About Abū Isḥāq Ibrahīm 'Abraham' ibn Da'ud 'ben David', haLevi "Rabad I"
Abraham ben David Halevi ibn Daud, (born c. 1110, Toledo, Castile—died c. 1180, Toledo), physician and historian who was the first Jewish philosopher to draw on Aristotle’s writings in a systematic fashion. He is probably more esteemed today for his history Sefer ha-kabbala (“Book of Tradition”) than for his major philosophic work, Sefer ha-emuna ha-rama (“Book of Sublime Faith”), extant only in Hebrew and German translations.
(Abū Isḥāq) Abraham (Ibrahīm) ben David (ibn Daʾūd) is attested in the Geniza documents primarily in connection with trade, which was clearly his main occupation. He seems to have traveled quite a bit, and had business relationships, very naturally, with many of the merchants who cooperated with his cousin Judah (Abū Zikrī).
Abraham ibn Da’ud, known by the acronym Rabad I, lived between 1110 and 1180. He was raised in Cordova, in the home of his uncle Barukh ben Isaac Albalia, where he learned Greek philosophy, astronomy, rhetoric, and history. When the Almohads conquered al-Andalus, he fled to Christian Toledo. The scant biographical data on him are found in Solomon ibn Verga’s Sheveṭ Yehuda and in the addition to the Sefer ha-Qabbala by Abraham ben Solomon of Torrutiel. Both state that he died as a martyr for the Jewish faith.
Ibn Da’ud’s main works were a treatise on philosophy, The Exalted Faith, and a historical work, The Book of Tradition, both written around 1160 to 1161. He also wrote two short works, the Chronicle of Rome (Zikhron Divre Romi), from the foundation of Rome to the time of Muḥammad, and the Chronicle of the Kings of Israel during the Second Temple (Zikhron Divre Malkhe Yisraʾel ba-Bayit ha-Sheni), which is an epitome of the Josippon. Both were included in the Mantua 1514 edition of The Book of Tradition. Abraham of Torrutiel mentions a work on astronomy that has not been preserved. Common to all these works is the defense of Judaism against attacks by Muslims and Christians. Ibn Da’ud accuses them of having falsified the sources, and he puts history and philosophy at the service of his apologetic and polemical aim.
1. The Book of Tradition
Ibn Da’ud’s Sefer ha-Qabbalais a historical chronicle intended to undermine the claims of the Karaite heresy, which had a presence in Castile in his day, by showing that Jewish law has been transmitted without interruption from the time of Moses through the Babylonian Exile, to the men of the Great Assembly (Heb. anshe kenesset ha-gedola), to the sages and their successors the geonim, and finally down to his own time. He argues that there is a symmetry to history, and that Divine Providence continually renews the Jewish tradition (Heb. qabbala). The romanticized story of the Four Captives shows that Providence ensured this continuity in the new centers of Egypt, Qayrawan, and al-Andalus when the gaonic centers declined. Ibn Da’ud’s presentation of the long chain of tradition is meant to demonstrate the authenticity of the Oral Law, denied by the Karaites.
The longest chapter of Sefer ha-Qabbala is devoted to the history of the Jews in al-Andalus, emphasizing its independence from Babylonia and its superiority among the western centers. The chapter, which amounts to a third of the entire work, is a highly valuable source of information. It begins with the story of the Four Captives, three of whom, Rabbis Moses ben Hanoch, Hushiel ben Hananel, and Shemariah ben Elhanan, were sold by a Muslim pirate in Cordova, Qayrawan, and Alexandria, respectively, where each established a new center of Torah scholarship. Ibn Da’ud mentions the many scholars in Muslim Spain, the Jewish courtiers and patrons of scholarship, particularly the Ibn Naghrellas in Granada, and brings the story down to the arrival of the Almohads, their persecution of Jews, and the resettlement of Jews in Christian Spain, where Providence has provided for the continuation of the tradition. Ibn Da’ud conveys hope in the coming of the messiah to a people undergoing difficult times.
