Maimonides on the "Decline of the Generations" and the Nature of Rabbinic Authority
Moses Maimonides, medieval Judaism's leading legist and philosopher, and a figure of central importance for contemporary Jewish self-understanding, held a view of Judaism which maintained the authority of the Talmudic rabbis in matters of Jewish law while allowing for free and open inquiry in matters of science and philosophy. Maimonides affirmed, not the superiority of the "moderns" (the scholars of his and subsequent generations) over the "ancients" (the Tannaim and Amoraim, the Rabbis of the Mishnah and Talmud) but the inherent equality of the two. The equality presented here is not equality of halakhic authority, but equality of ability, of essential human characteristics.
In order to substantiate these claims, Kellner explores the related idea that Maimonides does not adopt the notion of "the decline of the generations," according to which each succeeding generation, or each succeeding epoch, is in some significant and religiously relevant sense inferior to preceding generations or epochs.
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Abbaye accept according affirm aggadah aggadot Akiva Aristotle astrology attitude Blidstein chapter cited claim clear clearly commentary concerning contemporary context decline discussion doctrine earlier scholars erations explicitly expression fact Fred Rosner Gemara Geonim Guide Hagigah Halakhah halakhic halizah Hebrew human idea Iggeret individuals inferior intellectual interpretation Introduction Isadore Twersky issue Jerusalem Jewish Thought Jews Judah the Prince Judaism Kafih's Karo land of Israel later court Lord ma'aseh bereshit ma'aseh merkavah Maimonides explains Maimonides goes matters Medieval Jewish Messiah metaphysics miracles Mishnah Mishneh Torah monides Moses Mossad nature Nieto notion opinions Oral Torah ordination passage permanent Perplexed philosophical position post-Talmudic prophets question Rabbah rabbinic authority Rabbis Rabinowich Rashi Rav Ashi Rav Sherira reason reject rishonim Sages Sanhedrin Sherira Gaon Shlomo Pines Sinai spiritual superior Tannaim and Amoraim teachings things tion tradition translation understanding University Press verses wisdom Ya'akov Zoma