IBN GABIROL, SOLOMON BEN JUDAH (ABU AYYUB SULAIMAN IBN YAḤYA IBN JABIRUL), known also as Avicebron:
Spanish poet, philosopher, and moralist; born in Malaga about 1021; died about 1058 in Valencia. He is called by Grätz "the Jewish Plato," and by Steinschneider "the most original philosophical writer among the Jews and Arabs." The name "Avicebron" is a corruption of "Ibn Gabirol" ("Ibngebirol," "Avengebirol," "Avengebrol," "Avencebrol," "Avicebrol," "Avicebron"). Little is known of Gabirol's life. His parents died while he was a child. At seventeen years of age he became the friend and protégé of Jekuthiel Hassan. Upon the assassination of the latter as the result of a political conspiracy, Gabirol composed an elegy of more than 200 verses. The death of Hai Gaon also called forth a similar poem. When barely twenty Gabirol wrote "'Anaḳ," a versified Hebrew grammar, alphabetical and acrostic, consisting of 400 verses divided into ten parts. Of this grammar, which Ibn Ezra characterizes as of incalculable value, ninety-five lines have been preserved by Solomon Parḥon. In these Gabirol reproaches his townsmen with their neglect of the holy tongue.
Gabirol's residence in Saragossa, in which city he passed his early days, was embittered by strife. Envy and ill-will pursued him, which accounts for the pessimistic strain underlying his work. Life finally became unbearable in Saragossa, and he fled. He thought of leaving Spain, but remained and wandered about. He gained another friend and patron in the person of Samuel ibn Nagdela, whose praises he sang. Later an estrangement arose between them, and Nagdela became for a time the butt of Gabirol's bitterest irony. All testimonies agree that Gabirol was comparatively young at the time of his death, which followed years of wandering. The year of his death was probably 1058 or 1059, the former date being accepted by Steinschneider ("Hebr. Uebers." p. 379, note 76) and Neubauer ("Monatsschrift,"xxxvi.498 et seq.). The erroneous supposition that Gabirol died before reaching his thirtieth year is due to a misunderstanding of some words of Sa'id by Moses ibn Ezra and by Al-Ḥarizi (comp. Kaufmann, "Studien," pp. 79-80, note 2; Kämpf, "Beiträge," p. 189; Wise, "Improvement of Moral Qualities," p. 6, note 3, New York, 1901). The incorrect date (1070) of Gabirol's death given in the "Yuḥasin." was accepted by many medieval and modern writers, among the latter being Munk, Dukes, Grätz, and Guttmann.
A strange legend concerning the manner of Gabirol's death is related by Ibn Yaḥya in "Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah." A Mohammedan, jealous of Gabirol's poetic gifts, slew him, and buried him beneath the roots of a fig tree. The tree bore fruit abundantly; and the fruit was of extraordinary sweetness. This strange circumstance excited attention; a search was instituted, the remains of the murdered Gabirol were brought to light, and the murderer expiated his crime with his life.Restorer of Neoplatonism.
Gabirol was the first teacher of Neoplatonism in Europe. He essayed again the part played by Philo. Philo had served as the intermediary between Hellenic, especially Platonic, philosophy and the Oriental world. He had Orientalized European philosophy and prepared the way for its Christianization. A thousand years later Gabirol Occidentalized Greco-Arabic philosophy and restored it to Europe. Strangely enough, the philosophical teachings of Philo and Gabirol were alike ignored by their fellow Jews; and the parallel may be extended by adding that Philo and Gabirol alike exercised a very considerable influence in extra-Jewish circles: Philo upon primitive Christianity, and Gabirol upon the scholasticism of medieval Christianity. Gabirol's service, in common with that of other Arabic and Jewish philosophers, in bringing the philosophy of Greece under the shelter of the Christian Church, was but a return for the service of the earlier Christian scholars, who had translated the chief works of Greek philosophy into Syriac and Arabic.
Seyerlen ("Beziehungen," pp. 24-25) adduces a further parallel between Gabirol and Spinoza, who respectively introduced medieval and modern philosophy, and holds that each kept his philosophical speculation free from theological bias.
"Fons Vitæ"(i.e., ; Ps. xxxvi 10) is a philosophical dialogue between master and disciple. The book derives its name from the fact that it considers matter and form as the basis of existence and the source of life in every created thing (Kaufmann, "Gesch. der Attributenlehre aus der Jüdischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters," p. 95, note 1). It was translated from the Arabic—the original title having probably been "Yanbu' al-Ḥayat "—into Latin in the year 1150 under the patronage of Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, who had founded a veritable bureau of translation (Löwenthal, "Pseudo-Aristoteles," p. 5, note 2) consisting of the Archdeacon of Segovia, Dominicus Gundisalvi or Gundisallimus, assisted by a Jewish physician who had been converted to Christianity, John Hispanus or Hispalensis, better known as "Ibn Daud" (corrupted into "Avendehut," or "Avendeath"). Jourdain called attention in 1843 to the important place of Avicebron in the history of philosophy. Haureau, in his "History of Scholastic Philosophy" (1850), dwelt on the philosophy of Avicebron as known through the citations in the "De Substantiis Separatis" of Aquinas. He was followed by Seyerlen, who, having discovered in 1855 a manuscript copy of the "Fons Vitæ" in the Mazarine Library in Paris, gave a synopsis of Gabirolean philosophy in Baur and Zeller's "Theologische Jahrbuücher," xv.-xvi.Identity with Avicebron.
