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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(or Nachmani = Ben - Nachman), MOSES (also called by the Jews Ramban, רמב ן from the initial letters ר משה בן נחמן , R. Moses ben- ltachman; the Pious Teacher [הרב המאמין ], the ,Great Master הרב הגדול ], and by Christian writers Moses Gerundemnis), a Jewish writer of considerable note in the literary history of the Iberian peninsula, was born at Gerona, in Catalonia, about 1194. So extraordinary was his proficiency in the Biblical and Talmudical writings, that he wrote an elaborate Treatise on the Rights of Primongeniture and Vows (בכורות ונדרים הלכות ) when he was scarcely fifteen years of age (1210), for which he obtained the title of 'the Father of Knowledge," and composed his commentaries (חדושים ) on the greater part of the Talmud (1217-1223) before he was thirty. His Talmudical learning was no doubt mainly acquired after study of the writings of Moses Maimonides, which Nachmanides got hold of while yet a youth, and under the erudite instruction of the noted rabbi Jehudah the Pious, of Paris, whose pupil he was.
About the year 1262, while practicing as a physician in his native place, he delivered, by request, a discourse in Saragossa before James I, king of Aragon, and the magliates of the Church and State, in defence of Judaism. This remarkable address (דרשה ), which has for its text Psalms 19:9, "The law of the Lord is perfect," etc., and is an important contribution to Biblical exegesis, the Christology of the O.T., and the understanding of Judaism, was first published in 1582, with the title תורת יהוה תמימה, wherewith it commences; then at Prague, 1595; and with corrections and notes by the learned and industrious Adolph Jellinek (Leipsic, 1853). In the year 1263 king James I of Aragon issued a decree that, in order to put a stop to the daily disputes which took place between the Jews and the Dominican friars who had studied Arabic and Hebrew, a public disputation should be held at Barcelona.
The Jews on their part nominated as their advocate Moses Nachmanides, while the Christians were represented by Fra Pablo Christiani, a converted Jew. This disputation, which took place before the king and the court, lasted four days (July 20-24). As usual in similar cases, each party claimed the victory. Nachmanides circulated this disputation among his brethren, as Pablo Christiani and his friends gave an incorrect report of it; and the pope, Clement IV, was so incensed at it that he wrote to James I of Aragon, urging on his majesty to banish Nachmanides from his donminions. Thereupon the septuagenarian had to leave (1266) his native place, his two sons, his college with numerous disciples, and his friends. He went to the Holy Land, which he reached Aug. 12, 1267. The disputation referred to was first published, with omissions and interpolations, and an exceedingly bad Latin translation, by Wagenseil, in his Tela ignea Satanae (Altorf, 1681). It was then published in the collection of polemical writings entitled מלהמת חובה, where it is the first of the series, and is called עם פראי פולו וכוח הרמ בן, The Discussion of Ramban with Fra Paolo (Constantinople, 1710); and recently again by the erudite Steinschneider, Nachmanidis Disputatio publica pro fide Judaica a. 1263, e cod. MSS. recoqnita (Berl. 1860), to which are added learned notes by the editor, and Nachmanides's exposition of Isaiah 53. In Palestine Nachmanides completed and revised his stupendous Commentary on the Pentateuch, an archaeological and mystical work which he had begun nearly twenty years before (1249-1268). "Physician by profession, thoroughly conversant not only with Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic, but also with Greek, Latin, Spanish, etc., master of the whole cycle of Talmudic, Midrashic, and exegetical literature, and intimately acquainted with the manners, customs, and geography of the East, he frequently quotes medical works ( ספר הרפואות and ספרי נסינות ), clears tup medical difficulties (comp. comment. on Genesis 30:14; Genesis 45:26; Genesis 46:15; Leviticus 3:9; Leviticus 11:11; Leviticus 12:4; Leviticus 13:3; Leviticus 13:42; Numbers 21:9), explains difficult terms by comparing the Hebrew with other languages (comment. on Genesis 49:12; Genesis 49:20; Exodus 30:23; Exodus 30:34; Exodus 32:1; Leviticus 11:11; Leviticus 13:29; Leviticus 19:20; Deuteronomy 12:2; Deuteronomy 12:4; Deuteronomy 32:30). criticises Christian versions (Genesis 41:45; Numbers 11:17), explains the customs and geography of the East (Genesis 11:28; Genesis 34:12; Genesis 38:18; Genesis 38:24), gently and reverentially attacks the rationalisr tic views of Maimonides about miracles and revelation, and controverts and exposes, in unsparing language, Aben- Ezra's scepticism, concealed in unbelieving, mystical doctrines. SEE ABEN-EZRA.
Being a thorough believer in the Cabala, Nachmanides, though explaining the obvious sense of the Bible, yet maintains that each separate letter is imbued with a spiritual and recondite potency, and forms a link in the grand chain of revelation, and that those who are initiated in the secrets of the Cabala can, by the combination of these letters, penetrate, more than ordinary readers, into the mysteries of Holy Writ. When it is remarked that no less than fifteen Jewish literati, of different periods, have written super-commentaries on this remarkable production, the importance of this commentary, and the influence it exercised on Biblical exegesis and the Jewish literature, will easily be comprehended" (Ginsburg, in Kitto). This commentary, which is alternately denominated, סתרי תורֹה חדושי תורה פרוש באור על התורה and פרוש נחמני, was first published before 1480; then in Lisbon, 1489; Naples, 1490; Pesaro, 1514; Salonoikai, 1521; with the comments of Rashi, Aben-Ezra, etc. (Constantinople, 1522); with the Hebrew text of the Pentateuch, and the Five Megilloth, the Chaldee Paraphrase, the Comment of Rashi, and the super-commentary of Aboab on Nachmanides (Venice, 1548); and, besides many other editions, lately in the excellent Pentateuch and Five Megilloth, containing the Hebrew text, the Chaldee Paraphrases, the Commentaries of Rashi, Aben-Ezra, Rashbam, Seforno, etc. (Vielnna, 1859, 5 volumes). Nachmanides also wrote a commentary on Job (פרוש על איוב ), which was first published in Bomberg's Rabbinical Bible (Venice, 1517): and was incorporated in Frankfurter's Great Rabbinical Bible (Amsterd. 1724-27). (See FRANKFURTER).
