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Guide for the Perplexed, by Moses Maimonides, Friedländer tr. [1904], at


MANY of our coreligionists thought that King Solomon believed in the Eternity of the Universe. This is very strange. How can we suppose that any one that adheres to the Law of Moses, our Teacher, should accept that theory? if we were to assume that Solomon has on this point, God forbid, deviated from the Law of Moses, the question would be asked, Why did most of the Prophets and of the Sages accept it of him? Why have they not opposed him, or blamed him for holding that opinion, as he has been blamed for having married strange women, and for other things? The reason why this has been imputed to him is to be found in the following passage: "They desired to suppress the book Koheleth, because its words incline towards scepticism." It is undoubtedly true that certain passages in this book include,

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when taken literally, opinions different from those taught in the Law, and they must therefore be explained figuratively. But the theory of the Eternity of the Universe is not among those opinions, the book does not even contain any passage that implies this theory; much less a passage in which it is clearly set forth. There are, however, in the book, some passages which imply the indestructibility of the Universe, a doctrine that is true; and from the fact that the indestructibility of the Universe is taught in this book, some persons wrongly inferred that the author believed in the Eternity of the Universe. The following are the words that refer to the indestructibility of the Universe: "And the earth remaineth for ever." And those who do not agree with me as regards the above distinction [between the indestructibility and the Eternity of the Universe], are compelled to explain the term le-‘olam (lit., "for ever"), to mean "the time fixed for the existence of the earth." Similarly they explain the words of God, "Yet all the days of the earth" (Gen. Viii. 22) to signify the days fixed for its existence. But I wonder how they would explain the words of David: "He laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be moved for ever" (Ps. civ. 5). If they maintain here also that the term le-‘olam va-‘ed (lit. "for ever") does not imply perpetuity, they must come to the conclusion that God exists only for a fixed period, since the same term is employed in describing the perpetuity of God, "The Lord will reign (le-‘olam) for ever" (Exod. xv. 18, or Ps. x. 16). We must, however, bear in mind that olam only signifies perpetuity when it is combined with ad: it makes no difference whether ‘ad follows, as in ‘olam va-‘ed, or whether it precedes, as in ‘ad ‘olam. The words of Solomon which only contain the word le-‘olam, have therefore less force than the words of David, who uses the term olam va-‘ed. David has also in other passages clearly spoken of the incorruptibility of the heavens, the perpetuity and immutability of their laws, and of all the heavenly beings. He says, "Praise ye the Lord from the heavens, etc. For He commanded, and they were created. He hath also stablished them for ever and ever; he hath made a decree which shall not pass" (Ps. cxlviii. 1-6); that is to say, there will never be a change in the decrees which God made, or in the sources of the properties of the heavens and the earth, which the Psalmist has mentioned before. But he distinctly states that they have been created. For he says, "He hath commanded, and they were created." Jeremiah (xxxi. 35) likewise says, "He giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night," etc. "If these ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever." He thus declares, that these decrees will never be removed, although they had a beginning. We therefore find this idea, when we search for it, expressed not only by Solomon but also by others. Solomon himself has stated that these works of God, the Universe, and all that is contained in it, remain with their properties for ever, although they have been created. For he says, "Whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken away from it" (Eccles. iii. 14). He declares in these words that the world has been created by God and remains for ever. He adds the reason for it by saying, "Nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it;" for this is the reason for the perpetuity, as if he meant to say that things are changed in order to supply that

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which is wanting, or in order to take away what is superfluous. The works of God being most perfect, admitting no addition or deduction, must remain the same for ever. It is impossible that anything should exist that could cause a change in them. In the conclusion of the verse, Solomon, as it were describes the purpose of exceptions from the laws of Nature, or an excuse for changes in them, when he says, "And God doeth it (viz., He performs miracles) that men should fear before him." The words which follow, "That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been, and God seeketh that which is pursued," contain the idea that God desires the perpetuity and continuity of the Universe. The fact that the works of God are perfect, admitting of no addition or diminution, has already been mentioned by Moses, the wisest of all men, in the words: "The rock, His work is perfect" (Deut. xxxii. 14). All His works or creations are most perfect, containing no defect whatever, nothing superfluous, nor anything unnecessary. Also whatever God decrees for those created things, and whatever He effects through them, is perfectly just, and is the result of His wisdom, as will be explained in some chapters of this treatise.

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