Maimonides - Saint and Heretic
by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D.
Read the accompanying Newsletter for March 2001
The title of this Doctrinal Report may at first seem strange to some individuals. This is because the word "and" signifies that the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides (who died at the beginning of the thirteenth century) was both a saint AND a heretic. That’s right! That is precisely what I am intending to state in the title. And, the statement is entirely true in the manner in which I intend it. It all depends on what one means by the words "saint" and "heretic." Let me explain what I mean by the terms in this article. I accept the word "saint" as the world understands it when referring to people who do an abundance of outstanding good works and philanthropy for all who make up the human race and they do it out of a sense of good-will and kindness without distinguishing the religious beliefs or social status of the people they desire so much to help. A modern example of such a person (though she was not without criticism) was Mother Teresa in India. To most in the world (including even the Hindus in India who did not share her Roman Catholic beliefs), she was considered a "saint" — a noble woman with extraordinary desires to help the homeless and the disenfranchised of the world and to show her love and concern for all human beings on earth. At least, this is how many people on earth view her, and I present her and her life work as an example of how the world accepts the meaning of the word "saint."
Let us, however, go just a little further in our appraisal of Mother Teresa. While she was admired by the world for her philanthropy and good works towards others, she maintained her staunch belief in the principal doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. As far as the Hindus are concerned, this put her also in the category of a heretic, though a nice and thoughtful heretic. Indeed, even Protestant Christians would be prone to call her a heretic because of her intense and over-emphasis on Mary (the mother of Jesus) as being alive and next to her Son in heaven and pleading to the Son to help people on earth. Most Protestant Christians who view Mary as a noble and worthwhile woman who needs to be admired, do NOT accept her as a semi-divine person with extraordinary conciliatory powers with her Son (Jesus Christ) and that she deserves almost the rank of being worshipped for her present status in heaven.
In fact, as far as the truth is concerned, the biblical revelation makes it clear that there has been NO PERSON (including Mary, the mother of Jesus) who has yet ascended into heaven. Only Jesus has been resurrected from the dead to assume that divine status in the eyes of the Father. Mary along with all the apostles who served Christ Jesus back in the first century are still in their graves. They are as DEAD as any other DEAD PERSON, and they have no consciousness whatever at the present time. They are all awaiting their resurrections from the dead that will occur at the Second Advent of Christ (see First Corinthians chapter 15 for the clear and plain teaching on this matter). Indeed, ALL PEOPLE who have died in the past (including the most holy and righteous) ARE DEAD in their graves without the slightest knowledge of what is going on within this earth at this time. They will not be brought back to life until the Second Advent of Christ and the first resurrection from the dead occurs.
So, even in regard to the real truths of the teaching of the Gospel of Christ, Mother Teresa has to be considered a heretic, because she believed in the heathen and pagan doctrine of the Immortality of the Soul that the Roman Catholic Church accepted very early in its history. That doctrine is absolutely false and is not worthy of even being considered as approaching the simple and plain teaching of Christianity as advocated and sustained by the apostles of Christ. The New Testament thoroughly denounces such a teaching because a belief in the Immortality of the Soul actually requires that Jesus Himself (if He had His Immortality of the Soul as His hope of continued life and for perpetual longevity for the future) DID NOT have to die, and that He DID NOT actually die at all, but that He continued to live even though people thought He died on the tree of crucifixion.
The simple truth is: The New Testament teaches in the clearest of words that Jesus DID IN FACT DIE on the tree of crucifixion. While Jesus lay in the tomb those three days, He was actually as DEAD as the proverbial "door nail." He was without any life whatever, while He was in the grave. It was only when God the Father resurrected Christ from the dead, that Christ became alive again. And so it will be with each of us. We will DIE and remain DEAD until the Second Advent. At the Second Advent we will be resurrected from the dead (as will be Mary the mother of Jesus, and also Mother Teresa if she is to experience the first resurrection). So, no matter how much we might admire Mother Teresa (to continue with our modern illustration), she believed anti-biblical beliefs that would render her to be an outright heretic though she was what most people in the world would call a saint. And so it is with Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher. In many ways, he was a saint, and many ways an outright heretic.
