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Tibbon, Ibn


TIBBON, IBN (Tibbonids ), a family of translators, philosophers, and exegetes, based in southern France ("Provence," the Midi, Occitania). judah b. saul ibn tibbon (c. 1120–1190), called the "father of translators," was born in Granada, but fled (most likely due to the Almohad persecutions) and resettled in Lunel, where he worked as physician and merchant. Encouraged (and perhaps supported financially) by *Meshullam b. Jacob, *Abraham b. David of Posquières, and *Asher b. Meshullam, Judah produced Hebrew translations of Bahya Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Heart and Solomon Ibn Gabirol's Improvement of Moral Qualities. He also translated Saadiah Gaon's Book of Beliefs and Opinions, Jonah Ibn Janah's Book of Roots and Sefer ha-Rikmah, Ibn Gabirol's Choice of Pearls, Judah Halevi's Kuzari, and possibly a logical work by the Islamic philosopher al-Farabi (his summary of Aristotle's Posterior Analytics). Judah's only surviving original composition is his ethical testament, a lively account of his efforts to educate his son according to his cultural and literary ideals. In this testament, he also refers to his book on grammar (no longer extant). A treatise on divine unity, entitled Sefer Sha'ar ha-Yiḥud, has been attributed to him.

samuel b. judah ibn tibbon (c. 1165–1232) was born in Lunel, traveled to Arles, Toledo, Barcelona, and Alexandria, and lived in Marseilles (where he taught his son-in-law and most famous disciple Jacob Anatoli). Like his father, Samuel was a physician, merchant, and translator. His most important translation was the Hebrew rendering of Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed. He issued a first edition in 1204 and revised version, with glossary (Perush ha-Millot ha-Zarot), in 1213. But he also translated other writings by Maimonides (Eight Chapters, Commentary on Avot, Letter on Resurrection, Letter to Yemen, Letter on Translation, and possibly the preface to the commentary on Mishnah Sanhedrin, Chapter Ḥelek); and he produced the first Hebrew versions of Aristotle (Meteorology) and Averroes ("Three Treatises on Conjunction"). Other translations attributed to him, such as 'Ali b. Ridwan's commentary on Galen's Ars parva, are evidently not his work.

Samuel produced original works as well. His Commentary on Ecclesiastes (between 1213 and 1221) was the first extensive philosophical commentary written on the book in Hebrew. He explains that Solomon wrote it in order to defend the doctrine of immortality against ancient skeptics who argued that conjunction with the active intellect is impossible. His second major book, Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim, is a similar work of philosophy and exegesis. It begins with a question of cosmology (why is the earth not completely covered by water), then proceeds to answer this question in light of verses from Genesis, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Job, and the Book of Psalms. In addition to these two works, Samuel also wrote a brief "Treatise on the Table and Shewbread," a "Letter on Providence," and "Annotations" to his translation of the Guide. He planned two additional projects that were never completed: A commentary on the internal meanings of Proverbs, and an esoteric commentary on Genesis, entitled Ner ha-Ḥofesh (see Prov. 20:27).

moses b. samuel b. judah ibn tibbon (fl. 1244–1283) resided in Montpellier, but spent some years in Naples with his brother-in-law Jacob Anatoli. He was the most prolific translator in the family; he produced translations of philosophical as well as technical scientific treatises. The authors he rendered into Hebrew, from Graeco-Arabic, Arabic and Judaeo-Arabic, include the following: Euclid, Geminus, Theodosius, Themistius, Maimonides, Hunayn b. Ishaq, Abu Bakr al-Razi, Ibn al-Haytham, al-Hassar, Ibn al-Jazzar, Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Ibn al-Sid al-Batalyawsi, Averroes, Jabir Ibn Aflah, and al-Bitruji. Like his father, Moses also wrote original works of philosophy and exegesis. Best known is his commentary on Song of Songs, in which he explains the biblical book allegorically as a story about the human intellect's pursuit of conjunction with the active intellect. He wrote several additional works as well, including a commentary on select rabbinic aggadot (Sefer ha-Pe'ah), a "Letter on Providence" (responding to his father's letter), a responsum on the elements (relating to Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim), various explanations of passages from Mishneh Torah, Book of Knowledge, Guide 2:17, and Psalm 69:32, a philosophical-exegetical work entitled Sefer ha-Teninim, a supercommentary on Ibn Ezra, and possibly a treatise about the microcosm (Olam Katan) and commentary on the "work of the beginning" (Ma'aseh be-Reshit).

