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Key Terms in Translations of Maimonides’

Key Terms in Translations of Maimonides’

Guide of the Perplexed

(p.305) 11 Key Terms in Translations of Maimonides’
Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" in Translation
Steven Harvey
University of Chicago Press

What characterizes a good translation of a philosophical text? Is there scholarly consensus about which translation, medieval or modern, of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed is best? To the extent that most scholars can agree as to the best translation, is this also the opinion of students and laymen? In Israel, some readers prefer for various reasons the 2002 Hebrew translation of Michael Schwarz, some the 1972 Hebrew translation of Rabbi Yosef Qafih, and some the classic early thirteenth-century translation of Samuel Ibn Tibbon. There are arguments to be made for preferring each one of them, and there is no consensus as to which is the best. In English, the situation is somewhat similar, although the “classic” and oft-considered “authoritative” translation by Michael Friedländer dates back only to 1881–85. Yet over the past decade or so, several learned scholars have independently of each other considered translating the Guide anew into English, while various arguments have been made in support of the need for a new English translation. Such arguments are relevant to the topic of this essay because they bring to the fore contemporary views on the question, what truly is most desired in a translation of Maimonides’ Guide?

Keywords:   Translation, Comparison, Medieval and Modern

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