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Ibn Daud, Abraham ben David Halevi

IBN DAUD, ABRAHAM BEN DAVID HALEVI (known as Rabad I; c. 1110–1180), Spanish historian, philosopher, physician, and astronomer. Ibn Daud, the grandson of Isaac b. Baruch *Albalia, was born in Córdoba, and spent his formative years in the home of his maternal uncle, R. Baruch b. Isaac *Albalia who was his teacher. Though little is known of his life until 1160 it is evident from his writings that he received a well-rounded education, including rabbinics, Bible, Hebrew poetry, and Greek and Jewish philosophy. He was also familiar both with the New Testament and the Koran. In the wake of the Almohad conquest of Spain, he fled to Castile, where he settled in Toledo, the city with which he was most deeply associated, until his death there as a martyr in c. 1180 (cf. Sirat, 1977; see bibliography). Ibn Daud's major historical work, Sefer (or in some Mss. Seder) ha-Kabbalah, was written in 1160–61, the very same year in which his philosophical treatise, Al ʿAqīda al-Rafiʿa, was written. The two were intimately related to one another. Both were polemical treatises, the one defending Judaism through history, the other through philosophy. In actuality, Sefer ha-Kabbalah is only the first portion of a work that has three sections, although it is by far the best known of the three and had the greatest influence over the generations. It is essentially a history of Jewish tradition, oriented primarily against *Karaite teaching, and seeking to prove that it is only within Rabbanite traditions that Scripture fulfills itself. The work was primarily directed to those who had an understanding of Arabic scholarship. It is not the writing of history that was Ibn Daud's basic intent, but rather the utilization of history in order to dispute with the pious heretic of the time, the Karaite. The book opens with a survey of the very earliest generations and indicates the chain by which the Law was handed down from Moses, through the men of the Great Synagogue, the Babylonian exile, the Second Temple period, the time of the Hasmoneans, then the tannaim, amoraim, and geonim, the creation of new centers of learning in Egypt, Kairouan, and the western Diaspora, particularly Spain, to which a full third of the work is dedicated. The primacy of the Spanish center in the work is a reflection of Ibn Daud's stress on its independence from the Babylonian center. He mentions briefly contemporary talmudic scholars in France, and concludes his book with the destruction of the Andalusian communities by the Almohads and the founding of the new rabbinical center in Toledo. Of particular interest to historians through the ages is the story that begins the final chapter of the book, viz., that of the *Four Captives. According to the story, three great sages, R. Moses b. Ḥanokh, R. Shemariah, and R. Ḥushi'el were taken captive by a Moslem captain together with a fourth person who was not identified. They were then sold into slavery in Spain, Cairo, and Kairouan where they began new centers for the study of Torah. While historians have been divided in the past on the extent to which the story reflected historical reality, modern scholarship holds that the story is fictional and that it reflects the independence of the new centers of Torah from the Babylonian academies. Moreover, it also seeks to underline a religious message, that God will never abandon Israel. Appended to Sefer ha-Kabbalah are two additional historical compositions. The first of these is entitled Zikhron Divrei Romi, a history of Rome from the time of its foundation until the rise of the Muslim Empire. Its basic purpose was to attack Christianity by claiming that the New Testament was a late fabrication of Constantine. The second appendix is called Divrei Malkhei Yisrael be-Vayit Sheni (a history of the kings of Israel during the Second Temple period). The latter work is also polemical in tone and is directed at the Sadducean heresy of the Second Temple period, the prototype in Ibn Daud's view of the Karaite heresy of his day. The text is the least original of his work, for it is essentially a paraphrasing of portions of *Josippon, a tenth-century composition of an Italian Jew. Nonetheless it was the first to be translated into a European language and was known to European Christian readers. Sefer ha-Kabbalah had enormous influence down to modern times as an authority on the history of Spanish Jewry and its comments on the talmudic period particularly influenced the 19th-century Jewish historians. Although modern scholarship no longer accords it credence as objective history it remains a significant source for the life and thought of 12th-century Spain. The work was originally published in Mantua in 1514. The definitive critical edition of the text together with an English translation and commentary was published by G.D. Cohen (Sefer Ha-Qabbalah, 1967). Cohen has convincingly argued that Ibn Daud's account of Jewish history conveys a message of messianic redemption. Ibn Daud's book on astronomy, mentioned in Isaac Israeli's Yesod Olam, remains unknown. Similarly, he himself mentioned an anti-Karaite polemical treatise whose whereabouts are unknown.


