Did the Rambam write the Moreh Nevuchim for a target audience? Was it only for "perplexed" people or did he write it for everyone, or perhaps an individual?


3 Answers 3


There are a number of passages in the Moreh Nevuchim which either directly discuss its target audience, or allude to it in some way. Below are several such passages, all taken from the Friedlander translation:

Letter to Joseph Ibn Aknin

Your absence has prompted me to compose this treatise for you and for those who are like you, however few they may be.

Prefatory Remarks

It is not here intended to explain all these expressions to the unlettered or to mere tyros, a previous knowledge of Logic and Natural Philosophy being indispensable, or to those who confine their attention to the study of our holy Law, I mean the study of the canonical law alone; for the true knowledge of the Torah is the special aim of this and similar works.

Prefatory Remarks

The object of this treatise is to enlighten a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfils his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies. Human reason has attracted him to abide within its sphere; and he finds it difficult to accept as correct the teaching based on the literal interpretation of the Law, and especially that which he himself or others derived from those homonymous, metaphorical, or hybrid expressions. Hence he is lost in perplexity and anxiety. If he be guided solely by reason, and renounce his previous views which are based on those expressions, he would consider that he had rejected the fundamental principles of the Law; and even if he retains the opinions which were derived from those expressions, and if, instead of following his reason, he abandon its guidance altogether, it would still appear that his religious convictions had suffered loss and injury. For he would then be left with those errors which give rise to fear and anxiety, constant grief and great perplexity.

Prefatory Remarks

They are the multitude of ordinary men: there is no need to notice them in this treatise.

Prefatory Remarks

In this work, however, I address those who have studied philosophy and have acquired sound knowledge, and who while firm in religious matters are perplexed and bewildered on account of the ambiguous and figurative expressions employed in the holy writings.

Directions for the Study of this Work

I feel assured that those of my readers who have not studied philosophy, will still derive profit from many a chapter. But the thinker whose studies have brought him into collision with religion, will, as I have already mentioned, derive much benefit from every chapter. How greatly will he rejoice! How agreeably will my words strike his ears! Those, however, whose minds are confused with false notions and perverse methods, who regard their misleading studies as sciences, and imagine themselves philosophers, though they have no knowledge that could truly be termed science, will object to many chapters, and will find in them many insuperable difficulties, because they do not understand their meaning, and because I expose therein the absurdity of their perverse notions, which constitute their riches and peculiar treasure, "stored up for their ruin."


Having premised these remarks, I shall explain in the next chapter the error of those who believe that God has essential attributes: those who have some knowledge of Logic and Natural Science will understand it.


We have reiterated this idea in the present chapter because it is exceedingly abstruse, and I do not apprehend that the reader will confound intellectual comprehension with the representative faculty--with the reproduction of the material image in our imagination, since this work is designed only for those who have studied philosophy, and who know what has already been said on the soul and its faculties.


IT is not necessary to repeat in every chapter that I write this treatise with the full knowledge of what you have studied: that I therefore need not quote the exact words of the philosophers: it will suffice to give an abstract of their views.


There are, however, some utterances of our Sages on this subject [which apparently imply a different view]. I will gather them from their different sources and place them before you, and I will refer also to certain things by mere hints, just as has been done by the Sages. You must know that their words, which I am about to quote, are most perfect, most accurate, and clear to those for whom they were said. I will therefore not add long explanations, lest I make their statements plain, and I might thus become "a revealer of secrets," but I will give them in a certain order, accompanied with a few remarks, which will suffice for readers like you.

Introduction to Part 3

Correct thought and divine help have suggested to me the proper method, viz., to explain the words of the prophet Ezekiel in such a manner that those who will read my interpretation will believe that I have not added anything to the contents of the text, but only, as it were, translated from one language into another, or given a short exposition of plain things. Those, however, for whom this treatise has been composed, will, on reflecting on it and thoroughly examining each chapter, obtain a perfect and clear insight into all that has been clear and intelligible to me. This is the utmost that can be done in treating this subject so as to be useful to all without fully explaining it.


This is all that I thought proper to discuss in this treatise, and which I considered useful for men like you. I hope that, by the help of God, you will, after due reflection, comprehend all the things which I have treated here.


I heard Rav Moshe Wolfson in a recording about the mitzvah of Emunah say that Mesillas Yesharim is for the yesharim and Moreh Nevochim is for the Nevochim.

However, a friend of mine pointed out to me that the Rambam has something very interesting in Moreh Nevochim. In the third section, he presents his understanding of Maaseh Merkava. He prefaces it by saying that he has some wonderful and important things to say in explaining the Maaseh Merkava, and this is the best place to put it.

If it were meant to only be for the perplexed, his wonderful and important interpretations would be secluded to that audience. He never wrote them anywhere else. It doesn't seem to be just for the perplexed.

  • Unless we are all somewhat perplexed.
    – Double AA
    Sep 30, 2014 at 18:54
  • @DoubleAA Righto. But then the question becomes redundant. Sep 30, 2014 at 18:55
  • Does Rav Moshe Wolfson agree that what the Rambam has to say, in the Moreh Nevochim, in explaining the Maaseh Merkava is wonderful and important?
    – Tamir Evan
    Oct 1, 2014 at 13:36
  • @TamirEvan He didn't say. But it shouldn't be relevant, as the question is what the Rambam intended, not what R' Moshe Wolfson thinks is valuable, and the Rambam certainly thinks it is such. Oct 1, 2014 at 17:29
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    Is the orchos tzaddikim only for tzaddikim? Oct 1, 2014 at 23:35

I just found the following here: (I can't vouch for it's accuracy since I did not read the intro myself.)

IT is the object of this work “to afford a guide for the perplexed,” i.e. “to thinkers whose studies have brought them into collision with religion” p. 9), “who have studied philosophy and have acquired sound knowledge, and who, while firm in religions matters, are perplexed and bewildered on account of she ambiguous and figurative expressions employed in the holy writings (p. 5). Joseph, the son of Jehudah Ibn Aknin, a disciple of Maimonides, is addressed by his teacher as an example of this kind of students. It was “for him and for those like him” that the treatise was composed, and to him this work is inscribed in the dedicatory letter with which the Introduction begins. Maimonides, having discovered that his disciple was sufficiently advanced for an exposition of the esoteric ideas in the books of the Prophets, commenced to give him such expositions “by way of hints.” His disciple then begged him to give him further explanations, to treat of metaphysical themes, and to expound the system and the method of the Kalām, or Mohammedan Theology.1 In compliance with this request, Maimonides composed the Guide of the Perplexed.

  • You're quoting from the translator's introduction to the Friedländer translation (the specific page you're quoting from can be seen here).
    – Tamir Evan
    Oct 1, 2014 at 13:35
  • A. Friedlander's translation is known to be among the worst. B. One should not read too much into Friedlander's preface. The fact is that Rambam published it and gave his approbation to the Hebrew translation of Rabbeinu Yehudah Ibn Tibbon. If he meant it just for those who were suffering crises of faith based on exposure to philosophy, that was quite a heavy investment for such a small group. From learning the Moreh, it is quite apparent that he meant it for everyone and held that there were many confused people out there without exposure to philoshophy who could use the Moreh as well.
    – Yahu
    Jan 1, 2018 at 10:35

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