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The Arabic Translation and Commentary of

Yefet ben #Eli the Karaite on the Abraham Narratives


(Genesis 11:1025:18)
tudes sur
le Judasme Mdival
Fondes par
Georges Vajda

Diriges par
Paul B. Fenton

TOME XLVI

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.nl/ejm


Karaite Texts and Studies
Edited by
Meira Polliack
Michael G. Wechsler

VOLUME 4
The Arabic Translation and
Commentary of Yefet ben #Eli the
Karaite on the Abraham Narratives
(Genesis 11:1025:18)
Edition and Introduction

By
Marzena Zawanowska

LEIDEN BOSTON
2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bible. O.T. Genesis XI, 10-XXV,18. Judeo-Arabic. Japheth ben Ali.


The Arabic translation and commentary of Yefet ben 'Eli the Karaite on the Abraham
narratives (Genesis 11:10-25:18) / edition and by introduction by Marzena Zawanowska.
p. cm. (tudes sur le Judasme mdival, ISSN 0169-815X ; t. 46) (Karaite texts and
studies ; v. 4)
Biblical text and commentary in Judeo-Arabic; introd. and critical apparatus in English.
ISBN 978-90-04-19131-0 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Bible. O.T. Genesis XI,
10-XXV,18Commentaries. 2. Karaites. I. Japheth ben Ali, ha-Levi, 10th cent. II. Zawanowska,
Marzena. III. Title.

BS1234.J83J37 2012
222'.1106092dc23
2011042183

ISSN 0169-815X
ISBN 978 90 04 19131 0 (hardback)
ISBN 978 90 04 22638 8 (e-book)

Copyright 2012 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Global Oriental, Hotei Publishing,
IDC Publishers, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers and VSP.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
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Fees are subject to change.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.


Im just pointing out the different opinions
about it. You shouldnt pay too much atten-
tion to peoples opinions. The text cannot be
altered, and the various opinions are often no
more than an expression of despair over it.
Franz Kafka, The Trial

To my mother and in memory of my father


CONTENTS

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Transliteration Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii

PART I
INTRODUCTION

Chapter One. Yefet and His Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


. Biography and Works. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
. Yefets Commentary on Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
.. Dating and General Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
.. Language and Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
.. Structure and Composition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
. Earlier and Contemporary Karaite Commentaries on
Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
.. Benjamin al-Nahawand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
.. Daniel al-Qumis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
.. Ya#qub al-Qirqisan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
.. Salmon ben Yeroham . ...................................... 20
.. Sahl ben Mas. liah. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
.. Yusuf b. Nuh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
.. David ben Bo#az . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
.. David ben Abraham al-Fasi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
. Later Karaite Commentaries on Genesis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
.. Judaeo-Arabic Commentaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
.. Hebrew Commentaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Chapter Two. Who Wrote the Torah? Yefets View on the


Authorship of the Pentateuch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
. Formal Statements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
. One Book, Various Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
.. God as the Divine Author of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
.. Moses as the Earthly Author of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
.. Joshua and Other Co-Authors of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
.. The Anonymous Mudawwin as the Final Author of the
Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
x contents

. The Term Mudawwin as Camouflage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45


. The Karaite Innovation of the Biblical Mudawwin . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
.. Internal Jewish Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
.. The Karaite Approach to the Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
.. Polemical Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
.. The Impact of Arabic Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Chapter Three. In Quest of Truth: Yefets Hermeneutic Concepts . . . 59


. Rational Inquiry as a Divine Commandment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
. Bible Study as a Religious Duty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
. The Pedagogical Purpose of Cumulative Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
. A Selective and Critical Approach to Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
. Epistemological Principles of Biblical Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
. The Literal-Contextual Approach to Scripture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
. Hermeneutical Tenets Underlying Yefets Exegetical
Approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
. The Ideal of Comprehensive, yet Focused Bible Commentary 77
. Following the Holy Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
. Pragmatic Aspect of Bible Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
. Beneficial Purposes of Biblical Narratives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
. The Restricted Interdisciplinarity of Biblical Exegesis . . . . . . . . . 86
. The Limits of Human Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

Chapter Four. Between the Holy Text and Its Unholy Context:
Polemical Overtones in Yefets Commentary on Genesis . . . . . . . . . . 91
. Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
. Rabbinic Judaism and Jewish Sects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
.. The Rabbis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
.. Saadia Gaon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
.. The Brahmins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
. Karaism and Karaite Sects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
.. Benjamin al-Nahawand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
.. #Anan ben David. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
.. Abu #Imran al-Tifls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
.. The Tustarians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
.. Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
. Islam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
contents xi

