Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra al Tudela

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Abu Iṣḥāq Ibrahim ben Me'ir ibn Ezra al-Tudela (ibn Ezra)

Also Known As: "Abū Isḥāq Ibrahim Ibn al-Rabῑb", "Abu Ishak Ibrahim ibn al-Majid ibn Ezra"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Tudela, Navarre, Navarre, Spain
Death: Died in Calahorra, Rioja, Rioja, Spain
Immediate Family:

Son of Judah (Abū ʾl-Ḥasan) ben Joseph ibn Ezra
Husband of ???? Daughter of Isaac ibn Muhajir
Father of Yitzhak (Abu Sa'id) ibn Ezra and Ya'kob ben Avraham

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About Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra al Tudela

Also mentioned in Abarbanel Family Scroll – undated handwritten manuscript from the collection of the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr, held by Chaim Freedman.

Reference was made to “Elef Margaliot” 1993, Meir Wunder.

Abraham ibn Ezra was born between 1089 and 1092 in Tudela, which was still under Muslim rule but was conquered by Alfonso I in 1115. During the first period of his life, Ibn Ezra lived in al-Andalus and perhaps visited North Africa. He left Sefarad in 1140 and lived in several cities in France (Occitan in Beziers , around 1148, and from there move to the cities of Bordeaux , Angers and Rouen), Italy (Mantau and Verona), and London, England. It is likely that he died in England between 1164 and 1167. He was a close friend of Judah ha-Levi, whose acquaintance he first made in Cordova. His son, Isaac (Abū Saʿīd) ben Abraham ibn Ezra , traveled to Egypt with Ha-Levi and then settled in Iraq, where he became a disciple of the philosopher, physician, and exegete Abū ʾl-Barakāt al-Baghdādī, and converted to Islam.

Ibn Ezra was one of the most prominent Jewish writers of the twelfth century, and because of the diversity of his writings he deserves to be considered a Renaissance man.

Although Ibn Ezra did not write systematic philosophical works, his philosophic thought, as disseminated through his writings, was clear and consistent. He can be considered a Neoplatonist influenced by Ibn Gabirol, but with a strong propensity for rationalism and science. Astrology and astronomy hold a central place in his thought and are present in all the literary and scientific genres that he cultivated.

It is evident that Ibn Ezra’s thought was influenced by a corpus of closely related ideas derived from Pythagorism, Neoplatonism, Ibn Gabirol, the Brethren of Purity, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), and astrologers like Dorotheus Sidonis, Māshallāh, Abū Maʿshar, and al-Kindī among many others. In astronomy the main influence was Ptolemy.

Ibn Ezra also wrote religious and secular poetry throughout the first part of his life. Many of his poems are secular, occasional pieces (panegyrics, love songs, and friendship poems dedicated to leading communal figures and poets in al-Andalus and the Maghreb). He wrote many strophic poems (Ar. muwashshaḥāt) that conclude with an envoi (Ar. kharja ) in Arabic or Romance. The majority of his poems are piyyuṭim of different genres (reshut, qerova, seliḥa, ge’ula, ofan, baqqasha, etc.). His poetry was praised by Moses ibn Ezra in his Kitāb al-Muḥāḍara wa ʾl-Mudhākara and by Judah al-Ḥarīzī in his Taḥkemoni. Some of his liturgical compositions are included in the High Holiday and festival rituals of the Sephardi and Eastern rite communities. In addition to his large corpus of secular and liturgical poems, Ibn Ezra composed a long theological work in verse, Ḥayy ben Meqiṣ, based upon Ibn Sīnā’s Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, and dedicated to his friend Samuel ibn Jāmaʿ in Gabes. Unlike the philosophical Arabic original, Ibn Ezra’s Ḥayy ben Meqiṣ is presented in a narrative that is both lively and charming.