Ibn Daud is commonly considered to be the first Jewish Aristotelian. His philosophical work Al ʿAqīda al-Rafiʿa represents the first systematic attempt to integrate the doctrines of the Muslim Aristotelians Alfarabi and Ibn Sina into Jewish philosophical thought. The Arabic original is presumably lost. It was translated into Hebrew twice towards the end of the 14thcentury, first by Solomon ben Lavi under the title Ha-Emunah ha-Ramah ("The Escalated Faith") (c. 1391–92), perhaps at the suggestion of Ḥasdai *Crescas, and a little later by Samuel ibn Motot at the suggestion of *Isaac ben Sheshet. This second translation, Ha-Emunah ha-Nissa'ah ("The Sublime Faith") was edited by A. Eran (1990) on the basis of the sole surviving manuscript (ms. Mantua 81). Eran determined that the second translation attempted to improve on the first, but that it is less accurate (Eran 1996). Ha-Emunah ha-Ramah was published in 1852 with a German translation by Simson Weil (1852; Hebrew text partially reprinted 1967) and in 1986 by N. Samuelson with an English translation by G. Weiss.

Ibn Daud's book was soon eclipsed by Maimonides' Moreh Nevukhim which may be why Ibn Daud was mentioned only occasionally by later Jewish philosophers, e.g., by Hasdai Crescas (Or Adonai, 1:1, introduction). Maimonides himself does not mention his predecessor by name, but the parallels between the two works with respect to specific doctrines, biblical exegesis, and intended audience suggest that Maimonides was familiar with Ha-Emunah ha-Ramah. Ibn Daud for his part refers only to Saadiah Gaon and Solomon Ibn Gabirol of the older Jewish philosophers. From his Aristotelian point of view he considered Saadiah's achievement inadequate, despite his respect for him, while he subjected Gabirol's neo-Platonism to severe criticism. Although he does not refer to *Judah Halevi, his thought displays several parallels with Halevi's Kuzari whereas his overall thesis concerning the relation between philosophy and religion can be explained as a response to Halevi's critique of philosophy.

Divided into three treatises Ha-Emunah ha-Ramah provides the beginning student of philosophy with a survey of Aristotelian philosophy as studied by the Muslim philosophers Alfarabi and Ibn Sina. Ibn Daud's aim is to demonstrate the harmony between philosophy and religion to those who, as a result of their study of philosophy, no longer know "how to hold two lamps," that is the lamp of religion and that of philosophy. In particular, the book seeks to solve the question of whether the human will is free or determined, since Scripture is not clear with respect to this issue, as Biblical verses can be adduced in support of either position (ER, Introduction, 2–4). To answer this question, Ibn Daud deals with a wide variety of philosophical themes. The first treatise (ER 4–43) is devoted to physics and metaphysics insofar as is necessary for an investigation of the Jewish religion, whereas the second (ER II 44–98) studies "the principles of religion" in light of contemporary philosophy. Whereas these two treatises are concerned with theoretical philosophy, the subject of the last treatise (ER III 98–104), is "practical philosophy," that is, moral conduct, since the end of philosophy is "action" (Introd. 2–4).


Ibn Daud was the first to introduce Aristotelian logic and a systematic survey of Aristotelian natural philosophy into Jewish philosophy. The book opens with a discussion of substance and accident (ER I. 1, based on al-Farabi's paraphrase of the Categories of Aristotle and Ibn Sina's Maqaulaat (Shifaa'). This discussion forms the basis for Ibn Daud's description of existing things in general and for his account of immaterial substances in particular. The next sections provide detailed expositions of the basic principles of Aristotle's philosophy that recur throughout ER: matter and form, the elements, motion, and infinity (ER I.2–5). Two theses are particularly relevant for his thought: firstly, that there is no motion without a mover, and secondly, that no infinite series can exist in actuality. Ibn Daud's primary source in these sections is Ibn Sina's Shifaa' and possibly also al-Ghazali's Maqaasid al-falaasifa, whereas Ibn Gabirol is criticized for his confused notions on matter and form.


