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Eckhart, Meister°


ECKHART, MEISTER ° (c. 1260–c. 1327), theologian and mystic. Born Johannes Eckhart at Hochheim, Thuringia, he joined the Dominican Order in his youth. Although some of his propositions were condemned as heretical by Pope John xxii, Eckhart exerted a great influence on medieval mysticism. Because Eckhart wrote little about the Jews, and, unlike other Christian theologians, did not discuss the question of the continued existence of the Jewish people, it was generally assumed that he had nothing to do with Judaism. The pioneers in the study of the influence of Jewish philosophy on Christian scholasticism, Manuel *Joel and Jacob *Guttmann, did not even bother to analyze Eckhart's writings. However, in 1928, Josef Koch advanced the thesis that Eckhart was influenced by Jewish philosophy, in particular by *Maimonides. According to Koch, Eckhart first came into contact with the writings of Jewish philosophers in 1313, when he began to prepare a comprehensive collection of doctrinal statements to serve as authorities for his own interpretation of religious doctrines. Koch suggests that Maimonides' method of biblical exegesis, found in the Guide of the Perplexed, influenced Eckhart to change the direction of his work and to begin to write biblical commentaries instead of the collection of doctrinal statements he had originally begun. Maimonides' doctrine of negative attributes had a profound influence on Eckhart, in that it showed him that it was possible for man to describe God without obliterating the distinction between God and His creatures, a distinction which Eckhart regarded as fundamental. While it was a matter of routine by the last decades of the 13th century for Christian philosophers to refer to Maimonides, Eckhart was more dependent on Maimonides than other Christian philosophers of the period. It should be emphasized that Eckhart's interest in Judaism always remained purely intellectual, and that he was not at all interested in the social role of the Jews in a Christian society.


Meister Eckhart, Die deutschen und lateinischen Werke, ed. Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (1936); J.M. Clark (ed. and tr.), Meister Eckhart: an Introduction to the Study of his Works (1957); R.B. Blakney (ed. and tr.), Meister Eckhart, A Modern Translation (1941); N. Smart, in: Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2 (1967), s.v.; J. Koch, in: Jahresbericht der Schlesischenndb, 4 (1959), s.v.; E. Gilson, Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1955), index.

[Hans Liebeschutz]

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