jacob b. makhir (Don Prophet Tibbon, Profatius/Prophacius Judaeus; c. 1236–1306), probably a nephew of Moses, likewise lived in Montpellier, where he had close contacts with Christian physicians in the medical school. In addition to translating Arabic and Graeco-Arabic philosophical and scientific writings (including works by Euclid, Menelaus, Autolycus, Theodosius, Qusta b. Luqa, Ibn al-Haytham, Ibn al-Saffar, Azarquel, Jabir ibn Aflah, and Averroes), he seems to have rendered into Hebrew a Latin medical treatise by his contemporary Arnold of Villanova. Jacob was also engaged in original scientific research. He wrote works of mathematics and astronomy and invented the Quadrant of Israel (Roba Yisra'el; Quadrans novus), an astronomical instrument that marked an improvement upon the astrolabe. During the communal controversy of 1303–6, he was an outspoken defender of philosophy and the philosophical culture represented by his family.

Three additional members of the Ibn Tibbon family are worthy of mention:

samuel b. moses ibn tibbon was involved in a lawsuit, mentioned in a responsum by Rashba, concerning the marriage of his cousin. judah b. moses ibn tibbon, together with Jacob b. Makhir, was a defender of philosophy during the controversy of 1303–1306. A certain abraham ibn tibbon, otherwise unknown, is identified as the translator of Aristotle's Oekonomika.


It is hard to overestimate the influence of the Ibn Tibbon family. With their translations, they created a philosophical library in Hebrew and coined a technical terminology that would be used by translators and original authors throughout the middle ages. Their original works were important as well. This is especially the case with Samuel, Moses, and Jacob Anatoli, who laid the foundations for a Maimonidean tradition of philosophy and exegesis in Europe. Their imprint is found especially in Provence, in the writings of figures such as Levi b. Abraham b. Ḥayyim, Gershom b. Solomon of Arles, Menahem ha-Meiri, and David ha-Kokhavi, but they were important in Italy as well. Moses of Salerno, Zerahiah Hen, Judah Romano, and especially Immanuel of Rome, owe much to the work of their philosophical predecessors. Although some scholars in Spain opposed their work – Jacob b. Sheshet wrote a full-length refutation of Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim – others, such as Isaac Ibn Latif, used them extensively, and in the 14th century they were cited frequently in commentaries on the Bible and supercommentaries on Ibn Ezra. Although their importance, as original philosophers and exegetes, waned in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were still consulted and discussed. Thus Judah Abarbanel (Leone Ebreo) owned a copy of Samuel's Commentary on Ecclesiastes, while Judah Moscato cited it several times in Kol Yehudah, his commentary on Judah Halevi's Kuzari.

See also *Translations and Translators.


