(23F1) Abraham ibn Ezra: A Medieval Philosopher and the Poet’s Words for Today (17 Dec 2023)

December 17th, 2023, 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm

A recording of this class session is at https://youtu.be/mnCceIY21m4.

Abraham ibn Ezra lived from 1089-1164.  He was born in Tudela, Navarra, a tiny Spanish Muslim enclave surrounded by a Christian kingdom.  He travelled widely in Spain and north Africa, and then in 1139 left for the Ashkenazi north, travelling through Italy, Provence, northern France and England, where, he was killed at age 75 in a Crusader pogrom.

He left behind a legacy of poetry, humor, original biblical scholarship in Hebrew, works on grammar, scientific oeuvres and more meditational works, all of which are imbued with his philosophy.

His famous commentary on the Torah was written in Lucca in northern Italy, and then rewritten in Rouen in northern France.  He set out a surprisingly modern approach to handling the biblical text, while criticizing many of his predecessors, including Gaonism, Karaites, Christians and midrashists.

There is a great deal of folklore about ibn Ezra, most of which is fiction.  However, he did say: “I shall be no respecter of persons when I explore the Torah text, but shall thoroughly, and to the best of my ability, seek the grammatical form of every word.”

For ibn Ezra, “grammar” was not what we mean by it today.

Dr Lancaster is looking forward to discussing a number of these issues with the class.

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Dr Irene Lancaster was born in Manchester, northern England, the daughter of Holocaust survivors.  She studied at a theological seminary and an advanced ulpan (an Israeli school teaching Hebrew to immigrants) in Jerusalem and wrote a doctoral thesis on Abraham ibn Ezra in 1995.  Her book, Deconstructing the Bible was very well received and resulted in many invitations to lecture on Abraham ibn Ezra, his life and works.  (The book can be purchased at your local bookstore or on Amazon.)

Irene has also translated the autobiography of Eliyahu Yosef She’ar Yashuv Cohen, a former Chief Rabbi of Haifa who is a modern equivalent of ibn Ezra.

Irene started a number of charities, including the first UK charity promoting the plight of the Burmese people, for which she was invited to the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony in 1991.  She has taught at three universities in the UK and Israel, as well as giving guest-lectures at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

Irene currently runs fortnightly zoom groups on Jewish and Christian history and theology and her Broughton Park Jewish Christian Dialogue Group has just celebrated its 15th anniversary, meeting every two weeks for 15 years.  She is a member of the Israel Translators Association, has translated 30 books and journals from Hebrew, French and German into English, and is an elected Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts.