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Maimonides' Fiction of Resurrection

R O B E R T S. K I R S C H N E R University of California, Berkeley

An abridged, annotated English translation of Maamar Tehiyat Hametim (Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead, 1191) by Maimonides (R. Moses ben Maimn, 1135-1204) with critical analysis. The translation is confined to Maimonides' direct rebuttal of criticisms concerning his opinion of resurrection. A crucial issue in the Maimonidean controversy of the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries was whether or not Maimonides affirmed the rabbinic doctrine of corporeal resurrection. Suspicion was generated by his elliptical treatment of the subject in his previous works. Examination of these sources yields a legitimate basis for confusion. In Mcfamar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides advances four major explanations: weaker minds have misconstrued his meaning and methodology; resurrection is a temporary prelude to incorporeal existence in the world to come; resurrection is a miracle which is not susceptible of speculative proof; allusion is sufficient for the knowledgeable. Each of these explanations, upon analysis, is fraught with difficulties and equivocations. Certain passages from Maimonides' other works, especially Moreh Nevukhim (Guide of the Perplexed, 1190), suggest that the ambiguity of his treatise on resurrection is intentional and expedient. The paper proposes that in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides creates a kind of legal fiction by which he virtually eviscerates the doctrine he claims to profess. Thus he sustains the multitude's necessary belief in corporeal reward while signalling his true belief to the enlightened.*

I Maimonides' most celebrated avowal of belief in tehiyat hametim, the resurrection of the dead, is found in hisPerush Hamishnayot (Mishnah Commentary), introduction to chapter Heleq. There he describes resurrection as one of several beliefs taught by the sages with respect to reward for fulfilling the commandments. He suggests that the promise of reward was strategic: "In order that the multitude should remain faithful and observe the commandments, it was permitted to tell them that they should hope for a reward. Perhaps if they could strengthen their resolve they might ultimately grasp the truth."1 Maimonides then cites a talmudic passage2
(*) I am indebted to Prof. Barry S. Kogan for reading drafts of this article and offering many helpful comments and suggestions. (1) Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:5. (2) Ber. 17a. This and all subsequent talmudic citations refer to the Babylonian Talmud.




which he interprets to prove the incorporeality of the world to come (colam haba0). Subsequently he mentions that resurrection is one of the cardinal principles established by Moses and is promised to the righteous alone.3 Maimonides concludes his introduction to chapter Heleq by enumerating thirteen fundamental roots of belief. For ten of the thirteen he cites proof texts from the Torah. 4 For two others concerning idolatry (no. 5) and prophecy (no. 6) he claims it is unnecessary to cite scriptural proof, since both roots have the bulk of the Torah as their warrant.5 But for the thirteenth and last root, the resurrection of the dead, Maimonides neither cites nor suggests the existence of any scriptural proof: "The thirteenth fundamental root is the resurrection of the dead, which we have already explained." Apparently Maimonides refers here to the brief comments just noted: the incorporeality of the world to come and the exclusion of the unworthy from this reward. But resurrection, the belief that ultimately the dead will be revived in their bodies and live again, is to be distinguished from the belief in other forms of existence after death or in the immortality of the soul. In truth Maimonides does not discuss corporeal resurrection in the introduction to chapter Heleq. While the mode of presentation of the thirteen roots suggests awareness of the need to explain each one discursively and to legitimize it by invoking Pentateuchal authority, in both respects resurrection is the lone exception. In Maimonides' Mishneh Torah, Sefer Madac, the first twelve roots enumerated in the introduction to chapter Heleq are repeated:

1 2 4 5

Yesode Hatorah

1:1 1:7 1:11


(3) On the exclusive title of the righteous to the world to come, Maimonides cites Ta. 7a, Ber. 18a. (4) Root 1: Exod. 20:2 2: Deut. 6:4 3: Deut. 4:15 4: Deut. 33:27 7: Exod. 33(120-23; cf. Deut. 34:10); Num. 9:8; Lev. 16:2 8: Num. 16:28 9: Deut. 13:1 10: Gen. 6:5, 18:20 11: Exod. 32:32 12: Parashat Bilacam (Num. 22:2-25:9) Parashat Niavim (Deut. 29:9-30:20) (5) Root 5: Rov hatorah mezaheret calav. 6: Umiqra?e hatorah mecidim cal nevifat nexnHm harbeh.




6 7 8 9

7:1 7:6 9:1 91


11 12


8:1 8:7

However, the closest Maimonides comes to repeating root thirteen is to mention resurrection once in the course of enumerating twenty-four classes of persons who have no share in the world to come (Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:6). Each of these twenty-four is defined in the following hahkhot (Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:7-4:6) with the lone exception of the denier of resurrection. In Hilkhot Teshuvah 8-9, where the world to come and the immortality of the soul are discussed at length, resurrection is never mentioned. In Sejer Hamisvot (Book of Commandments), since Maimonides discusses only those roots which, in his view, are expressly enjoined or prohibited in the Torah, resurrection is excluded. In Moreh Nevukhim (Guide of the Perplexed), the words tehiyat hametim are mentioned only incidentally in the course of talmudic citation. 6 Nowhere in the Moreh does Maimonides discuss resurrection.7 Whether it was a case of careless or contrived ambiguity, Maimonides' elliptical treatment of resurrection in his works provoked serious confusion in his own time. Whether or not he affirmed the rabbinic doctrine of corporeal resurrection became a crucial issue in the Maimonidean controversy that engulfed the Jewish scholarly world in the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries. 8 He was urgently and persistently requested to
(6) E.g., Moreh Nevukhim III, 23; cf. BB 16a, where Raba understands Job 7:9 to deny resurrection. D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy 1180-1240 (Leiden 1965), pp. 114-15, cites Raba's interpretation as proof that the rabbinic doctrine of resurrection was inconsistent and consequently allowed Maimonides great latitude in determining its content. However, Raba's interpretation is meant to censure Job rather than to justify his denial; moreover, in Sanh. 91b Raba unequivocally affirms corporeal resurrection. (7) Several of the other roots, e.g., the coming of the Messiah, are mentioned only incidentally in Moreh Nevuhhim. See A. Hyman, "Maimonides' Thirteen Principles," Jewish Medieval and Renaissance Studies (Cambridge, Mass. 1967), pp. 135-36, who suggests that resurrection was among those principles lying outside the strict philosophic subject matter of the Moreh. (8) See D.J. Silver, op. cit., pp. 109-35; and Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem 1971), v. 11, col. 747 f. For an account of the protracted debate over Maimonides' resurrection doctrine between his contemporaries Joseph ben Todros Abulafia and Sheshet Hanasi3 of Saragossa, see A. MarxJ, v. 25 (1934-35) PP 406-28.




clarify his views. Even his disciple Joseph ben Judah, the addressee of the dedicatory epistle prefacing Moreh Nevukhim whom Maimonides consid ered his most able student of philosophy,9 misunderstood the Maimoni dean approach to the allegorization of Scripture with respect to resurrec tion.10 Finally in 1191, shortly after completing Moreh Nevukhim (1190),11 Maimonides composed Maamar Tehiyat Hametim, in which he sought to allay suspicions concerning his belief in the resurrection of the dead.12 At the conclusion of Maamar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides apologizes for the repetitive and elaborative character of his discussion. The Maamar explores questions of methodology, hermeneutics and metaphysics far removed from the immediate subject of resurrection.13 The abridged English translation oMaamar Tehiyat Hametim which follows is confined to Maimonides' direct rebuttal of criticisms concerning his opinion of resurrection. For my English translation14 I have consulted Hebrew translations of the original Arabic by Samuel ibn Tibbon (published ca. 1200)15 and Joseph Kfih (published 1972).16 In 1939 a critical version of the ibn Tibbon text together with MS variants was published by Joshua Finkel.17 My English translation follows FinkePs division into fifty-three paragraphs. Of these, forty are translated here in whole or in part. Abridgment is indicated by the absence of a paragraph number from the 1-53 sequence. Deletion within a paragraph is indicated by an ellipsis (. . .). Words or phrases in (parentheses) have been added by me for the sake of clarity.
(9) See I. Twersky, Introduction to the Code ofMaimonides (Mishneh Torah) (New Haven and London 1980), pp. 41-42. (10) See Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn, ed. and tr. J. Kfih (Jerusalem 1972), p. 133. (11) Z. Diesendruck, HUCA, v. 12-13 (1937-38), pp. 461-97, argues that the correct date of publication of Moreh Nevukhim is 1185. (12) The superficial and unsubstantiated theory that Maamar Tehiyat Hametim is a forgery, advanced by J.L. Teicher in Melilah, v. 1 (1944), pp. 81-92, has been decisively refuted: see, e.g., I. Sonne, "A Scrutiny of the Charges of Forgery Against Maimonides' 'Letteron Resurrection,'" PAAJR, v. 21 (1952), pp. 101-17; J. Kfih, ed., Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn (Jerusalem 1972), pp. 66-67. (13) See I. Twersky, op. cit., p. 44, who describes Ma*amar Tehiyat Hametim as "more a defense of his method and philosophic conception of religion... than a rebuttal of criticisms concerning resurrection." (14) The one previous English translation of Maamar Tehiyat Hametim by S. Moris, Jewish Messenger (Philadelphia 1859), 11 pp. 82-83, 12 pp. 90-91, 13 p. 98, 14 p. 106, 15 p. 114, has rarely seemed satisfactory. Cursory examination substantiates the judgment of J. Finkel, "Maimonides' Treatise on Resurrection," PAAJR, v. 9 (1938-39), p. 86, that Moris' translation is "a very free one, to put it mildly." (15) Ibn Tibbon was personally instructed by Maimonides on the proper technique of translation; see A. Marx,/, v. 25 (1934-35), pp. 376 ff. (*6) Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn, tr. J. Kfih (Jerusalem 1972), pp. 69-101. (17) Magala Fi Tehiyyat Hametim, tr. J. Finkel, PAAJR, v. 9 (1938-39), Hebrew pp. 1-42.




