Isaac ben Joseph ibn Pulgar

Isaac ben Joseph ibn Pulgar

Isaac ben Joseph ibn Pulgar was a Spanish Jewish philosopher, poet, and controversialist, who flourished in the first half of the fourteenth century.


Where he lived is not known, for though "Avilla" is given at the end of his translation of Al-Ghazali's "Maḳaṣid," the town-name as well as the date is probably the copyist's (Grätz, "Gesch." vii. 446). He was a warm defender of Isaac Albalag, and continued his translation of Al-Ghazali's-work. It seems from his "'Ezer ha-Dat" that he had been a friend of Abner of Burgos; but when the latter, after conversion, sent him one of his anti-Jewish writings, he replied in a stinging satirical poem.


Ibn Pulgar wrote the following:

# Hebrew translation of the third book of Al-Ghazali's "Maḳaṣid" (completed in 1307)
# '"Ezer ha-Dat," the most important of his writings (see below), a polemical work in five books, in the form of dialogues, and interspersed with verse;
# "Iggeret ha-Ḥarfit," a refutation of Abner of Burgos' "Minḥat Ḳena'ot"
# a refutation in Spanish of astrology
# verse (see De Rossi, "Codices," No. 861, 3).

Ibn Pulgar defended the Halakah, but said that the Haggadah did not belong to the Talmud. One of the points in dispute between Ibn Pulgar and Abner of Burgos was in regard to the immortality of the individual soul, which Ibn Pulgar denied, believing only in the immortality of the universal soul (Ibn Shaprut, "Eben Boḥan," xv., § 3). Ibn Pulgar's theory was that laws were not instituted for the sake of God, who has no need of them, but for the sake of man. Therefore he who observes these laws must not expect any future reward, as he is rewarded in the observance of them. Thus the question, "Why are sinners often happy and the pious unhappy?" has no meaning, for virtue and wisdom contain happiness in themselves, while sin and folly contain unhappiness.

Of the '"Ezer ha-Dat," the first book, in eight chapters ("she'arim"), is a demonstration of the superiority of the Jewish religion, in which Ibn Pulgar attacks both apostates and Christians; the second attacks infidels and skeptics; the third, astrologers; the fourth, those who explain the Bible in a strictly literal sense and those who, like the Christians, interpret it in a figurative and allegorical sense; the fifth, those who do not believe in the immortality of the soul. The second book, a dialogue between an aged partizan of Talmudic Judaism ("Torani") and a youthful philosopher, has been printed in Eliezer Ashkenazi's "Ṭa'am Zeḳenim" (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1855). Ibn Pulgar's object here was to prove the superiority of philosophical Judaism; but his arguments are more clearly expressed in the fourth book, in which he attacks cabalists, sorcerers, and false philosophers. His diatribes against the first two classes have been published by Isidore Loeb ("R. E. J." xviii. 66-70).


* Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., vii. 291, 292, 305-308, 446
* Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 299, 300
* Idem, Jewish Literature, pp. 97. 171, 296
* He-Ḥaluẓ, iv. 83
* Isidore Loeb, in R. E. J. xviii. 63-70

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