The next topic, the soul (ER I.6–7) is of central importance to Ibn Daud, linked as it is with the preceding discussions on the one hand and to his treatment of immaterial substances, prophecy and ethics in parts II and III on the other. Ibn Daud adopts the Aristotelian definition of the soul as the perfection of a natural body that possesses life potentially. Contrary to what "the physicians" (i.e., Hippocrates and perhaps also Galen) claim, the soul is not an accident or mixture, but a substance in the sense of form. The soul is one but manifests itself through many faculties. Ibn Daud's extensive survey of the various faculties of the vegetative, animal and human soul is based on the premise that these faculties constitute a hierarchy in which each lower level serves the higher. The highest level is the intellect, thanks to which man has a special position among natural beings on earth. Following Aristotelian arguments adduced by Ibn Sina, Ibn Daud argues that the human soul, being immaterial, does not perish with the body, but is immortal.

In line with his aim to establish the harmony between religion and philosophy, Ibn Daud concludes each of the topics discussed in these sections with a paragraph on biblical verses that, in his view, point to or prove the contents of the preceding philosophical discussion. This is also valid for the first four sections of Part II where he moves from the physical world to the heavenly realm (God, His unity, His attributes and the separate substances).


To prove God's existence, Ibn Daud adduces the Aristotelian proof based on motion: all motions derive from a Prime Mover who is unmoved and incorporeal. To this he adds Ibn Sina's proof based on the distinction between necessary and contingent (accidental) existence. All contingents have their origin in a Necessary Existent, God, whose essence implies His existence. While God's essence remains hidden for mortals, His existence, manifested by His actions, can be known. God's necessary existence implies His unity, both in the sense of uniqueness and simplicity, because any plurality in God would contradict His necessary existence. Therefore, Ibn Daud, following the relevant discussions by Ibn Sina and al-Ghazali, adopts the neo-Platonic procedure of interpreting all attributes of God (God as one, existent, true, eternal, living, knowing, willing and mighty) as negations, or as expressing relations of God, for these do not imply plurality in the Divine essence (ER II.1–3).


God's unity precludes that the multiplicity of things proceeds from him directly. From the One only one thing can proceed. Between God and the physical world Ibn Daud posits a hierarchically ordered series of incorporeal substances exists that act as intermediaries between the One and the sub-lunar world. These intermediaries are called "intelligences" in philosophical par-lance and "angels" in Scripture. The existence of the lowest of them, the active intellect, can be deduced from the process of cognition in the human soul. Each of the spheres has a soul and an intellect that is its unmoved mover and the final cause for the soul of the sphere. Only the first intelligence emanates directly from God. Unlike God, it is not necessary per se, and this is where multiplicity enters the order of beings. Each intelligence gives rise to three things: the next intelligence, the next sphere and the soul of that sphere, until the emanation of the active intellect. The forms of species and the individual forms in the sub-lunar world emanate from the intelligences and the spheres (ER II.4). Ibn Daud borrows this account, a mixture of Aristotelian, neo-Platonic and Ptolemaic ingredients, from the Muslim philosophers, albeit with some reservations.


Ibn Daud presents a naturalistic account of the phenomenon of prophecy (ER II.5.1). The active intellect provides the "keys of future things" to those whose intellect has been sufficiently prepared to receive such knowledge. Prophecy is a special form of knowledge that emanates from the active intellect on the imagination and the intellect. Ibn Daud follows his Muslim sources in claiming that prophecy will emanate on those whose soul is prepared. However, in a manner reminiscent of Judah Halevi, he restricts the actual occurrence of prophecy to the Jewish people and the Holy Land. The prophet represents the highest level of the hierarchy on earth and forms the link between the supernal and the sub-lunar world.

Interestingly, halfway in the first section on prophecy Ibn Daud gives up the usual procedure of supporting his philosophical account by biblical verses and starts to integrate biblical and rabbinic passages into the discussion itself. A. Eran (1998, 263ff) has suggested that the section on prophecy originally formed an independent unit that was written together with Sefer ha-Qabbalah, and was later incorporated into ER.


The second section on prophecy (ER II.5.2) consists of a polemic concerning the eternal validity of Biblical Law directed at Muslims, Christians and perhaps also against Karaites. Arguing in syllogistic fashion and using Muslim exegetical techniques Ibn Daud defends the authenticity of the Biblical text: the revelation received by Moses is the only true revelation and the Torah has neither been abrogated nor falsified. One of his unnamed Muslim addressees is the theologian and jurist Ibn Hazm.


The problem of free will is discussed in connection with a number of topics that are relevant to it: causality, the position of the intelligences/angels as intermediaries between God and humans, divine omniscience, providence, and evil (II.6).