Chapter Five. Scripture as the Supreme Composition: Literary


Aspects of Yefets Exegesis of Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
. The Biblical Narrative: The Story and Its Composition. . . . . . . . 113
.. The Multi-layered Structure of Biblical Narratives . . . . . . . 114
.. Structural Elements of the Biblical Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
.. The Cohesive Organization of the Scriptural Text . . . . . . . . 118
.. The Principle of Thematic Arrangement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
.. The Principle of Complementary Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . 123
. The Art of Narration: Biblical Style and Its Fundamental
Tenets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
.. Gradual Disclosure of Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
.. Non-Chronological Arrangement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
.. Purposeful Elisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
.. Meaningful Repetition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
.. The Art of Reticence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
. Methods of Narration: Rhetorical and Stylistic Devices,
Linguistic Conventions, and Patterns of Expression . . . . . . . . . . 135
.. Rhetorical Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
.. Stylistic Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
.. Patterns of Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
.. Linguistic Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
.. Tension Building Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
. Biblical Narration: The Role of the Muhk . and the
Mudawwin in Shaping the Biblical Narrative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
.. Recounting the Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
.. Combined Speech and Transitional Statements . . . . . . . . . . 141
.. Omission to Avoid Superfluity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
.. Adding Explanatory Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
.. Inserting Anachronistic Statements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
.. Fashioning Form to Convey Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
.. Flashbacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
.. Foreshadowing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
.. Building Tension within the Account . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151

Chapter Six. The Limits of Literalism: Yefets Approach to Bible


Translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
. The Literalistic Ideal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
. The Limitations of Literalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
.. Linguistic Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
xii contents

.. Limitations of Usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


.. Concessions to Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
.. Rational Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
.. Paraphrasing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
.. Purposeful IndecisivenessAlternate Translations . . . . . . 170
.. Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
.. Non-Literal Ideological Translations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
.. Identification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
. The Complementary Aspect of Translation and
Interpretation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186

PART II
INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITICAL EDITION

Chapter Seven. Description of Manuscripts Employed for the


Present Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
. Russian Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
.. Ms. A1 / 1 (Basic Manuscript) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
.. Ms. A2 / 2 (Basic Manuscript) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
.. Ms. A3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196
. European Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
.. Ms. L1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
.. Ms. L2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
.. Ms. L3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
.. Ms. C / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
.. Ms. P1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
.. Ms. P2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
.. Ms. B / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
. Firkovitch Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
.. Ms. R3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
.. Ms. R4 / 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
.. Ms. R5 / 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
.. Ms. R6 / 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
.. Ms. R7 / 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
contents xiii

Chapter Eight. Editing of the Manuscripts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219


. General Assumptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
. Choice of Manuscripts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
. Editing Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
. Dual Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
.. First Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
.. Second Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223

Chapter Nine. Signs and Abbreviations Employed in the Critical


Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
. Sigla, Symbols of Manuscripts, and Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
. Abbreviations of Books of the Hebrew Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Manuscripts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
. Secondary Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257

PART III
EDITION

Text. Genesis : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243*
Text. Genesis :. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273*
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Prof.


Meira Polliack of Tel Aviv University, the supervisor for my Ph.D. disser-
tation, who has continued to be my mentor for this research project. Her
constant help, encouragement, and intellectual as well as emotional sup-
port enabled me to complete this huge undertaking successfully. I would
also like to extend my utmost appreciation to Prof. Michael Wechsler of
the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago; not only did he give me confidence,
along with much valuable advice and numerous suggestions in regard to
this book, but he also assisted me in my never-ending pursuit of sources,
be they books or unpublished dissertations. In addition, I cannot thank
both Prof. Polliack and Prof. Wechsler enough for reading the final draft
of this book, and providing me with detailed feedback on it. Their illu-
minating comments, suggestions, and corrections helped me shape this
book into its current form.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to many scholars, who patiently discussed
different aspects of this research with me and willingly supported my
efforts with their constructive advice and remarks, as well as did not
hesitate to share their yet unpublished works with me, among them:
Dr. Camilla Adang, Prof. Naser Basal, Prof. Haggai Ben-Shammai, Prof.
Janusz Danecki, Prof. Yoram Erder, Prof. Mordechai Akiva Friedman,
Prof. Norman Golb, Dr. Miriam Goldstein, Prof. Henryk Jankowski, Prof.
Uri Rubin, Dr. Ilana Sasson, Dr. Eliezer Schlossberg, Dr. David Sklare, Dr.
Maciej Tomal, and Kees de Vreugd (MSc).
I am also much obliged to Prof. Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska of the
Marie Curie Skodowska University, Lublin, and Prof. Shoshana Ronen
of Warsaw University, who gave me the opportunity to pursue my studies,
fostered my professional development, and continually endeavored to
lighten my work load so that I could concentrate more fully on my
research.
I am very grateful to Ilana Kraus, who not only carefully read and
corrected the first draft of the entire introduction, shaping my thoughts
into a more presentable composition, but also discussed it with me at
length. By doing so, she helped me rethink certain ideas and formulate
them more clearly.
xvi acknowledgments

