Page:Guideforperplexed.djvu/45

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is a perfect homonym denoting things which are totally

2 See infra page 5, note 4

distinct from each other, and whenever such a demonstration is impossible, he assumes that the expression is a hybrid term, that is, being employed in one instance figuratively and in another homonymously. His explanation of "form" (zelem) may serve as an illustration. According to his opinion, it invariably denotes "form" in the philosophical aeceptation of the term, viz., the complex of the essential properties of a thing. But to obviate objections he proposes an alternative view, to take zelem as a hybrid term that may be explained as a class noun denoting only things of the same class, or as a homonym employed for totally different things, viz., "form" in the philosophical sense, and "form " in the ordinary meaning of the word. Maimonides seems to have refrained from explaining anthropomorphisms as figurative expressions, lest by such interpretation he might implicitly admit the existence of a certain relation aod comparison between the Creator and His creatures.

Jewish philosophers before Maimonides enunciated and demonstrated the Unity and the Incorporeality of the Divine Being, and interpreted Scriptural metaphors on the principle that "the Law speaks in the language of man" but our author adopted a new and altogether original method. The Commentators, when treating of enthropomorphisms, generally contented themselves with the statement that the term under consideration must not be taken in its literal sense, or they paraphrased the passage in expressions which implied a lesser degree of corporeality. The Talmud, the Midrashim, and the Targumim abound in paraphrases of this kind. Saadiah in "Emunot ve-de'ot," Bahya in his "Hobot ha-lebabot," and Jehudah ha-levi in the "Cutari," insist on the necessity and the appropriateness of such interpretations. Saadiah enumerates ten terms which primarily denote organs of the human body, and are figuratively applied to God. To establish this point of view he cites numerous instances in which the terms in question are used in a figurative sense without being applied to God. Saadiah further shows that the Divine attributes are either qualifications of such of God's actions as are perceived by man, or they imply a negation. The correctness of this method was held to be so obvious that some authors found it necessary to apologize to the reader for introducing such well-known topics. From R. Abraham ban David's strictures on the Yad habazakah it is, however, evident that in the days of Maimonides persons were not wanting who defended the literal interpretation of certain anthropomorphisms. Maimonides, therefore, did not conent himself with the vague and general rule, "The Law speaks in the language of man," but sought carefully to define the meaning of each term when applied to God, and to identify it with some transcendental and metaphysical term. In pursuing this course he is sometimes forced to venture upon an interpretation which is much too far-fetched to commend itself even to the supposed philosophical reader. In such instances he generally adds a simple amid plaims explanation, and leaves it to the option of the reader to choose the one which appears to him preferable. The enumeration of the different meanings of a word is often, from a philological point of view, incomplete; he introduces only such significations as serve his object. When treating of an imperfect homonym, the several significations of which are derived from one primary signification, he apparently follows a certain system which he does not employ in the interpretation of perfect homonyms. The homonymity of the term is not proved; the author confines himself to the remark, "It is employed homonymously," even when the various meanings of a word might easily be traced to a common source.

2 (pag. 4-8). In addition to the explanation of homonyms Maimonides undertakes to interpret similes and allegories. At first it had been his intention to write two distinct works--Sefer ha-nebuab, "A Book on Prophecy," and Sefer ha-nebuab, "A Book of Reconciliation." In the former work he had intended to