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BOOK REVIEWS 105 Studies in Joseph ibn Caspi. By Barry Mesch. Etudes sur le Judaism, VIII. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1974) Ibn Caspi was a fourteenth-century Jewish scholar from Southern France who, as did ibn Ezra before him, wrote multiple philosophic commentaries on the books of the Bible, composed critical analyses of the religious philosophy of Maimonides, and engaged in writing polemics in defense of Rabbinic Judaism against Roman Catholicism. It would be difficult to argue that ibn Caspi's thought is comparable to works of Post-Maimonidean Jewish philosophers such as Gersonides or Creacas in terms either of its influence or of the technical proficiency of the philosophic religious thought. Yet there is no question that ibn Caspi is a major figure in the history of late medieval Jewish philosophy. Consequently, since there exists practically nothing in the English language about ibn Caspi, particularly anything that provides a study of his religious thought, such a study as this is a welcome addition to the ever-growing series of works on medieval Jewish philosophy that are now coming into print. Mesch's stated goal in this book is to present a coherent and comprehensive account of ibn Caspi's literary activity, which was extensive, as well as to provide a detailed account of ibn Caspi's view of prophecy as a key to understanding how as a Jewish philosopher he understood the relationship between philosophy and religion. The book is divided into two parts that correspond to the two stated goals. Each part contains two chapters. Part One deals with Mesch's first objective. It consists of ibn Caspi's work Qevutzat Kese/in which the author lists and briefly describes an intended collection of twenty previous works that he had written. Eleven of these works are commentaries on different books of the Bible, six of them are studies of Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, and four are philosophical polemics. Mesch's first chapter is an English translation which notes in parallel columns variations between the standard Munich manuscript of this text and the Parma manuscript that was published in the nineteenth century by Renan-Neubauer. The second chapter is a discussion of the interrelationship between these two manuscripts. In this chapter Mesch argues that the Parma manuscript reflects ibn Caspi's state of mind about this collection at a later date than the organization of the collection found in the Munich manuscript, at which time the author reorganized his entire collection of previous writings in the light of the polemics in which he was then engaged. In other words, while each work stands as a single, complete entity and was written as such, ibn Caspi collected these works into their final form around 1334-1335 in order for them to serve as a defense of the superiority of Judaism against philosophical attacks by Christian theologians. Mesch offers two forms of argument for claiming that the Parma manuscript is later than the Munich manuscript and is more authoritative since by that time ibn Caspi had completed most of his writings and then reorganized his material into a more definitive form for polemical purposes. The first argument is that everything which ibn Caspi says is in the books listed in the Parma manuscript is in fact in those books, whereas this is not the case with all materials noted in the Munich manuscript. This suggests to Mesch that the latter manuscript was written before many of the listed studies were complete and the former was a revision of the earlier listing after each project had been finalized. Mesch's second argument can be summarized as follows: While most but not all of the titles given for books in the Munich compilation are the titles of the books in the Parma compilation, in many cases the described contents of these books as well as their serial arrangement is different. Mesch then notes that those book contents found in the Parma collection that are not in the Munich collection are all philosophical-exegetical polemics, that those book contents noted in the Munich manuscript that are not noted in the Parma manuscript are not polemical, and that those book contents noted in both...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 105-109
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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