II Maamar Tehiyat Hametim (Par. = paragraph) Par. 1 It is not improbable that one might intend to explain the meaning of a particular premise in clear and simple language, striving to relieve any doubts and to forestall the possibility of (erroneous) interpretations, and nevertheless the feebleminded will understand from these same words the opposite of what one meant to convey. Such a thing has already occurred even with respect to the words of God, may He be exalted. For instance, when (Moses) the master of all the prophets sought to convey God's commandment that He is one and there is no other like Him, 18 in order to eradicate from our minds those false beliefs cherished by the dualists,19 he proclaimed this tenet: "Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." 20 But the Christians cited this verse as proof that God, may He be exalted, is three. 21 They said: (The verse) says "the Lord," "our God," and "the Lord" (again), a total of three names; after that it says "one," proof that there are three and the three are one, God forbid. Par. 2 If this can occur with respect to the words of God, how much the more so with respect to the words of a human being. . . . When we gathered our strength and set out 22 to compile the laws of the Torah and to explain its rules, our aim was to (fulfill) the will of God, may He be exalted; not to seek reward or honor from men but to set straight, clarify and explain to those lacking understanding how, in our view, one should understand the words of the Torah sages of blessed memory who preceded us. It seems to us that we simplified and rendered intelligible abstruse and difficult subjects and collected and assembled scattered and disparate sources. We knew that at the least we were accomplishing something. . . . If our work failed to clarify or simplify to any greater extent than the work of our predecessors, then we have earned divine reward only for our intention, for the Merciful One desires the heart.23 Par. 4 . . . When we learned of those who profess falsehood and doubt
(18) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim I, 68. (19) See, e.g., the reference to Persian dualism, Sanh. 39a; cf. Ber. 33b, Hag. 15a with respect to the term shete rashuyot. (20) Deut. 6:4. (21) J. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance (New York 1961), p. 19, suggests that the controversy over the exegesis of Deut. 6:4 transcended the sphere of purely academic debate. (22) My translation of this phrase follows the suggestion of ibn Tibbon in his glossary, no. 4, appended to Magala Fi Tehiyyat Hametim, tr. J. Finkel, op. cit., Hebrew p. 40. (23) Cf., e.g., Sanh. 106b.




but imagine themselves to be the wise men of Israel, when in fact they are the most ignorant of men, stray cattle, their brains teeming with wonders, delusions, and fantasies like women and children, we realized that it would be necessary for us to explain in our halakhic works the principles of religion by stating them (simply) rather than by demonstrating their validity, since bringing evidence for these roots requires aptitude in many sciences of which the talmudists know nothing, as we explained in Moreh Nevukhim.24 We preferred that at the least the fundamental truths should be accepted by the masses. Par. 5 In the introduction to ourPerush Hamishnayot we discussed certain principles of belief with respect to prophecy and the oral tradition.... In chapter Heleq we elucidated root principles relating to the beginning and the end, that is, the unity (of God) and the world to come, along with other tenets of the Torah. We did this also in the great compendium Mishneh Torah, whose value is recognized only by those among the pious and wise who recognize the truth and possess sufficient aptitude, who understand the method of the compendium and appreciate the extent to which the collected sources were scattered and how they have been arranged in order. In this work we have cited all of the religious and talmudic princi ples, intending thereby that those who are called scholars or ge*onim or whatever you wish to call them 2 5 should base their branches (i.e., legal rulings) on talmudic roots; that their (study216 of the) Torah should be well ordered and their (study of the) entire Talmud should be facilitated. All of this should be built upon religious principles, that they not cast the knowledge of God behind them 2 7 but rather direct their most fervent effort to that which will lead them to perfection and bring them near to their Creator not to that to which the masses attribute perfection. Par. 6 Included among those roots upon which we remarked is the world to come. We discussed at length the truth of the world to come, cited evidence concerning it from Scripture and from the teachings of the sages of blessed memory, and interpreted that which is suitable for men of wisdom to interpret. In chapter Heleq we explained the reason that we discussed the world to come but not the resurrection of the dead. We said that we observed people discussing only resurrection, asking such ques tions as whether the dead will rise up naked or clothed. 28
(24) I, 34-35. (25) See Perush Hamishnayot, Bekh. 4:4, where Maimonides ridicules the multiplicity of honorific and dubious titles accorded to scholars in Palestine and elsewhere. (26) The parenthetical insertion of the word "study" is based on the context of Ta. 7b-8a, from which Maimonides here appears to borrow. (27) Cf. I Kings 14:9. (28) Cf. Sanh. 90b; Ket. 11 ib; Shab. 114a.




Par. 7 However, the world to come was completely neglected. Moreover we explained there that while the resurrection of the dead is one of the tenets of the Torah, it is not thefinalend; rather thefinalend is the life of the world to come. The purpose of all of this was to explain what some consider to be a serious difficulty, namely that while the Torah refers to reward and punishment in this world, it makes no explicit reference to reward or punishment in the world to come. We explained the words of the Torah as the ancient sages interpreted them for us: the Torah means to say that the final reward is the life of the world to come and the final punishment is excision from the world to come. These are the same subjects which we discussed at length also in the compendium, Hilkhot Teshuvah.29 Par. 8 However, in chapter Heleqt as anyone who looks there will find, after we concluded the discussion of the world to come we said that the resurrection of the dead is a tenet of the Torah. One who does not believe this has no share in the Torah of Moses our teacher, peace be upon him; but it is not the final end. So also in the compendium we enumerated twenty-four who have no portion in the world to come. We specified the number twenty-four for fear that some copyist might delete one of the number and say that the author failed to mention it. Among the twentyfour that we enumerated is he who denies the resurrection of the dead.30 When we mentioned the world to come we explained there as well that it is thefinalend. This we said as follows: "This is the ultimate reward and the ultimate good."31 Par. 9 We explained also that in the world to come there is no corporeal existence, as our sages of blessed memory said: "In the world to come there will be no eating or drinking or sexual intercourse."32 It is a contradiction for these organs to exist without purpose.33 Heaven forbid that God should act in vain. For if a man would have a mouth, stomach, liver, and sex organs yet would not eat or drink or procreate, then their existence would be completely useless. To refute these pearls34 for which
(29) Ch. 8-9. (30) Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:6. (31) Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:3. (32) Ber. 17a. (33) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim III, 25; Shab. 77b. (34) I.e., wisdom; cf. the parable related by Maimonides in Moreh Nevukhim I, 34: "(H)e who knows how to swim brings up pearls from the bottom of the sea, whereas he who does not know, drowns. For this reason no one should expose himself to the risks of swimming except he who has been trained in learning to swim." For this and all subsequent passages from Moreh Nevukhim I cite the translation of Sh. Pines, (Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed, Univ. of Chicago 1963).




