ibn Ezra, Abraham ben Meir

▪ Spanish-Jewish scholar
born 1092/93, Tudela, Emirate of Saragossa
died 1167, Calahorra, Spain

      poet, grammarian, traveller, Neoplatonic philosopher, and astronomer, best known as a biblical exegete whose commentaries contributed to the Golden Age of Spanish Judaism.

      As a young man, he lived in Muslim Spain. Not much is known about his early life. He was on friendly terms with the eminent poet and philosopher Judah ha-Levi, and he travelled to North Africa and possibly to Egypt. Primarily known as a scholar and poet up to that point, in about 1140 Ibn Ezra began a lifelong series of wanderings throughout Europe, in the course of which he produced distinguished works of biblical exegesis and disseminated biblical lore.

      His biblical commentaries include expositions of the Book of Job, the Book of Daniel, Psalms, and, most importantly, a work produced in his old age, a commentary on the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses. Although his exegeses are basically philological, he inserted enough philosophical remarks to reveal himself to be a Neoplatonic pantheist. At the same time, he believed that God gave form to uncreated, eternal matter, a concept somewhat at odds with his Neoplatonic emanations doctrine. Ibn Ezra, in his departure from orthodox biblical interpretation (although he extolled such orthodoxy), is sometimes held to be a precursor of the great 17th-century philosopher Spinoza. His commentary on the Pentateuch is sometimes ranked with the classic 11th-century commentaries by Rashi on the Talmud, the rabbinic compendium of law, lore, and commentary.

      Ibn Ezra also translated the Hispano-Hebrew grammarians who had written in Arabic and wrote grammatical treatises. He also had a good knowledge of astronomy and cast horoscopes, and he believed in numerological mysticism as well.

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Universalium. 2010.

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