A. Altmann, "The Ladder of Ascension," in: Studies in Mysticism and Religion Presented to Gershon G. Scholem on his Seventieth Birthday by Pupils, Colleagues and Friends (1967), 1–32; R. Ben-Meir, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Preface to the Commentary on Ecclesiastes," Maimonidean Studies, 4 (2000), 13–44 (Heb. section); R. Eisen, The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (2004), 79–110; R. Fontaine, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Translation of the Arabic Version of Aristotle's Meteorology," in: G. Endress and R. Kruk (eds.), The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism (1997), 85–100; C. Fraenkel, "From Maimonides to Samuel Ibn Tibbon: From the Dalālat al-Hā'irīn to the Moreh ha-Nevukhim" (Heb.; Ph.D. diss., Freie University, Berlin, 2000); idem, "The Problem of Anthropomorphism in a Hitherto Unknown Passage from Samuel Ibn Tibbon's 'Ma'amar Yiqqawu ha-Mayim' and in a Newly Discovered Letter by David ben Saul," in: jsq, 11 (2004), 83–126; O. Fraisse, Moses Ibn Tibbons Kommentar Zum Hohenlied Und Sein Poetologisch-Philosophisches Programm (2004); G. Freudenthal, "Les Sciences dans les communautés juives médiévales de Provence: Leur appropriation, leur réle," in: rej, 152 (1993), 29–136; idem, "(Al-)Chemical Foundations for Cosmological Ideas: Ibn Séné on the Geology of an Eternal World," in: S. Unguru (ed.), Physics, Cosmology, and Astronomy, 13001700: Tension and Accommodation (1991), 47–73; M. Halbertal, Between Torah and Wisdom: Menahem ha-Me'iri and the Maimonidean Halakhists in Provence (Heb., 2000); S. Heller-Wilensky, "Towards the Study of Isaac Ibn Latif 's Sources," in: Proceedings of the Fourth World Congress of Jewish Studies, 2 (1969), 317–26 (Heb.); H. Kreisel, Ma'aseh Nissim by R. Nissim of Marseilles (2000); idem, Levi b. Abraham b. Hayyim, Liwyat Hen 6:3 (2004); J. Kugel, "Some Medieval and Renaissance Ideas about Biblical Poetry," in: I. Twersky (ed.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature (1979), 57–81; T. Lévé, "The Establishment of the Mathematical Bookshelf of the Medieval Hebrew Scholar: Translations and Translators," in: Science in Context, 10 (1997), 431–51; I. Loeb, Un Procés dans la famille des Ibn Tibbon (Marseilles, 1255–6) (1886); A. Ravitzky, "The Thought of Rabbi Zerahyah b. Isaac b. She'altiel Hen and Maimonidean-Tibbonian Philosophy in the Thirteenth Century" (Heb., Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1978); idem, "On the Sources of Immanuel of Rome's Proverbs Commentary," in: Kiryat Sefer, 56 (1981), 726–39 (Heb.); idem, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon and the Esoteric Character of The Guide of the Perplexed," in: ajsr, 6 (1981), 87–123; idem, "The Secrets of the Guide of the Perplexed: Between the Thirteenth and the Twentieth Centuries," in: I. Twersky (ed.), Studies in Maimonides (1990), 159–207; idem, "Aristotle's Meteorology and Maimonidean Exegesis of the Account of Creation," in: Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, 9 (1990), 225–50 (Heb.); C. Rigo, "Judah Romano's Commentaries on the Bible: His Philosophical System as Contained in Them and His Sources in Jewish Thought and Christian Scholasticism" (Heb., Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, 1996); J.T. Robinson, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Commentary on Ecclesiastes and the Philosopher's Prooemium," in: I. Twersky and J. Harris (eds.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature, vol. 3 (2000), 83–146; idem, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Commentary on Ecclesiastes" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2002); idem, "The First References in Hebrew to al-Bitrūjī's On the Principles of Astronomy," in: Aleph, 3 (2003), 145–63; idem, "The Ibn Tibbon Family: A Dynasty of Translators in Medieval Provence," in: J. Harris (ed.), Be'erot Yitzhak: Studies in Memory of Isadore Twersky (2005), 193–224; idem, "Gershom ben Solomon's Sha'ar ha-Shamayim: Its Sources and Use of Sources," in: S. Harvey (ed.), The Medieval Hebrew Encyclopedias of Science and Philosophy (2000), 248–74; idem, "From Digression to Compilation: Samuel Ibn Tibbon and Immanuel of Rome on Genesis 1:11, 1:14, 1:20," in: Zutot, 4 (2005), 81–97; D. Schwartz, "Kuzari Commentators in Fifteenth-Century Provence," in: I. Twersky and J.M. Harris (eds.