But that Nachmanides was not the author of this commentary has been proved by Dr. Frankel, in his Monatsschrift, 1868, page 449 sq. The cabalistic commentary on the Song of Songs, which is ascribed to him, belongs to his teacher Asariel. Besides the works already mentioned, Nachmanides wrote a number of cabalistical, dogmatical, ethical, and religio-polemical works, as הִגְּמוּל שִׁעִר, on reward and punishment (Naples, 1490; latest edition, Warsaw, 1873): — סוֹד הִחַבּוּר אַגֶּרֶת הִקֹּדֵשׁ, on the sanctity of marriage (Rome, 1546, and often since): - סֵ הָאמֵוּנָה זְהִבַּטָחוֹן, also שִׁעִר אֲמוּנָה, a large cabalistic work on prayers, the natural law, the decalogue, the attributes of God, etc. (Venice, 1601; latest ed. Warsaw, 1873): — פֵיוּשׁ סֵפֶר יְצַרָה, a commentary on the book Jezirah (q.v.), printed together with the book Jezirah (Mantua, 1562, and often): — סֵ הִגְּאוּלָה, on the redemption from captivity, in sections, of which a part of the second section was published by Asar de Rossi in his Meor Enajim (Mantua, 1574, and often). He also wrote some poems, of which one is especially beautiful, and is generally used in the synagogical service for the first day of the new year — the מְקִרְמֵי עוֹלָמַים מֵראֹשׁ . In the division of the synagogues, caused by the writings of Maimonides (q.v.), he took the part of the latter, probably more on account of the esteem he felt for this great man than for any sympathy with his opinions. Maimonides intended to give Judaism a character of unity, but he produced the contrary. His aim was to harmonize philosophy and religion, but the result was a division in the synagogue, which gave birth to a philosophism called Cabala, and to this newly-born Cabala Nachmanides became converted, though he was at first decidedly adverse to this system. But one day the Cabalist who was most zealous to convert him was caught in a house of ill-fame, and condemned to death. He requested Nachmanides to visit him on the Sabbath, the day fixed for his execution. Nachmanides reproved him for his sins, but the Cabalist declared his innocence, and that he would appear at his house on this very day after the execution, and partake with him the Sabbath meal. According to the story, he did as he promised, as by means of the cabalistic mysteries he effected his escape, and an ass was executed in his stead, and he himself was suddenly transported into Nachmanides's house! From that time Nachmanides became a disciple of the Cabala, and was initiated into its mysteries, the tenets of which pervade his numerous writings. Thus in the introduction to his Commentary on the Pentateuch he remarks, "We possess a faithful tradition that the whole Pentateuch consists of names of the Holy One (blessed be he!); for the words may be divided into sacred names in anlother sense, so that it is to be taken as an allegory. Thus the words בראשית ברא אלהים, in Genesis 1:1, may be divided into three other words, e.g. אלהים בראש יתברא . In like manner is the whole Pentateuch, which consists of nothing but transpositions and numerals of divine names." Nachmanides died at Acre (Ptolemais) about 1270, leaving a number of disciples. See Ginsburg, in Kitto, Cyclop. s.v.; Steinschneider, Catalogus Libr: Hebr. in Biblioth. Bodleiana, col. 1947-65; Furst, Biblioth. Judaica, 3:2-8; Perles, in Frankel's Monatsschrift.fur Gesch. u. Wissenschuft d. Judenth. 8:81 sq., 113 sq.; Gratz, Gesch. d. Juden, 7:41- 50, 54 sq., 78-80, 132-144, 417 sq.; De Rossi, Dizionario forico degli autori Ebrei, page 236 sq. (Germ. transl. by Hamberger); id. Biblioth. Judaica Antichristiana (Padua, 1800), page 74 sq.; Lindo, Hist. of the Jews in Spain and Portugal (Lond. 1848), page 68 sq.; Finn, Sephardim, page 199 sq.; Basnage, Hist. of the Jews (Taylor's transl.), pages 655, 656 sq., 660; Da Costa, Israel and the Gentiles (New York, 1855), page 299 sq.; Ginsburg, The Kabbalah, etc. (Lond. 1865), page 108 sq.; Dessauer, Gesch. d. Israeliten, pge 307 sq.; Braunschweiger, Gesch. d. Juden in den Roman. Staaten (Wurzburg, 1865), pages 165, 181; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u.s. s. Sekten, 3:13, 37, 73; Etheridge, Introd, to Hebr. Literature, page 251 sq., 358, 408; Sachs, Religiose Poesie d. Juden in Spanien, page 135 sq., 321 sq.; Delitzsch, Zur Gesch. d. Judischen Poesie, pages 39, 65, 85; Ginsburg, Levita's Massoreth Ha-Massoreth, page 124; id. Jacob Ibn- Adonijah's Introd. to the Rabbinic Bible, pages 10, 39, 40; Zunz, Literaturgesch. d. Synagogalen Poesie, page 478; Cassel, Leitfaden Jur Gesch. u. Literatur, page 67 sq.; Schmucker, Hist. of the Modern Jews, 149 sq.; Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, page 89. (B.P.)
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nachmanides'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nachmanides.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.