Moses ibn Tibbon

Moses ibn Tibbon (born in Marseille; flourished between 1240 and 1283) was a Jewish physician, author and translator. The number of works written by Moses ibn Tibbon makes it probable that he reached a great age.

He was son of Samuel ibn Tibbon, and father of the Judah ibn Tibbon who was prominent in the Maimonidean controversy which took place at Montpellier. With other Jewish physicians of Provence, he suffered under the order of the Council of Béziers (May, 1246) which prohibited Jewish physicians from treating Gentiles.


Works (original)

He wrote the following works:

  • Commentary on Canticles (Lyck, 1874). Written under the influence of Maimonides, it is of a philosophical and allegorical character, and is similar to that by his brother-in-law Abba Mari ben Simson ben Anatoli, whom he quotes repeatedly.
  • Commentary to the Pentateuch. However, Judah Mosconi (c. 1370), in his supercommentary on the writings of Abraham ibn Ezra, expresses some doubt as to the authenticity of this commentary on account of its often very unsatisfactory explanations. According to Steinschneider, it was merely a supercommentary on Abraham ibn Ezra.
  • Sefer Pe'ah, an allegorical explanation of haggadic passages in the Talmud and the Midrash (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 939, 9).
  • Commentary on the weights and measures of the Bible and the Talmud (Vatican MSS., No. 298, 4; see Assemani, "Catal." p. 283; Steinschneider, "Joseph ibn Aḳnin", in Ersch and Gruber, "Encyc." section ii., part 31, p. 50; "Ginze Nistarot", iii. 185 et seq.).
  • Sefer ha-Tanninim, mentioned by Isaac de Lattes (l.c.), but without indication of its contents.
  • Letter on questions raised by his father, Samuel ibn Tibbon, in regard to Maimonides' Moreh Nebukim (Guide for the Perplexed) (Neubauer, "Cat. Bodl. Hebr. MSS." No. 2218, 2).


Moses ibn Tibbon's translations are even more important and numerous than his original works. They include versions of Arabic works on philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine. The name of the author of the work from which the translation was made precedes, in the following list, the title by which the translation is known. His most important translations are as follows:

  • Averroes: Commentaries, etc., on Aristotle: Physica Auscultatio (about 1250; Steinschneider, "Hebr. Uebers." p. 109); Kelale ha-Shamayim weha-'Olam (De Cœlo et Mundo; l.c. p. 126); Sefer ha-Hawayah weha-Hefsed (1250: De Generatione et Corruptione; l.c. p. 130); Sefer Otot 'Elyonot (Meteora; l.c. p. 135); Kelale Sefer ha-Nefesh (1244: De Anima; l.c. p. 147); Bi'ur Sefer ha-Nefesh (1261: The Middle Commentary; l.c. p. 148); Ha-Hush we-ha-Muḥash (1254: Parva Naturalia; l.c. p. 154); Mah she-Aḥar ha-Ṭeba' , (1258: Metaphysica; l.c. p. 159); Bi'ur Arguza (commentary on Avicenna's "Arjuzah"; Renan, "Averroes," p. 189; Steinschneider, l.c. p. 699).
  • Avicenna: Ha-Seder ha-Ḳaṭon (1272: "The Small Canon"; l.c. p. 693, comp. p. 285).
  • Batalyusi: Ha-'Agullot ha-Ra'yoniyyot (Al-Ḥada'iḳ, on the "similarity of the world to an imaginary sphere"; l.c. p. 287), edited by D. Kaufmann ('Die Spuren al-Bataljusi's in der Jüdischen Religionsphilosophie," Leipsic, 1880).
  • Al-Hassar: Sefer ha-Ḥeshbon (1271: Treatise on Arithmetic; Steinschneider, l.c. p. 558; "Isr. Letterbode," iii. 8).
  • Euclid: Shorashim, or Yesodot (1270: Elements; Steinschneider, l.c. p. 506, comp. p. 510).
  • Alfarabi: Hatḥalot ha-Nimẓa'ot ha-Tib'iyyim (1248: Book of the Principles; l.c. p. 291. comp. p. 47), edited by H. Fillpowski, in a Hebrew almanac of 5610 (Leipsic, 1849).
  • Geminus: Ḥokmat ha-Kokabim, or Ḥokmat Tekunah (1246, Naples: Introduction to the Almagest of Ptolemy; l.c. p. 539).
  • Ibn Al-Jazzar: Ẓedat ha-Derakim (1259. Viaticum)
  • Hunain: Mabo el Meleket ha-Refu'ah (Introduction to Medical Science; l.c. p. 711).
  • Razi: Ha-Ḥilluḳ weha-Ḥilluf (Book of the Classifications [of Diseaes]; l.c. p. 730); Al Iḳrabadhin (Antidotarium; l.c. p. 730).