The man Maimonides was one of the finest human beings (judged by human standards) that has ever lived on earth. He simply loved human beings, no matter if they were Jewish, Arabic, European, Asiatic, African, or what. And though he considered those people in the far north and the far south (near the equator) as being sub-human (these were his exact words), he would render help and service to them as though they were his equal and brother. In all the writings about him, we find that he harbored not the slightest animosity to any person or groups of people. He loved all equally and without distinction, though he knew he was a Jew and that he tried with all his heart to help his Jewish compatriots (even in some cases putting them before others, but never at the expense of other people that differed from the Jews). In a word, if one had to single out a noble person within all of history who put the welfare of the human race as paramount (no matter who they were or what religious or social beliefs they had if those beliefs were based on the concept of kindness to all on earth), Maimonides would be a candidate for those in top position. The truth is, he was willing to put the welfare of mankind above individual religious beliefs and social extremes that seemed to separate mankind from one another.
As an example of his well-known affection for the welfare of all people on earth (no matter who they were), it is reported that when he died in Egypt he told people just before his death that he wished to be buried in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. The authorities in Egypt (though they were Muslim, and NOT Jewish) granted him his wish and his friends and relatives were able to carry his coffin from Egypt to Tiberias just like Joseph the Patriarch was also taken from Egypt to the Holy Land. But while halfway across the desert and in an isolated area, bandits came upon the cortege and demanded gold and silver (and all items of wealth) in exchange for their lives because they knew that such an esteemed individual having his coffin carried to Palestine must have had plenty of gold and wealth. But when the chief of the bandits was told who was in the coffin, the bandit chief inquired further if that person was the Maimonides the physician of Egypt? The people told him that he was indeed the man. At that moment, the bandit chief told the people that when he was a young child in Egypt and desperately ill that his parents took him to the renown physician Maimonides the Jew. And though they were Muslim (and not Jewish) and though they had no money whatever to pay Maimonides, the Jewish leader treated the boy as if he were the most important individual on earth. He charged them not one penny for his services. Indeed, the boy got better, and then went into the desert to begin a career in banditry. This was the same boy, now grown up to be a man. The bandit chief then escorted the cortege of Maimonides to Tiberias and paid him great honors as he was lowered into his tomb. Though the story may be apocryphal, it still illustrates the great admiration that all people of the time had for that "Jewish genius" from Egypt. His life, in this regard, was a beautiful example that should be emulated by us all. The world would be a much better place if we had more like Maimonides in the world. I also want to honor him for his good works that all admired.
Throughout his life, Maimonides respected the religious beliefs of those within the environment in which he lived. When in Spain as a young man, he lived among Muslims. Though in his heart he was a Jew, outwardly he acted as if he were a faithful Muslim. When he and his father went to Fez in North Africa (which was at the time the fanatical center of Islam for the area), he practiced openly as though he were a Muslim to the extent that people around him thought him to be one of the most fervent of Muslims. At home, however, Maimonides was a thoroughgoing Jew. When he finally got to Egypt, the Sultan loved his professional expertise so much (mainly as a physician) that he allowed Maimonides to practice Judaism openly, and that is what Maimonides did. Indeed, he wrote several major works that are held in esteem by Jewish authorities to this very day. All of his writings were all orthodox to general mainline Judaism of the Rabbinic variety that held to the Talmud and the Mishnah with esteem. No one will ever find in the writings of Maimonides anything that would not hold in the highest rank the simple and plain orthodox teachings of Judaism as then practiced. He was a thoroughgoing Jewish scholar in all outward appearances. But there was another Maimonides. This was the real Maimonides.
The fact is, though Maimonides was a Jew and loved his people with great devotion, Maimonides was also a philosopher (which rank he held in the highest esteem), and this led him to be accounted as a person who actually believed things inwardly very differently than his Jewish contemporaries (especially those Jews who were of orthodox persuasion). In a word, Maimonides from almost the age of accountability was at heart an atheist. In his heart of hearts, he DID NOT believe that there was a God. Though Judaism stated there was certainly a God (and Maimonides supported the orthodox opinion openly), he was completely convinced that there was really NO GOD. He tried in his many ways (especially in his work called "The Guide for the Perplexed") to show that any philosopher of worth knew down deep that THERE WAS NO GOD. Indeed, Maimonides made it a cardinal belief of his own, that no one could ever speak of God in any way but in the negative. Everything dealing with God had negative aspects of the highest nature. The simple truth is: Maimonides was (as we would say today) a card-carrying atheist, and to his close friends and academic colleagues he readily admitted it.
