Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Maimonides Reinterpretation of the Thirteenth Article of Faith: Another Look at the Essay on Resurrection

 Jewish Studies Quarterly, Volume 10 (2003) pp. 244—257  Albert D. Friedberg

In this paper I argue (1) that Maimonides Essay actually reinterpreted, somewhat coyly, his earlier statements; and (2) that his Essay outlined a novel doctrine of the resurrection 

 Among scholars, he continues, there are five opinions on
the reward for the righteous who keep the biblical commandments (and the converse for the unrighteous).
(1) a carefree, sensually luxurious life in the Garden of Eden
(2) eternal prosperity and health in the messianic era
(3) resurrection of the dead to material yet immortal bliss
(4) health and wealth in this world under a powerful native sovereign
(5) all of the above
In this light Maimonides complains that few are interested in the extraordinary phenomenon of the olam haba or world-to-come. He raises the urgent question of what constitutes takhlit (the “goal”, or true reward), and differentiates between true reward and the causes leading thereto.
He is exasperated by those who worry whether they will rise clothed or naked, bejewelled or not – as if this had anything to do with ultimate reward.
It becomes clear, from the tone of what he says, and goes on to say, that Maimonides categorically dismisses all five opinions in terms of takhlit or ultimate goal. Rather, only the immortality of the soul/intellect could be the proper takhlit of the virtuous.

In summary, then, the body does indeed decompose after death, but the righteous need not be resurrected since they are already “alive”. While resurrection is one of the articles of the faith, Maimonides seems to be foreclosing on a literal interpretation thereof. The suggestion in the Guide for the Perplexed is that the resurrection of the dead must be allegorized: another way of expressing the immortality of the righteous soul. As the passage in his Mishneh Torah makes clear, the ultimate reward of the righteous is blissful eternity in an immaterial world.

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