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Saadia Gaon: The Book of Beliefs and Opinions (Yale Judaica Series) Paperback – September 10, 1989

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Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Arabic, Hebrew --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

'The Book of Beliefs & Opinions, ' was the first systematic attempt to present Judaism as a rational body of beliefs. This is the only unabridged translation into a modern language of the entire text of Saadia's classic work.
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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Judaica Series (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 498 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (September 10, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300044909
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300044904
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #326,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
This is a complete English translation by Samuel Rosenblatt of the Arabic version of Saadia Gaon's "The Book of Opinions and Beliefs". It also includes a brief introduction to Saadia and his works, notes on the translation, and extensive indices.
"The Book of Opinions and Beliefs" is the first systematic treatment of the fundamentals of Judaism, and a classic of Jewish philosophy. It consists of ten treatises besides for an introductory treatise, and the topics covered include the relationship between faith and knowledge, creation and the existence of God, the nature of God, divine commands and prohibitions, obedience and disobedience, reward and punishment, the nature of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, the redemption, and proper conduct and virtues. A variant version of the treatise on the resurrection is included as an appendix.
In my opinion, the most difficult treatises are the introductory treatise on the relationship between faith and knowledge, and the treatise on creation and the existence of God, which includes an ingenious version of the cosmological argument. Nevertheless, the book is generally accessible. It is also very well organized, the argumentation is rigorous, and the treatment of the topics is comprehensive and deep.
I recommend this book highly for those interested in the fundamentals of Judaism and Jewish philosophy. An abridged translation by Alexander Altmann of "The Book of Opinions and Beliefs" is also available. Readers may also be interested in the more difficult "Guide for the Perplexed" by Maimonides, and the easier "Duties of the Heart" by Ibn Pakuda. The latter focuses on ethics, but also includes chapters on the existence and nature of God.
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Format: Paperback
Samuel Rosenblatt, who translated Saadiah Gaon's (882-942) philosophical classic The Book of Beliefs and Opinions into English in 1948, called Saadiah's magnum opus "the first systematic presentation of Judaism as a rational body of beliefs."
Saadiah's goal was to teach the truth of Judaism. He insisted that Jews should not adhere to traditions without thought. People must use their intelligence. They should not be afraid to ask daring questions about doctrine. This is not only permitted, it is mandatory. The source of the truth is irrelevant. Whether Greek philosophy or Moslem theology, the sole test of an idea is whether it is logical and consistent with science and experience. Any truth that helps clarify the Bible is welcome.
Yet, he insisted that reason cannot negate divine revelation. People do not have sufficient intelligence and knowledge to be certain that what they reason is true. Thus God aided Jews by giving them "ready-made truths" through revelation with which to govern their lives. Philosophical reflection, therefore, only furnishes secondary evidence of the authenticity and value of Torah teachings, for the Torah is the first and most reliable source of the truth.
Thus, Saadiah took his ideas from whatever source satisfied his inclination. However, despite his statements about the use of reason, because he relied upon his understanding of the Torah's revelation, Saadiah accepted improvable notions because they were ancient traditions.
1. He insisted that Jews believe that God created the world from nothing.
2. God is indivisible, unique and incorporeal. Biblical statements depicting God acting as a human must be understood as figures of speech, for God has no body.
3. God created the world as an act of grace, to make people happy.
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By Simon on February 18, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Saadia Gaon was a very well learned man.

As concerns philosophy certainly the first treatise on creation is the most impressive, I found his first treatise incredibly succinct in certain places and very powerful.

The rest of the book philosophically seems less sophisticated but has good moments as well.

Probably one of the best things about this book is how it acts as an overview on various aspects of Jewish belief

Scripture is quoted frequently, throughout, very frequently. I'd also point out despite being head of a Talmudic School, and no doubt well educated in the Talmud quotations of the Talmud are rather infrequent.

Often his exegesis is fanciful, but sometimes valid and interesting.

I recommend the first treatise as an incredibly rigorous defence of creation by one God. The rest of the treatises for a representation of Jewish belief.
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In the 10th century, Saadia Gaon, a Babylonian Torah scholar, wrote this book to address a wide variety of topics, using both reason and scripture. In addition to endorsing traditional Jewish views, Saadia sought to address topics seemingly left up for grabs by the Torah. Tbe book begins with the most abstract material, and then gets more specific (and perhaps a bit less deep) towards the end.

The first two chapters (or "treatises") address tbe nature of creation. In the first (and deepest) chapter, Saadia seeks to prove that God created the universe out of nothing. This chapter was a bit over my head in spots. One interesting sidelight: Saadia addresses a dozen alternative theories, and implies that the first alternative is the most credible, the second is the second most credible, and that the last is the weakest. But in my untutored opinion Saadia's order of proceeding is not obviously logical: his top alternative is that God created the universe out of "eternal spiritual beings" (p. 50) and the allegedly weakest alternatives are "skepticism" (i.e. that "it is proper for man to refraining from believing anything becuase they calim that human reasoning is full of uncertainties" (p. 80) and the views "of those who feign complete ignorance" (p. 82). But the latter alternative seems to me stronger than the former. Either 9th-century people viewed the world very differently than I, or Saadia was putting the weaker alternative first in order to strengthen his argument.

The second chapter discusses the nature of God- asserting that God is One and has no body. Interestingly, Saadia rejects the common midrashic view that the various names of God in the Torah refer to different Divine attributes. Instead, Saadia points out that Scriptures often uses names interchangeably (p.
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