there exist rational proofs it is unworthy to cite the literal interpretations fit for talk among women in the house of mourning. 35 Par. 10 . . . Those who would attribute to God a vain action by claiming that He would make organs for no purpose do not realize the magnitude of their affront. Par. 11 But the masses cannot imagine existence apart from the body. . . . Most of them believe that God is a body. In their view, if He were not a body He would not exist.36 Yet to those who are rightly called wise it is evident that what is separate from matter is of stronger essence than what is composed of matter; or rather than saying it is of stronger essence, incorporeal essence is true essence, since none of the modes of change affect it. To the discerning this signifies that God is not a body, that a body has no power, and that consequently the degree of His exalted essence is the perfection of existence. Par. 12 Thus that which is created separate (from matter), i.e., the angels and the intellect, is of much stronger and truer essence than any body. Consequently we believe that the angels are not bodies and that those who exist in the world to come are disembodied souls, i.e., intellects. In our treatise Moreh Nevukhim we have already elucidated the evidence of this derived from the Torah. 37 If one of the ignorant does not subscribe to this but prefers to believe that the angels are bodies and that they engage in eating, as Scripture says, "And they ate,"38 and that moreover those who exist in the world to come are also bodies, nonetheless we shall not be strict with him about this, nor shall we consider him a heretic, nor shall we censure him. Nor do we consider everyone who maintains such a view to be an ignoramus. 39 As long as all of the ignorant err only to this extent, we can hope that their minds are free of the belief that the Creator is composed of matter. . . . Par. 13 . . . It is hardly surprising that many verses of Scripture and various teachings of the prophets, when interpreted literally, appear to contradict our view by referring to God as a body with an eye or an ear. Once the demonstrable rational proofs of the impossibility of this were
(35) I.e., idle talk, chatter. (36) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim I, 26. (37) On angels, see Moreh Nevukhim I, 46; II, 6; III, 45; on souls, I, 70. (38) Gen. 18:8: "And (Abraham) took butter and milk and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before (the three 'men' or angels); and he stood by them under the tree, and they ate." (39) Maimonides expresses the same view in a letter to a disciple in Baghdad, Kobez Teshubot Harambam VeHggerotav, ed. A. Lichtenberg (Leipzig rept. 1969), pt. 2, pp. i6a-b: "There is no harm to your religion in supposing that those who exist in the world to come are bodies. . . . Even if you were to suppose that they eat and drink and procreate in the high heavens or in the garden of Eden, as it is said, this does your religion no harm."




verified, however, we realized, as they (the sages) said, that "the Torah speaks in the language of men."40 Yet these same proofs are incomprehensible to one who believes (only) in matter. Par. 15 When this book of ours, that is, the compendium, was published and became widely known, we were told that some scholar in Damascus maintained that there is no resurrection of the dead and that the soul does not return to the body once it has separated from it. Those who were present asked him, "How can you say such a thing?" As evidence he cited what we had mentioned in the compendium: the final end is the world to come where there is no corporeal existence. They in turn cited evidence from the common knowledge of the people and the many teachings of the sages on this subject, but he replied that all of these were metaphorical; and so their argument with him continued. When we heard about this we disregarded it, deeming it inconsequential since no one could be so ignorant as to misunderstand what we said. Par. 16 Then in 1189 we received a letter from Yemen inquiring about various matters. It mentioned that some people there had concluded that the body perishes and the soul does not return to it after death, and that reward and punishment are for the soul alone. They derived this from what we had said concerning those who exist in the world to come. When they were apprised of the plain and clear statements of the sages of blessed memory and the prophets concerning the resurrection of the dead, they said these were metaphorical and subject to interpretation. Since such an opinion was widespread, we were requested to prepare a responsum. We answered their questions and explained to them that the resurrection of the dead is a tenet of the Torah; the soul returns to the body, and this is not to be understood metaphorically; and that resurrection is followed by the world to come, as we explained in chapter Heleq.41 We thought that this (explanation) would be sufficient. Par. 1 y When the present year 1191 arrived we received letters from several colleagues in Baghdad. They said that the current head of the Baghdad academy, a certain R. Samuel Halevi,42 having been asked about these same matters, composed for the people in Yemen an essay on the
(40) E.g., Qid. 17b. (41) No such statement is attested, as noted by J. Kfih, Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn (Jerusalem 1972), p. 79 n. 2. See below, p. 181. (42) Samuel Halevi, also called Samuel ben 3Ali, the most prominent Babylonian scholar of the twelfth century, was the ga*on of the academy in Baghdad for some thirty years and the recognized leader of several neighboring countries. His polemics with Maimonides on resurrection and other halakhic matters attracted public attention in the late twelfth century. Perhaps their most famous debate concerned the crossing of rivers on the Sabbath: see TeshuvotHarambam, ed. . Freimann (Jerusalem 1934), pp. 66-68,362-67 (dated 1191). The arguments were not strictly ideological. Maimonides severely criticized the dynastic struc-




resurrection of the dead in which he respectfully discussed our teaching on the subject, arguing that some of it is erroneous while some merits assent. Following this correspondence we received a copy of the essay that thisgaon wrote, and we saw all of the homilies and tales gathered therein. It is known to everyone that what is required of the wise is neither fanciful homilies nor tales such as women tell each other in the house of mourning. Rather the wise are required to interpret these (homilies and tales) and explain their meaning so that they become intelligible or nearly so. Par. 20 . . . In short, everything that this man has said, or most of it, has already been said in one way or another or in an inferior fashion. But it is not our purpose in this essay to dispute what is included in that essay 43 .. . . Those who wish may pursue controversy, but for us God forestalls such a course. Par. 2i Know, reader, that our purpose in this essay is to explain what we believe with respect to this tenet which has been the subject of scholarly discussion, the resurrection of the dead. This essay contains no addition to what we said about it in the Perush Hamishnayot or in the compendium. Rather it contains a mere repetition of these matters, an elaboration for the multitude, and additional explanation which women and children will understand nothing more. It says that the resurrection of the dead is a matter of common knowledge among our people. It is agreed upon by all of our communities. It is mentioned in prayers,44 sermons, and supplications composed by prophets and great sages and discussed throughout the Talmud and Midrash: namely, that the soul returns to the body after separating from it. Concerning this there is no controversy among the people, no other interpretation; and it is impermissible to suspect any adherent of the religion of maintaining otherwise. Par. 22 In this essay we will explain to you why we do not interpret those verses (concerning the resurrection of the dead) as we interpret many others in the Torah, that is, metaphorically. The resurrection of the dead, i.e., the return of the soul to the body after death, is mentioned by Daniel in such a way that it admits of no other interpretation: "And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to eternal life, some to shame and everlasting contempt." And the angel said to him: "As for you,
ture of the gaonate and openly challenged gaonic authority. J. Kfih, Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn, ibid., p. 65, argues that Maimonides' opponents knew of his antagonism for R. Samuel and exploited it. They addressed the gaon in Baghdad rather than local scholars in Egypt in anticipation of a polemical response. Cf. S. Assaf, ed., "Letters of R. Samuel ben 3Ali and His Contemporaries," Tarbiz, v. 1 (1930), pp. 63 f. (43) But see Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn, ibid., pp. 132-33, for Maimonides' derisive assessment of R. Samuel's treatise on resurrection. (44) The Gevurot, the second benediction of the TefiUah included in every Jewish weekday, Sabbath and festival worship service, describes God as mehayeh hametim.




go your way until the end; and you shall rest and stand up to your lot at the end of days."45 Par. 25 Therefore the contention that we consider the resurrection of the dead in Scripture to be metaphorical is a flagrant lie and slander. Indeed our compendium has already been published, and anyone may read it and see if we have said such a thing. We have said only what the sages of Israel have already said about it, for instance in regard to the dead of Ezekiel46 about which the talmudic sages differ.47 In any purely theoretical controversy it is impossible to reconcile* two contradictory opinions. We have discussed this several times in the Perush Hamishnayot.48 It seems to us from these (talmudic) texts that those people whose souls return to their bodies will eat, drink, procreate and die after prolonged lives as in the days of the Messiah. Par. 24 However, the life after which there is no death is the life of the world to come where there is no corporeal existence. For as we believe, and the truth is evident to any intelligent person, in the world to come there will be souls without bodies, like angels.49 For the body is merely an aggregate of organs governed by the soul. This has already been demonstrated. . . . Par. 25 . . . It has already been explained to us by a multitude of sages that in the world to come there is neither eating, nor drinking, nor sexual intercourse.50 Thus it is evident from the absence of the body that God, may He be exalted, does not create anything in vain, nor does He do anything without purpose.51 Heaven forbid that His wise actions should be compared to those of idols "who have eyes but do not see and ears but do not hear."52 Yet such is God, may He be exalted, according to those (who believe in corporeal life in the world to come): He creates bodies or organs not for their intended purpose but rather for no reason at all. Perhaps, according to these people, those who exist in the world to come are solid balls or pillars or cubes.53 This is simply ludicrous. "O that ye would altogether hold your peace, and it would be your wisdom."54
(45) D * n - w** ! 2 : l 3 (46) Ezek. 37:1-14. (47) Sanh. 92b; cf. Moreh Nevukhim II, 46. (48) E.g., Sanh. 10:3, Sheb. 1:4. (49) See n. 37. (50) Ber. 17a; cf. *Avot Derabi Natan 1:8 quoting Exod. 24:10 f. Although Maimonides attributes this view to "a multitude of sages," it has no tannaitic parallel and is not widely attested. See G.F. Moore, Judaism (Cambridge, Mass. 1946), v. 2, pp. 392-93. (51) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim II, 28; III, 25. (52) Ps. 114:4,5 (53) See ToratHcfadam, ch. ShacarHagemul, end, where Nahmanides (RaMBaN) submits that the world to come will be inhabited by bodies modified to perform mysterious functions. (54) Job 13:5.




