Elias ben Moise Delmedigo, also known as Elijah de Medigo and Helias Cretensis, was a Talmudist and philosopher born in Heraklion in 1460. When still relatively young, Delmedigo took up a post at the University of Padua where one of his students was prominent Italian Renaissance philosopher Piccodella Mirandola.

In 1480, Delmedigo wrote his first philosophical treatise in Venice which by then had been his home for a time, and was actively sought out by a number of Christian scholars because of his knowledge of such issues as the concept of the universe and the unity of the intellect. Over a ten year period, they employed Elias to teach and translate Jewish philosophical classics from Hebrew to Latin, and, in particular, the writings of 12th century Andalusian Arab philosopher Averroes, who wrote about logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy and theology.

With the support and patronage of these scholars, Elias drafted original treatises on the universe and commentaries on the work of Averroes, while translating eight commentaries of Averroes including his Commentary on Plato’s Republic into Latin.

Elias returned to Heraklion in 1490 producing perhaps his best known work, the Behinat ha-Dat (Examination of Religion), about the relationship between Judaism and philosophy and the points of disagreement including a critique on the Kabbalah. The Behinat ha-Dat was published in 1629 in a collection entitled Ta’alumot Hokma and only in 1833 was it issued separately with a commentary by Isaac Samuel Reggio.

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Elias ben Moise Delmedigo

Delmedigo’s Sefer Beḥinat ha-Dat (The Examination of Religion), 1833 edition

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