For his other translations see Steinschneider, l.c. pp. 177, 231, 362, 363, 416, 542, 544, 553; idem, "Cat. Bodl." cols. 1998 et seq.

Translations from Maimonides

True to the traditions of his family, Moses ibn Tibbon translated those of Maimonides' Arabic writings which his father had not translated:

  • "Miktab" or "Ma'amar be-Hanhagat ha-Beri'ut," a treatise on hygiene in the form of a letter to the sultan, printed in Kerem Ḥemed (iii. 9 et seq.), in Jacob ben Moses Zebi's "Dibre Mosheh" (Warsaw, 1886), and by Jacob Saphir ha-Levi (Jerusalem, 1885, from his own manuscript, under the title "Sefer Hanhagat ha-Beri'ut"). This translation (1244) was one of his first, if not the first (Steinschneider, "Hebr. Uebers." pp. 770 et seq.).
  • Commentary on the Mishnah. A fragment of his translation of Pe'ah, which was published by A. Geiger 1847, makes it at least possible that he translated the whole Seder Mo'ed (l.c. p. 925).
  • Sefer ha-Mitzvot another of his earliest translations (Constantinople, c. 1516-18, also printed in various editions of Maimonides' "Yad," but without Moses ibn Tibbon's preface); in it he excuses himself for continuing his own translation, though having known of that of Abraham Ḥasdai, on the ground that the latter had obviously used the first edition of the Arabic original, while he himself used a later revision (l.c. p. 927).
  • Millot ha-Higgayon, a treatise on logic (Venice, 1552, with two anonymous commentaries). No complete manuscript of the Arabic original is known. The terminology here used by Moses ibn Tibbon has been adopted throughout Hebrew philosophical literature (l.c. p. 434).
  • Ha-Ma'amar ha-Nikbad, a treatise on poisons, also called Ha-Ma'amar be-Teri'aḳ (extant in several manuscripts; see Steinschneider, "Cat. Bodl." col. 1919, iv.; idem, "Hebr. Uebers." p. 764).
  • Commentary on Hippocrates' "Aphorisms" (1257 or 1267: l.c. p. 769, comp. p. 659).

See also


  • Moritz Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, pp. 96, 104, 125, 167, 184, 197;
  • Ernest Renan-Adolf Neubauer, Les Rabbins Français, xxvii. 593 et seq., 750 et seq.;
  • idem, Les Ecrivains Juifs Français, pp. 356, 432, 686, 759;
  • Heinrich Grätz, Gesch. vii. 103;
  • Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, iii. 661;
  • Henri Gross, Gallia Judaica, pp. 59, 327, 356, 373, 534.

This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia article "Ibn Tibbon" by Max Schloessinger, Isaac Broydé and Richard Gottheil, a publication now in the public domain.

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  • Ibn Tibbon, Moses ben Samuel (Tibbon) — (d. c.1283)    French writer and translator. He lived in Marseilles, where he practised medicine. He translated philo sophical and scientific works from Arabic into Hebrew, and also wrote commentaries on the Bible and rabbinical studies …   Dictionary of Jewish Biography

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