Today I encountered a claim that Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel (known as The Maharal of Prague) said that the statement "So God created mankind in his own image"

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

The reference I found was in the footnotes of this article:

[2] In the dedication of this 1973 PhD thesis at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, to the Maharal of Prague–the creator of the best known Golem, Gerry Sussman points out that the Rabbi had noticed that this line was recursive.
Steps Toward Super Intelligence I, How We Got Here

And the thesis refrenced, was found here:

enter image description here

The Maharal of Prague
(Rabbit Judah Low ben Bezalel c.1525-1609)
who noticed that
"And God created man in His own image"
is recursive.
Dedication of "A Computational Model of Skill Acquisition"

However, despite all my searching, I can not find any actual reference to this claim. The best I can figure is that it has something to do with The Legend of the Golem and the fact that Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel is its supposed maker. So did the Rabbi actually make this claim? Was is a posthumous attribution? Or did it come from somewhere else entirely?

  • 12
    What does "recursive" mean in this context?
    – DenisS
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:37
  • 3
    I assume it means that eventually man becomes god and makes something in its own image. The golem for the rabbi and AI for us.
    – amflare
    Jul 18, 2018 at 16:42
  • 2
    Interesting question, +1, but to clarify, does anyone actually say that this Rabbi claimed that the line in question is recursive? Someone could say "The Maharal of Prague... noticed that [X scripture] is recursive" and mean it as a creative or witty interpretation of the Rabbi's words or work (for example they might be poetically or humorously interpreting the Golem story as an example of recursive scripture in action) Jul 18, 2018 at 20:19
  • 1
    If it helps, the association between the Maharal of Prague and the making of a golem was itself posthumous. Traditions of golem-making are of some antiquity, being found also in the Talmud, but nothing of this nature had been imputed to the Maharal while he was alive.
    – Shimon bM
    Jul 18, 2018 at 21:26
  • @user568458, idk. I suppose the answer to that is a valid answer to my question.
    – amflare
    Jul 18, 2018 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


The Maharal surely didn't use the word "recursion", which is from the 20th century (and in English, which he didn't speak). I understand Sussman's dedication as an interpretation of the Maharal's writings, describing them using modern terms.

is this a correct interpretation of Maharal's writing on the statement? This is a question of Jewish philosophy, not a factual question.

The concept of "in his own image" was debated by many scholars over the centuries, including the Maharal. I don't know what in the Maharal's writing was interpreted by Sussman as "recursive".

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