Maimonides on the Decline of the Generations and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority

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Moses Maimonides, medieval Judaism's leading legist and philosopher, and a figure of central importance for contemporary Jewish self-understanding, held a view of Judaism which maintained the authority of the Talmudic rabbis in matters of Jewish law while allowing for free and open inquiry in matters of science and philosophy. Maimonides affirmed, not the superiority of the "moderns" (the scholars of his and subsequent generations) over the "ancients" (the Tannaim and Amoraim, the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud) but the inherent equality of the two. The equality presented here is not equality of halakhic authority, but equality of ability, of essential human characteristics. In order to substantiate these claims, Kellner explores the related idea that Maimonides does not adopt the notion of "the decline of the generations," according to which each succeeding generation, or each succeeding epoch, is in some significant and religiously relevant sense inferior to preceding generations or epochs.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAlbany
PublisherState University of New York Press
Number of pages149
ISBN (Electronic)9781438408675
ISBN (Print)9780791429211
StatePublished - Mar 1996


  • Maimonides, Moses, -- 1135-1204 -- Views on Jewish tradition.
  • Tradition (Judaism)
  • Jewish law -- Interpretation and construction.
  • Judaism and science.
  • Judaism and philosophy.


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