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature, vol. 3 (2000) (Heb.); idem, The Philosophy of a Fourteenth-Century Jewish Neoplatonic Circle (Heb., 1996); idem, Studies in Astral Magic in Medieval Jewish Thought (2005); J. Sermoneta, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Critical Remarks on Maimonides' Theory of Intellects," in: Proceedings of the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies (1977), 3:315–319 (Heb.); J. Shatzmiller, "Contacts et échanges entre savants juifs et chrétiens à Montpellier vers 1300," in: Juifs et judaïsme de Languedoc, Cahiers de Fanjeaux, 12 (1977), 337–44; idem, "In Search of the 'Book of Figures': Medicine and Astrology in Montpellier at the Turn of the Fourteenth Century," in: ajsr, 7–8 (1982–3), 383–407; idem, Jews, Medicine, and Medieval Society (1994); C. Sirat, "La Pensée philosophique de Moïse Ibn Tibbon," in: rej, 138 (1979), 505–15; G. Stern, "The Crisis of Philosophic Allegory in Languedocian-Jewish Culture (1304–6)," in: J. Whitman (ed.), Interpretation and Allegory: Antiquity to the Modern Period (2000), 187–207; idem, "Philosophy in Southern France: Controversy over Philosophical Study and the Influence of Averroes upon Jewish Thought," in: D. Frank and O. Leaman (eds.), Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy (2003), 281–303; I. Twersky, "Aspects of the Social and Cultural History of Provençal Jewry," in: Journal of World History, 11 (1968), 185–207 [reprinted in H.H. Ben-Sasson and S. Ettinger (eds.), Jewish Society through the Ages (1971), 185–207; G. Vajda, "An Analysis of the Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim by Samuel b. Judah Ibn Tibbon," in: jjs, 10 (1959), 137–49; idem, Jacob b. Sheshet, Sefer Meshiv Devarim Nekhohim (1968); M. Zonta, La filosofia antica nel Medioevo ebraico: La traduzioni ebraiche medievali dei testi filosofici antichi (1996). writings and translationsby judah ibn tibbon: Testament, ed. and trans. I. Abrahams, in Hebrew Ethical Wills (1926); Sefer Sha'ar ha-Yihud, in: H. Gad, Ḥamishah Me'orot Gedolim (1953), 159–65. Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Choice of Pearls, ed. with English trans. by B. Ascher (1859); Ibn Gabirol, Improvement of the Moral Qualities, ed. and trans. S. Wise (1902); Ibn Gabirol, Improvement of Moral Qualities, ed. A. Zifroni, in Mekor Ḥayyim (1925/6); Jonah Ibn Janah, Sefer ha-Rikmah, ed. M. Wilensky (1964); Jonah Ibn Janah, Sefer ha-Shorashim, ed. W. Bacher (1896); Bahya Ibn Pakudah, Duties of the Heart, ed. A. Zifroni (1927/8); Judah Halevi, Ha-Kuzari, ed. A. Zifroni (1924); Saadiah Gaon, Book of Beliefs and Opinions (1885). writings and translations by samuel ibn tibbon: "Letter on Providence," ed. Z. Diesendruck, "Samuel and Moses Ibn Tibbon on Maimonides' Theory of Providence," in: huca, 11 (1936), 341–66; Perush ha-Millot ha-Zarot, appendix to Maimonides, Moreh ha-Nevukhim, ed. Y. Even-Shemuel (1987); "Annotations" on the Guide, ed. C. Fraenkel, "From Maimonides to Samuel Ibn Tibbon: From the Dalālat al-Hā'irīn to the Moreh ha-Nevukhim" (Ph.D. diss., Freie University, Berlin, 2000); Preface to the Commentary on Ecclesiastes, ed. R. Ben-Meir, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Preface to the Commentary on Ecclesiastes," in: Maimonidean Studies, 4 (2000), 13–44 (Hebrew section); Commentary on Eccl 1:1, ed. and trans. James T. Robinson, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Commentary on Ecclesiastes and the Philosopher's Prooemium," in: I. Twersky and J.M. Harris (eds.), Studies in Medieval Jewish History and Literature, vol. 3 (2000), 83–146; Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes, ed. and trans. James Robinson, "Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Commentary on Ecclesiastes" (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 2000); Preface to the translation of Maimonides, Commentary on Avot, ed. M. Kellner, "Maimonides and Samuel Ibn Tibbon on Jeremiah 9:22–23 and Human Perfection," in: M. Beer (ed.), Studies in Halakhah and Jewish Thought