Par. 2 6 The cause of all this, as we have explained, is the inability of the masses to conceive of anything apart from the body or that which befalls a body: whatever is not a body or a part of the body does not exist. Whenever they wish to establish the existence of a given thing they attribute matter to it, that is, they solidify its essence. We have already discussed explicitly many principles related to this subject in the Moreh.55 If someone wishes to find fault with this view, let him do so; if he wishes to blunder and err, let him speak. This will not annoy us, for as we explained in the Moreh,56 we prefer to guide just one intelligent person capable of grasping the truth, even if thousands of fools reject us on account of their false beliefs. Par. 2j However, we deny and before God we protest our innocence in this matter the theory that the soul never returns to the body and that such a thing is impossible. The denial of this (i.e., resurrection) leads to the denial of all of the miracles, and the denial of miracles is heresy and (signifies) departure from the religion. Consequently we account the resurrection of the dead to be one of the tenets of the Torah. In our works there is nothing which teaches the denial of the return of the soul to the body but rather that which teaches the opposite. . . . Par. 28 There is no basis for a person to err regarding this explanation and say that we contend that every resurrection of the dead in Scripture is metaphorical. Rather, some are undoubtedly metaphorical; others are literally true, as we have mentioned; and in a few instances there is doubt as to whether they are metaphorical or literally true.. . . For the purpose of this essay, there is no need for these details. The truth of certain matters is not enhanced by many words or frequent repetitions, nor is it diminished by few words or few repetitions. You know that the tenet of the unity (of God), i.e., Scripture's statement "the Lord is one," 57 is never duplicated in the Torah. Par. 30 Other people have already called into question what we said at the end of the compendium where we declared, "Do not think that the king Messiah will need to perform miracles and wonders, bring new things into the world, resurrect the dead, or do other such things."58 We cite proof of this in our explanation of it. But a few feebleminded people thought that this was a denial of the resurrection of the dead which contradicts our explanation in the Perush Hamishnayot that the resurrection of the dead is a tenet of the Torah. All of this is obvious. There is no doubt or contradiction about it. What we meant was that the Messiah will
(55) (56) (57) (58) Moreh Nevukhim I, 1, 26, 46, etc. I, introduction (end). Deut. 6:4. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Melakhim 11:3.




not be required to work miracles such as splitting the sea or resurrecting the dead as a sign. He will not be required to perform a sign because it has already been promised by the ancient prophets whose prophecy is confirmed. This does not purport that God will not revive the dead when He wishes, as He wishes, and whom He wishes, whether in the days of the Messiah, before him, or after his death. In sum, nothing we have said in any of our works occasions the doubt of anyone capable of reflection, but only of novices. Par. 32 While we call these promises and the like metaphorical, we do not say this with absolute assurance since we have not received prophetic revelation from God announcing that they are metaphorical.59 Nor do we find a rabbinic tradition received from the prophets explaining in specific detail which of these passages are metaphorical. This brings me to a subject that I shall elucidate for you. Our aspiration and that of all wise men among the select few is contrary to the aspiration of the multitude. For the religious multitude it is more pleasing and more compatible with their ignorance to make of the Torah and of reason two contradictory extremes. They claim that every rationally inexplicable phenomenon is a miracle. They reject the notion that it may actually be a natural occurrence, whether it be recounted from the past, witnessed in the present, or predicted for the future. But we aspire to unite Torah and reason, and we describe all of these phenomena according to natural and feasible order. Only when a phenomenon is explicitly called a miracle (in Scripture) and is otherwise inexplicable are we compelled to acknowledge it as a miracle. Par. 34 . . . In sum, these matters are not tenets of the Torah and one need not be strict about how to understand them. One must hope and believe in these things in a general way until their imminent disclosure; then it will be clear whether they are metaphor or miracle60. . . . Par. 35 It seems to me that what has caused some people to misunderstand our words concerning the resurrection of the dead is that while we elaborated on the subject of the world to come, elucidating the truth and citing the related teachings of the prophets and sages, we mentioned only briefly that the resurrection of the dead is a confirmed tenet. There were two reasons for this. First, all of our works are concise. Our purpose is neither to increase the size of books nor to waste time to no purpose. Consequently we explain only what is necessary and only to the extent requisite for apprehension. We compose our works as summaries.
(59) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim, III, introduction. (60) See the comments of I. Twersky, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (Mishneh Torah) (New Haven and London 1980), pp. 366-67 n. 31. While allegorical interpretation is axiomatic for Maimonides (e.g., Hilkhot Yesode Hatorah 1:9, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:4), it is not always transparent (e.g., Hilkhot Melakhim 12:2).




Par. 36 Second, the purpose of elaboration is to clarify an abstruse matter or to demonstrate whether or not it is true. This requires three categories of scientific knowledge: mathematics, physics, and metaphysics. . . . But what is said about miracles is neither abstruse nor difficult, and it is impossible to demonstrate the truth of what has already occurred or is destined to occur. Rather, one perceives them through the senses or accepts them from one who has perceived them. Accordingly we explained the world to come and elucidated it owing to its obscurity and because it is part of the natural order of things, i.e., the immortality of the soul. Par. 3 7 However, resurrection of the dead is in the category of miracles. Obviously its meaning is understood, and there is nothing one can do but accept it on faith alone, since the true (prophetic) utterance has been transmitted to us. Since this phenomenon occurs outside the existing realm of nature, no proof of it can be derived from reflection. Like any other miracle, we accept it and that is all. What more can we say about this? . . . You, the readers of our compendium, already know that we are always inclined to omit controversies and debates. Were it possible for us to condense the Talmud into one chapter, we would not condense it into two. How can they ask us to mention all of the homilies and tales which can be found elsewhere? There is no use in repeating them just to say we have compiled them. Having reached this point in the present essay and having fulfilled our purpose, we recognize the essay's worthlessness since it includes a mere repetition of what has already been discussed in the Perush Hamishnayot and in the compendium, as well as additional explanation for the ignorant or the insolent. We realize that we should not conclude without a useful contribution. Thus we shall comment upon two questions related to the present subject. Par. 38 The first (question) we shall explain is why numerous verses are found in Scripture which, in an explicit manner admitting of no possible allegorization, deny the resurrection of the dead 61 . . . . Par. 39 The second question is why the Torah never mentions this tenet (of resurrection) even in allusive much less explicit language. For if one cannot avoid saying that the Torah alludes to this tenet, and since they cite the sages' statement that (the tenet of) resurrection is derived from the Torah, 62 one can only say that the allusions are hidden, especially since the sages themselves differed concerning them. This second question, then, is why does not the Torah refer to this (i.e., resurrection) in plain
(61) Maimonides cites the following as examples of verses which appear to deny resurrection: II Sam.. 14:14; Isa. 38:18-19; Ps. 78:39, 88:11; Job 7:9, 10:21, 14:14. (62) M. Sanh. 10:1; see below, pp. 184-185.

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and clear language which is not susceptible of interpretation rather than in a way that invites conjecture, in the manner of one who conceals in speech something which he does not wish to disclose? Par. 40 To the first question we reply that the prophetic discourses and the Hagiographa describe only the normal course of existence. 63 It is known that the nature of this existence is the union of female and male living creatures who reproduce their species. The newborn develops gradually until it dies. The return of the individual to be reconstituted a second time after his death does not occur in nature; for in nature those living persons who die never return in the same form. Rather, they perish and gradually decompose until they return to the elements and the primeval matter by a specific process. There remains no discrete part to which it is possible to allude or of which one may say that this was such and such. It is only man who cleaves to the divine emanation which necessitates that something abide in him that cannot cease or perish. However, the body of man dies like the bodies of all other living creatures. . . . This is what occurs in nature. Par. 41 It is this that all of those verses of Scripture (appearing to deny resurrection) are (really) about. There is no difference between the verse, "If a man die, may he live again?"64 and, "Are we to bring you forth water out of this rock?"65 Such a thing cannot possibly occur in nature; hence the water went forth from the rock miraculously. So also the resurrection of the dead is miraculous. Therefore whatever appears to deny the return of the dead relates to what occurs in nature. This does not deny the return of the dead should God, may He be exalted, desire their return. . . . Par. 44 With respect to the second question, namely, why is not the resurrection of the dead mentioned in the Torah, I shall now explain the answer to you. Know that our opinion is already known that this Torah and all it includes does not originate with Moses our teacher but with God. 66 Hence the question for us to examine is by what mode of wisdom God, may He be exalted, informed us about the life of the world to come while explaining nothing about the resurrection of the dead. The reason for this is that resurrection is miraculous, as we have explained; and confirmation of such a thing is found only in prophecy. Now at that time all men were Sabians67 who professed the eternity of the world for they
(63) Cf. Moreh Nevukhim II, 29. (64) Job 14:14. (65) Num. 20:10. (66) Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:8. (67) The religion of the Sabians as portrayed in Moreh Nevukhim constitutes Maimonides' description of ancient oriental paganism. The Sabians believed in spirits (1,63), worshipped stars (III, 29), practiced magic (III, 37), and venerated trees (III, 45).