At this time I would like to express my thanks to the Center for the
Study of Judaeo-Arabic Culture and Literature at the Ben-Zvi Institute
for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East, housed in the Jewish
National and University Library in Jerusalem, and especially to Dr. David
Sklare for giving me the opportunity to study the working editions of
many Karaite Bible commentaries compiled and stored in the Center.
Special thanks are also due to the Department of Manuscripts and
the Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts in the Jewish National
and University Library in Jerusalem. I am profoundly indebted to the
staff members of the Institute, and especially to Ezra Schwat and Yisrael
Dubitsky for allowing me to stay after hours and work on the manuscripts
in their room.
This work was also made possible by many libraries which made
microfilm copies of manuscripts in their collections available for study
in the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem, among them:
the Institute of Oriental Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences, and the
Russian National Library in St. Petersburg, the British Library in London,
the Trinity College Library in Cambridge, the Bibliothque Nationale in
Paris, and the Stadtbibliothek in Berlin.
I wish to convey my profound appreciation to the Diaspora Research
Center at Tel Aviv University, where I had the pleasure of participating in
a post-doctoral project, inter alia, working on this book. Likewise, I want
to gratefully acknowledge the assistance of the Rothschild Foundation
Europe, which awarded me a grant to prepare this book for publication.
Finally, I would like to thank my entire family, my partner, and my
close friends, who helped me in so many ways throughout the arduous
process of researching and writing this book.
I would like to emphasize that the responsibility for all errors and
oversights is solely my own.
TRANSLITERATION TABLES

I. Hebrew and Aramaic

Consonants
l "

m b a

n b

s g /b

# d /c

p t h

f v

s. z

q h.

r t.

s y

sh k k

t /z kh

The sign " is omitted when initial.

Doubling with the article and in biblical vayyiqtol forms is generally


not indicated (e.g., ha-katub, not hak-katub; va-yo"mer, not vay-yo"mer).

Vowels
a  /  (gadol) a  a #

e  / e  e $ / " (vocal)
! i ! o (

o / & o  (qat. an/ha


. t. uf)
u e u %

The signs and u are also generally used in cases of scriptio defectiva (e.g.,
nab" for ! [= !] and qum for R [= e]).

xviii transliteration tables

II. Arabic

Consonants
t. U " /
z.  b 
#  t 
gh th

f j
q h. 
k  kh 
l  d 
m  dh 
n  r 
h  z 
w  s 
y  sh 
s. 
a/at  d.
The sign " is omitted when initial and followed by a vowel (i.e., without
was. la; thus: iqtidar for !"#, yet hasaba
. "qtidar for !"#$ %&') as well as
when final in plural verbs (i.e., when functioning as al-alif al-fas. ila; thus:
ya#malu rather than ya#malu").

Vowels
a   (and ( maqs. ura) a 
 ) (yet  * ) : iyy) i )
u  + (yet * + : uww) u +
Before alif al-was. l the vowels   ,  ) , and  + are respectively represented
by a, i, and u (thus: #alayhuma "l-salam for ,-&.$ /-0123, fi "qtidar for !"#$ 4,
and abu "l-kadhib for 56.$ 78).
Tanwn, though generally not indicated, is represented by -un (for 9 ), -an
(for : ,  : , ( : , or, when denoting any of the previous, final ), or -in (for
; or, when denoting the previous, final ).
PART I

INTRODUCTION
chapter one

YEFET AND HIS TIMES

Karaism emerged some time around the late ninth century ce in the area
of Persia-Iraq and Palestine as a conglomerate movement, which united
representatives of the gaonic establishment and adherents of various Jew-
ish heterodox groups.1 Its new scripturalistic-messianic ideology became
a driving force for establishing, in the tenth century, the intellectual cen-
ter of biblical studies in Jerusalem, which culminated in the opening
there of the Karaite house of learning or house of study (dar li-"l-
#ilm)2 by Joseph ben Noah, . better known as Yusuf b. Nuh.
3
. This unique
school or biblical academy enhanced and significantly contributed to
the intensive development of Karaite exegesis during the course of the