During the second period of his life, during which he moved about Christian Europe, Ibn Ezra produced his biblical commentaries and treatises on grammar, astronomy, astrology, theology, and mathematics, and scientific translations. Whatever he may have written on these subjects before leaving the Iberian Peninsula is not extant, nor is there any reference to it in his writings. Ibn Ezra contributed greatly to the development of Hebrew grammar and biblical exegesis, but above all his writings ensured that Jews and non-Jews in Christian Europe profited from the Arabic sciences. Though literate in Arabic, Ibn Ezra wrote in Hebrew for Jewish communities that knew no Arabic. He also wrote some treatises in Latin for Christian scholars. Most of his biblical, astronomical, and astrological books are extant in two or three recensions. His style is didactic, although sometimes elusive and secretive, and his criticism is sometimes biting. Throughout his writings, and especially in his astrological treatises, Ibn Ezra included names of authors and books, and quotations from his sources, thereby making his works a valuable source of information about ancient and contemporaneous sources no longer extant.

Although Ibn Ezra did not write systematic philosophical works, his philosophic thought, as disseminated through his writings, was clear and consistent. He can be considered a Neoplatonist influenced by Ibn Gabirol, but with a strong propensity for rationalism and science. Astrology and astronomy hold a central place in his thought and are present in all the literary and scientific genres that he cultivated.

Ibn Ezra achieved lasting renown as an exegete. His commentary to the Torah is the second most widely studied by Jews after Rashi. He wrote two introductions to his Torah commentary in which he set forth his own method of biblical exegesis after criticizing the methods characteristic of his gaonic, Karaite, allegorical, and midrashic predecessors. His method of peshaṭ (the straightforward meaning of the text) has been described as a philosophical grammar (Lancaster). Ibn Ezra held that biblical exegesis must be literal and rational, and that knowledge of all kinds is needed in approaching the text. As a grammarian he was strongly influenced by his predecessors, especially Judah Ḥayyūj, but also Jonah ibn Janāḥ, Moses ibn Chiquitilla, and Judah ibn Balaam, but he built his own system reflecting his personal views; grammar is fundamental in his understanding of Bible.

Concerning his thought, Ibn Ezra’s writings expound a set of systematic ideas. He interpreted the biblical word bar’a ([God] created) in Genesis 1:1 as alluding to the formation of the world from preexistent matter. The cosmos, he says, was the work of angels through the mediation of stars. Everything other than God is composed of matter and form. The universe consists of three levels, the upper, intermediate, and lower worlds, which contain ten concentric spheres. The upper level contains the ninth and tenth spheres and is the soul of the world, the place of the angels, and the origin of the human soul. The intermediate world corresponds to the fixed stars and the seven planets. The lower world is the Earth, the unmoving center of the universe, the realm of the four elements, and the focus of heavenly activity. Man mirrors the universe and in himself reproduces its tripartite division of vegetative, animal, and rational souls. Man has to fulfill the divine commandments but must also attain understanding of the universe in order to return to his divine origin, and this can be achieved only through reason and knowledge.

According to Ibn Ezra, salvation is not possible without rational knowledge. The clearest analogy of God is the number one, which is not a number. The numbers one to ten are present in order and essence in the Ten Commandments and correlate with the ten spheres. In his emphasis on the unity of God, Ibn Ezra’s expressions concerning God’s relationship with the world several times suggest pantheism. With regard to divine providence, Ibn Ezra understands the fate of man as determined by the stars. There are two reasons for this: first, God does not know particular beings as such, and second, the stars cannot avoid influencing sublunary beings, as decreed by God in the beginning. However, man is able to recognize this influence as established by God and can change it within certain limits, mainly by performing the divine commandments. The problem of evil is closely connected to astrology. God created everything good, and evil only appears in the sublunary world as a result of the specific way each person receives the influence of the stars during his life.

