Converts, Heretics, and Lepers: Maimonides and the Outsider

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University of Notre Dame Press, 2007 - Philosophy - 343 pages

James Diamond's new book consists of a series of studies addressing Moses Maimonides' (1138–1204) appropriation of marginal figures—lepers, converts, heretics, and others—normally considered on the fringes of society and religion. Each chapter focuses on a type or character that, in Maimonides' hands, becomes a metaphor for a larger, more substantive theological and philosophical issue. Diamond offers a close reading of key texts, such as the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah, demonstrating the importance of integrating Maimonides' legal and philosophical writings. 

Converts, Heretics, and Lepers fills an important void in Jewish studies by focusing on matters of exegesis and hermeneutics as well as philosophical concerns. Diamond's alternative reading of central topics in Maimonides suggests that literary appreciation is a key to deciphering Maimonides' writings in particular and Jewish exegetical texts in general. “Converts, Heretics, and Lepers is a very sophisticated exploration of Maimonidean religious philosophy. Although there have been numerous studies on Maimonides, perhaps more than any other Jewish thinker, James Diamond manages to approach the master from fresh perspectives. The result is a stunningly lucid and deep engagement with Maimonides.” —Elliot Wolfson, Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University "A series of extraordinarily close readings of core texts of Maimonides', readings which illuminate the delicate interplay of philosophical and religious ideas in Maimonides. In his previous work, Diamond convincingly illustrated the way in which Maimonides carefully chooses, subtly interprets, and circumspectly weaves together rabbinic materials to address philosophers and talmudists alike, each in their own idiom. This book is a further expression of Diamond's mastery of this intricate methodology and is a work to be studied and re-studied. All students of Maimonides are in his debt." —Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa “James Diamond's book about Maimonides is a welcome addition to the regular stream of books about the thinker Jews have rightly called 'the great eagle.' His unique contribution to the Maimonidean literature is to show that the true Jewish philosopher like Maimonides is always an outsider in ordinary Jewish thought, and he is thus uniquely able to appreciate and explicate what Jews and other worshipers of the One God have to learn from other outsiders like himself.” —David Novak, J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Toronto 

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Contents

Metaphor of Jewishness
11
Illness as Contemplative Metaphor
33
Elisha ben Abuyah and the Hubris of the Heretic
55
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

James A. Diamond is the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Maimonides and the Hermeneutics of Concealment: Deciphering Scripture and Midrash in The Guide of the Perplexed.

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