Idealistic Studies

Volume 44, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2014

New Directions in the Thought of Leo Strauss

Jessica L. Radin
Pages 163-178

Between the Messianic Era and the Text
Historicism and Exegetical Materialism in Maimonides

This paper engages in a re-articulation of Maimonides’s sense of history. While for Leo Strauss Maimonides was a both a model and a resource for resisting historicism, recent scholarship has demonstrated that Maimonides had an understanding of history as the gradual evolution of humanity towards an ideal and perfected future. At the same time that we must acknowledge these echoes of historicism in Maimonides, a closer examination of Maimonides’s methods of exegesis, and particular his inclusion of ‘outside’ or non-Jewish texts, makes it possible to rethink the ways Maimonides provides tools which the modern reader—and teacher—can use to disrupt and call into question historical progression. The exegesis that Maimonides’s text requires of his readers itself challenges the onward motion of history, and stands in a constant tension with the pull towards the future.