Shim'on, Joseph ben Judah Ibn

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SHIM'ON, JOSEPH BEN JUDAH IBN (12th–13th centuries), physician, poet, and philosopher, contemporary of *Maimonides. Born in *Morocco, he was taught by Muslim teachers, and also received a traditional Jewish education, despite the fact that at that time the Jews of Morocco had to live as anusim ("forced converts"). He states in his Ma'amarbi-Meḥuyyav Meẓi'ut (see below) that he studied philosophy with a Muslim teacher. As a young man, he already achieved fame both as a Hebrew poet and as an expert in mathematics and medicine.

He escaped from Morocco to *Egypt, where be could profess his Judaism openly. He lived first in *Alexandria, from where he sent letters and maqāmāt to Maimonides, and later in Fostat, where he studied astronomy and philosophy with Maimonides (see his letter in Iggerot ha-Rambam, ed. by D.Z. Baneth, (1946), 7ff.). Around 1185 he went to *Syria and settled in *Aleppo, where he engaged in commerce (ibid., 68) and became wealthy through commercial travels which took him as far as Babylon and India. Afterward, he became the court physician of the son of Saladin, Az-Zāhir-Ghāzī, king of Aleppo. He maintained a constant correspondence with Maimonides, and it was the latter's desire to complete the education of his "beloved disciple" that led him to write his Guide and to dedicate it to Ibn Shim'on. When he was in *Baghdad, he attempted to mediate between Maimonides and his opponent, *Samuel b. Ali, head of the Baghdad Academy (ibid., 31ff.), and when the Babylonian scholar, *Daniel b. Saadiah, began to attack the doctrines of Maimonides, Ibn Shim'on demanded his excommunication. He wrote a theological-philosophical treatise on the creation of the world (Heb. trans. by M. Loewy, Ma'amar bi-Meḥuyyav ha-Meẓi'ut in Drei Abhandlungen von Josef b. Jehuda, 1879; A Treatise as to Necessary Existence, ed. and trans. by J.L. Magnes, 1904). Steinschneider mentions one medical work, presumably written by Ibn Shim'on (see bibliography). Medieval historians of science regard Ibn Shim'on as an eminent physician of his time. The identification of Ibn Shim'on with Joseph b. Judah ibn Aknīn has been proven to be incorrect.


S. Munk, in: Journal Asiatique, 14 (1842), 5–70; M. Steinschneider, in: mb, 11 (1871), 119; A. Neubauer, in: mgwj, 19 (1870), 348–55, 395–401, 445–8; A.Ḥ. Freimann, in: Sefer ha-Yovel … B.M. Lewin (1939), 27–41; A.J. Heschel, in: Sefer ha-Yovel … L. Ginzburg (1946), 164–70; D.Z. Baneth, in: Sefer ha-Yovel li-Khevod G. Shalom (1958), 108–22 (= Tarbiz, 27 (1958), 234–48); idem, in: Oẓar Yehudei Sefarad, 7 (1964), 11–20.

[Eliyahu Ashtor]