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Perspectives on MaimonidesPhilosophical and Historical Studies$
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Joel L. Kraemer

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780197100714

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9780197100714.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 19 September 2021

Maimonides on Religious Language

Maimonides on Religious Language

(p.175) 9 Maimonides on Religious Language*
Perspectives on Maimonides

Arthur Hyman

Liverpool University Press

This chapter assesses how Maimonides’ concern with religious language is part of his overall philosophic programme in which the correct understanding of language applied to God is one of the central themes. Not only is it obligatory for the intellectual elite to have a philosophically correct understanding of divine attributes, but even the unsophisticated masses must be taught that anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terms applied to God cannot be taken in their literal meaning. To present Maimonides’ views on religious language, the chapter undertakes a threefold task. First, it examines a passage from the Treatise on the Art of Logic in which Maimonides analyses the various ways in which terms may signify. Second, it discusses how he uses the distinctions of the Treatise in the Guide of the Perplexed to show that anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terms occurring in Scripture must be taken in a spiritual sense. Third, it considers the reasons which brought him to his position that accidental attributes predicated of God must be interpreted as attributes of action, and essential attributes as negations or negations of privations. The chapter concludes by looking at how Maimonides’ account of divine attributes influenced his attitude towards prayer.

Keywords:   Maimonides, religious language, divine attributes, anthropomorphic terms, anthropopathic terms, Treatise on the Art of Logic, Guide of the Perplexed, Scripture, prayer

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