Presented to Rabbi Professor Menahem Emanuel Rackman on His Eightieth Birthday (1994), 49–57; Ma'amar Yikkavu ha-Mayim, ed. M. Bisliches (1837); I. Sonne, "Maimonides' Letter to Samuel b. Tibbon according to an Unknown Text in the Archives of the Jewish Community of Veron," in: Tarbiz, 10 (1939), 135–54, 309–32 (Heb.); Maimonides, Treatise on Resurrection (Maqāla fī Tehiyyat ha-Metim): The Original Arabic and Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Hebrew Translation and Glossary, ed. J. Finkel (1939); Maimonides, Eight Chapters, ed. with English trans. by J. Gorfinkle (1912); Maimonides, Commentary on the Mishnah, Abot, ed. M. Rabinowitz (1961); Maimonides, Moreh ha-Nevukhim, ed. Y. Even-Shemuel (1987); Moses Maimonides' Epistle to Yemen: The Arabic Original and the Three Hebrew Versions, ed. A. Halkin, English trans. by B. Cohen (1952); Otot ha-Shamayim: Samuel Ibn Tibbon's Hebrew Version of Aristotle's Meteorology, ed. and trans. R. Fontaine (1995); Averroes and 'Abd Allah, "Three Treatises on Conjunction," ed. and trans. J. Hercz, Drei Abhandlungen ber die Conjunction des seperaten Intellects mit dem Menschen von Averroes (Vater und Sohn), aus dem Arabischen bersetzt von Samuel Ibn Tibbon (1869); C. Burnett and M. Zonta, "Abu Muhammad 'Abdallah Ibn Rushd (Averroes Junior), On Whether the Active Intellect Unites with the Material Intellect whilst it is Clothed with the Body: A Critical Edition of the Three Extant Medieval Versions together with an English Translation," in: Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 67 (2000), 295–335. writings and translations by moses ibn tibbon: Moses Ibn Tibbon, Commentary on Song of Songs, ed. L. Silbermann (1874); I. Adler, Hebrew Writings concerning Music in Manuscripts and Printed Books from Geonic Times up to 1800 (1975), 186–90; O. Fraisse, ed. and German trans., in Moses Moses Ibn Tibbons Kommentar Zum Hohenlied Und Sein Poetologisch-Philosophisches Programm (2004); Sefer ha-Teninim, Teshuvah al ha-Yesodot, ed. and trans. Fraisse, in: ibid.; Z. Almog, "Critical Edition of Moses Ibn Tibbon's Olam Katan with an Essay on the History of Microcosm in Medieval Jewish Philosophy" (Ph.D. diss., Dropsie College, 1966). Maimonides' Treatise on Logic: The Original Arabic and Three Hebrew Translations, ed. and trans. I. Efros (1938); Maimonides, Book of Commandments, ed. Charles Chavel (1981); Maimonides, Treatise on Poisons and their Antidotes, ed. S. Muntner (1942); Maimonides, Commentary on Hippocrates' Aphorisms, ed. S. Muntner (1961); Maimonides, Regimen of Health, ed. S. Muntner (1957); Averroes, Epitome of Aristotle's Physics (1559); Averroes, Epitome of Aristotle's De generatione et corruptione, ed. S. Kurland (1958); Averroes, Epitome of Aristotle's Parva naturalia, ed. H. Blumberg (1954); Averroes, Middle Commentary on Aristotle's De anima, ed. Alfred Ivry (2003); Al-Bitrūjī: On the Principles of Astronomy, Arabic original with Hebrew trans. by Moses Ibn Tibbon, ed. and trans. by B.R. Goldstein, 2 vols. (1971); The Problemata physica attributed to Aristotle: The Arabic version of Hunayn b. Ishaq and the Hebrew version of Moses Ibn Tibbon, ed. and trans. L.S. Filius (1999); Themistius, Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, Book Lambda, ed. S. Landauer, Themistii in Aristotelis Metaphysicorum librum lambda paraphrases hebraice et latine, in Commentaria in Aristotelem Graecav/5 (1903); Ibn al-Sid al-Batalyawsī, Book of Imaginary Circles, ed. D. Kaufmann, Die Spuren al-Batlajusis in der jüdischen Religions-Philosophie (1880); G. Freudenthal, "La philosophie de la géomètrie d'Al-Fārābī. Son commentaire sur le début du 1er livre et le début du Ve livre des Eléments d'Euclide," in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 11 (1988), 104–219; al-Fārābī, Political Regime/Principles of Being (Hebrew: Hatḥalot ha-Nimẓa'ot), ed. J. Filipowski, in Sefer ha-Assif (1849), 1–64. translations by jacob b. makhir: J. Millas-Vallicrosa, Don Profeit Tibbon. Tractat de l'assafea d'Azarquiel (1933); idem, Estudios sobre Azarquiel (1943–50); Averroes, Compendium of Aristotle's Organon (1559).

[James T. Robinson and

Uri Melammed (2nd ed.)]

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