believed that God was the spirit of the sphere, as we explained in the Moreh68 and denied divine revelation. Par. 45 Moreover their belief compelled them to deny the miracles by attributing them to sorcery and trickery. . . . How can one convey to a denier of prophecy knowledge for which the only proof is belief in the prophet? Furthermore resurrection was absolutely impossible for them owing to their belief in the eternity of the world, for resurrection is possible only if miracles occur. Par. 46 When God wished to give the Torah to Israel, proclaiming its precepts and prohibitions throughout the earth through the agency of (Moses) the master of all the prophets, as Scripture says, "that My name be proclaimed throughout all the earth,"69 He performed the miracles specified in the Torah in order to confirm for them the truth of prophecy and the creation of the world. For the true sign serves as decisive proof of the creation of the world, as we explained in the Moreh.70 (Initially) He proceeded no further than those matters pertaining to reward and punishment in this world and natural phenomena such as the immortality of the soul or its excision, as we have mentioned, i.e., the world to come or excision. He did not go so far as to introduce the subject of resurrection. So it continued until these tenets became firmly established over the course of generations, and there remained no doubt concerning prophetic revelation or the innovation of miracles. Only then did the prophets 71 tell us what God had conveyed to them concerning the resurrection of the dead, for (by then) it was easy to accept. Par. 47 . . . It is known that those people to whom God wished the Torah to be revealed in their days already maintained false beliefs. After the forty (years in the wilderness), after all they had seen of the great deeds of God, (Moses) said to them: "But the Lord hath not given you a heart to know, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, until this day."72 For God, may He be exalted, knew that if they were told of the resurrection of the dead, it would have seemed impossible to them and they would have recoiled from the notion. They would even have committed sins contemptuously, knowing that only in the remote future would punishment be exacted. Consequently it was concerning immediate matters which they could comprehend that (God) struck fear in them "If you obey, if you
(68) I, 70; III, 29, 45. (69) Exod. 9:16. (70) Moreh Nevukhim II, 25. (71 ) Maimonides* use of the plural "prophets" here is not elaborated in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim. Only Daniel is cited for proof of resurrection. (72) Deut. 29:3.




disobey"73 for this (approach) was easier and more useful for them to accept. . . . Par. 52 To ask why this or that sign was performed for them but not the ultimate sign that is, the resurrection of the dead and punishment and reward for the body and the soul after death is like asking why, among the signs performed by (Moses) the messenger of God, a staff was turned into a serpent rather than a stone into a lion. All of this depends on the decree of wisdom which we cannot fathom at all; moreover, we already discussed the mode of wisdom with respect to this (omission of resurrection in the Torah). Possibly there is another mode or several modes of exalted wisdom which we do not fathom. Par. 53 It is unworthy of a wise person to fault us concerning either the repetitive treatment of one subject in this essay or the lengthy explanation of that which does not require it. We wrote this essay only for the sake of the masses who doubted our teaching, even though it is obvious, and because of criticism concerning the minimum of elaboration on the subject of resurrection. But for those who are perfect in wisdom, allusion is sufficient. They require neither repetition nor explicit elaboration but rather the chapter headings, in accord with our method of addressing all of these profound subjects in the Moreh and in all of our works. This is consonant with what the sages of blessed memory said: "He said to him: 'Expound this.' He replied: 'We do not expound to a wise man.' He said to him: Teach this.' He replied: 'We do not teach a wise man.'"74 It is evident to you that discourse with the perfect does not require repetition or explication: "Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser."75 However, the masses need both of these together: "Precept by precept, precept by precept, line by line, line by line, a little here, a little there,"76 meaning that they will understand only a little here and grasp only a little there. Still it is fitting to speak to each group according to its capacity. May God who is exalted make us upright in word and deed and save us from sin and error for His mercy's sake. Amen. Ill Maimonides seems to advance four major explanations of his theory of resurrection: 1) Weaker minds have misconstrued his meaning and his methodol(73) (74) (75) (76) E.g., Lev. 26, Deut. 28; cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 9:6. Sifra?, Lev. 15:13. Prov. 9:9. Isa. 28:13.



ogy, mistaking brevity for lack of conviction (par. 1,2,4, 5 8 , 30, 32,35, 36, 37 53) 2) Resurrection is merely a temporary prelude to the incorporeal life of the world to come, although this is inconceivable to the ignorant (par. 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 23, 24, 25, 26, 40). 3) Since resurrection is not a natural phenomenon but a miracle, no proof of it can be derived from reflection (par. 27, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 41, 44 52). 4) Not everyone is capable of apprehending the truth, but for the knowledgeable allusion is sufficient (par. 4,5,11,12,13,15,21,26,30,32, 53) Although Maimonides professes the wish to clarify his doctrine of resurrection, his disclosures in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim are no less equivocal than his reticent comments in the introduction to chapter Heleq and in Mishneh Torah. Each explanation is problematic. Explanation 1 Maimonides commences his defense by comparing the plight of his own words to that of Scripture: both are vulnerable to flagrant misin terpretation (par. 1-2). He explains that in order to clarify the abstruse and to redact widely scattered sources on disparate subjects, a certain process of compression and simplification is unavoidable (par. 2, 5). Consequently it is his practice to explain in summary form "only what is necessary and only to the extent requisite for apprehension" (par. 35). Maimonides' argument is that the "minimum of elaboration on the subject of resurrection" for which he has been criticized (par. 53) is in truth a necessary consequence of comprehensive codification. Likewise his pref erence in his halakhic works for simple assertion rather than demonstra tive proof is a concession to those of insufficent aptitude (par. 4). The reader is left to ponder an apparent contradiction: in order to explain one must simplify, but in order to simplify one must not explain (par. 4). While Maimonides directs withering scorn at those who have misun derstood him (e.g., par. 12, 15, 17, 21, 24, 25, 26), he also concedes that until the present essay he had neglected to discuss resurrection ade quately (par. 6, 35, 53). He characterizes his misinterpreters as "feeb leminded" (par. 1, 30), "ignorant" (par. 12, 15, 32, 37), "insolent" (par. 37), "fools" (par. 26), and "novices" (par. 30) and derides their assorted arguments as "fanciful" (par. 17), "ludicrous" (par. 25), effrontery (par. 10), and "slander" (par. 23) "fit for talk among women in the house of mourning" (par. 9, 17). Yet he also mentions that misconceptions of his view of resurrection were so pervasive (par. 15) even in Yemen (par. 16),




where he was most fervently admired, that the ga*on of the Baghdad academy was asked to write a responsum on the question (par. 17).77 Throughout his works Maimonides extols the practical, pedagogic, and aesthetic virtues of brevity. He particularly admired the terse language of the Mishnah of Judah Hanasi3 and consciously emulated it in his own Mishneh Torah.78 In Maamar Tehiyat Hametim, Maimonides repeatedly refers to his propensity for succinct expression (par. 28, 35, 37, 53). Yet he characterizes the essay as "mere repetition" (par. 21, 37) and "additional explanation which women and children will understand" (par. 21). 79 Although Maimonides suggests that he discussed resurrection "at length" in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah (par. 7), it has already been noted above that there is no such discussion of resurrection; rather the incorporeality of the world to come is argued (Hilkhot Teshuvah 8). Similarly, Maimonides claims to have written in the introduction to chapter Heleq that resurrection precedes the world to come (par. 16), but careful investigation of the text yields no such statement. Furthermore, Maimonides invokes Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 as indisputable scriptural proof of corporeal resurrection (par. 22); yet in the introduction to chapter Heleq he never mentions his own locus classicus even though each of the other twelve roots of belief is supported by scriptural citation or reference. In fact, neither Dan. 12:2 nor 12:13 is mentioned anywhere else in the works of Maimonides.80 Explanation 2 Citing Ber. 17a, Maimonides argues that the existence of bodies in the world to come would be purposeless (par. 9, 25). God can never act without purpose or design. Consequently those who claim that life in the world to come is corporeal "do not realize the magnitude of their affront" (par. 10). For those who contend that bodies may exist there in some other material form, Maimonides reserves his most caustic sarcasm: "Perhaps those who exist in the world to come are solid balls or pillars or cubes. This is simply ludicrous" (par. 25). Furthermore, he declares, most of those who believe in corporeal resurrection in the world to come also believe
(77) See n. 42. (78) See Maimonides* letter to R. Phinehas ben Meshullam of Alexandria, in Kobez TeshubotHarambam Veiggerotav, ed. A. Lichtenberg (Leipzig rept. 1969), pt. 1, pp. 25a-27a. (79) I. Twersky, op. cit., pp. 339-46, argues that Maimonides' digressive and repetitious treatment of certain subjects, problematic in light of his repeated emphasis on brevity, may be attributed to polemical emphasis. (80) See J. Kfih, Hamiqra3 Barambam (Jerusalem 1972), p. 133.




that God Himself is a body (par. 11). Not only is this belief expressly contradicted by the Torah; 81 it is worse than idolatry (Moreh Nevukhim I, 36). Yet the multitude cannot conceive of incorporeal existence (par. 11,
12, 26).

