||Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed in Latin translation.
Maimonides wrote his work for someone who was firm in his religious beliefs and practices, but, having studied philosophy, was perplexed by the literal meaning of biblical anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terms. To this person Maimonides showed that these difficult terms have a spiritual meaning besides their literal one, and that it is the spiritual meaning that applies to G-d. Maimonides also undertook in the Guide the explanation of obscure biblical parables. Thus, the Guide is devoted to the philosophic interpretation of Scripture, or, to use Maimonides' terms, to the "science of the Law in its true sense" or to the "secrets of the Law" (Guide, introd.).
The enigmatic nature of the Guide imposed great difficulties on medieval and modern commentators, and two schools of interpretation arose. Some, while aware of Maimonides' method, consider him a philosopher who attempted to harmonize the teachings of religion with those of philosophy. Others, however, considered Maimonides a philosopher, whose views were in agreement with those of the rationalistic Aristotelians, and who expressed religious opinions largely as a concession to the understanding of the masses. For example, Maimonides, according to the first interpretation, believed that the world was created, while according to the second, his true view was that the world is eternal.
Johannes Buxtorf II (1599–1664), Hebraist, the son of Johannes Buxtorf I, succeeded his father in the chair of Bible and Hebrew studies at the University of Basle and edited some of his unpublished works. In common with his father, he held the view that the Masoretic Text is the genuine version of the Bible (De Literarum Hebraicarum Genuina antiquitate, 1643) and that the Hebrew square script preceded the Samaritan. The vocalization of Hebrew, he maintained, originated at least as early as the time of Ezra. These issues were the subject of his fierce controversies with another Hebraist, Ludovicus Capelus, with each defending his viewpoint in a series of scholarly studies. Buxtorf's view was formally adopted by the Swiss Church in 1675. Buxtorf translated Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed (1629), Judah Halevi's Kuzari (1666), and part of Isaac Abrabanel's commentaries to the Bible into Latin. The numerous Jewish scholars in many lands with whom he was in contact included Manasseh Ben Israel. His collection of letters is preserved at the university libraries of Basle and Zurich.