1 On a possible connection between the Karaites and Sadduceean tradition, see

Geiger, Judentum, pp. ; Revel, Inquiry; idem, Karaite. On tracing the Karaites
alleged provenance back to the Qumran sect, see Wieder, Doctrine; idem, Sectaries;
idem, Exegesis; idem, Scrolls; Paul, Ecrits; Tomal, Polemics. On the Karaites indi-
rectly continuing the suppressed Qumranic sect in the sense that they rediscovered
the sects texts upon their return to Palestine and integrated certain aspects of its ide-
ology, halakhah, and exegetical methods, see Erder, Encounter; idem, Dilemma;
idem, Remnants; idem, History. For a skeptical response to these hypotheses, see Ben-
Shammai, Relationship; Astren, Scrolls; Polliack, Pesher; idem, Wherein. On the
early Karaite movements close affiliation to the Muslim religion, see Graetz, Geschichte, V,
p. ; Cook, Origins; Lasker, Islamic; Astren, Contexts; Ben-Shammai, Return.
For the theory regarding the fusion of various heterogeneous elements, which merged
into the Karaite movement in the course of the ninth century, see Gil, History; idem,
Palestine; idem, Antiquites; idem, Origins. For further developments, see Ben-
Shammai, Between; Polliack, Karaism; idem, Rethinking.
2 For more on this academy or college, its activities and members, see Blumfield,

Ruth, pp. , ; Frank, Exegesis, pp. ; idem, Search, pp. ; Gil, History,
pars. [][]; Khan, Diqduq, pp. ; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Margoliouth, Ibn al-
Ht; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Poznanski,
Review ; idem, Opponents [= Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Sasson, Proverbs,
pp. ; Skoss, Commentary, pp. . Cf. Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, p. (Ar.),
p. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology, p. . Cf. Goldstein, Beginnings, p. , n. ; Polliack,
Trends, p. . On different names and functions of this Karaite house of study
(school, communal meeting place [majlis], library, courtyard, community centre, house
of prayer), see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ; Khan, Diqduq, p. .
3 On the rejection of the exile by the early Karaites, see Erder, Negation; idem,

Observance; Gil, History, pars. [][]. On Palestino-centrism (aliyah ideology),


asceticism, messianism, and scripturalism, see, e.g., Astren, Understanding, esp. pp.
chapter one

tenth and eleventh centuries, the so-called Golden Age of Karaism,


which came to an abrupt end when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem
in .4
Beyond the activity of the purported founders of the Karaite
movementnamely, Benjamin al-Nahawand and #Anan ben David,
who composed books of precepts that employed exegetic tools to derive a
new legal system directly from Scripturethree major periods or stages
of development may be distinguished in the history of Karaite medieval
exegesis in the East:5
i. The formative period (ninth century), when the first independent
exegetical compositions, which made use of innovative approaches
that often diverged from mainstream rabbinic6 methods of inter-
pretation, were written. The important forerunners of the nascent
three-tiered model were active at this timechiefly the rationally,
linguistically-contextually or literally oriented biblical commen-
tators. The foremost representative of this period was Daniel al-
Qumis, who, in contrast to his successors, wrote his commentaries
primarily in Hebrew.

and further bibliography there. Cf. also Sokolow, Negation. On different names given
to the members of the Karaite community in Jerusalem, see, e.g., Frank, Shoshanim,
pp. ; Erder, Negation, pp. ; Wieder, Sectaries; idem, Scrolls, pp.
. Cf. also Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. , .
4 On the Jerusalem community, its leadership, and further aspects of ideology, see

Ben-Sasson, Community; Ben-Shammai, Quarter; idem, Location; idem, Karaites;


