The Wisdom of this World: Maimonides and Paul at the Interface of Science and Faith

By Sara Teresa Shafer.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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This paper examines the potential meaning for individuals of the 21st century of the views taken by theologians Moses ben Maimonides and Saint Paul regarding the difference between science and faith. Both Maimonides and Paul inherit cultures that engage the dynamic between science and faith. Maimonides’ innovation, borrowing heavily from Aristotle, is not only negotiating a space in which science and faith may coexist but actually suggesting that a sound background in the natural sciences is a necessary part of developing a sound religious experience. While Paul does not engage science and faith in the same way as Maimonides–and in fact holds faith far above “earthly” wisdom–his arguments depend on the difference between episteme and gnosis, or science and faith. What both Maimonides and Paul have in common, and one that is in many ways lacking especially in the English-speaking world, is access to the traditions of both Jewish and Greek culture, both of which have developed not only ideologies but languages which cater to different types of knowledge. Thus, although the ultimate conclusions of Maimonides and Paul differ, that both thinkers operate within an ethos that already includes linguistic and other cognitive structures that allow them to engage science and faith on a very sophisticated level. Given that there can be no creation or sharing of knowledge without an appropriate discursive medium, the importance of their use of the language of science and faith is the key focus of the analysis. The task is thus threefold. Based on an examination of, first of all, how both Maimonides and Paul view epistemologic-and gnostic-based knowledge and secondly how they understood the interaction between these two types of knowledge, it should finally become apparent what 21st century society can borrow from these two monumental thinkers.

Keywords: Maimonides, Epistemology, Gnosis, St. Paul, Midrash

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp.95-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 865.850KB).

Sara Teresa Shafer

Student, Humanities, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

I am a student in the Humanities PhD program at the University of Louisville. I have completed a Bachelor of Arts in German at Marshall University and a Master of Arts in humanities at the University of Louisville. The theme of my dissertation research is the use of silence and gesture in the works of late 19th and early 20th century German-Jewish writers, focusing specifically on Franz Kafka’s writings about Abraham.