Nissim ben Moses of Marseilles

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NISSIM BEN MOSES OF MARSEILLES (14th century), radical philosophical exegete. The dates of Nissim's birth and death are unknown. He was the author of a commentary on the Torah, titled, variously, Ma'aseh Nissim, Sefer ha-Nissim, and Ikkarei ha-Dat. The commentary was edited by H. Kreisel (Mekizei Nirdamim, Jerusalem, 2000). This work reflects a single-minded commitment on the part of its author to provide a naturalistic explanation for all seemingly supernatural elements of the Torah, whether it be the story of creation, the longevity of the ancients, the miracles in Egypt, the parting of the Sea of Reeds, the Revelation at Sinai, the rewards and punishments mentioned in the Torah, or the commandments that appear to have no rational reason or appear to involve supernatural intervention (such as the ceremony involving the woman accused of adultery by her husband). In the 14-chapter introduction to the commentary, Nissim deals with such topics as political theology, divine reward, principles of the faith, prophecy (including Mosaic prophecy), providence, and miracles. Most miracles actually occurred in his view, but they were the product of the superior knowledge of the prophet and his divinatory ability. Other miracles did not happen at all but appeared in a vision of prophecy or are to be understood metaphorically. The rewards and punishments mentioned in the Torah are treated by Nissim as the natural consequences of the individual's or nation's behavior. In his commentary he drew heavily from *Maimonides, Abraham *Ibn Ezra, Samuel ibn *Tibbon and his son Moses, as well as other Provençal Jewish thinkers such as *Levi ben Avraham. Nissim was exceptionally well versed in rabbinic literature, which he cites extensively in his commentary. Internal evidence suggests that Nissim composed his treatise sometime after 1315. One of the manuscripts of Ma'aseh Nissim contains a philosophical allegorical commentary on Ruth (edited by H. Kreisel in: Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 14 (1998), 158–80), which M. Schorr believes was also written by Nissim. His authorship of this work, however, is questionable.


M. Schorr, in: He-Ḥalutz, 7 (1865), 88–144; C. Sirat, in: Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 9 (1990), 53–76; H. Kreisel, introduction to Ma'aseh Nissim, 1–52.

[Howard Kreisel (2nd ed.)]