Ibn Waqar, Joseph ben Abraham

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IBN WAQAR, JOSEPH BEN ABRAHAM

IBN WAQAR, JOSEPH BEN ABRAHAM (14th century), Spanish philosopher and kabbalist. Ibn Waqar, a member of a distinguished family, lived in Toledo. He expounded his kabbalistic ideas in a poem titled Shir ha-Yiḥud, which he himself annotated. His chief work is the Arabic treatise Al-maqāla aljāmiʿa bayn al-falsafa wa-al-sharīʿa ("The Treatise of Reconciliation between Philosophy and the Revealed Law"), extant only in manuscript (Vatican Ms. 203), in which he attempts to reconcile philosophy and astrology with the revealed law, or more exactly, with the religious tenets of Judaism which he identifies completely with the Kabbalah. The purpose of this reconciliation is not to make the Kabbalah conform to rational principles, but, as the author says, "to make it triumphant." Ibn Waqar endeavored to prove that Jewish theosophy, which introduced a series of intermediary entities, the Sefirot, between the unknown God and the intelligible world of the philosophers, could be, if not rationally validated, at least linked to the philosophical concept of an intermediary being between the first cause and the prime mover, a notion postulated by Abu Ḥāmid al-*Ghazālī in one of his esoteric treatises. Ibn Waqar believed that he could, by mere dialectic, establish a fundamental agreement between astrology, philosophy, and Kabbalah, each of which is, in its own way, attuned to the harmony of the universe. Astrology provides sound information concerning events in the sublunar world; philosophy is valid in its teachings concerning the structure of the world intermediary between the separate intelligences and the celestial bodies; the Kabbalah is authoritative as a symbolic expression of the knowledge that is available to man concerning the divine world. Ibn Waqar's philosophical sources were chiefly *Maimonides, *Averroes (whose rules for allegorical exegesis, taʾwīl, he adopted), and to a lesser extent *Moses ben Joseph ha-Levi, al-*Fārābī, *Avicenna, al-Ghazālī, and Ibn Ṭufayl; *Aristotle was known to him only through Averroes. In astrology he drew on works ascribed in his day to Ptolemy. Although Ibn Waqar's exposition of the Kabbalah is unmistakably adapted to suit the taste of the philosophers, he derived its essential features from the writings of *Isaac b. Jacob ha-Kohen and *Jacob b. Jacob ha-Kohen. Ibn Waqar was very circumspect, however, in dealing with demonology and metempsychosis (*gilgul). He also used the Sefer *Yeẓirah, the Sefer ha-*Bahir, the writings of the Gerona school, and the responsum falsely ascribed to *Hai Gaon, but he distrusted the *Zohar, citing it only once. The synthesis attempted by Ibn Waqar was not very successful, and subsequent references to his work are rare. Samuel *Ibn Motot, who refers to Ibn Waqar as the author of a work on the reconciliation of philosophy and Kabbalah, titled Ma'amar ha-Koveẓ, or Ha-Kolel (the Hebrew for Al-maqāla al-jāmiʿa bayn al-falsafa wa-al-shariʿa), was the only one in the following generation to make any extensive, though often injudicious, use of him. However, that part of the treatise containing an exposition of the Kabbalah and a lexicon of kabbalistic symbols was more widely read, as is evident from the fact that many copies of its Hebrew translation are extant (Vatican, Ms. Heb. 384; Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, cod. héb. 793; Bodleian Library, Ms. Laud. 119).

bibliography:

M. Steinschneider, Gesammelte Schriften, 1 (1925), 171–80; Steinschneider, Uebersetzungen, 921–2; Steinschneider, Arab Lit, 168; G. Scholem, in: ks, 20 (1943), 153–62; A.M. Habermann, Shirei ha-Yiḥud ve-ha-Kavod (1948), 99–122, 191–2; G. Vajda, Recherches sur la philosophie et la Kabbale dans la pensée juive du moyen âge (1962), 115–297, 385–91; idem, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 5 (1962), 17–20; G. Sed-Rina, ibid., 9 (1966), 11–23.

[Georges Vajda]