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What is the original phrasing of the "gates of interpretation are not locked before us" (i.e. ולא שערי הפירוש סתומים בפנינו) in Guide to the Perplexed 2:25? That is, what is it in Rambam's Judeo-Arabic?

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You might also consider the recent (authoritative) translation available for free: – Curiouser Mar 14 '11 at 5:23

2 Answers 2

There's an edition containing (only) the original Judeo-Arabic on Seforim Online. Assuming that what you're looking for is what's translated in this Hebrew translation as

וגם אין שערי הפירוש בעניין חידוש העולם נעולים בפנינו ולא נמנעים ממנו

The relevant line in the Judeo-Arabic seems to be on page 229 of the book (found on page 131 of the PDF), line 10:

ולא אבואב אלתאויל איצא מסדודה פי וגזהנא ולא ממתגעה עלינא פי אמר חדות אלעלם


  • I'm not certain that I picked the exact right end of the phrase.

  • There are symbols over some of the letters that are not available with the local Hebrew keyboard.

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Erm can anyone find the correct image? – Double AA Feb 23 at 21:59
@DoubleAA, I gave it a shot. I'm pretty confident in the beginning of the phrase, since "וגם אין שערי הפירוש," GTranslated to Arabic, yields something that starts out sounding "ולא אבואב," and the footnote in the Hebrew on "הפירוש" refers to "תאויל." It might be worth checking my transcription and also seeing if you can confirm the phrase-end. – Isaac Moses Feb 25 at 22:19
@IsaacMoses Will try. If I haven't done so by Nisan ping me again. – Double AA Feb 25 at 22:24
@DoubleAA If I haven't pinged you by Iyyar, remind me. – Isaac Moses Feb 25 at 22:30
@IsaacMoses From what I can tell (with help from Google Translate), your endpoint appears to be correct; אלעלם corresponds to העולם, and ימכננא תאויל corresponds to יכולים לפרש. The Hebrew translation you provided rearranged the words; following the original word order would yield Hebrew more like: "וגם אין שערי הפירוש נעולים בפנינו ולא נמנעים ממנו בעניין חידוש העולם". – Fred Feb 27 at 8:31

The word that is translated פירוש is تَأْوِيل taʾwīl, an infinitive from the second form of the root أول. Here are a few of the definitions given in Lane's Lexicon:

-The turning of a verse of the Kurʾan from its apparent meaning to a meaning which it bears, or admits.

-Rendering in a manner not according to the letter, or overt sense; explaining the covert, or virtual meaning; interpreting in a manner not according to the obvious meaning.

-Explaining the meaning of that which is equivocal or ambiguous, i.e., what is not understood without repeated consideration.

It looks like there has been a whole book published recently on this topic: Opening the Gates of Interpreation by Mordechai Z. Cohen. From a very brief skim of a few pages on Google Books, here are a couple of things the author notes:

-In ibn Tibbon's ביאור המלים הזרות, appended to the end of editions of his translation, his explanation for this term is ביאור בדבר שלא כפשוטו.

-In speaking of the opening and closing of gates, the Rambam is drawing on the Muslim idiom 'the shutting of the gate of ijtihad'.

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I believe he was looking for the original phrase, which was provided by Alex. – Seth J Jan 24 '13 at 19:33
Yes, of course. I just assumed it would be relevant to add some explanation and would make the question and answer more useful. – paquda Jan 24 '13 at 19:57

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