In an almost offhand manner Maimonides writes that the soul will be restored to the body after death during the messianic era promised by the prophets and preceding the world to come. After prolonged physical lives the bodies of the righteous will, as it were, die again and give way to souls without bodies (par. 23, 24). It is difficult to reconcile Maimonides' opinion with the talmudic notion of corporeal resurrection. In his gloss to Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:2, Abraham ben David of Posquieres (RABaD) sees this clearly: "The words of this man seem to me to be very near to him who says there is no resurrection of the body but only of the soul. By my life, this is not the view of the sages." While Maimonides cites Ber. 17a to prove that no bodies exist in the world to come, he chooses to ignore such passages as Sanh. 91b, where in response to the question of whether the bodies of those who had been lame, mute, or otherwise impaired in their lifetimes will rise with or without these defects, the answer is: "They will rise with their defects and then be healed." In the same vein, rabbinic literature discusses whether the resurrected bodies will be clothed or naked 82 (cf. par. 6) and even imagines how the bodies might travel from dispersion to the land of Israel: "(God) makes cavities like channels for them in the earth, and they roll along in them until they reach the land of Israel, when the HolyJDne, blessed be He, will infuse life into them, and they will arise."83 According to the sages, resurrection seems to be a literally corporeal phenomenon. There is less certainty in rabbinic sources as to whether resurrection precedes, follows, or is coextensive with eternal bliss. A trace of the notion of multiple posthumous rewards may possibly be found in the Mekhilta Derabi Yishmacel where R. Eleazar of Modcin lists six rewards for observing the Sabbath, including the separate designations colam haba0 and cofam hadash.84 Saadiah GaDon (882-942), like Maimonides, postulates two periods of resurrection, one in the messianic era for the righteous of Israel and the other in the world to come for all men. But unlike Maimonides, Saadiah theorizes that the righteous will not revive twice; first they will be resurrected in the messianic age and then transported to
(81) See Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Y esode Hatorah 1:7-8. (82) Sanh. 90b, Ket. 116b, Shab. 114a. (83) Gen. Rabbah 96:5. (84) Mekhilta0 Derabi Yishmacel, ed. Horowitz and Rabin, second ed. (Jerusalem 1970), p. 169.




the world to come when it comes. 85 In his Sefer Emunot Vedecot Saadiah designates the messianic era cet hage^ufah or cet hayeshucah and the world to come hacolam haaher or colam hagemul.86 Maimonides, however, borrows none of Saadiah's terminology to describe his own schema. According to Maimonides, the messianic era retains a physical context, but neither form nor matter exists in the world to come. 87 He defines resurrection as a kind of preliminary: one is resurrected in one's body only to die again in order to be resurrected without it. The reader is left to devise a plausible reason for the surplus (corporeal) resurrection. Explanation 3 Maimonides insists that the resurrection of the dead is a miracle which must be accepted on faith (par. 34,36,37,44), while the incorporeal world to come is susceptible of elucidation (par. 6) and rational proof (par. 9). Both are religious tenets even though neither resurrection (par. 39) nor the world to come (par. 7) is ever explicitly mentioned in the Torah. In the case of the world to come, its omission from the Torah is Maimonides' explicit reason for discussing the subject at length in chapter Heleq and in Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah (par. 7). Yet in the case of resurrection, its omission from the Torah is Maimonides' explicit reason for classifying it as a miracle (par. 44) of which nothing can be said: "Like any other miracle, we accept it and that is all. What more can we say about this?" (par. 37). In short, the same justification for discussion of the world to come forecloses discussion of resurrection. Similarly, Maimonides explains that the generation to whom the Torah was first revealed was not told by God about the resurrection of the dead because the people were unprepared to accept the idea and because the promised reward was too remote in time to effectively discourage transgression (par. 47). Yet according to Maimonides,88 this did not deter God from telling the same generation about the world to come, even though according to Maimonides' own formulation it is a reward both more
(85) See I. Efros, Studies in MedievalJewish Phibsophy (New York and London 1974), pp. 111 f. (86) In Saadiah's Book of Beliefs and Opinions, ed. S. Rosenblatt (New Haven 1948), the four designations appear as follows: cethageulah (VII, 1, 162); cet hayeshucah (VIII, 1, 175); hacolam ha?aher, colam hagemul (V, 1, 138). (87) Biblical exegete Abraham ibn Ezra (1089-1164), in his comment on Dan. 12:2, writes: "The righteous who die in exile will revive when the redeemer comes, then die a second time and be resurrected in the world to come where they will neither eat nor drink but enjoy the divine splendor." While this theory of resurrection corresponds to the Maimonidean theory, ibn Ezra does not expressly affirm the incorporeality of the world to come. (88) Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8-9.




remote in time (par. 23-24) and more difficult to imagine (par. 11,12,26) than resurrection and consequently, again according to his own explana tion (par. 47), an even less effective deterrent for which the people were even less prepared. No more satisfactory is Maimonides' timid explanation of why miracles other than resurrection are attested in the Torah: "(This is like asking) why a staff was turned into a serpent rather than a stone into a lion. All of this depends on the decree of wisdom which one cannot fathom at all " (par. 52). The inscrutability of divine wisdom with respect to the presence of other miracles in Scripture does not prevent Maimonides from discern ing the divine wisdom behind the absence of resurrection (par. 46, 47). Of all the possible scriptural proof texts for resurrection, 8 9 Maimonides cites only Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 as unequivocally literal (par. 22). Other verses pertaining to resurrection are metaphorical and still others are doubtful (par. 28). Even the enlightened cannot distinguish metaphor from miracle with assurance (par. 34). Like his definition of the miracle of resurrection, Maimonides' choice and interpretation of scrip tural proof rest ultimately on faith and therefore require no defense or elucidation. Once again he effectively forecloses discussion. "For the purpose of this essay there is no need for these details. The truth of certain matters is not enhanced by many words. . . ." (par. 28). The choice of Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 for scriptural proof of resurrection is also puzzling in light of M. Sanh. 10:1 9 0 and its subsequent elaboration in the Talmud (Sanh. gob-g2a). Among those who have no share in the world to come, the Mishnah names haomer en tehiyat hametim min hatorah, he who says that resurrection of the dead is not derived from the Torah. Sanh. gob-g2a consists of an anthology of proposed scriptural exegeses demonstrating that resurrection is intimated in the Torah. 9 1 Ignoring the numerous Pentateuchal citations, Maimonides cites only Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim. In his introduction to M. Sanh. 10 (Heleq), as noted above (p. 2), he fails to cite any scriptural proof at all. In Maamar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides concludes that the Torah never mentions resurrection "even in allusive much less explicit lan guage" (par. 3g). He accords resurrection the status of Pentateuchal authority without offering exegetical proof. Possibly this was the original intention of M. Sanh. 10:1 as well, since the phrase min hatorah does not
(89) See below, n. 91. (90) Ch. Heleq, the eleventh chapter of tractate Sanh. in the Babylonian Talmud, is the tenth chapter of Sanh. in the Jerusalem Talmud and the Mishnah. Maimonides' Perush Hamishnayot follows the order of the Mishnah. (91) Including Exod. 6:4,15:1; Num. 15:31,18:28; Deut. 4:4,11:21,31:16,32:39,33:6; also Josh. 8:30; Isa. 4:3, 26:19, 52:8; Jer. 31:8; Ps. 72:16, 84:5; Prov. 30:16; Cant. 7:9.

