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The Peace and Violence of JudaismFrom the Bible to Modern Zionism$
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Robert Eisen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751471

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751471.001.0001

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Medieval Jewish Philosophy

Medieval Jewish Philosophy

(p.111) 4 Medieval Jewish Philosophy
The Peace and Violence of Judaism

Robert Eisen (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores medieval Jewish philosophy by focusing primarily on Maimonides. Maimonides implicitly develops a peaceful reading of Judaism by accentuating a universalism predicated on the notion that all human beings can achieve intellectual perfection. Moreover, Maimonides mitigates the violence of the Bible by insisting that the Canaanites and Amalekites had to be offered terms of peace before Israel waged war on them, a condition absent in the biblical text. Maimonides also depicts the messianic period as a time in which there will be peace among the nations. According to a second reading, Maimonides implicitly encourages violence. He still saw the Jewish people as being superior to other nations. He expressed hostility to Christianity and Islam. He endorsed violence against the Canaanites and Amalekites, despite the terms of peace offered to them. And while he characterizes the messianic era as peaceful, it is a peace that comes about through war.

Keywords:   medieval Jewish philosophy, Maimonides, universalism, Bible, Israel, Canaanites, Amalekites, messianic period, Islam, Christianity

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