In 1846 Solomon Munk discovered among the Hebrew manuscripts in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, a work by Shem-Ṭob Palquera, which, upon comparison with a Latin manuscript of the "Fons Vitæ" of Avicebron (likewise found by Munk in the Bibliothèque Nationale), proved to be a collection of excerpts from an Arabic original of which the "Fons Vitæ" was evidently a translation. Munk concluded that Avicebron or Avencebrol, who had for centuries been believed to be a Christian scholastic philosopher, was identical with the Jew Ibn Gabirol ("Orient, Lit." 1846, No. 46). In 1859 Munk published his "Mélanges," containing the Hebrew text of Palquera's "Liḳḳuṭim min Sefer Meḳor Ḥayyim" with a French translation, an analysis of the contents, and some chapters on the life and writings of Gabirol, his sources, and the fate of his doctrine. In recent years the "Fons Vitæ" has received ample and scholarly treatment in the works of Seyerlen, Guttmann, Wittmann, Kaufmann, and Bäumker.
The "Fons Vitæ."
The "Fons Vitæ" consists of five tractates, treating respectively of (1) matter and form in general and their relation in physical substances ("substantiæ corporeæ sive compositæ"); (2) the substance which underlies the corporeality of the world ("de substantia quæ sustinet corporeitatem mundi"); (3) proofs of the existence of "substantiæ simplices," of intermediaries between God and the physical world; (4) proofs that these "substantiæ simplices," or "intelligibiles," are likewise constituted of matter and form; (5) universal matter and universal form.
The chief doctrines of the "Fons Vitæ" may be summarized as follows: (1) All created beings are constituted of form and matter. (2) This holds true of the physical world, of the "substantiis corporeis sive compositis," and is not less true of the spiritual world, of the "substantiis spiritualibus sive simplicibus," which latter are the connecting-link between the first substance, "essentia prima," that is, the Godhead, and the "substantia, quæ sustinet novem prædicamenta," that is, the substance divided into nine categories—in other words, the physical world. (3) Matter and form are always and everywhere in the relation of "sustinens" and "sustentatum," "propriatum" and "proprietas," substratum and property or attribute.
Gabirol in the "Fons Vitæ" aims to outline but one part of his philosophical system, the doctrine of matter and form: hence the "Fons Vitæ" also bore the title "De Materia et Forma." The manuscript in the Mazarine Library is entitled "De Materia Universali." The main thesis of the "Fons Vitæ" is that all that exists is constituted of matter and form; one and the same matter runs through the whole universe from the highest limits of the spiritual down to the lowest limits of the physical, excepting that matter the farther it is removed from its first source becomes less and less spiritual. Gabirol insists over and over again that the "materia universalis" is the substratum of all that exists. Wittmann ("Thomas von Aquin," p. 13) considers Gabirol's many arguments in proof of the universality of matter as among his most original contributions to philosophy.
Relations to Plotinus.
Stated differently, Gabirol's position is that everything that exists may be reduced to three categories: the first substance, God; matter and form, the world; the will as intermediary. Gabirol derives matter and form from absolute being. In the Godhead he seems to differentiate "essentia," being, from "proprietas," attribute, designating by "proprietas" the will, wisdom, creative word ("voluntas, sapientia, verbum agens"). In reality he thinks of the Godhead as being, and as will or wisdom, regarding the will as identical with the divine nature. This position is implicit in the doctrine of Gabirol, who teaches that God's existence is knowable, but not His being or constitution, no attribute being predicable of God save that of existence.
Kaufmann holds that Gabirol was an opponent of the doctrine of divine attributes. While there are passages in the "Fons Vitæ," in the "Ethics," and even in the "Keter Malkut" (whence Sachs deduces Gabirol's acceptance of the theory of the doctrine of divine attributes) which seem to support this assumption, a minute examination of the questions bearing onthis, such as has been made by Kaufmann (in "Gesch. der Attributenlehre"), proves very clearly that will and wisdom are spoken of not as attributes of the divine, but with reference to an aspect of the divine, the creative aspect; so that the will is not to be looked upon as intermediary between God and substance and form. Matter or substance proceeds from the being of God, and form from God as will, matter corresponding to the first substance and form to the will; but there is no thought in the mind of Gabirol of substance and will as separate entities, or of will as an attribute of substance. Will is neither attribute nor substance, Gabirol being so pure a monotheist that he can not brook the thought of any attribute of God lest it mar the purity of monotheism. In this Gabirol follows strictly in the line of Hebrew tradition.