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appear in the parallel Tosefta text (Sanh. 13:5) nor in a number of Babylonian Talmud MSS.92 Without the words min hatorah, the Mishnah text simply insists on the verity of resurrection without attempting to cite scriptural proof. This is precisely Maimonides' approach in the introduction to chapter Heleq. But it does not tally with his categorical assertion in Ma^amar Tehiyat Hametim of literal and unassailable scriptural proof of resurrection (par. 22). Still another difficulty inheres in Maimonides' exclusive citation of Dan. 12:2 and 12:13. He repeatedly invokes the authority of confirmed prophecy for the tenet of resurrection (par. 30, 37, 44, 45, 46), yet for scriptural proof he relies on the words of a prophet whose exclusion from the prophetic canon he himself justifies in Moreh Nevukhim (II, 45). Maimonides classifies Daniel as a prophet of only the second degree and within this category adjudges him the inferior of such prophets as Isaiah and Jeremiah, both of whom are quoted in Sanh. 9ob-g2a to provide proof of resurrection. On the solitary occasion when Maimonides cites scriptural proof, he avoids both the first-degree prophecy of Moses and that of superior second-degree prophets in favor of Daniel's vision. Explanation 4 Maimonides protests that although he has declared his opinion of resurrection previously (par. 6, 8, 16, 21,30), the ignorant are still unable to understand him. What is worse, they go so far as to reverse his meaning: " . . . The feebleminded . . . understand from these same words the opposite of what one meant to convey" (par. 1). "In our works there is nothing which teaches the denial of the return of the soul to the body but rather that which teaches the opposite" (par. 27). 93 While frequently expressing frustration over such confusion (par. 9, 10, 15, 17, 20, 21, 25, 26, 30), Maimonides insinuates that his words invite conjecture: "(F)or those who are perfect in wisdom, allusion is sufficient." They refer only to "the chapter headings" and require no explication. "Still it is fitting to speak to each group according to its capacity" (par. 53). On the one hand, Maimonides scolds his interpreters for deriving other meanings from his words; on the other hand, he intimates that this is precisely his purpose. He castigates his readers for their confusion about ambiguities which appear to be intentional.
(92) In Tosefta, ed. M. Zuckermandel (Jerusalem 1975), p. 434, the phrase min hatorah does not appear in the text nor in any Tosefta MSS included in the critical apparatus. R.N. Rbbinowicz,DiqduqeSofenm (Munich 1867-97) considers min hatorah here an interpolation. (93) The same accusation is found in Perush Hamishnayot, introduction to chapter Heleq, where Maimonides accuses literalists not only of ignorance but of "making the Torah of God say the opposite of what it intended."




In his three apologies for the occasion and content of his essay (par. 21, 37 53) Maimonides strikes a similarly antithetical posture. He shares asides with the enlightened while claiming to speak to the multitude (cf. par. 32); he openly ridicules the multitude while protesting that he is writing only for their edification. In conclusion he insists that he "wrote this essay only for the sake of the masses" (par. 53), yet he addresses the concluding paragraph exclusively to the elite. IV Careful analysis of each of Maimonides' four major premises in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim reveals that in certain respects he aggravates rather than alleviates the problem of ambiguity in his resurrection doctrine. Far from laying the matter to rest, the publication of the Maamar instigated further controversy. Even defenders of Maimonides* orthodoxy confessed some perplexity over his theory of resurrection. 94 Throughout Ma*amar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides refers to the con tent and methodology of Moreh Nevukhim, which he completed in 1190 9 5 immediately prior to composing the Maamar (1191). The chronological proximity of the two works suggests the possibility of affinities in tech nique and content as well. L. Strauss has suggested that the Maamar is "the most authentic commentary on the Guide."96 Maimonides' explicit reference to Moreh Nevukhim at the conclusion of the Maamar (par. 53) suggests that the reverse may also be true Certain passages from the Moreh seem to shed light on the ambiguities under discussion. In Ma*amar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides complains that even though he has already spoken clearly, if briefly, on the subject of resurrection, the ignorant have misconstrued both what he said and what he failed to say. The introduction to Moreh Nevukhim (I), however, indicates that veiled language, contradiction, and subterfuge are sometimes necessary tech niques for the transmission of certain truths to the multitude: For my purpose is that the truth be glimpsed and then again be concealed, so as not to oppose that divine purpose which one cannot possibly oppose and which has concealed from the vulgar among the people those truths especially requisite for His apprehension. You likewise know Solomon's saying (Eccles. 7:24): "That which is
(94) See, e.g., D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy 11801240 (Leiden 1965), pp. 128 f. (95) Seen. 11. (96) L. Strauss, "The Literary Character of the Guide for the Perplexed," Essays on Maimonides (New York 1941), p. 71.




far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out?" That which is said about all this is in equivocal terms so that the multitude might comprehend them in accord with the capacity of their understanding and the weakness of their representation, whereas the perfect man, who is already informed, will comprehend them otherwise. In speaking about very obscure matters, it is necessary to conceal some parts and to disclose others. Sometimes in the case of certain dicta this necessity requires that the discussion proceed on the basis of a certain premise, whereas in another place necessity requires that the discussion proceed on the basis of another premise contradicting the first one. In such cases the vulgar must in no way be aware of the contradiction; the author accordingly uses some device to conceal it by all means. Moreh Nevukhim contains a public teaching for the multitude and a covert teaching for the elite. It is at once an exoteric and esoteric book, depending on the audience. Maamar Tehiyat Hametim, on the other hand, has been considered a strictly exoteric work.97 However, it has been shown above that each of the four major explanations of Maimonides' resurrection doctrine is fraught with difficulties. In light of the carefully circumscribed technique described in the introduction to Moreh Nevukhim (I), Maimonides' equivocations in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim may be strategic. His professed asperity with the multitude's ignorance may conceal his intention to safeguard it. In Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 10:5, Maimonides expressly defends this strategy: Hence when instructing the young or the ignorant in general, we teach them to serve God out of fear or for the sake of reward, until their knowledge increases and they have attained more wisdom. Then we reveal to them this secret (truth) little by little and train them gently until they grasp it and comprehend it and serve God out of love. We have seen above (p. 1) that Maimonides expresses the same idea in his introduction to chapter Heleq: the promise of reward is intended to lead the ignorant to the truth, but the truth may be revealed only when the multitude is prepared to understand it (cf. par. 47; Moreh Nevukhim 1,33). In Maamar Tehiyat Hametim (par. 11) Maimonides compares those who believe that bodies inhabit the world to come to those who believe that God is a body. In Moreh Nevukhim (1,36) belief in corporealism with respect to
(97) See, e.g., D. Hartman, Torah and Philosophic Quest (Philadelphia 1976), p. 253 n. 67.




God is considered the most fundamental error, even worse than idolatry. The body is composed of corruptible matter which must, by definition, die: All bodies subject to generation and corruption are attained by corruption only because of their matter. . . . Thus in the case f a man, for instance, it is clear that the deformity of his form, the fact that his limbs do not conform to their nature, and also the weakness, the cessation, or the troubling of all his functions no matter whether all this be inherent in his natural constitution from its beginning or be only a supervening accident that all this is consequent upon his corrupt matter and not upon his form. Similarly every living being dies and becomes ill solely because of its matter and not because of its form (Moreh Nevukhim III, 8). Moreover, whatever is formed of matter receives the most perfect form possible in that species. This is the principle of individuation (Moreh Nevukhim III, 12-13). If bodies were to exist in the world to come, they could only exist as individuals. But for Maimonides this is impossible. Nor does the intellect retain its individuality: Now you know that regarding the things separate from matter I mean those that are neither bodies nor forces in bodies, but intellects there can be no thought of multiplicity of any mode whatever.. . . Consequently all are one in number . . . (Moreh Nevukhim I, 74).98 By reason of both the corruptibility and the individuation of matter, bodies cannot exist in the world to come. Corporeal resurrection coextensive with the eternal bliss of the actualized intellect is therefore impossible for Maimonides; consequently he relegates corporeal resurrection to a preliminary phase occupying the messianic era preceding ultimate death (par. 23-24). The soul returns to the body temporarily only to depart again. By this definition resurrection is deprived of any discernible purpose. The world to come is "the ultimate reward and the ultimate good" (par. 8), resurrection a mere delay for the sake of temporarily prolonged life in a body that will perish the second time as surely as it did the first. In Moreh Nevukhim (III, 25; cf. par. 9, 10, 25), Maimonides insists that God cannot act without purpose: "A man endowed with intellect is incapable of saying that any action of God is vain, futile, or frivolous." Yet Maimonides
(98) Cf. Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:3, Yesode Hatorah 4:9. In the opinion of Avicenna (see below, p. 189), the soul retains its individuality after death; see F. Rahman, Avicenna's Psychology (London 1952), pp. 106-07.




