James A. Diamond
James Diamond’s new book consists of a series of studies addressing Moses Maimonides’ (1138–1204) appropriation of marginal figures—lepers, converts, heretics, and others—normally considered on the fringes of society and religion. Each chapter focuses on a type or character that, in Maimonides’ hands, becomes a metaphor for a larger, more substantive theological and philosophical issue. Diamond offers a close reading of key texts, such as the Guide of the Perplexed and the Mishneh Torah, demonstrating the importance of integrating Maimonides’ legal and philosophical writings.
Converts, Heretics, and Lepers fills an important void in Jewish studies by focusing on matters of exegesis and hermeneutics as well as philosophical concerns. Diamond’s alternative reading of central topics in Maimonides suggests that literary appreciation is a key to deciphering Maimonides’ writings in particular and Jewish exegetical texts in general.
“Converts, Heretics, and Lepers is a very sophisticated exploration of Maimonidean religious philosophy. Although there have been numerous studies on Maimonides, perhaps more than any other Jewish thinker, James Diamond manages to approach the master from fresh perspectives. The result is a stunningly lucid and deep engagement with Maimonides.” —Elliot R. Wolfson,
Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, New York University
“. . . A series of extraordinarily close readings of core texts of Maimonides’, readings which illuminate the delicate interplay of philosophical and religious ideas in Maimonides. In his previous work, Diamond convincingly illustrated the way in which Maimonides carefully chooses, subtly interprets, and circumspectly weaves together rabbinic materials to address philosophers and talmudists alike, each in their own idiom. This book is a further expression of Diamond’s mastery of this intricate methodology and is a work to be studied and re-studied.” —Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa
“James Diamond’s book about Maimonides is a welcome addition to the regular stream of books about the thinker Jews have rightly called ‘the great eagle.’ His unique contribution to the Maimonidean literature is to show that the true Jewish philosopher like Maimonides is always an outsider in ordinary Jewish thought, and he is thus uniquely able to appreciate and explicate what Jews and other worshipers of the One God have to learn from other outsiders like himself.” —David Novak, J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Professor of Jewish Studies, University of Toronto
“This richly detailed book presents a fascinating study of the way Moses Maimonides, the supreme medieval Jewish philosopher, uses marginal figures to define broader philosophical issues. . . . For this study Diamond draws equally on Maimonides’ philosophical writings and on his halakhic (legal) writings, demonstrating the interplay between these genres. This examination of figures on the margins provides a filter to allow Maimonides to explore ideal characteristics in a unique way.” — Congregational Libraries Today
“Diamond takes a linguistic pebble and throws it into the sea of Maimonides’ thought, following the ripples where they lead: verses connect to verses and to rabbinic glosses upon them, which in turn lead to further exegetical and philosophical ripples. In addition to being an extraordinarily learned and careful reader, and in addition to being a deep thinker, James A. Diamond is also a fine craftsperson of the English language-the book is a joy to read.” — Shofar
“James A. Diamond presents a refreshing, if somewhat unconventional, approach to Maimonidean interpretation, which, if integrated with the prevailing philological contextualization, will undoubtedly lead to fruitful conclusions as to the intentions of the Guide.” — Speculum
“In this remarkable book, James A. Diamond continues his project of close and sensitive readings of the Maimonidean corpus. Taking the Rambam at his word in the introduction to the Guide of the Perplexed, Diamond leads us into the inner recesses of that and other works to revel in the master’s religious and poetic artistry, thereby revealing something of the hidden desires and fractures in Maimonides’ positioning of philosophy vis-à-vis religion.” — H-Judaic, H-Net Reviews
Winner of the Abe and Fay Bergel Award in Scholarship on a Jewish Subject from the 2008 Canadian Jewish Book AwardsDesignated a Notable Selection in 2008 by the Jewish Thought and Philosophy committee for the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Committee, Association for Jewish Studies