Joël and Guttmann hold that the "Fons Vitæ" is merely a text-book of Neoplatonism; but Kaufmann objects that it contains not only certain teachings not to be found in Plotinus, but others irreconcilable with Neoplatonism. Plotinus speaks of a twofold matter; Gabirol, of a single or universal matter. According to Plotinus the whole question is one of minor importance; it is the corner-stone of Gabirol's system. Despite some differences, Gabirol is, however, in many of his essential teachings dependent upon Plotinus; not directly, since the "Enneads" were not translated into Arabic, but rather through secondary sources. This is notably the case, in the so-called Theology of Aristotle, with the commentary of Porphyry, which V. Rose has shown to be a paraphrase of the last three "Enneads" of Plotinus, possibly in part the work of Porphyry.
Another source was the pseudo-Empedoclean writings. In connection with pseudo-Empedocles, it must not be overlooked that the book of Gabirol which might have given clearer evidence of this is lost—"Origo Largitatis et Causa Essendi" (Kaufmann, "Studien," pp. 56-57)—if it was ever written. In the introduction to the "Liḳḳuṭim" Palquera suggests such dependence of Gabirol upon the "Five Substances" of pseudo-Empedocles. Whereas the influence of Empedocles on the Cabala is a fantastic supposition, the work of pseudo-Empedocles exercised a real influence on the Jewish religious philosophy and the Cabala of the Middle Ages. Kaufmann gives three versions of the excerpts from the "Five Substances." These fragments do not adequately show the debt of Gabirol to pseudo-Empedocles, except that they aim to prove that all spiritual substances are constituted of a spiritual matter. Moreover, the place of matter in the system of Gabirol reminds one of the "Five Substances," the teaching of Gabirol concerning the intermediaries that bind together all degrees of creation being illustrated by pseudo-Empedocles' picture of the air between the seer and the seen, partaking of the properties of both.
That Gabirol was influenced by "The Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Sincerity" has been clearly demonstrated by Haneberg. Saadia is the only Jewish author whose influence upon Gabirol is distinctly perceptible; and Sa'id, the Mohammedan, is the only Arabic writer cited in the "Fons Vitæ."Independent Position.
It has been argued with some show of plausibility that Gabirol deliberately set out to reconcile Neoplatonism with the monotheistic conception of Judaism. Geiger finds complete harmony between Gabirol's conception of the Deity and the historical Jewish conception; and Guttmann and Eisler hold that in Gabirol's doctrine of the will there is a departure from the pantheistic emanation doctrine of Neoplatonism and an attempted approach to the Biblical doctrine of creation. It is undeniable that a suggestion of Judaic monotheism is to be found in Gabirol's doctrine of the oneness of the "materia universalis." Moreover, the Neoplatonic doctrine that the Godhead is unknowable naturally appealed to a Jewish rationalist, who, while positing the existence of God, studiously refrained from ascribing definite qualities or positive attributes to Him. But this theory is contradicted by the fact that Gabirol, unlike other medieval Jewish philosophers who regarded philosophy as the "hand-maid of theology," pursued his philosophical studies regardless of the claims of religion, keeping "his philosophical speculation free from every theological admixture."
In this respect Gabirol is unique. The "Fons Vitæ" shows a total and absolute independence of Jewish religious dogma; not a verse of the Bible nor a line from the Rabbis is cited. For this reason Gabirol exercised comparatively little influence upon his Jewish successors—though this may be accounted for on the ground of the predominance of Aristotelianism from the twelfth century—and was accepted by the scholastics as a non-Jew, as an Arab or a Christian. The odor of heresy which clung to him prevented Gabirol from exercising a great influence upon Jewish thought: his theory of emanation was irreconcilable with the Jewish doctrine of creation; and the tide of Aristotelianisim turned back the slight current of Gabirol's Neoplatonism.
Moses ibn Ezra is the first to mention Gabirol as a philosopher. He speaks of Gabirol's character and attainments in terms of highest praise, and in his "'Aruggat ha-Bosem" quotes several passages from the "Fons Vitæ." Abraham ibn Ezra, who gives several specimens of Gabirol's philosophico-allegorical Bible interpretation, borrows from the "Fons Vitæ" both in his prose and in his poetry without giving due credit. Joseph ibn Ẓaddiḳ, in his "Mikrokosmos," borrows very largely from the "Fons Vitæ" at every point of his system.Treatment by Successors.