Sefer ha-Qabbala was one of the very few Jewish chronicles written in the Middle Ages. Published as early as 1514 (Mantua), it was tremendously influential and is the major authoritative source for Jewish history in al-Andalus. Gerson D. Cohen has shown that Ibn Da’ud schematized his account of events to conform to his messianic vision and thus that the work cannot be considered objective history. Nonetheless, it retains great importance as an historical and historiosophical document.
2. The Exalted Faith
Abraham ibn Da’ud is considered to have been the first Jewish Aristotelian philosopher. He wrote the Sefer ha-Emuna ha-Rama to answer the questions of a friend regarding free will. Maintaining that such doubts could only be resolved by a perfect understanding of the world, Ibn Da’ud wrote an authentic philosophical and scientific treatise. The topic of free will is dealt with only at the end.
Like many other medieval philosophers, Ibn Da’ud held that there is a harmonious relationship between philosophy and religion, asserting that the two are in fact the same, since the truths attained by reason are already found in the sacred texts. To support this assertion, he begins every chapter with a presentation of philosophical ideas followed by biblical passages that back them up. His sources are many and range from Aristotle himself to his commentators. Ibn Da’ud was also somewhat influenced by Neoplatonism via Muslim authors. He refers to Jewish authors like Saʿadya Gaon, Ibn Gabirol, and Judah ha-Levi, always somewhat critically, as is to be expected from an Aristotelian. The work, written in Arabic and entitled Kitāb al-ʿAqīda al-Rafīʿa, was translated twice into Hebrew in the late fourteenth century, by Samuel ibn Motot under the title Sefer ha-Emuna ha-Nissaʾa, and by Solomon ben Lavi under the title Sefer ha-Emuna ha-Rama, and it is the latter translation that came to be more widely known. The late date of the translations may be due to the fact that Ibn Da’ud’s work was eclipsed by Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed, which became the main reference for Jewish Aristotelianism.
Recent research has proposed that Ibn Da’ud, while in Toledo, collaborated in the translation of philosophical works from Arabic into Latin. He has been identified with the Avendaut Israelita who helped Dominicus Gundissalinus attain a thorough knowledge of Arabic and philosophy. But this hypothesis has not been confirmed.
Bar Shelomo, Abraham. Sefer ha-Qabbala le-R. Abraham Bar Shelomo, in Mediaeval Jewish Chronicles and Chronological Notes, ed. Adolf Neubauer (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1887–95; rprt. Amsterdam, 1970), pp. 101–114.
Fontaine, T. A. M. In Defence of Judaism: Abraham Ibn Daud. Sources and Structure of ha-Emunah ha-Ramah, Studia Semitica Neerlandica, no. 26 (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1990).
Ibn Daʾud, Abraham. The Exalted Faith, ed. N. Samuelson and G. Weiss, trans. N. Samuelson (Cranbury, N.J.: Associated Universities Press, 1986).
———. Sefer ha-Qabbalah: The Book of Tradition, ed. and trans. Gerson D. Cohen (Oxford: Littman Library, 2005).
Ibn Verga, Shelomo. Sefer Shebeṭ Yehuda le-R. Shelomo ibn Verga, ed. A. Soher (Jerusalem, 1947)
Moreno Koch, Yolanda. Dos crónicas hispanohebreas del siglo XV (Barcelona: Riopiedras Ediciones, 1990), pp. 69–112.
Orfali, Moisés. Biblioteca de autores lógicos hispano judíos (Siglos XI–XV) (Granada: Universidad de Granada, 1997).
Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982).
