Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rambam and Moshe's prophecy

I understand the Rambam on prophecy as follows; All of us have capacity for imagination, which can at times seem to operate on its own. Examples are dreams or when we let our minds wander. A person who has removed himself from the world, and spent his time thinking about philosophy and God will have bursts of imagination and dreams that are about philosophy and God. Like all dreams and and bursts of imagination they need decoding via the intellect. This process - the burst of imagination, stemming from an uncorrupted mind and the interpretation by a refined intellect - is what the Rambam called prophecy for everyone but Moshe.

Any verses in which we are told that God speaks to man, are meant to be understood the same way we understand verses that tell us about God's hand or his nose: as figurative language.

How did Moshe's prophecy work? Rambam seems to have kept this a secret. While he insists in the Guide that Moshe's prophecy was categorically different, to the best of my knowledge he never tells us exactly how it was different or how it worked. Why would he have omitted to do this?

Possible explanations:

1) he didn't know.
2) he didn't want us to know.
3) he was trying to rework the tradition to fit with his preconceived philosophical doctrines (ie he was a scholastic) and Moses's prophecy is a dead end, because you can't reconcile the tradition's insistence that God directly spoke to Moshe with the philosophical doctrine that God never changes.

I wonder if the Muslim and Catholic scholastics had better luck with this problem...

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