The concept of the universe as a divine "Imprint" in Plato's Timaeus and in doctrines of medieval Jewish Thinkers

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The article deals with the concept of the universe as an "imprint / impress" (ekmageion, ektupōma), made by the god-demiurge according to the "prototype" (paradeigma). This Plato's metaphor could have influenced the formation of a number of creationist and emanational emergent theologico-philosophical systems of medieval Jewish thinkers. A correlation of the verb tāba' (to 'make an imprint', 'impress', 'mint') with the cognate noun teba' (originally 'mintage on a coin', something formed - an 'element', 'creature', but also 'mater', 'substance', later 'nature') is repeatedly atested in the medieval Jewish philosophical literature. In many contexts, the term teba', used in the sense of 'nature', implicitly reveals its root meaning of 'imprint'. As a result, the notion teba' was interpreted as referring to the world as an "imprint". The verb tāba' was used by the Jewish philosophers both in active and passive stem forms, especially in combination with the noun teba', producing the notion of "nature imprinted". It may be assumed that some of them (in particular, Y. Gikatilla) could have correlated the Tetragrammaton with Plato's god-demiurge in their doctrines of the world's origin, referring "God" ('Elōhîm) to the "prototype", by which the whole cosmos is "imprinted", in terms oflikeningthismodeltothe "father" of the world, and the "nature" (hat-teba'), regarded as a divine "imprint", to the universe as an "imprint" of the "prototype". The image of nature as an "imprint" of 'Ělōhîm may have guided some Jewish medieval philosophers to think of the universe as the expression of God in His impression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-171
Number of pages14
JournalPlatonic Investigations
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2019

Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


  • Cosmogony
  • Creationism
  • Medieval Jewish philosophy
  • Plato


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