Building on Alexander of Aphrodisias's concept of providence, he argues that angels, heavenly bodies and nature act as intermediate causes between God and humans. Ibn Daud, following Ibn Sina, considers evil to be a privation and attributes it to matter. Man must aspire to overcome his matter and to connect with the angels. Man is free to choose to do so thanks to the existence of "free" causes. Human choice belongs to the realm of the possible. Contrary to earlier Jewish thinkers Ibn Daud safeguards free will by declaring that God knows the possible only as possible, while he maintains that this does not imply a deficiency in God's knowledge. Philosophy thus teaches us that human action is undetermined, which implies that Biblical verses that seem to teach the contrary have to be interpreted in accordance with the philosophical position.


The freedom of the will has as its corollary that man is free to choose the right moral conduct by which he will attain bliss. A combination of Platonic and Aristotelian elements on the one hand and of Biblical notions on the other, Ibn Daud's ethics (ER III) hinges on the concept of justice. It is a matter of justice that man serves his benefactor by fulfilling the commandments. In a manner reminiscent of Abraham Ibn Ezra, Ibn Daud argues that intellectual love leads to true service of God. The Biblical commandments offer the best way not only for the perfection of man's character and his relations with his fellow-men, and thus for the ideal society, but also for constant commitment to service of God.

Ibn Daud is certainly one of the most rationalistic of Jewish philosophers. Nonetheless, in his accounts of emanation and divine knowledge he criticizes the philosophers for not recognizing the limits of the intellect. Despite the promised harmony Ibn Daud's thought displays some inconsistencies and "loose ends," for example in his theories on matter, on divine attributes and on prophecy. Moreover, he retains the belief in creation without explaining exactly how it can be re conciled with the Aristotelian view of necessary emanation, and without evaluating the arguments in support of the eternity of the world, as Maimonides was to do a few decades later.

The question of the identity of the twelfth-century Arabic-to-Latin translator Avendauth who collaborated with Dominicus Gundissalinus has not yet been solved. Modern research, however, tends to confirm M. d'Alverny's hypothesis (1954) according to which the translator Avendauth and the philosopher Ibn Daud are one and the same person.


G.D. Cohen (ed.), Sefer Ha-Qabbalah (1967; Eng.); idem, in: PAAJR, 29 (1960/61), 55–131; J. Guttmann, Philosophies, 143–52; Husik, Philosophy, 197–235; J. Guttmann, Die Religionsphilosophie des Abraham ibn Daud aus Toledo (1879); idem (ed.), Moses ben Maimon…, 2 (1914), 233–42; S. Horovitz, in: Jahres-Bericht des juedisch-theologischen Seminars Breslau (1912), 212–86; J. Guggenheimer, Die Religionsphilosophie des Abraham b. David ha-Levi (1850); W. Bacher, Die Bibelexegese der juedischen Religionsphilosophen des Mittelalters vor Maimni (1892), 137–55; D. Kaufmann, Geschichte der Attributenlehre in der juedischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters von Saadja bis Maimni (1877), 241–52, 341–60; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 368–72. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Arfa, "Abraham Ibn Daud and the Beginnings of Medieval Jewish Aristotelianism"(Ph.D. diss., 1954); M.T. d'Alverny, in: Homenaje a Millas Vallicrosa I (1954), 19–43; H.A. Wolfson, Studies in the History of Philosophy and Religion (1973, 1977), index; C. Sirat, in: Italia (1977), 39–61; idem, A History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1985), 141–55; N.M. Samuelson (ed.), Abraham Ibn Daud. The Exalted Faith (1986); M. Schmelzer, in: R. Link-Saliger (ed.), Of Scholars, Savants and their Texts, (1989), 209–15; R. Fontaine, In Defence of Judaism: Abraham Ibn Daud. Sources and Structure of ha-Emunah ha-Ramah (1990); A. Eran, "Mekorotav ha-filosofiyyim shel Avraham ibn Daud be-Sifro AlʿAqīda al-Rafiʿa" (Ph.D. diss., 1990); idem, in: Da'at, 31 (1993), 5–26; idem, in: Tarbiz, 65 (1996), 97–107; idem, in: ASP, 7 (1997) 228–65; idem, Me-Emunah Tammah le-Emunah Ramah (1998); R. Fontaine, in: Zutot, 2 (2002), 156–63; A. Eran, in: Tarbiz, 73 (2004), 139–50; A. Fidora, in: M. Lutz-Bachmann and A. Fidora (eds), Juden, Christen und Muslime. Religionsdialoge im Mittelalter (2004), 10–26; R. Fontaine, in: B. Roggema and M. Poorthuis (eds), The Three Rings (2005), 19–34.