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Solomon ben Abraham of Montpellier

SOLOMON BEN ABRAHAM OF MONTPELLIER

SOLOMON BEN ABRAHAM OF MONTPELLIER (13th century), talmudic scholar, initiator of the Maimonidean controversy that took place in the third decade of the 13th century (see *Maimonidean Controversy and Criticism). While he admired Maimonides as a talmudist and always spoke of him with respect, Solomon opposed his philosophic views, and in his fear that they would lead to heresy, began to campaign against the study of the Guide of the Perplexed and Sefer ha-Madda, the first book of the Mishneh Torah, in which Maimonides set down some of his philosophic views. Together with his two disciples, *David ben Saul and Jonah b. Abraham *Gerondi, Solomon enlisted the support of the rabbis of northern France, who in 1232 pronounced a ban against the study of the philosophical works of Maimonides and the secular sciences. The supporters of Maimonidean philosophy in Provence retaliated by excommunicating Solomon and his two disciples. With the deepening of the controversy Solomon was accused by David *Kimḥi, a supporter of the Maimonists, of informing to the Franciscans and the Dominicans concerning the heretical nature of the Guide, thus initiating the burning of the work, which is thought to have taken place in Marseilles around 1232. Modern scholars, however, maintain that it is extremely unlikely that either Solomon himself or his two disciples actually did inform to the non-Jewish authorities, for they continued to be respected within the Jewish community as individuals and scholars, and it is difficult to believe that they would have been had they actually informed on the Maimonists.

Cited by Menahem b. Solomon *Meiri in one of his responsa, Solomon was spoken of favorably by *Naḥmanides, Judah *Alfakar, Meshullam b. Solomon, and Joseph b. Todros ha-Levi *Abulafia. From extant sources such as Abraham b. Moses b. *Maimon's Milḥamot Adonai, Solomon emerges not as a simple man nor as an extreme fanatic but as a learned talmudist who was uneducated in the realm of philosophy and did not understand the complexities of Maimonidean philosophy. While it is not clear exactly what he opposed in Maimonides' philosophy, it appears that he objected to Maimonides' allegorical interpretation of talmudic passages that described the afterlife in a material fashion and to his interpretation of many biblical laws. He opposed the view that the activation of the intellect was the prerequisite for attaining immortality, maintaining that the observance of the divine law was more important. He criticized Samuel ibn *Tibbon, the translator of the Guide, rather than Maimonides himself, for interpreting all biblical narratives allegorically.

bibliography:

Baer, Spain, index; D.J. Silver, Maimonidean Criticism and the Maimonidean Controversy (1965), index; Guttman, Philosophies, 185; Graetz, Hist, 6 (1902), index.

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