The work of Thomas Aquinas may be distinguished from that of any of his contemporaries by his attention to the writings of Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), a Jew, and Avicenna, (980-1037) a Muslim. His contemporaries, especially in Paris, were responsive to the work of another Muslim, Averroes (1126-1198), for his rendition of Aristotle, but Aquinas's relation to Averroes and to those who took their lead from him was far more ambivalent.

Aquinas respected Rabbi Moses and Avicenna as fellow travelers in an arduous intellectual attempt to reconcile the horizons of philosophers of ancient Greece, notably Aristotle, with those reflecting a revelation originating in ancient Israel, articulated initially in the divinely inspired writings of Moses. So while Aquinas would consult "the Commentator" (Averroes) on matters of interpretation of the texts of Aristotle, that very aphorism suggested the limits of his reliance on the philosophical writings of Averroes, the qadi from Cordova.

With Maimonides and Avicenna his relationship was more akin to dialogue, and especially so with Rabbi Moses, whose extended dialectical conversation with his student Joseph in his Guide of the Perplexed closely matched Aquinas's own project: that of using philosophical inquiry to articulate one's received faith, and in the process extending the horizons of that inquiry to include topics unsuspected by those lacking in divine revelation.

We may wonder at Aquinas's welcoming assistance from Jewish and Muslim quarters, especially when we reflect on the character of his times: the popular response to the call to arms of the Crusades as well as a nearly universal impression on the part of Christians that the new covenant had effectively eclipsed the old.

Aquinas ...

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