It is evident that Ibn Ezra’s thought was influenced by a corpus of closely related ideas derived from Pythagorism, Neoplatonism, Ibn Gabirol, the Brethren of Purity, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), and astrologers like Dorotheus Sidonis, Māshallāh, Abū Maʿshar, and al-Kindī among many others. In astronomy the main influence was Ptolemy. Ibn Ezra was so eclectic and encyclopedic a writer, however, that any attempt to isolate any aspect of his thought as characterized by a specific school or author is quite difficult, and much work still remains to be done in this area. New research by Smithuis has strengthened the hypothesis of the collaboration of Ibn Ezra with Christians, as previously suggested by Millás Vallicrosa. This would mean that his Latin writings, possibly redacted with the assistance of a Christian, were aimed at Christian readers. In any case, the transmission of his works in Latin and other European languages is rich and complex and deserves more attention.

Ibn Ezra’s oeuvre in Hebrew, Latin and Arabic is listed below.

1. Writings in Hebrew and Arabic

Biblical commentaries: On Ecclesiastes (Rome, 1140), On Esther I (Rome, 1140–42), On Job (Rome, 1140–42), On Lamentations (Rome, Jan. 1142), On Daniel I (Rome/Lucca, 1140–45), On Song of Songs I (Rome/Lucca 1140–45), On Psalms I (Rome/Lucca, 1140–43), On Minor Prophets I (Lucca, 1142–45), On Pentateuch I [short commentary or Sefer ha-Yashar] (Lucca, 1142–45), On Ruth (Lucca, 1142–45), On Isaiah (Lucca, May 1145), On Esther II (Rouen, 1153–56), On Daniel II [long commentary] (Rouen, Oct. 1155), On Genesis II [long commentary] (Rouen, 1155–56), On Psalms II (Rouen, Sept. 1, 1156), On Song of Songs II (Rouen, 1155–57), On Exodus II [long commentary] (Rouen, 1155–57), On Minor Prophets II (Rouen, Dec. 16, 1156), On Genesis III (London, 1157–58).

Grammatical treatises : Sefer Moʼznayim (Rome, 1140–42), Sefer ha-Yesod (Lucca, 1142–45),Yesod Diqduq Hu Sefat Yeter I and II (Lucca, 1142–45), Sefer Hagana ʻal Rav Saʻadya Gaʼon (Lucca, 1142–45), Sefer Saḥot (Mantua, Oct. 1145), Sefer Safa Berura (Verona 1146); translations: Judah Ḥayyūj’s Sefer Otiyyot ha-Noaḥ (Rome, 1140–42), Judah Ḥayyūj’s Sefer Peʻalei ha-Kefel (Rome, 1140–42), Judah Ḥayyūj’s Sefer ha-Niqqud (Rome, 1140–42).

Mathematical treatises : Sefer ha-Middot (Italy?, before 1142–45), Sefer ha-Mispar (Lucca, 1142–45), Sefer ha-ʼEḥad (Béziers?, before 1148), Sefer Yesod Mispar (Rouen 1148–55).

Astronomical treatises : Luḥot I [lost] (Lucca, 1142–45), Sefer Ṭaʻamei ha-Luḥot [lost] (Lucca, 1142–45), Sefer Keli ha-Neḥoshet I (Mantua, 1146), Sefer Keli ha-Neḥoshet II (Verona, 1146), Sefer ha-ʻIbbur I (Verona, 1146), Sefer Keli ha-Neḥoshet III (Béziers, 1148), Luḥot II [lost] (Narbonne, 1148–53), Sefer ha-ʻIbbur II [lost] (Narbonne, 1148–53), Shalosh Sheʼelot (Narbonne 1148–53), Luḥot III [lost] (Rouen, 1154), Iggeret ha-Shabbat (England, Dec. 6, 1158); translations: Ṭaʻamei Luḥot al-Muthani (England, 1160).

Theological treatises : Sefer ha-Shem (Béziers, 1148), Sefer Yesod Mora’ (London, June–July 1158).