Editions and translations
Gerson D. Cohen (ed.), A critical edition with a translation and notes of the Book of tradition (Sefer ha-qabbalah) by Abraham Ibn Daud, Philadelphia and London 1967
Amira Eran, Meqorotav ha-filosofiyyim shel Avraham ibn Daud be-sifro al-ʿAqîda al-rafîʿa, Ph.D. diss., Hebrew University, Jerusalem 1990 (edition of second Hebrew translation, Emunah nissaʾah, of the Arabic work)
Simson Weil (ed.), ha-Emunah ha-ramah, Frankfurt am Main 1852 (edition and German translation)
Norbert M. Samuelson (trans.) and Gerson Weiss (ed.), The exalted faith. Abraham Ibn Daud, Rutherford NJ 1986.
Marie-Therese d’Alverny, Avendauth? in Homenaje a Millás Vallicrosa (Barcelona 1954), 1:19–43
Milton Arfa, Abraham Ibn Daud and the beginnings of medieval Jewish Aristotelianism, Ph.D. diss., Columbia University 1954
Amira Eran, Hashpaʿat Ibn Sina ʿal-hokhaḥat hishaʾarut ha-nefesh be-mishnat Avraham Ibn Daʾud, Daʿat 31 (1993), 5–26
Amira Eran, Abraham Ibn Daud’s definition of substance and accident, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 7 (1997), 265–82
Amira Eran, Me-emunah tamah le-emunah ramah (From simple faith to sublime faith), Tel-Aviv 1998
Alexander Fidora, Abraham Ibn Daud und Dominicus Gundissalinus. Philosophie und religiöse Toleranz im Toledo des 12. Jahrhunderts, in Matthias Lutz-Bachmann and Alexander Fidora (eds.), Juden, Christen und Muslime. Religionsdialoge im Mittelalter (Darmstadt 2004),10–26
Resianne Fontaine, In defence of Judaism. Abraham Ibn Daud. Sources and structure of ha-Emunah ha-Ramah, Assen/Maastricht 1990
Resianne Fontaine, Abraham Ibn Daud’s polemics against Muslims and Christians, in Barbara Roggema, Marcel Poorthuis, and Pim Valkenberg (eds.), The three rings, Textual studies in the historical trialogue of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Leuven and Dudley MA 2005), 19–34
Resianne Fontaine, Was Maimonides an epigone? Studia Rosenthaliana 40 (2007), 9–26
Resianne Fontaine, For the dossier of Abraham Ibn Daud. Some observations on an anonymous commentary on his ha-Emunah ha-ramah, Zutot 7/1 (2010) 35–40
Resianne Fontaine and Steven Harvey, Jewish philosophy on the eve of the age of Averroism. Ibn Daud’s necessary existent and his use of Avicennian science, in Peter Adamson (ed.), In the age of Averroes. Arabic philosophy in the sixth/twelfth century (London 2011), 215–27
Resianne Fontaine, “Happy is he whose sons are boys.” Ibn Sina and Abraham Ibn Daud on evil, in Amos Bertolacci and Dag N. Hasse (eds.), The Arabic, Latin and Hebrew reception of Avicenna’s Metaphysics (Berlin forthcoming), 159–75
Saul Horovitz, Die Psychologie des Aristotelikers Abraham ibn Daud, Breslau 1912
David Kaufmann, Geschichte der Attributenlehre in der jüdischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters von Saadja bis Maimûni (Gotha 1877), 241–52, 341–60
Eve Krakowski, On the literary character of Abraham Ibn Daʾud’s Sefer ha-Qabbalah, European Journal of Jewish Studies 1 (2007), 219–47
Mauro Zonta, Avicenna in medieval Jewish philosophy, in Jules Janssens and Daniel De Smet (eds.), Avicenna and his heritage (Leuven 2002), 267–80.
Lola Ferre. " Ibn Da’ud, Abraham ben David ha-Levi." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 08 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ibn-daud-abraham-ben-david-ha-levi-COM_0010490>
Abraham ibn Da'ud haLevi, Rabad I's Timeline
Cordova, Cordova, Andalucía, Spain
Toledo, Toledo, Castille La Mancha, Spain