Judah ben Solomon ha-Kohen

Judah ben Solomon ha-Kohen (ibn Matkah[nb 1]) (Hebrew: יְהוּדָה בְּן שְׁלֹמֹה הכֹּהֵן‬ (אִבְּן מתקה)‎; c. 1215–c. 1274) was a thirteenth-century Spanish Jewish philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician. He was the author of the Midrash ha-Ḥokmah, considered the first of the great Hebrew encyclopedias, and notable for its in-depth treatment both of the exact sciences and of biblical and rabbinic texts.[2]

Judah ben Solomon was born and educated in Toledo, the grandson of prominent rabbi Ziza ibn Shushan. He was a pupil of Meir Abulafia, who induced him to study philosophy and Jewish mysticism.[3]

At the age of eighteen he entered into correspondence with the philosophers at the court of Emperor Frederick II. The emperor himself consulted him about scientific matters, and his answers proved so satisfactory that he was invited in 1247 to settle in Tuscany, where he had free access to the imperial court. There he translated into Hebrew his major work, an encyclopedia entitled Midrash ha-Ḥokmah, which he had originally written in Arabic.[4]

Midrash ha-Ḥokmah is divided into two parts. The first provides a survey of Aristotelian logic, physics, and metaphysics, and contains, besides, a treatise on certain passages in Genesis, Psalms, and Proverbs. The second part is devoted to mathematics, and contains, also, two treatises: the first, a mystical one on the letters of the alphabet; the other, a collection of Biblical passages to be interpreted philosophically. It also includes adaptation of Ptolemy's Almagest, which he arranged in eight chapters, and of his Quadripartitum under the Hebrew title Mishpeṭe ha-Kokabim, a treatise on astrology, and an adaptation of Al-Bitruji's astronomy, under the title Miklal Yofi.[5]


  1. ^ Judah ben Solomon ha-Kohen is listed in some books by the name Matkah or Ibn Matkah. However, the name is only found in one manuscript of the Midrash ha-Ḥokmah dating to the 16th century, making the authenticity of that name doubtful.[1]


  1. ^ Arndt, Sabine (2016). Judah ha-Cohen and the Emperor's Philosopher: Dynamics of Transmission at Cultural Crossroads (PhD thesis). University of Oxford.
  2. ^ "Matkah, Judah ben Solomon ha-Koken". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  3. ^   Gottheil, Richard; Seligsohn, M. (1901–1906). "Ibn Matḳah, Judah ben Solomon ha-Kohen". In Singer, Isidore; et al. (eds.). The Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls.
  4. ^ Langermann, Y. Tzvi (2000). "Some Remarks on Judah Ben Solomon Ha-Cohen and his Encyclopedia, Midrash ha-Ḥokhmah". In Harvey, Steven (ed.). Some Remarks on Judah ben Solomon ha‐Cohen and His Encyclopedia, Midrash ha‐Ḥokhmah. The Medieval Hebrew Encyclopedias of Science and Philosophy. pp. 371–389. doi:10.1007/978-94-015-9389-2_17. ISBN 978-90-481-5428-9.
  5. ^ Langermann, Y. Tzvi (2007). "Ben Solomon: Judah ben Solomon ha‐Kohen". Ben Solomon: Judah ben Solomon ha-Kohen. The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. New York: Springer. pp. 109–110. doi:10.1007/978-0-387-30400-7_134. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0.