story of Spanish-Jewish Aristotelianism let me address the more ordinary story of Provence.
5 H.G. Snyder, Teachers and Texts in the Ancient World (London, ): . In this interesting book Snyder compares the patterns of learning in the Greek philosophical traditions. 6 A few reverberations continued in the sixteenth century in Italy and Byzantium. Puig refers to Eliah del-Medigo as the last Jewish Averroist. 7 M. Zonta, “The Autumn of Medieval Jewish Philosophy: Latin Scholasticism in Late th-Century Hebrew Philosophical Literature,”in J.A. Aertsen and M. Pickavé, eds, Herbst des Mittelalters: Fragen zur Bewertung des . und . Jahrhunderts (Berlin, ): –; A. Ackerman, “Jewish Philosophy and the Jewish-Christian Philosophical Dia- logue in Fifteenth-Century Spain,” in G.H. Frank and O. Leaman, eds, The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy (Cambridge, ): –. 8 M. Zonta, Hebrew Scholasticism in the Fifteenth Century: A History and a Source Book (Dordrecht, ): .