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Deconstructing the Bible : Abraham Ibn Ezras Introduction to Torah
Abraham ibn Ezra was a Spanish-Jewish traveller and polymath whose life and writings exemplify the cultural and intellectual currents of the 12th century renaissance. Irene Lancaster dissects the idiosyncratic textual approach of this remarkable scholar, and poses a number of questions: Why, aged fifty, did ibn Ezra decide to leave his native Spain and journey to Italy, France and England? To what extent did previous and contemporary Jewish, Christian, Muslim and philosophical ideas influence his textual approach, and how worried was he about safeguarding Jewish tradition''? In an era when interpretation was a form of worship, and lives were lost in the struggle to ascertain the correct reading of holy scripture, what did ibn Ezra actually mean by his grammatical'' approach? Why does he regard God as the centre of a circle'' and correct exegesis as the shortest path to that centre? Lancaster discusses these issues, and examines ibn Ezra''s influence on subsequent Jewish thought,and his place in the wider hermeneutic debate.
This book features a brand-new translation of ibn Ezra''s Introduction to the Torah, together with a full commentary. With its multi-faceted approach, this work fills a gap in the analysis of medieval Jewish sources emerging from an Islamic cultural environment. It considers the relationship of author, text, community and meaning from a number of angles: philosophical, literary, religious, political and social. The author refutes the view, still current in certain circles, that Jewish thinkers were middle men'' who merely bore the fruits of Islamic wisdom to an ignorant Christendom. Instead, Lancaster demonstrates that ibn Ezra was a considerable thinker in his own right, whose main goal was to safeguard the Jewish community from both external and internal heresies'', whilst maintaining the right to define what exegesis should be.
This book will be of considerable interest to students of comparative literature, cultural studies, medieval history, philosophy, medieval and renaissance studies, philosophy, religious studies and theology, as well as to the interested lay reader.
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Taylor & Francis
October 31, 2002
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