Believe it or not, Judaism today is NOT based upon the teachings of Moses (except in the external dressings of Sabbath-keeping, kosher laws, and traditional laws of separation from the Gentiles). The Jews today are mainly following the teachings of Maimonides (with much influence from the doctrines advocated by Rabbi Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century). I show in my new book on the proper location of the Temples in Jerusalem that one of the main and essential reasons why the Jewish people lost the knowledge of where their Temples once were located is because they accepted what is called "The 13 Principles of Judaism" as advocated by Maimonides. His philosophical beliefs and what he taught clandestinely were the very opposite of what Moses and the Prophets believed. Indeed, Maimonides even abandoned some of the essential teachings of the Talmudic Sages that were based solidly on scriptural teachings (doctrines that had governed the Jewish people over the centuries). Maimonides switched those Jewish beliefs by substituting them for Greek philosophical doctrines that mainly came from Aristotle. Top Jewish scholars know this to be true and there are abundant Jewish scholarly reports that attest to this fact. But in his external behavior and conduct, he was reckoned by most ordinary Jews to be of utmost orthodoxy in belief and practice. Even today, orthodox Jewish scholars accept him (though to do so means they have to avoid his philosophical teachings in his book called the "Guide for the Perplexed"). Maimonides even admitted that in that book he was contradictory and inconsistent in citing his external beliefs and practices. On the surface and in view of the general public, however, Maimonides practiced the highest orthodoxy.
Maimonides deliberately tried to mislead people in what he taught them because he thought this was for their good and welfare. As a good physician will keep the truth from his patients (so the principle goes), so Maimonides would mislead the ordinary people who could not comprehend what he considered to be true philosophical concepts. Remember that Maimonides was a physician, and he often told his patients what they wanted to hear in order to get the people to think more positively. He used the well-known psychosomatic approach to treating his patients. Always tell them the good things, if it were at all possible. He readily admitted the virtue of his method in teaching what he called the "common folk" among the Jewish populace. Maimonides thought it prudent to deceive the common people if it would give them encouragement to remain optimistic.
In real practical and philosophical belief, Maimonides by his own admission and practice was a thorough-going Hellenist who insisted that the Jewish nation give up the simple and plain teachings of Moses on several important Old Testament doctrines and to adopt in their place the "Greek philosophical way" (notably the concepts of Aristotle). The word "Hellenist" came to mean anyone who adopted the pagan teachings of the Greeks and Romans. Maimonides was a Hellenist. He dogmatically put Aristotle before the plain teachings of Moses and the Scriptures. Many in Judaism at that time objected to Maimonides’ concepts, but within 200 years that followed his death, many of the Jewish Rabbis began to heed the teachings of Maimonides. They left the doctrines of Moses almost wholesale in order to accept and perpetuate a philosophic and inward religious motif that was based on Greek philosophy. Again, this change did not involve the externals of the Mosaic religion that made the society to appear Jewish. Maimonides still expected all Jews to keep the external and ritualistic laws of Moses.
Let me give an example of what I mean. In all places of the Holy Scriptures (and also among the Jewish Sages of the Talmudic period) God is defined in anthropomorphic terms. That is, He is consistently described as being like humans in appearance. In the first chapter of Genesis, we find that human beings are made in the likeness and image of God. And this teaching dominates all pages of the Holy Scriptures. The New Testament advocates the same thing. God is reckoned to look in body-form just like Jesus Christ (expressly so – Hebrews 1:3) and Christ Jesus is even described in his glorified condition at the present to be an anthropos (a man) (see I Timothy 2:4-6). When man observes this image of Deity, the Scriptures show that God looks like all humans. This is the scriptural teaching. Indeed, the design of the Holy Temple at Jerusalem showed the anthropomorphic appearance of God.
Maimonides, however, found this belief to be very distasteful and unsatisfactory to him. It was not the manner in which many of the philosophers of his time (twelfth and early thirteenth centuries) viewed the Creator. In order to alter this long held belief by early Jewish teachers (including all the writers of the Holy Scriptures), Maimonides dogmatically stated in his "Third Principle of the Jewish Faith" the statement that "God has no body." There was uproar among Jewish scholars at the time over his assertion (among other foreign doctrines that Maimonides taught), but within 200 years almost all scholars within Judaism accepted this teaching of Maimonides. What Maimonides did was to allegorize every statement in the Scriptures or written by the Talmudic Sages that suggested that God had body parts like a human. The symbolism of the Temple, however, gave Maimonides some major criticisms of his personal belief that God did not have a body like humans (or, that God any body at all).