Abraham ibn Daud of Toledo, in the twelfth century, was the first to take exception to Gabirol's teachings. In the "Sefer ha-Ḳabbalah" he refers to Gabirol as a poet in complimentary phrase. But in order to counteract the influence of Gabirol the philosopher, he wrote an Arabic book, translated into Hebrew under the title "Emunah Ramah," in which he reproaches Gabirol with having philosophized without any regard to the requirements of the Jewish religious position, and bitterly accuses him of mistaking a number of poor reasons for one good one. Guttmann suspects that Ibn Daud may have entered the lists against Gabirol because he detected in Gabirol's theory of the will and its identification with the word of God an approach to the Christian Logos-doctrine. Schmiedel ("Monatsschrift," 1860, p. 311) holds, curiously enough, that the "Fons Vitæ" fell into disrepute because there are suggestions in it of belief in the Trinity; but Eisler ("Vọrlesungen,"p. 80, note 2) correctly says that such allusions are also to be found in the "Sefer Yeẓirah," and that they did not suffice to bring that book into disrepute. On the other hand, it is possible that, instead of banishing Gabirol from the remembrance of the Jews, this criticism only made him more widely known. Two hundred years after the writing of the "Fons Vitæ" and one hundred years after the appearance of "Emunah Ramah," Palquera made a compilation of extracts from the former work.
After Maimonides the inconsiderable influence of Gabirol was further lessened, though occasional traces of it are to be detected in the cabalistic literature of the thirteenth century and, especially after Palquera had compiled the extracts from the "Fons Vitæ," in the works of some post-Maimonidean authors, such as Aaron b. Joseph, Isaac ibn Laṭif, Abraham ibn Ḥisdai, Samuel ibn Ẓarẓa, Moses Solomon of Salerno. Later references to Gabirol, such as those of Eli Ḥabillo, Isaac Abarbanel, Judah Abarbanel, Moses Almosnino, and Joseph Solomon Delmedigo, are based upon an acquaintance with the scholastic philosophy, especially the works of Aquinas. Ḥabillo, as late as 1472, in a translation of the "Quæstio de Anima" of Aquinas, recognized in Avicebron "Ben Gabriol, the author of 'Fons Vitæ'"; and Abravanel the Younger refers to Gabirol as "il nostro Albenzubron."
Though Gabirol the philosopher was forgotten in Israel, Gabirol the poet kept alive the remembrance of the ideas of the philosopher; for his best-known poem, "Keter Malkut," is a religio-philosophical treatise in poetical form, the "double" of the "Fons Vitæ." Thus the eighty-third line of the poem points very clearly to one of the teachings of the "Fons Vitæ"; viz., that all the attributes predicated of God exist apart in thought alone and not in reality.Influence on Scholasticism.
If Gabirol the philosopher was forgotten by the Jews, or deliberately ignored, abundant compensation awaited him in the treatment accorded him by the Christian world. Jourdain held, without exaggeration, that a knowledge of the philosophy of the thirteenth century was impossible without an understanding of the "Fons Vitæ" and its influence. Regarded as the work of a Christian philosopher, it became a bone of contention between the Platonist Franciscans led by Duns Scotus, who supported Gabirol, and the Aristotelian Dominicans led by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, the latter holding in special horror the possible influence of Arabic-Jewish philosophy on Christian doctrine.
The first sure sign of a direct influence exercised by Gabirol is to be found in the works of Dominicus Gundisallimus, who not merely translated the "Fons vitæ" into Latin, but incorporated the ideas of Gabirol into his own teaching. William of Auvergne refers to the work of Gabirol under the title "Fons Sapientiæ." He speaks of Gabirol as a Christian, and praises him as "unicus omnium philosophantium nobilissimus." Alexander of Hales and his disciple Bonaventura accept the teaching of Gabirol that spiritual substances consist of matter and form. William of Lamarre is likewise a defender of Gabirolean doctrine.
The most zealous of the champions of Gabirol's theory of the universality of matter is Duns Scotus, through whose influence the basal thought of the "Fons Vitæ," the materiality of spiritual substances, was perpetuated in Christian philosophy, influencing later philosophers even down to Giordano Bruno. who refers to "the Moor, Avicebron." The main points at issue between Gabirol and Aquinas were three: (1) the universality of matter, Aquinas holding that spiritual substances are immaterial; (2) the plurality of forms in a physical entity, which Aquinas denied; and (3) the power of activity of physical beings, which Gabirol affirmed. Aquinas held that Gabirol made the mistake of transferring to real existence the theoretical combination of genus and species, and that he thus came to the erroneous conclusion that in reality all things are constituted of matter and form as genus and species respectively.