Erder, Mourners; Gil, History, pars. [][]; Lasker, Judaism; Paul, Ecrits,
pp. ; Poznanski, Beginnings. On the Crusader conquest of Jerusalem and the
subsequent destruction of the local Karaite community, see Gil, History, pars. []
[]. For a general overview of scholarly studies on Karaism, Karaite literature and
exegesis, see especially Walfish & Kizilov, Bibliographia. See also Ben-Shammai, Study;
idem, Scholarly; Fenton, Discovery; Frank, Study; idem, Medieval; idem, Exege-
sis; Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ; Lasker, Developments; idem, Karaism; Polliack,
Karaism; idem, Guide; idem, Wherein, pp. ; Tamani, Lo stato; Zawanowska,
Outline. Cf. also Polliack, Scripture.
5 See Polliack, Trends, pp. . On the analogous division of the history

of early Karaite philosophy into three major periods, see Ben-Shammai, Trends. Cf.
Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. and p. , n. . About the shift from books on legal precepts
to independent exegetical compositions, see Ben-Shammai, Exegetes and Polliack,
Trends.
6 Polliack (Trends, pp. ; idem, Rethinking) discusses the idea that Karaite

exegetes were less revolutionary in the domain of Bible exegesis than they were respon-
sible for reviving and consolidating the literal approach to Scripture, which had always
been present, though dormant or marginalized by non-literal, de-contextualizing and
atomizing midrashic tendencies in rabbinic Judaism.
yefet and his times

ii. The early classical period (tenth century), when this new model
crystallized, achieving its most mature form in a number of codices
composed by the major exegetes of this period: Salmon ben
Yeroham,
. Sahl ben Mas. liah, . Yusuf b. Nuh, . Yefet ben #Eli, David
ben Bo#az, Hasan
. ben Mashia h,
. David ben Abraham al-Fas, and
Abu Yusuf Ya#qub al-Qirqisanwhich last, though chronologi-
cally part of this period, constitutes in effect a separate category.
These seminal works, written in Judaeo-Arabic, made use of sophis-
ticated linguistic and literary exegetical tools, and incorporated the
achievements of scholarship drawn from a wide range of disci-
plines such as grammar, lexicography, philosophy, history, geogra-
phy, etc.
iii. The late classical period (eleventh century), when Karaite com-
mentaries lost much of their distinctive encyclopedic character.
This was the result of increased specialization in different branches
of learning among the Karaite scholars of the timefor example,
Yusuf al-Bas. r, Abu "l-Faraj Harun, #Al ben Sulayman, and Yeshu#ah
ben Yehudahwho had become largely independent by then.
One of the most prominent and prolific Karaite commentators of the
early classical period was Yefet ha-Lev ben #Eli whose biblical commen-
tary is the greatest example of the mature stage of Karaite exegesis in that
era. His aim was to create a comprehensive exegetical corpus that would
summarize the best of existing Karaite exegesis by systematically review-
ing its main achievements accompanied by clear statements of his own
views. He was not averse to quoting non-Karaite sources as well, insofar
as they were not at variance with his limited-scripturalist agenda: first
and foremost rationally oriented, linguistic-contextual exegesis.7
Yet his wide-ranging work goes far beyond summarizing or outright
eclecticism, for Yefet ultimately comes across as a thoughtful, critical, and
selective collector, who was able to harmonize the frequently polarized
opinions of earlier and contemporary exegetes. Moreover, his exegetical
compositions establish him as a highly original commentator as well as
an innovator in the field of hermeneutics.8 He further developed and

7 On the limits of Karaite scripturalism, see Frank, Scripturalism. For a general

overview of scholarly studies on Yefet, see Zawanowska, Review. See also below, pp. ,
nn. , .
8 On various aspects of Yefets innovative approach to exegesis, see, e.g., Polliack &

Schlossberg, Hosea, esp. pp. , , , , , ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, esp. pp. xx


xxviii. Sokolow states elsewhere in Deuteronomy: Although an eclectic, Yefet was also a
chapter one

refined a relatively new form of Bible commentaryemployed before


him by Saadia Gaon in the rabbinic milieu and by Salmon ben Yeroham .
in the Karaite one, which went on to become the standard for Karaite
exegesis: the paradigm of the threefold structure containing the original
Hebrew text, interlinear translation into Arabic, and commentary sensu
stricto.9 He also introduced numerous changes in the content of this new
format, stressing two major foci of his systematic linguistic-contextual
analysis of the biblical text, the historic and the literary-structural.10
This is probably why, even when they first appeared, Yefets com-
mentaries were widely circulated, well-known, and recognized not only
among the Karaites, but also among certain important Rabbanite
exegetes. Indeed, he was apparently held in very high esteem by some
of themAbraham ibn Ezra, for example, who did not hesitate to cite
Yefets opinions in his own Bible commentaries, not just anonymously,
but also explicitly naming their author.11
Yet despite the vital role he played in consolidating classical Karaite
exegesis and the major impact his works had on subsequent Jewish