Astrological treatises : Sefer Reʼshit Ḥokhma I (Béziers, June 1148), Sefer ha-Ṭeʻamim I (Béziers, 1148), Sefer ha-Moladot I (Béziers, 1148), Sefer ha-Meʼorot (Béziers, 1148), Sefer ha-Mivḥarim I (Béziers, 1148), Sefer ha-Sheʼelot I (Béziers, 1148), Sefer ha-ʻOlam I (Béziers, Nov. 1148), Sefer ha-ʻOlam II (Midi or Northern France, 1148–54), Sefer Reʼshit Ḥokhma II [lost] (Rouen, 1154), Sefer ha-Ṭeʻamim II (Rouen, 1154), Sefer Mishpeṭe ha-Mazzalot (Rouen, 1154–57), Sefer ha-Moladot II [lost] (Rouen, 1154–57), Sefer ha-Sheʼelot II (Rouen, 1154–57), Sefer ha-Mivḥarim II (Rouen?, ca. 1154?), Sefer ha-Moladot III [lost] (Angevin domains?, after 1148), Tequfot ha-Shanim [lost] (Angevin domains?, after 1148), Sefer ha-Mivḥarim II [lost] (Angevin domains?, after 1148), Sefer ha-Sheʼelot III [lost] (Angevin domains?, after 1148).

2. Writings in Latin

Astronomy : Liber de rationibus tabularum I (Lucca, 1142–45), Tractatus de astrolabio (Rouen, 1154), Liber de rationibus tabularum II (Angers, 1154).

Astrology : Liber de nativitatibus (Rouen, 1154).

Josefina Rodríguez Arribas

Bibliography

Díaz-Esteban, Fernando (ed.). Abraham ibn Ezra y su tiempo. Actas del simposio internacional (Madrid: Asociación Española de Orientalistas, 1990).

Freudenthal, Gad and Shlomo Sela. “Abraham Ibn Ezra’s Scholarly Writings: A Chronological Listing,” Aleph: Historical Studies in Science & Judaism 6 (2006).

Greive, Hermann. Studien zum jüdischen Neuplatonismus. Die Religionsphilosophie des Abraham ibn Ezra (Berlin: Gruyter, 1973).

Ibn Ezra, Abraham. Diwān des Abraham ibn Esra, ed. Jacob Egers (Berlin: Ittskovski, 1886).

———. Shire ha-Qodesh shel Avraham Ibn ʻEzra , ed. Israel Levin (Jerusalem: Aqademya ha-Leʾumit ha-Yiśreʾelit le-Madaʻim, 1975), 2 vols.

Lancaster, Irene. Deconstructing the Bible: Abraham ibn Ezra’s Introduction to the Torah (London: Routledge, 2003).

Levin, Israel (ed.). Abraham Ibn Ezra Reader (New York: Keren Israel, 1985) [Hebrew].

Rosin, David. “Die Religionsphilosophie Abraham Ibn Esra’s,” Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judentum 42 (1898): 17–505, and 43 (1899): 22–240.

Sáenz-Badillos, Angel. “Abraham ibn Ezra and the Twelfth-Century European Renaissance,” in Studies in Hebrew Literature and Jewish Culture Presented to Albert van der Heide on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday, ed. Martin F. J. Baasten and Reinier Munk (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), pp. 1–20.

Sela, Shlomo. Abraham ibn Ezra and the Rise of Medieval Science (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

Smithuis, Renata. “Abraham Ibn Ezra the Astrologer and the Transmission of Arabic Science to the Christian West” (Ph.D. diss., University of Manchester, 2004).

Tomson, Peter J. (ed.). Abraham ibn Ezra, savant universel: Conférences données au colloque de L’Institutum Iudaicum (Namur, 25 novembre 1999) (Brussels: Institutum Iudaicum, 2000).

Twersky, Isadore, and Jay M. Harris (eds.). Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra: Studies in the Writings of a Twelfth-Century Jewish Polymath (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

Josefina Rodríguez Arribas. " Ibn Ezra, Abraham (Abu Iṣḥāq)." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 09 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/ibn-ezra-abraham-abu-ishaq-COM_0010510>

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Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra al Tudela's Timeline

1090
1090
Tudela, Navarre, Navarre, Spain
1105
1105
Age 15
1110
1110
Age 20
1125
1125
Age 35
Calahorra, Rioja, Rioja, Spain
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