Munk and Löwenthal have supposed that the "Liber de Anima" of Gundisallimus is a work of Gabirol or of his school, because of certain resemblances to the doctrines of Gabirol. They ignore the many contradictions of Neoplatonic teachings scattered throughout the book, as well as Gabirol's failure to refer to any such work on the soul in the introduction to the "Fons Vitæ," in the course of which he refers to other books of his which have not been preserved. Löwenthal holds that Gabirol probably wrote an Arabic book on the soul in ten chapters, which was translated into Hebrew and cited by Gershon b. Solomon about 1250, and into Latin about 1130 by Hispalensis, and used in a compilation by Gundisallimus; that this included a large part of Gabirol's hypothetical work, extracts from a psychological work of Avicenna; and that the translator dropped the name of Gabirol and attached to the book the charmed name of Aristotle.Ethical Treatise.
"The Improvement of the Moral Qualities" is an ethical treatise which has been called by Munk "a popular manual of morals." It was composed by Gabirol at Saragossa in 1045, at the request of some friends who wished to possess a book treating of the qualities of man and the methods of effecting their improvement. In two respects the "Ethics" (by which abbreviation the work may be cited) is highly original. In the first place, as compared with Saadia, his predecessor, and Baḥya and Maimonides, his successors, Gabirol took a new stand, in so far as he set out to systematize the principles of ethics independently of religious belief or dogma. Further, his treatise is original in its emphasis on the physio-psychological aspect of ethics, Gabirol's fundamental thesis being the correlation and interdependence of the physical and the psychical in respect of ethical conduct. Gabirol's theses may be summed up as follows:
The qualities of the soul are made manifest through the senses; and these senses in turn are constituted of the four humors. Even as the humors may be modified one by the other, so can the senses be controlled and the qualities of the soul be trained unto good or evil. Though Gabirol attributes the virtues to the senses, he would have It distinctly understood that he treats only of the five physical senses, not of the "concealed" senses, such as perception and understanding, which partake of the nature of the soul. In order to cultivate his soul, man must necessarily know its peculiarities, study himself as he is, closely examine his character and inclination, habituatehimself to the abandonment of whatever is mean, i.e., whatsoever draws him into close contact with the physical and temporal, and aim at the spiritual and the abiding. This effort in itself is blessedness. A man's ability to make such an effort is proof of divine benevolence.
Next follows the most original feature of Gabirol's ethical system, the arrangement of the virtues and vices in relation to the senses: every sense becoming the instrument, not the agent, of two virtues and two corresponding vices. To illustrate the branching forth of the twenty qualities from the five senses, Gabirol gives the following tabular diagram:
|Good-will (suavity).||Grief (apprehensiveness).|
While the underlying thought is both original and ingenious, Gabirol finds it necessary to resort to far-fetched and fanciful arguments in the working out of his plan. Thus he says, "Meekness is caused by a clear perception of the insignificance of the individual man as compared with the greatness and grandeur of the world." Pride is related to the sense of sight; for the proud man raises his eyebrows haughtily, superciliously. Gabirol's far-fetched attribution of love to the sense of hearing is in the highest degree absurd: "Hear, O Israel" (Deut. vi. 4) is followed by the command, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God." The qualities attributed to the sense of smell, such as good-will and wrath, are revealed or expressed in the act of breathing. Other qualities, such as joy and tranquillity, are attributed to the sense of taste because they imply enjoyment and gratification, or the reverse, privation and care. Qualities such as liberality and niggardliness are attributed to the sense of touch on the slenderest grounds: the liberal man is called open-handed, and the niggardly man is designated as close-fisted.
The chief aim of the author was to guide his readers to the improvement of the moral qualities; and this he expected to do by citing the simplest and commonest facts of physical life. The organs of perception are not alone the instruments, but also the emblems, of the various manifestations of physical life. Having attributed to each of them a number of impulses, which are designated as virtues or vices, he develops a general conception of life as it is in this world (the animal life in man, as he distinctly wishes one to understand), which should and must be guided and governed by reason. Man must always see to it that his "animal soul" be in perfect submission to his "rational soul," i.e., his intelligence must control his natural impulses. The consciousness of holding the animal impulses under control is felicity. The very effort that a man puts forth to make his animal soul subject to his rational soul affords him happiness. The principal agent in the exercise of this control is reason or intelligence. This intelligence is the mediator between the divine and the animal in man; and any human being who makes his intelligence master over his natural inclinations may enjoy the bliss to which Gabirol points. For an extended survey of the "Ethics" comp. "J. Q. R." iii. 159-181; Guttmann, "Thomas von Aquino," pp. 16-18; Horovitz," Die Psychologie Ibn Gabirols," pp. 138-142; and Wise, l.c. pp. 9-28.
Gabirol cites some Bible verses and some Talmudic passages, and quotes Saadia, Galen, Socrates, Diogenes, Aristotle, Ardashir, Buzurg-Mihr, Alkuti, etc. The Arabic text contains some verses left untranslated by Ibn Tibbon. The "Ethics" is interesting as a collection of terse and pregnant ethical maxims, many of which seem to have been borrowed from the Arabic original of the of Ḥunain ibn lsḥaḳ (comp. Löwenthal, "Sinnsprüche der Philosophen," pp. 33-34).
