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Joseph ibn Kaspi's Gevia' Kesef

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Joseph ibn Kaspi's Gevia' Kesef

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Joseph ibn Kaspi's Gevia Kesef
A Study in Medieval Jewish Philosophic Bible Commentary
By Basil Herring
Ktav Publishing House, 1982, 303 pages in English, 45 in Hebrew
ISBN 0-87068-716-6

Reviewed by Israel Drazin - June 27, 2010

Basil Herring makes a significant contribution to the rational understanding of the Bible by in his extensive introduction to the thoughts of Joseph ibn Kaspi and his English translation of one of his writings.

Joseph ibn Kaspi was born in Provence, France, in 1297, ninety-three years after the death of his role model the great rationalist Moses Maimonides (1138-1204). He died at the age forty-three, in 1340.

Kaspi loved and respected the rational philosophy of Maimonides and referred to him frequently in his writings. He relates in his Ethical Will that he spent five months traveling to and from Egypt just to see Maimonides' descendants. He saw the fourth and fifth generation of the great sage, but returned disappointed. "All of them were righteous, but none of them was devoted to science."

But Kaspi was no Maimonides. Where his mentor praised the originality of the thinking of the Greek philosopher Aristotle and drew most of his ideas from Aristotle's writings without concern that the origin of the ideas were not Jewish, Kaspi accepted the curious xenophobic fiction of many fundamentalists who claimed that Aristotle derived his philosophy from Jewish teachers and that on his deathbed Aristotle recanted every idea that was counter to the traditional understandings of Judaism.

Maimonides and ibn Kaspi's work have many things in common, such as the following:

In summary, Basil Herring has introduced us to a rational individual who, like Maimonides, did not think like the average people. Herring does so in an easy to read very informative fashion.

Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of seventeen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides. The Orthodox Union (OU) and Yeshiva University publish weekly chapters of Drazin and Wagner's book Let's Study Onkelos on and on His website is

The views expressed in this review/article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Jewish Eye.
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