thoroughly original exegete. (p. vi). He further observes: Yefets original comments and
utilization of exegetical principles (. . .) are his greatest contribution to biblical exegesis.
(p. xxii). As to Yefets analysis of the literary structure of a biblical text, he concludes:
In terms of uniqueness, Yefets analysis of the literary structure of Ha"azinu, which is
contained in his commentary to v. (b), was not even approximated for nearly five
centuries. (p. xxiii). See below, p. , n. .
9 See Polliack, Tradition, pp. (and notes there), p. , n. , pp. ,

esp. p. .
10 On two major foci of Yefets Bible commentaries, see, e.g., Polliack & Schloss-

berg, Hosea, pp. . On his life and achievements, see Ankori, Karaites, index; Ben-
Shammai, Edition, pp. ; Bargs, Canticum, p. iv; Broyd, Japheth; Frank, Search,
pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. , pars. [][]; Gil, History, par. []; Gott-
lober, Bikkoreth, pp. , ; Lehrman, Jephet; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Nemoy, Anthol-
ogy, pp. ; Neubauer, Bibliothek, pp. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, I, pp. , ;
II, pp. ; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ; Poznanski, Opponents (), pp.
, par. [] [= (), pp. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Schur, Karaites,
pp. ; Skoss, Jafet; Steinschneider, Literatur, pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. ;
idem, Japheth. For the editions of Yefets works, see below p. , n. . For the study of his
oeuvre, see below, p. , n. . On different aspects of Yefets literary approach, see below,
pp. ff. and bibliography there. On Yefets use of and proficiency in the Hebrew gram-
mar, see below, p. , n. . On the Karaite contribution in general to the study of the
Hebrew language, see Khan, Contribution; idem, Exegesis. See also Khan, Genizah;
idem, Texts; idem, Exegesis; idem, Kitab; Vidro, Morphology. Cf. also Sabih, Jeremiah,
p. . For a more skeptical view on this matter, see, e.g., below p. , n. .
11 On Yefets influence on Abraham ibn Ezra, see Ankori, Karaites, p. , n. ;

Auerbach, Proverbiorum, p. ; Bargs, Excerpta, p. x; idem, Zubur, p. xiii; idem, Canticum,


p. iii; Birnbaum, Yefet, pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. xliiixlvii; Gnzig, Proverbien,
yefet and his times

exegesis as a whole, over time Yefet gradually sank into oblivion among
non-Karaite authors.12 Moreover, for a long time the scholarly study of
Judaism in general, and Bible exegesis in particular, seemed to ignore, or
at least dismiss, his significant contribution.13 Furthermore, the scholars
who ventured to study his works, tended to express somewhat simplistic
opinions, possibly owing to the fact that they analyzed his work as an
isolated phenomenon and not as an integral part of the history of the
Jewish exegesis of the Holy Scriptures.14 Finally, some of them were

p. , n. ; Hirschfeld, Nahum, p. ; Hussain, Job, pp. xxxivxxxix; Broyd, Japheth,


p. a; Lehrman, Jephet, p. ; Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Polliack, Karaism, p. ;
idem, Trends, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp.
; Schorstein, Ruth, p. ; Simon, Approaches, pp. , (Heb.), pp. ,
(Eng.); Skoss, Jafet, p. ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. xiii; Tamani, Tradizione, p. ;
Wechsler, Proverbs :, p. ; idem, Esther, pp. and nn. there. Cf.
also Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. ix.
12 Spinoza, for example, when referring to certain concepts related to the question

of the authorship of the Torah, promulgated initially by Yefet and apparently repeated
by Abraham ibn Ezra, completely ignores the former and attributes them to the latter.
Thus, despite his aversion toward rabbinic Judaism, he states that Aben Ezra, a man of
enlightened intelligence, and no small learning, (. . .) was the first, so far as I know, to
treat of this opinion. See Spinoza, Tractatus, :, p. . For Yefets innovative, if not
revolutionary conception of the authorship of the Torah, see below, pp. ff.
13 Some of the scholars formulated the hypothesis that he was overshadowed by