The "Ethics" is cited less often than the "Choice of Pearls," and even less often than the "Fons Vitæ" Still it is mentioned by Ḥisdai, Bedersi, Berachiah ha-Naḳdan, and others. Although definite proofs of the acquaintance of Maimonides with the "Ethics" are not at hand, it is highly probable that he was familiar with it, and that under its influence he stated the object of ethics to be "the improvement of the qualities," i.e., character. The influence of Gabirol upon Baḥya, as attested by the many points of resemblance between the "Ethics" and the "Ḥobot ha-Lebabot," was very considerable. This has been demonstrated by Brüll ("Jahrb." v. 71-79; comp.
A unique manuscript of the original Arabic text is in the Bodleian Library at Oxford (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 1422, 2), and has been published together with an English translation by S. S. Wise (New York, 1901). The Hebrew translation is the work of Judah ibn Tibbon (1167) for Asher b. Meshullam of Lunel. The following are the printed editions: (a) Constantinople, 1550, together with Baḥya's "Ḥobot ha-Lebabot"; (b) Riva di Trento, 1562, together with Ḥunain's "Musere ha-Pilusufim" and "Sefer ha-Tapuaḥ" under the general title "Goren Nakon"; (c) Lunéville, 1807 (same title and contents as the Riva di Trento edition); (d) Lyck, 1859 (same general title, "Goren Nakon," but containing only the "Ethics"); (e) Warsaw, 1886; (f) Budapest, 1896. The Hebrew poem in acrostic form, , on the four elements, which is to be found in some editions after the tabular diagram of the virtues and vices, is not included in the old manuscripts nor in the Constantinople edition, and is probably unauthentic."Choice of Pearls."
The "Mibḥar ha-Peninim." (Choice of Pearls) is, as its name implies, a collection, in sixty-four chapters, of maxims, proverbs, and moral reflections, many of them of Arabic origin. It has often been cited by philosophers, exegetes, Talmudists, and moralists. It is very similar to the "Florilegium" of Ḥunain and other Arabic and Hebrew collections of ethical sayings, which were highly prized by the proverb-loving Arabs and Jews. Many manuscript copies of the text exist, as well as a large number of printed editions, some of the latter together with translation and commentary.
The editio princeps was published, together with a short commentary, in Soncino, Italy, in 1484. Among the more important editions enumerated by Steinschneider are those of the Hebrew text with Judæo-German translation, 1739 and 1767, and that with German translation, 1842. Drusius gave a Latin version of 299 sentences in the third part of his "Apothegmata" (1591, 1612). Jacob Ebertus and his son Theodore published 750 maxims in vocalized text with Latin translation, in Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1630. Filipowski edited the Hebrew text (London, 1851); and Asher collated five manuscripts in London and Oxford libraries, and published 652 maxims together with an English translation, an introduction, and valuable notes. Steinschneider ("Manna," Berlin, 1847) gave a versified German rendering of a number of maxims together with notes.
The "Choice of Pearls" is not to be ascribed to Gabirol unconditionally. No old manuscripts and no editions published prior to the nineteenth century refer to Gabirol as the author or compiler. Joseph Ḳimḥi versified the work under the title "Sheḳel ha-Ḳodesh", and only two of the five manuscripts of this versification give Gabirol as the name of the author of the original. Steinschneider finds it difficult to answer the question whether the versified paraphrase of Ḳimḥi is based upon a Hebrew translation or upon the Arabic original, but concludes that Ḳimḥi's version does not represent his own translation of the Arabic original, but rather a versified paraphrase of the translation of another. The Hebrew translator of the "Choice of Pearls" is mentioned in two manuscripts as Judah ibn Tibbon of Seville; and Ḳimḥi apparently made use of the translation attributed to him.
The mention of the name of Gabirol as the author by Ḳimḥi seems to have remained unnoticed among Jewish scholars. Ibn Tibbon mentions and cites the work without any reference to author or translator. Palquera refers to the book, but does not mention the author. Some contradictions exist between the "Ethics" and the "Choice of Pearls"; and the careless arrangement of the latter work is hardly in keeping with the systematic method of Gabirol. Steinschneider thinks it quite possible that the reference to Ibn Tibbon as translator is an interpolation, based upon his mention of the book and the circumstance that he was the translator of Arabic religious and philosophical "works (comp. "Hebr. Uebers." pp. 382-388).His Exegesis.