reduces the function of resurrection to the point where it is trivial. It is neither a necessary reward nor one upon which the ultimate reward is contingent. It is incompatible with Maimonides' definitions of the world to come and the nature of matter. By professing belief in resurrection which by his own definition is ultimately superfluous, Maimonides preserves only a semblance of orthodoxy. Circumspection was a necessary condition of philosophic speculation in Maimonides' time. Opposition from within and without the Jewish world imposed compelling pressures. Among those Aristotelian philosophers who may have influenced Maimonides," al-Frb (870-950), Avicenna (Ibn Sina, 979-1037), and Averroes (Ibn Rushd, 1126-1198) routinely employed techniques of literary dissimulation to thwart the suppression of unorthodox views. 1 0 0 In Moreh Nevukhim (I, 31), Maimonides cites three causes of "disagreement about things" as enumerated by Alexander of Aphrodisias: the distracting desire for power, the inherent complexity of certain things, and ignorance. To this list Maimonides adds that "in our times" there is a fourth cause, "habit and upbringing." . . . Man has love for, and the wish to defend, opinions to which he is habituated and in which he has been brought up and has a feeling of repulsion for opinions other than those. For this reason also man is blind to the apprehension of the true realities and inclines toward the things to which he is habituated. Pines interprets this pointed addition to Alexander's formulation as a criticism of the insular traditionalism of Maimonides' own time in contrast to the free intellectual climate of Greek antiquity.101 This interpretation is corroborated by various passages in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim (e.g., par. 15, 16, 17, 20), where Maimonides scarcely conceals his impatience with parochial objections and criticisms even from his more learned colleagues. Elsewhere in Moreh Nevukhim (III, 28), Maimonides writes: " . . . The Law . . . makes a call to adopt certain beliefs, belief in which is necessary for the sake of political welfare." It is not the truth but the utility of such
(99) See Sh. Pines, "The Philosophic Sources of The Guide of the Perplexed," intro. to Moses Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, v. 1 (Univ. of Chicago 1963), pp. lvii-cxxxiv. (100) See J. Finkel, "Maimonides' Treatise on Resurrection: A Comparative Study," Essays on Maimonides (New York 1941), pp. 102-21 ; Sh. Pines, ibid. ; L.V. Berman, "Maimonides, the Disciple of al-Frb," Israel Oriental Studies, v. 4 (1974), pp. 154-78; H. Davidson, "Maimonides' Shemonah Peraqim and al-FrbfsFusl al-Madani," PAAJR, v. 31 (1963), pp. 33-50 (101) Pines, ibid., p. lxviii.




beliefs that is important. Their function is to maintain order and tranquil ity among the common people. As we have seen, Maimonides argues in the introduction to chapter Heleq that the only reason for promising the masses an ultimate reward is "in order that the multitude should remain faithful and observe the commandments." The trust and obedience of the masses are crucial to the welfare of organized society. In this light, the promised reward of resurrection serves a critical function: it is one of those beliefs which contribute to social cohesion and conduct the mul titude toward a worthwhile goal, the fulfillment of the commandments. It is not a true belief, but a useful one necessary to lead the ignorant to a more proximate apprehension of the truth. Averroes, a contemporary to whom Maimonides refers approvingly in his letters,102 arrived at the identical conclusion: the promise of divine reward must be expressed in corporeal terms to compel the obedience of the masses. In this way the notion of resurrection serves a constructive moral purpose by promoting a life of virtue.103 Maimonides needed to express his avowal of resurrection in such a way that the useful belief of the multitude would be upheld while the truth of the matter would be visible to those capable of seeing it. His initial reticence and ambiguity on the subject of resurrection in the introduction to chapter Heleq and in Mishneh Torah were probably devised for this purpose. Only when public clamor became urgent did he accede to the request that produced Maamar Tehiyat Hametim. Added to the task of professing a merely useful doctrine as true, Maimonides was now compel led to be explicit. His solution, it is proposed here, was to create a kind of fiction. In legal systems, an assumption which conceals a change of princi ple by retaining the obsolete formula is classed as a fiction.104 In Maamar Tehiyat Hametim, Maimonides declares his belief in corporeal resurrection 105 while simultaneously denying it any discernible purpose. By this fiction he virtually eviscerates the doctrine he claims to profess. The enlightened will perceive the ruse; the masses, for whom the promised reward of resurrection serves a useful purpose, will remain serene in their belief.
(102) In A. Marx, JQR, v. 25 (1934-35), pp. 378-80; Iggerot: Mosheh Ben Maimn, ed. D.H. Baneth (Jerusalem 1946), p. 70. ( 103) See M. Fakhry.A History of Islamic Philosophy (New York and London 1970), p. 315. (104) Fiction is one of three agencies (along with equity and statute) by which law is brought into harmony with public opinion. The latter two terms have rather precise halakhic counterparts: equity may be expressed lifnim mishurat hadin; see, e.g., B. Cohen, Jewish and Roman Law (New York 1966), v. 1, p. 97; and statute, taqanah and gezerah. The term hacaramah ("evasion") frequently encountered in the Taimud resembles legal fiction in certain respects; see, e.g., Ber. 31a, MQ 19a, Shab. 117b, M. Macaser Sheni 4:4;,cf. H.C. Schimmel, The Oral Law (New York and Jerusalem 1978), pp. 123-36. (105) A.J. Reines, "Maimonides' Concept of Miracles," HUCA, v. 45 (1974), pp. 243-85,




V Any method of exegesis which prefers connotation to denotation is vulnerable to abuse. In the introduction to Moreh Nevukhim (I), Maimonides adjures his readers to refrain from commentary or explanation due to the likelihood of error. The written word inevitably bears the possibility of multiple interpretations, all the more so when it is avowedly cryptic. Consequently it is not enough to favor one interpretation over another on the basis of internal evidence alone. The present essay has sought to provide corroboration from a critical examination of pertinent passages from Maimonides' other works. The conclusion of this essay is that in Ma^amar Tehiyat Hametim Maimonides creates a fiction by which he sustains the multitude's necessary belief in resurrection while simultaneously signalling the truth to the knowledgeable. This premise is based on: 1 ) Maimonides' elliptical and ambiguous treatment of resurrection in his Perush Hamishnayot and Mishneh Torah, specifically a) the conspicuous omission of discursive explanation or scriptural citation with respect to root thirteen, resurrection, in the introduction to chapter Heleq; b) the failure to forthrightly reaffirm the root of resurrection in Mishneh Torah; c) the fact that among the twenty-four classes of those doomed to suffer divine retribution, the denier of resurrection is the only one who is not subsequently defined in Hilkhot Teshuvah 3:7-4:6; d) the denial of corporeal life in the world to come (Hilkhot Teshuvah 8:3); 2) the widespread confusion and suspicion among scholars, disciples, and the masses engendered by Maimonides' reticence on the subject and his insistence on the incorporeality of ultimate divine reward; 3) Maimonides' equivocations with respect to resurrection in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim, specifically a) accusing his critics of distortion and ignorance while conceding a legitimate basis for confusion; b) extolling economy of language while characterizing his essay as mere repetition;
argues that for Maimonides miracles are rationally explicable anomalies of nature whose causation and future occurrence are predictable by the prophet. To veil this authentic opinion from the multitude, Reines suggests, Maimonides vitiates the vast majority of miracle stories in Scripture without denying the concept of miracles itself. The conclusions of the present essay with respect to resurrection lend explicit support to Reines' general formulation.




c) claiming to have discussed resurrection at length in Hilkhot Teshuvah, when he never did; d) claiming to have written in his introduction to chapter Heleq that resurrection precedes the world to come, when he never did; e) citing Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 as indisputable proof of corporeal resurrection after failing to mention these verses in the introduction to chapter Heleq where each of the other twelve roots is validated by recourse to Scripture; f) professing belief in corporeal resurrection as taught by the sages while consigning it to an ancillary, if not superfluous, function; g) citing the Torah's omission of explicit reference to the world to come to justify his attention to it while citing the Torah's omission of resurrection to justify his neglect of it; h) explaining that the promise of resurrection was originally withheld because it was too remote and inconceivable, while failing to explain why the promise of the world to come, still more remote and inconceivable, was not withheld; i) invoking the incomprehensibility of divine wisdom concerning miracles while comprehending divine wisdom concerning the Torah's omission of the miracle of resurrection; j) failing to explain why, of all possible scriptural allusions to resurrection, only Dan. 12:2 and 12:13 are cited as literal proof; k) relying for scriptural proof of resurrection on prophecy of inferior authority to that cited by the sages (Sanh. gob-92a); 1) expressing frustration over the confusion occasioned by his resurrection doctrine while insinuating that his words invite conjecture; m) claiming to address only the masses while complaining to the enlightened of this endeavor's futility; 4) repeated allusions in Maamar Tehiyat Hametim to Moreh Nevukhim and the chronological proximity of the two works, suggesting affinities in technique and content which illuminate Maimonides' resurrection doctrine, specifically a) his description of veiled language and contradiction as occasionally necessary techniques for the transmission of certain truths to the unenlightened; b) his declaration that corporealism with respect to God is worse than idolatry; c) his account of the corruptibility and individuation of matter, and his opinion that the intellect does not retain its individuality in the world to come; d) his assertion that God cannot act without purpose;

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e) his impatience with the insular orthodoxy of his time; f) his conclusion that certain beliefs are necessary for the welfare of organized society irrespective of their philosophic truth; 5) the conditions of enforced circumspection under which Maimonides labored together with other Aristotelian philosophers; and finally 6) the intensification of controversy over Maimonides' doctrine of resurrection following the publication of Maamar Tehiyat Hametim.106 It is not surprising that the Maimonidean controversy revolved in large part around the interpretation of Maimonides' resurrection doctrine. This issue focalized the problem of whether divinely revealed truth and intellectually derived truth can be reconciled. Maimonides' fiction of resurrection is a significant example of his own attempt to conciliate the imperious claims of halakhah and philosophy.
(106) See n. 94.

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