In my book on the Temple and my subsidiary articles on the Internet, I show that it was the actions of Maimonides over his dislike of the Temple features (because it promoted anthropomorphic descriptions of God) that helped in making the Jewish people forget even where their former Temples were located in Jerusalem. The Mosaic and biblical Temple design and rules and regulations of the Temple were totally anthropomorphic in their outward appearance and this was anathema to Maimonides in his heart of hearts. As a matter of fact, in his own ideal Temple that he recorded in his book "Guide for the Perplexed," Maimonides had Aristotle and his teachings positioned solidly within the Holy of Holies (along with Moses, whom he taught believed like Aristotle), while the ordinary Jewish people with their Rabbis still teaching Moses and the Holy Scriptures in the biblical sense were left out of his Holy of Holies. Maimonides even called the eminent Rabbis who believed that God had a body as the Tanak (the Old Testament) taught along with the Talmud, were nothing more than ignoramuses.
To Maimonides, those Jews who continued to teach the externals of keeping the Law of Moses and stating that those teachings were the actual ones meant by Moses were those who would be shivering in the cold on the outskirts of his inner Temple (Book III, chapters 45 and especially 51). That’s right, Maimonides would not let even ordinary Jews who believed Moses and the Prophets literally into the interior part (inner sanctum) of his new Temple. That part of the divine Temple of God (as conceived by Maimonides) was reserved only for "philosophers" like Aristotle among whom he considered to be Moses and the Prophets and any other "philosopher" no matter of what race.
But Maimonides was particular in his designation of who was a "philosopher." Maimonides even had his own criterion of who was a "human" and who was not "human." As for certain Gentile peoples, Maimonides taught explicitly that the extreme northern Turks and the extreme southern peoples near the equator were to him non-humans and they could never find a place in his "Temple" (Guide for the Perplexed, Book III, chapter 51, paragraph 3). Such people (whom he considered just above the apes in mentality) could not even come into the philosophical city of Maimonides, let alone into his "holy house for the king." This was a prime belief of Maimonides. True, he was kind and considerate to these so-called unhuman people and he treated them with pity and kindness. True, we can call this belief of Maimonides to be "medieval" and "backward" if we wish (and, of course, the evaluation is true), but that does not absolve Maimonides and the philosophical principles that governed him from teaching and believing his highly erroneous doctrines and anti-biblical concepts.
What a contrast this racial concept of Maimonides is to God’s own word in the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah stated that even the ones prohibited from entering the Mosaic Tabernacle or the Solomonic Temple (such as eunuchs and all foreigners of any people) will have a part within the very Temple of the Barren Women that will be a Temple erected in the time of the Kingdom of God (see all of Isaiah 53, 54, 55 and particularly 56:4-7). And in the New Testament, the very first Gentile to be offered the message of salvation (even before the "noble Romans") was the "Ethiopian Eunuch" (Acts 8:26-39). The position of the story about the Ethiopian Eunuch within the New Testament canon is of high significance in the account of God’s redemption for the human race. As a matter of fact, God has the ability to place the so-called "last" to be "first." In the teaching of the apostle Paul (called "the Mystery") which represents the final teaching of the New Testament writers, there is no such thing as a "superior human race" or an "inferior human race." God has a divine purpose for the welfare of everyone on earth – and that includes not only all races, but each individual has a special and particular purpose. See my book "The Essentials of New Testament Doctrine" for the full account of what God has designed for all of us as explained in the real teachings of the Holy Scriptures. It is glorious indeed! But Maimonides rejected these truths of God outright. Indeed, the only reason that Maimonides even placed Moses in "his Holy of Holies" is because he believed that Moses actually believed like Aristotle did.
The truth is Maimonides’ book "Guide for the Perplexed" is pure heresy to all the principles of the early Jewish faith of those who lived during Temple times and in the period of the Talmuds as well as those who wrote the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Quite a number of Jewish scholars who have studied it admit this is a true appraisal. The "Guide" is an attempt to make Hellenism (in its philosophic sense) the official doctrine of Judaism. But the teaching is heathen to the core. What Antiochus Epiphanes and the emperor Hadrian tried to do with their armed forces to coerce the Jewish people to accept the normal teachings of Hellenism (that is, force them to accept Hellenism alongside their Judaism as the proper ecumenical philosophical and religious standard), Maimonides who retained his status as a Jew accomplished in his time (and for 200 years afterward) what Antiochus and Hadrian set out to do. Maimonides did his work of destroying the true teachings of the Tanak (the Holy Scriptures) as a Jew who openly taught "orthodoxy" to the Jewish masses and without firing a shot of antagonism against his people. He attempted (and in all accounts he succeeded) to turn Judaism into Hellenism. He was clever.
