Abraham Ibn Ezra

A master Torah commentator who foreshadowed biblical criticism

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In a sense, Ibn Ezra was the forerunner of biblical criticism. He held that the second part of the book of Isaiah could not have been written by the prophet Isaiah, since it speaks of events that occurred well over a hundred years after Isaiah's death and there is no indication that these were prophesies about future events.

Spinoza maintained with justice that Ibn Ezra hints that there are post-Mosaic additions to the Pentateuch. In a comment to: "These are the words which Moses spoke unto all Israel beyond the Jordan" (Deuteronomy 1:1) he hints that this verse could not have been written by Moses since the words "beyond the Jordan imply that the writer was in the land of Israel, whereas Moses would not have referred to his location as "beyond the Jordan."

He then proceeds to hint at other verses, such as the last twelve verses of the Pentateuch which tell how Moses went up on Mount Sinai to die there, which could not have been written by Moses. More Orthodox interpreters of Ibn Ezra declare that he believed that these verses were written by Moses but as a prophesy of future events. Spinoza (he was anticipated by the fourteenth century Joseph Bonfils in his commentary to Ibn Ezra) understands Ibn Ezra to be saying that these verses are post-Mosaic additions. The sixteenth-century Italian historian Azariah de Rossi understood Ibn Ezra in this way and attacked him for daring to depart from the established Jewish tradition that the whole of the Pentateuch was written by Moses.

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Rabbi Louis Jacobs

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.