Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" in TranslationA History from the Thirteenth Century to the Twentieth

Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" in TranslationA History from the Thirteenth Century to the Twentieth

Josef Stern, James T. Robinson, and Yonatan Shemesh

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226457635

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Moses Maimonides’ twelfth century Guide of the Perplexed is the greatest philosophical text in the history of Jewish thought and a major philosophical work in all three faiths of the Middle Ages. Yet, for almost all of its history, the Guide has been read, commented upon, and criticized in translation rather than in its original Judeo-Arabic. This volume is the first to tell the story of the translations and translators of Maimonides’ Guide and its impact in translation on philosophy from the Middle Ages to the present day. The history focuses on the translators’ understanding of the book as reflected in their choice of words and syntactic formulations for the translation, on desiderata such as consistency in translation, and on the ways in which the translations might have shaped readers’ interpretations in ways not intended by Maimonides himself. It highlights the ways in which the translated text led to the development of a philosophical vocabulary within the target languages, the influences of earlier translations on later ones and of other philosophical works on translations of the Guide, and on general methodological questions of translation. The volume is also a cultural history of the Guide and recovers and reclaims its translators, their lives and cultures, philosophical backgrounds, and training, their motivations and reasons for undertaking the task of translation, and their roles in the creation and development of the Maimonidean tradition.