Sa#adyah. See Hirschfeld, Nahum, p. . Others ventured to conclude that Yefets occa-
sional reliance upon Saadia Gaon lends strength to the assumption that much else in
Yefets commentary is derived from Sa#adyahs works no longer extent. See Birnbaum,
Hosea, p. xx; idem, Yefet, p. . Cf. with Sokolows assessment: Superficially catego-
rized by most earlier investigators as an eclectic, insufficient attention has been paid to
Yefets originality. (. . .) To be sure no exegete operates within a vacuum and it would be
idle to maintain that Yefet is devoid of the influence of his predecessors. There is, how-
ever, a clear line of demarcation between downright eclecticism, merely copying previ-
ous and sundry opinions, and an eclecticism which modifies them in part. See Sokolow,
Deuteronomy, p. xiv. Cf. also ibid., p. vi, and chap. ii, entitled Yefets originality, pp. xxii
xxiv. See also above, p. , n. . On Saadias influence on Yefets commentaries (other than
those on Hosea and Nahum), see Auerbach, Proverbiorum, p. ; Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. viii;
Frank, Search, pp. , , ; Gnzig, Proverbien, pp. ; Hussain, Job, pp. lxxviii
lxxxix; Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. viiviii; Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg,
Hosea, pp. ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, pp. xi, xvxvii; Wechsler, Proverbs :,
p. ; idem, Esther, pp. ; Wendkos, Jeremiah, p. xii.
14 Many scholars perceived Yefet as a mere compiler of previous exegetical achieve-

ments and accused him of lacking originality. For example, Philip Birnbaum stated: It is
safe to say that Yefets biblical commentary, although it contains numerous original inter-
pretations, is in the main a compilation into which the author has condensed the exegetic
erudition of his predecessors. See Birnbaum, Yefet, p. ; idem, Hosea, p. ix. At about
the same time, Lawrence E. Marwick expressed his appreciation for Yefets commentaries
as sources for the historical study of biblical exegesis, yet he was of the opinion that on
the whole his voluminous commentaries, composed in Judaeo-Arabic vernacular, show
chapter one

prone to have a somewhat ideologically biased view of Judaism which


accused Karaism of being less original and inventive than its Rabbanite
counterpart. By the same token Yefetwho succeeded more than any
Karaite in consolidating different exegetical traditionswas stigmatized
as a mere compiler,15 or at most a storehouse of Karaite thought.16
Perhaps for these reasons, until recently, aside from critical editions
of his works,17 scarcely any studies have been dedicated specifically to

little originality and he concluded that Yefet himself always stressed his indebtedness
to others. See Marwick, Order, pp. . Similarly, Leon Nemoy considered Yefet
as the foremost Karaite commentator on the Bible during the golden age of Karaite liter-
ature, albeit still admitting that Japheths exegesis is not original with him, nor does he
claim to be so; in fact he leans heavily, and admittedly, on his predecessors. See Nemoy,
Anthology, p. . In more recent studies, Yefets commentaries are given greater consider-
ation and perceived as an indispensable source for the history of Karaism, although
he himself is again defined as a compiler rather than an original thinker, while his
work is seen as eclectic. See Ben-Shammai, Atomism, pp. , . Simon Stauber also
described Yefet as a compiler (). See Stauber, Geographical, p. . This view
has been perpetuated by various encyclopedias. The Jewish Encyclopedia states: Unlike
his Karaite predecessors in the field of Bible exegesis, Yefet realized the importance of
grammar and lexicography for the interpretation of Scripture, although he did not excel
in either. The interest which his commentaries present lies chiefly in the accumulation
of material for the history of the differences between the Rabbanites and the Karaites.
See Broyd, Japheth. Even the Encyclopaedia Judaica denied the originality of Yefets
exegetical undertaking, by affirming that Japheth, who relied mainly on earlier Karaite
authorities, cannot be considered an innovator. See Editorial, Japheth. Also the Ency-
clopaedia Biblica deprecates Yefets achievements by stating:

(His [= Yefets] commentaries are simplistic, and
their importance consists mainly in revealing to us the scope of his knowledge in different
fields such as wisdom, nature, medicine, history, and the like, as well as his perception of
Karaite doctrine.) See Halkin, Exegesis, p. . The most recent referential source which
still denies Yefets inventiveness is The Karaite Encyclopedia, which states: He (= Yefet)
relied too much on earlier Karaite authorities to be much of an innovator. See Schur,
Encyclopedia, pp. . Cf. Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. , n. .
15 A good example of the underestimation of Yefets achievements emerges from

S.M. Lehrmans article on Yefet. The author states, for example: Prodigious as his contri-
bution to biblical research is, it would be hyperbolic to claim for him originality. He did
not plough a lonely furrow even among his own sectarians. (p. ); Despite the many
vagaries of Karaite ill-conceived doctrines, of the fly-paper variety which attract every-
thing that buzzes around until it is lured to its death, traditional Judaism owes much to
Karaite scholars, for their knowledge of grammar and philology, exegesis and syntax of
the Scriptures. (p. ); It is only fair to admit that we (= Rabbanite Jews) have built
mightily on flimsy Karaite foundations. (p. ). See Lehrman, Jephet.
16 See Wieder, Exegesis, p. [= idem, Scrolls, p. ].
17 See Alobaidi, Isaiah; idem, Song; Auerbach, Proverbiorum; Avni, Balaam; Bargs,