Maimonides did his work of destruction by staying within the fold of Judaism. He did it by teaching "double doctrine" to get his Hellenism accepted. And just as Antiochus Epiphanes and Hadrian with their armies tried to get rid of the Temples, Maimonides also did in fact get rid of the Temple (and he hid it from Jewish view until modern times) by his "double doctrine" form of teaching. He did not want any building in the midst of Jewish society that demanded (as the Temple does) the anthropomorphic concept that God has a literal body. Maimonides went to extremes to get rid of that Scriptural doctrine. As a theologian, it took me only one reading of "Guide for the Perplexed" to see clearly that it was a "Guide" that Maimonides deliberately intended to lead the Jewish nation into abject paganism in their philosophical beliefs. Any of you who are students of the Holy Scriptures (and who believe the Bible) would easily observe its utter heretical teaching in the plainest of ways. But that is not all.
Maimonides also admitted that what he told the common people of the Jews and the Gentiles was only external teaching to the ignorant masses of the Jews, but that he actually believed quite a different way that those who were expert in philosophy would understand. He taught what is called "double doctrine" (or, "double truth"). I will have more to say on this type of teaching in a future article on the subject. It is an abominable doctrine, but most people who called themselves "philosophers" in the past and in the time of Maimonides practiced it in a widespread manner. At least to his credit, Maimonides openly wrote that he was consistently using the "double doctrine" (or, "double truth") scheme of teaching the common Jewish folk. This type of education justified Maimonides to teach an outward form of orthodox doctrine that resembled the biblical teachings of Moses and Prophets, but inwardly this "double doctrine" principle allowed him to advocate the beliefs of the Greek philosophers, mainly Aristotle.
The truth is Maimonides’ book "Guide for the Perplexed" is pure heresy to all the principles of the early Jewish faith of those who lived during Temple times and in the period of the Talmuds as well as those who wrote the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. Quite a number of Jewish scholars who have studied it admit this is a true appraisal. The "Guide" is an attempt to make Hellenism (in its philosophic sense) the official doctrine of Judaism. In this design, he was successful. The teaching, however, is heathen to the core. He turned Judaism into being in accord with Greek theological and philosophical principles in some of its prime doctrines. It was a victory that transformed Judaism into a Hellenistic religion. Indeed, Judaism today believes in the teaching of Immortality of the Soul and even in the concept of the Transmigration of Souls (a subcontinent Indian belief). Maimonides even altered the Jewish recognition of the characteristics of God and the Godhead. In doing so, he overthrew the teaching of the Scriptures.
What did Maimonides believe about God? He firmly taught that God had "no body." This was contrary to the most simple of Scriptural teaching (Genesis 1:26). He also changed God from being a positive aspect in all matters of religion into a concept that involved only the negative. Maimonides made the statement that the only thing that anyone could learn about God was "what He was not." To Maimonides it was not possible to say anything positive about God. He believed that no one could ever show "what God was." He believed that man could only demonstrate "what God was not." This was Maimonides’ fundamental belief. In simple terms that anyone versed in the Holy Scriptures can recognize is that Maimonides in emphasizing "what God was not," was taking the approach that the word "not" should always prevail in teaching things about God. And when the word "not" is associated with "God" you obtain "not-God" (or, plainly, "a" = "not" + "theos" = "God" or (the final teaching is there is "no god").
In simple terms, all philosophers in the view of Maimonides had to be atheists or they could not be considered proper philosophers. That is precisely what Maimonides believed as his own words demonstrate. He believed that God was nothing, or that "nothing was God," or, simply and plainly, "there was no God." In short, Maimonides was a great philanthropist and one who treated all men with kindness and consideration. And yes, he always appeared to those who knew him as being a thoroughgoing orthodox Jew, but on the inside (in his heart of hearts) he was an ardent, committed and thoroughgoing atheist. This evaluation of Maimonides is in no denigrating this great man of history because he would readily tell any person (Jew, Muslim or Christian) his inward philosophical beliefs that he felt the general public should not be told in plain and simple diction. But Maimonides would gladly inform his friends his personal beliefs in cryptic and symbolic language so as not to hurt the feelings of "the commandment keepers" whom Maimonides considered to be utter ignoramuses to proper philosophical ideals and the true principles of practical (or humanistic) theology.
