Joseph Albo on Free Choice

Exegetical Innovation in Medieval Jewish Philosophy

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Shira Weiss
  • Oxford, England: 
    Oxford University Press
    , September
     232 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by David Lemler forthcoming.


Scripture is replete with narratives that challenge a variety of philosophical concepts; including morality, divine benevolence, and human freedom. Free choice, a significant and much debated concept in medieval philosophy, continues to be of great interest to contemporary philosophers and others. However, scholarship in biblical studies has primarily focused on compositional history, philology, and literary analysis, not on the examination of the philosophy implied in biblical texts. 

In this book, Shira Weiss focuses on the Hebrew Bible's encounter with the philosophical notion of free choice, as interpreted by the fifteenth-century Spanish Jewish philosopher Joseph Albo in one of the most popular Hebrew works in the corpus of medieval Jewish philosophy: Albo's Examining narratives commonly interpreted as challenging human freedom--the Binding of Isaac, the Hardening of Pharaoh's Heart, the Book of Job, and God's Choice of Israel--Albo puts forward innovative arguments that preserve the concept of free choice in these texts.

Despite the popularity of The Book of Principles, Albo has been commonly dismissed as an unoriginal thinker. As a result, argues Weiss, the major original contribution of his philosophy-his theory of free choice as explained in unique exegetical interpretations-has been overlooked. This book casts new light on Albo by demonstrating both the central importance of his views on free choice in his philosophy and the creative ways in which they are presented.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Shira Weiss teaches medieval and modern Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. She is the author of Ethical Ambiguity in the Hebrew Bible, as well as numerous articles. Weiss is a fellow in the Templeton Foundation's projects on philosophic theology and Abrahamic science-religion.

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