Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Rambam and Allegorical Interpretation of the Torah

Charles Manekin, On Maimonides, pp. 68-69:

We saw above that Maimonides believes in miracles because of scriptural passages that resist metaphorical explanation. But if such passages could be explained convincingly as metaphors, then he would be inclined to do so. This emerges from the following passage in the Essay on Resurrection, which captures both his acceptance and devaluation of miracles in a nutshell:
...I try to reconcile the Law and reason, and wherever possible consider all things as of the natural order. Only when something is explicitly identified as a miracle, and reinterpretation of it cannot be accommodated, only then I feel forced to grant that this is a miracle (Resurrection, p. 223).
Note that this is a weaker criterion for figurative interpretation of scripture than offered before in the case of the creation narrative. There the presumption was to accept the literal meaning of scripture unless it conflicted with demonstrated truth, or unless an alternative interpretation would destroy a foundation of the Law, or conflict with prophetic claims. Here, by contrast, Maimonides' inclination is to provide a natural explanation of a scriptural miracle report unless he is "forced" to grant that it is a miracle, although there are times when he is uncertain whether scripture reports a genuine miracle or not.

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