There are many people today in the higher academic circles who share this philosophical belief of Maimonides in speaking with persons not acquainted with their professional understanding. There are many individuals who readily go along with the basic teachings and beliefs of the surrounding societies in which they find themselves, but in their own heart of hearts (or in their own private and personal lives that they share only with their most intimate soul mates) they often believe just the opposite of what society accepts. This is a common trait among humans today in certain cultural environments. And while one must admit that it is not necessary (nor is it always good policy) to reveal one’s inner feelings in all cases to people who would not understand (especially if one lives in a tyrannical society like a strict atheistic type of Communistic nation), but it would be wrong to make a habitual practice of such beliefs when we live in a free society where one’s life is not at stake for such disclosures. However, many of you may think of circumstances in which exceptions might legitimately be made to what I have been saying. Thankfully, it is not up to me to censure anyone (even Maimonides) for hiding his true feelings from the general public. But for me, it is wrong to continually conceal one’s inner feelings from the knowledge of a society that believes otherwise (especially if the society is free and liberal) and by deliberately doing it in a purely hypocritical manner.
The outward practice of hypocrisy is quite wrong and is to be condemned. If a person chooses to actively deceive people into believing things about one’s inner beliefs that are deliberately promoted for one’s own self-aggrandizement and that such deception is given to outwardly perpetuate a false appraisal to others of one’s true character and/or motives, such hypocrisy is sinful from the teaching of the Bible (Matthew 6:5,16). While it is a privilege from God to not share one’s private life with any other person if one so chooses (and such privacy is one of the principal freedoms that we in western society cherish), it is still wrong to lie and cheat with false impressions about oneself within the guise of showing an outer righteousness and a false piety in order to deceive and to hurt other persons.
As for me, let me say in closing, I truly believe in God (I am no atheist) and I truly believe the Holy Scriptures are the inspired Word of God (and, yes, I truly believe that Jesus was born of a virgin), and I will mince no words to hide these personal feelings (which I want all of you to know and to realize). Now, this does not make me (or you if you share my beliefs) better than other people (such as Maimonides) who chose to adopt other principles to govern their lives. It is God who is the judge in all circumstances and not Ernest L. Martin or each of you readers. We are responsible to God for our own manner of living, not in censuring how others choose to live their lives.
Frankly, I am happy that I live in a free country where I can openly state that I believe in God the Father and God the Son (Christ Jesus) and also that the Holy Scriptures are their divine word for the instruction of all mankind. Maimonides did not live in such a free society. In certain circumstances he felt deception was proper and he actually encouraged it in matters of religious beliefs. For much of his younger life he paraded himself as a strict Muslim (even though he did not belief a word of their doctrine), but even his closest friends thought him to be a strict and observant Muslim. At home he lived as a strict Jew, though to him Judaism was not true. The commandments given to Moses were only an outward display of cultural belief, not religious.
But for reasons best known to him, he felt that he should not reveal his actual belief in atheism to the common folk around him in a clear and simple manner. As far as the Jews were concerned, he wanted them to believe that he was a thoroughgoing orthodox Jew and no one could find in any of his basic teachings regarding the Holy Scriptures, the Talmud or other Jewish writings that he was anything but orthodox to perfection. But in his philosophical writings in his later years, he showed a very different Maimonides. He there revealed that in his heart of hearts he could NOT believe that there was a God. To Maimonides, belief in God was for ignoramuses who had no part in his fictitious "Holy of Holies" that was a part of his philosophical "Temple." In his view, the "commandment keepers" were on the outside of the true Temple of knowledge and wisdom that only philosophers could envision and understand. To Maimonides, Aristotle was far and away ahead of the Rabbis in spiritual and practical knowledge and wisdom. He plainly stated this in his "Guide for the Perplexed."
The fact that Maimonides was at heart an atheist, is one of the main reasons why he did not encourage the Jewish people of his time to return to Palestine and to rebuild the Temple. The Temple had at its central theme that there was indeed a God and that He also had a body by which He spiritually sat inside that Temple (although God’s body is shown in the Scriptures to be composed of spiritual substance and not fleshly like humans). Still, the Scriptures show that God’s body has the same shape and form as our human bodies (Genesis 1:26). Maimonides could not believe this. In a word, Maimonides was a great philanthropist and servant to all human beings who needed his help in their time of need, but he died as perplexed as he was throughout his life over the fact that the common people (whom he called ignoramuses) were willing to live and die for their God that to him did not exist. Thankfully, this state of perplexity embraced by Maimonides will one day change (as it will for all in the world), when our God finally reveals Himself to mankind in all His glory and majesty. That day is just over the horizon. God speed that day!
Ernest L. Martin
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