Some specimens of Gabirol's skill as an exegete are preserved in the commentaries of Abraham ibn Ezra (comp Bacher, "Bibelexegese," pp. 45-55); idem, "Ibn Ezra als Grammatiker," p. 183; and Bárány," Salamon ibn Gabirol mint Exegeta," 1885, pp. 10-17). It is not known whether Ibn Ezra cited these exegetical passages from a Biblical commentary of Gabirol, to which work there is no extant reference, or from a special work devoted to Biblical exegesis. Most striking among these selections of Ibn Ezra is a carefully and curiously elaborated interpretation of the story of paradise, "a classical example of the introduction of philosophical ideas into a Biblical text."
Another specimen, which is a remarkably far-fetched interpretation of Eccl. ix. 11, is to be found in the "Ethics" (comp. Bacher, l.c. p. 52, and Wise, l.c. p. 13, note 4). Solomon Parḥon and David Ḳimḥi (both of the twelfth century) likewise give specimens of Gabirol's exegesis. Two of the citations of Ibn Ezra prove Gabirol to have been a supporter of the rationalistic Bible interpretation of Saadia, as opposed to Samuel ibn Ḥofni; Gabirol defending the Saadian interpretation, which explained away the miracles connected with the speech of the serpent (Gen. iii. 1) and of the ass of Balaam. (Num. xxii. 28)
- H. Adler, Ibn Gabirol and His Influence upon Scholastic Philosophy, London, 1865;
- Ascher, A Choice of Pearls, London, 1859;
- Bacher, Bibelexegese der Jüdischen, Religionsphilosophen des Mittelalters, pp. 45-55, Budapest, 1892;
- Bäumker, Avencebrolis Fons Vitæ, Muuünster, 1895;
- Beer, Philosaphie und Philosophische Schriftsteller der Juden, Leipsic, 1852;
- Bloch, Die Jüdische Religionsphilosophic, in Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, ii. 699-793, 723-729;
- Dukes, Ehrensäulen, und Denksteine, pp. 9-25, Vienna, 1837;
- idem. Salomo ben Gabirol aus Malaga und die Ethischen Werke Desselben, Hanover, 1860;
- Eisler, Vorlesungen über die Jüdischen Philosophen des Mittelalters, i. 57-81, Vienna, 1876;
- Geiger, Salomo Gabirol und Seine Dichtungen, Leipsic, 1867;
- Graetz, History of the jews. iii. 9;
- Guttmann, Die Philosophie des Salomon ibn Gabirol, Göttingen, 1889;
- Guttmann, Das Verhältniss des Thomas von Aquino zum Judenthum und zur Jödischen Litteratur, especially ii. 16-30, Götingen, 1891;
- Horovitz, Die Psychologie Ibn Gabirols, Breslau, 1900;
- Joël, Ibn Gebirol's Bedeutung für die Gesch. der Philosophie, Beiträge zur Gesch. der philosophie, i., Breslau, 1876;
- Kümpf, Nichtandalusische Poesie Andalusischer Dichter, pp. 167-191, Prague, 1858;
- Karpeles, Gesch. der Jüdischen Litteratur, i. 465-483, Berlin, 1886;
- Kaufmann, Studien über Salomon ibn Gabirol, Budapest, 1899;
- Kaufmann, Gesch. der Attributtenlehre in der Jüd. Religionsphilosophie des Mittelaliers, pp. 95-115, Gotha, 1877;
- Löwenthal, Pseudo-Aristoteles über die Seele, Berlin, 1891;
- Müller, De Godsleer der Middeleeuwsche Joden, pp. 90-107, Groningen, 1898;
- Munk, Mélanges de Philosophie Juive et, Arabe, Paris, 1859;
- Myer, Qabbalah, The Philosophical Writings of . . . Avicebron, Philadelphia, 1888;
- Rosin, in J. Q. R. iii. 159-181;
- Sachs, Die Religiöse; Poesie der Juden in Spanien, pp. 213-248, Berlin, 1845;
- Seyerlen, Die Gegenseitigen Beziehungen Zwischen Abendländischer und Morgenländischer Wissenschaft mit Besonderer Rücksicht auf Solomon ibn Gebirol und Seine Philosophische Bedeutung, Jena, 1899;
- Stouössel, Salomo ben Gabirol als Philosoph und Förderer der Kabbala, Leipsic, 1881;
- Steinschneider, Hebr. Uebers. pp. 379-388, Berlin, 1893;
- Wise, The Improvement of the Moral Qualities, New York, 1901;
- Wittmann, Die Stellung des Heiligen Thomas von Aquin zu Avencebrol, Münster, 1900.
Gabirol's poetical productions are characterized by Al-Ḥarizi in the following terms: "Rabbi Solomon the Little ["ha-Ḳaton"] spread such a fragrance of song as was never produced by any poet either before or after him. The poets who succeeded him strove to learn from his poems, but, were unable to reach even the dust of his feet as regards the power of his figures and the force of his words. If he had lived longer he would surely have accomplished wondrous things in poetry; but he was snatched away when still young, . . . and his light was extinguished before he had completed his thirtieth year" ("Taḥkemoni," xviii.). Gabirol was the first of the Hebrew poets to elaborate the use of the strict Arabic meter introduced by Dunash ben Labraṭ (comp.
