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Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker (Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World) Hardcover – September 20, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0691137636 ISBN-10: 0691137633

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Editorial Reviews


"Stroumsa considerably broadens our understanding of Maimonides's Graeco-Arabic sources. . . . Stroumsa does a fine job in bringing to life the Mediterranean setting in which Maimonides encountered this ideal, and tried to direct it towards the heart of Judaism. She challenges scholars of Jewish and Muslim thought to look beyond the artificial confines of their disciplines, and raises intriguing questions about the fluid intellectual boundaries of Jewish identity."--Carlos Fraenkel, Times Literary Supplement

"Fascinating."--David Nirenberg, London Review of Books

"The book is well written, presenting its dense material in an accessible way. Though there are many quotations in Arabic, nothing essential is left untranslated or unexplained. Stroumsa makes her points forcefully and persuasively, positioning Maimonides as a thinker of great importance to Muslims as well as to Jews."--Pinchas Roth, AJL Newsletter

"Sarah Stroumsa's erudite and accessible Maimonidies in His World . . . is an exceptional work of critical scholarship that remains readable and relevant beyond the ivory tower. Indeed, its true significance might be found among a more general readership. . . . In the future conversations that are sure to ensue about Maimonides' place in contemporary Jewish life, Stroumsa's portrait will be a most welcome, indispensible guide."--Shai Secunda, Talmud Blog

"Stroumsa is an intellectual historian whose mastery of her material is impressive on many levels. . . . Maimonides in His World . . . is a book that will be considered required reading for anyone who works on Maimonides' life and thought. Stroumsa's scholarship is much too good for anyone in the field to ignore."--Kenneth Seeskin, Shofar

"The book delves into even more detail to discover many of Maimonides' innovations and the way in which they were enabled. Critical to Stroumsa's reading of Maimonides is her insistence that it is impossible to understand any of his texts without taking into account the scholarship of the Arabo-Islamic thinkers of his day."--David Shasha, Huffington Post

"[T]he methodological underpinnings of Stroumsa's approach are rock-solid and eminently worthwhile. Stroumsa is never strident or lacking in critical self-reflection. For every bold position she stakes out, she raises the contra-indications and gives them their due. In trying to understand the personal biography, the intellectual, the theologian, the scientist, and the halakhic authority, Stroumsa has conceived the richest portrait yet of 'The Great Eagle.'"--Ronald C. Kiener, Journal of the American Oriental Society

From the Inside Flap

"Stroumsa paints a richly documented, nuanced portrait of Maimonides as a bold, open thinker whose sometimes revolutionary conception of Judaism draws freely from the multiple philosophical, theological, scientific, and ideological currents of his contemporary Mediterranean world. This intellectual biography covers the full range of Maimonides' writings, from law and philosophy to polemics and medicine, exposing novel and unexpected sources, for example, in Islamic theology and Almohad thought. Stroumsa points scholars in new directions for future study of the greatest Jewish figure of the Middle Ages."--Josef Stern, University of Chicago

"A stimulating, absorbing read. Stroumsa is a valuable and unique voice in a lively complex of debates about this extraordinary thinker. Her fundamental point--that Maimonides must be understood as a well-read and active participant in a diverse multiconfessional culture--is emphatically confirmed by sheer accumulation of data and clever argument."--Everett K. Rowson, New York University

"This is a serious piece of scholarship filled with many very fine insights. Sarah Stroumsa is a leading scholar in Judeo-Arabic studies, and one of those whose writings I value most."--Steven Harvey, Bar-Ilan University

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Jews, Christians, and Muslims from the Ancient to the Modern World
  • Hardcover: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691137633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691137636
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,420,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Sarah Stroumsa, a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel, agrees with S. Pines, the translator of Moses Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed, and writes that she "assumes medieval Jewish philosophy to have been shaped by the surrounding culture and impregnated by it." Stroumsa calls Maimonides "cosmopolitan," a person who belongs to more than one subculture, who interacted with each with "insatiable intellectual curiosity." She shows how the Maimonidean concepts fit the philosophies expounded in the areas that Maimonides inhabited, in Spain, Morocco and Egypt.

While this idea might bother some xenophobic and ultra-nationalistic Jews who insist that all Jewish ideas are original and inspired by God, it would not have bothered Maimonides (1138-1204) himself, for Maimonides wrote that the truth is the truth no matter what its source.

Maimonides mentioned frequently that he read everything he could find on a wide variety of subjects, including paganism, and that he based his ideas in large part upon the teachings of the ancient pagan Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BCE). Aristotle also influenced the general Muslim Mediterranean culture where Maimonides lived; therefore Stroumsa's thesis is certainly correct. She presents her thesis clearly and interestingly and with a wealth of detail.

Stroumsa discusses Maimonides views on subjects such as paganism, life after death, resurrection, Jewish heresies, human perfection, history, astronomy, astrology, medicine, the philosopher as a political leader and other subjects.
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