Shalom, Abraham ben Isaac ben Judah ben Samuel

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SHALOM, ABRAHAM BEN ISAAC BEN JUDAH BEN SAMUEL (d. 1492), Catalonian (Spain) philosopher and translator of philosophical writings. Shalom is known to have translated two works from Latin into Hebrew: a compendium of the physical sciences by Albertus *Magnus, Philosophia Pauperum, under the title Ha-Pilosofyah ha-Tivit ("Natural Philosophy"), extant in manuscript form (Hamburg Ms. 266); and a discussion of certain problems in Aristotle's Organon by Marsilius of Inghen, under the title She'elot u-Teshuvot ("Questions and Answers," see S. Pinsker, Likkutei Kadmoniyyot (1860), 152, second page). Shalom's preface to the latter, in which he polemicizes against the opponents of secular-scientific studies, together with the index of the questions, was published by A. Jellinek under the title Marsilius ab Inghen (1859). Shalom's major work, Neveh Shalom (Constantinople, 1539; Venice, 1574), gives evidence of the author's thorough command of the fields of knowledge of his time, and is rich in quotations from Greek and Arabic philosophical literature. In its external form, Neveh Shalom is a series of homilies on various aggadic passages drawn from the talmudic tractate Berakhot. Into this framework Shalom weaves a number of philosophic discussions in which he undertakes to review the philosophic statements of his predecessors, to consider just those views which are in harmony with Scripture, to decide which among them is correct, and, especially, to prove that "Moses *Maimonides is true and his teaching is true" (see Neveh Shalom, author's introduction; see also 1:14, 21a). In other words, he undertakes to defend Maimonides' philosophy with its particular equilibrium between Greek philosophy and scriptural teachings. Shalom's defense is directed both against the more radical position of *Levi b. Gershom, who felt that Maimonides had compromised philosophy, and also against the more conservative position of Ḥasdai *Crescas, who felt that Maimonides had compromised scriptural religion. His assumption that Maimonides' authority is supreme in all questions sometimes led Shalom into difficulty in his attempts at harmonization of different authorities. There were, in fact, cases where he felt that religious considerations demanded a different position from that which Maimonides had apparently held. His solution to the dilemma consisted in showing that Maimonides' statements, in such cases, should not be taken in their obvious sense. Thus, he himself frequently leaned toward Crescas' views on religious questions, but, on the other hand, he refuted many of Crescas' criticisms of Maimonides by stating that Maimonides had really intended to say, or implied, just what Crescas criticized him for not saying.

Shalom's discussions reveal a careful study of Maimonides, Levi b. Gershom and Crescas, as well as other Jewish writers and non-Jewish philosophers, especially *Averroes. His own method does not display any great originality. He sometimes expounds, in different passages, inconsistent positions on the same question. This imprecision is due to the fact that Shalom did not attach importance to all the topics which he discussed. There are just a few subjects which were fundamentally significant for him because of their religious implications, and, when dealing with those he was careful to state a definitive and consistent position. However, the various technical philosophic problems upon which he touched concerned him less, and he did not always exercise the same care with them. In general, the philosophical sections of Neveh Shalom have a strong apologetic motif. They are designed less to discover new truths than to defend, first the doctrines of the Jewish religion, as Shalom understood them, and then, the philosophical positions of Maimonides. His methods of argumentation in these sections are appropriate to that end.


H. Davidson, The Philosophy of Abraham Shalom (1964); H.A. Wolfson, Crescas' Critique of Aristotle (1929), index, 715, s.v.Abraham Shalom.

[Herbert Davidson]