The poems of Ibn Gabirol are rimed; all the lines of a poem, whether long or short, ending with the same syllable, even the 400 lines of his "'Anaḳ." In this also he followed the Arabic poets. His poems, including the non-liturgical ones, are permeated by a strong religious feeling: they are lofty and elevating. The finest compositions are the poems which he wrote in praise of wisdom; his panegyrics on Rabbi Jekuthiel, a wealthy and influential man in Saragossa and a supporter of learning and literature; his lament (see above) on the death of this rabbi (1040), which occurred when Ibn Gabirol was about nineteen years old; his poem (see above) on the death of Hai Gaon; and his verses in praise of Samuel ibn Nagrela (Brody and Kaufmann, in "Monatsschrift," xliii. 304 et seq.). He frequently complains that his lot has not fallen in pleasant places; he had to listen to reproaches of friends who mocked at his lofty thoughts, and advised him to turn his mind to more profitable matters. His comfort was that though his body was on earth his mind dwelt in heaven. When his distinction as a poet was attacked either by opponents or by rival poets, he pointed to the excellence of his poems and to their perfection in form and contents. That he occasionally had lighter moments is proved by his excellent satire upon a man named Moses who had invited him to dine, but had not been liberal with his wine ("Shir ha-Mayim"). A new and critical edition of his secular poems is in course of publication by H. Brody ("Shir ha-Shirim," Berlin, 1897 et seq.).Liturgical Poems.
Far nobler and loftier, however, are his liturgical compositions. "The liturgic poetry of the Spanish-Arabic Jews attained its perfection with Ibn Gabirol," says Zunz ("Literaturgesch." p. 187). Gabirol has almost entirely liberated Hebrew religious poetry from the fetters of payyeṭanic form and involved expression. In his "Keter Malkut" or "Royal Crown," a philosophical and ethical hymn in rimed prose, he describes the universe as composed of spheres one within the other. It is a detailed panegyric of the glory of God both in the material and in the spiritual world, permeated with the loftiest ethical and religious thoughts, and has in part been imitated by subsequent writers, Judah ha-Levi, Al-Ḥarizi, and Samuel Ẓarẓa. In many liturgies it occurs as part of the Day of Atonement service. A German translation is given in Dukes, "Ehrensäulen," pp. 58 et seq.; in Sachs, "Festgebete der Israeliten," iii.; idem, "Die Religiöse Poesie," p. 3; and a versified English translation of extracts, by Alice Lucas, in "J. Q. R." viii. 239 et seq. He wrote also more than 100 piyyuṭim and seliḥot for the Sabbath, festivals, and fast-days, most of which have been received into the Maḥzor not only of the Spanish rite, but also of the Rumanian, German, and even Karaitic rites. German translations of some of his poems will be found in Geiger's and Sachs'works mentioned in the bibliography; in Kämpf's "Nichtandalusische Poesie," pp. 167 et seq.; also in Karpeles' "Zionsharfe" (Leipsic, 1889). For English specimens see Mrs. Henry Lucas," Songs of Zion," London, 1894. There are two lengthy poems of Gabirol's which, on account of the subjects treated, do not give opportunity for a display of poetical beauty. These are: (1) "Azharot," a rimed enumeration of the 613 precepts of the Torah, and (2) "'Anaḳ," mentioned above, and evidently based on Saadia's "Agron." Solomon Parḥon prefixed to his "Maḥberet" a fragment of the "'Anaḳ" containing 98 lines, reedited by J. Egers in the "Zunz Jubelschrift," Hebrew part, p. 192 (comp. Kaufmann, in "Göttingische Gelehrte Anzeiger," 1885, No. 11, p. 460).
- Geiger, Salomo Gabirol und Seine Dichtungen, Leipsic, 1867;
- Senior Sachs, Cantiqucs de Salomon ibn Gabirole, Paris, 1868;
- idem, in Ha-Teḥiyyah, p. 185, Berlin, 1850;
- Dukes, Schire Shelomo, Hanover, 1858;
- idem, Ehrensaülen, Vienna, 1837;
- Edelmann and Dukes, Treasures of Oxford, London, 1851;
- M. Sachs, Die Religiöse Poesie der Juden in Spanien, Berlin, 1845;
- Zunz, Literaturgesch. pp. 187-194, 411, 588;
- Kämpf, Nichtandalusische Poesie Andalusischer Dichter, pp. 167 et seq.;
- Brody, Kuntras ha-Pijutim nach dem Machsor Vitry, Berlin, 1894, Index.