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NAMING GOD: MOSES MAIMONIDES AND THOMAS AQUINAS NEIL A. 8TUBBENS The Methodist Ohurch Barnsley Oircuit, South Yorkshire MOSES MAIMONIDES (1135-U04) and Thomas Aquinas (c. U~5-1274), two of the greatest theologians of the Jewish and Christian faiths, had much in oommon.1 Like other Ohristian .writers, Aquinas made several criticisms of Maimonides' views on divine predication. In this article l will discuss these criticisms and evaluate them by means of a detailed e:iq>0sition of Maimonides' position. I will ithen offer an account of Aquinas's justification of analogical predication and make some suggestions ais to the :role of causality in naming God. 1. Introduetion Moses Maimonides was the middle-man in the interaction of the three monotheistic faiths with Aristotelian philosophy. He was a great admirer of the ancient philosopher, claiming that Aristotle':s intellect reached the highest perfection attainable hy humanity-e:reept by the prophets and they WeTe divinely inspired. Maimonides :firrst work, the short Treatise on Logic, clewly reflects ihis own interest in logic and language and shows the influence of Afistotle mediated through the Ambs.2 It was The Guide or the Perplexed, his last major work, that introduced the mostly Christian West to the thought of the Islamic philosophers Alf.arabi, Avicenna, and 1 On some matters Aquinas refers to Maimonides as a:ii. authority, e.g., De potentia, q.7, a.4, c; Summa theologiae (ST), I, q.68, a.2 ad 1. 2 Treatise on Logic, translated by I. Efros, Proceedmgs of the American Academy for Jewish Research 8 (1938): 1-65. 230 NEIL A. STUBBENS Avermes.3 The Guide, however, is not so much a philosophical work as a iphilosoprucal interpretation of the Bible. Like the thinkers of the Christian monastic anrd later cathedral schools of the eleventh and rbwelfth centuries, Maimonides began his reflections with the wo;vds of Scripture. Soon after its publication in 1190, two Hebrew triansla:tions of the Guide were produced from ,the original Arabic by Samuel Ibn Tibbon and Jehudah al-Harizi; Aquinas wo:rked with_ a Latin translation of the Harizi version.4 Feldman has complained that some of the scholastics misinterpreted Maimonides, foisting upon him views which were clearly not his own. According :to Feldman, Giles of Rome .(c. 1247-1316), in his ErrofJ'es Philosophorum, misformulates Maimonides' theory of negative ·attributes and suggests that he employs attributes ".by wa.y of causality." 5 Duns Scotus (c. 1264-1308) cites Maimonides and Avicenna ws ·advocating attributes of efficient causality. Henry of Ghent (d. 1293) , in his Summa theologiae, moorrrectly construes actions as relations : "Indeed", writes Feldman, "he characterises them as ruttributes 'hy way of causality.'" Aquinas's translators and interp:veters come in d)or as much criticism from Feldman as :Aquinas himself, e.g., R. Garrigou-Lagrange,6 M. Penido,7 and R. Mulligan:8 all mistakenly say that a.ooording to Maimonides "God is good" means "God is the ca;use of good things.'' a See S. Pines, "Translator's Introduction: the Philosophic Sources of The Guide of the Perplwed," in The Guide of the Perplewed, trans. S. Pines (Chicago , 1963). 4 The chapters of the Harizi and Latin versions are enumerated one less than those of the Ibn Tibbon version. I shall use the latter scheme as is common practice. 5 .S. Feldman, " A Scholastic Misinterpretation of Maimonides' Doctrine of Divine Attributes," in Studies in, Maimonides and St. Thomas Aquinas, ed. J. Dienstag (New York, 1975), pp. 58-59. 6 See The One God, (St. Louis, 1944), p. 404. 1 See "Le role d'analogie en theologie dogmatique," Bibliotheque Thomiste 15 (1931) : 149 and 169. s See his translation of De veritate, q.2, a.I, in The Disputed Question on Truth (Chicago, 1952). MAIMONIDES AND AQUINAS 2. Aquinas's Criticism of Maimonides There are five points of disagreement between Aquinas and Maimonides. First, Aquinas argues that if expressions such as " God is wise " and " God is angry " are used to indicate only a likeness of effect, i.e., we say " God is wise" or " God is angry " because in his effoots he acts lilre a wise or angry person , there would he no difference in the...


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