Excerpta; idem, Zubur; idem, Canticum; Ben-Shammai, Job; idem, Doctrines, II, pp.
; idem, Ecclesiastes and Psalms, pp. ; Birnbaum, Hosea; Bland, Ecclesiastes; Blau,
Judaeo-Arabic, pp. ; Butbul, Ruth; Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis; Gnzig, Prover-
yefet and his times

him and his unparalleled exegetical achievements, though his works have
never ceased to be employed as an important source of reference.18

. Biography and Works

Very little is known about Yefets life.19 His full Arabic name was Abu #Al
al-Hasan
. b. #Al al-Law al-Bas. r and he most probably came from Basra
in southeastern Iraq, as his Arabic relational suffix (nisba) suggests.20 He
was born in the first half of the tenth century.21 Yet somewhere towards

bien; Hacohen, Proverbs; Hirschfeld, Nahum; Hofmann, Psalm; Hussain, Job; Jung, Ho-
henliedes; Livne-Kafri, Habakkuk; Margoliouth, Daniel; Marwick, Retribution; Nadler-
Akirav, Amos; Neubauer & Driver, Isaiah, I, pp. (Ar.); II, pp. (Eng.); partially
repr. in Driver & Neubauer, Servant, pp. (Eng.); Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea;
idem, Obadiah; Sabih, Jeremiah; Schorstein, Rth; Sokolow, Deuteronomy; Tomal, Amos;
Tttermann, Hosea; Vreugd, Zechariah; Wechsler, Proverbs :; idem, Proverbs
:; idem, Esther; Wendkos, Jeremiah.
18 For the study of Yefets oeuvre as the main topic of study or an important point of ref-

erence, see Ben-Shammai, Recension; idem, Doctrines; idem, Review; idem, Polemi-
cal; idem, Transmission; idem, Japheth; idem, Mudawwin; Birnbaum, Yefet; Blau,
Translations; Blumfield, Identity; idem, Ruth; Dukes, Mittheilungen; Erder, Attitude;
idem, Moral; idem, History; Fenton, Image; Fleischer, Reviews; Frank, Shoshanim;
idem, Voice; idem, Song; idem, Indeterminacy; idem, Search; idem, Scripturalism;
Friedmann, Konigspsalmem; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. ff.; Goldstein, Beginnings;
Graetz, Geschichte, V, pp. ff.; Hirschfeld, Chrestomathy, pp. ; Kahle, Bibelber-
setzungen, pp. ; Lehrman, Jephet; Nemoy, Review; idem, Anthology, pp. ;
Mann, Texts, esp. pp. ; Marwick, Order; idem, Review; Munk, Nachrichten;
idem, Notice; Neubauer, Bibliothek, pp. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Polliack,
Views; idem, Tradition; idem, Emergence; idem, Pesher; idem, Techniques; idem,
Karaism; idem, Trends; idem, Wherein; idem, Conception; idem, Voice; Polliack
& Schlossberg, Prophets; Polliack & Zawanowska, Canaanites; Poznanski, Miscel-
lanies; idem, Writings; idem, Review ; idem, Anan; idem, Opponents [= Birn-
baum, Studies, pp. ]; idem, Allegorische, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs; Schenker,
Danielkommentars; idem, Psalmen; idem, Geburtswehen; Simon, Approaches, pp.
(Heb.), pp. (Eng.); Sirat, Thories, pp. ; Skoss, Jafet; Sokolow, Nega-
tion; Stauber Geographical; Stern, Propaganda; Tamani, Tradizione; idem, Pro-
legomeni; Tomal, Polemics; Vajda, Commentaires; idem, Glanes; idem, Opinions;
idem, Aggadot; Wieder, Doctrine; idem, Sectaries; idem, Exegesis; idem, Scrolls;
Zawanowska, Approach; idem, Dialectical; idem, A-mystical; Zucker, Saadya, pp.
; idem, Problem.
19 It has been suggested that his full first name was Sa#d Japheth, because his son, Levi

ben Yefet, referred to him once in that way. See Wechsler, Japheth, p. .
20 For the detailed discussion of his various names, their pronunciations (e.g., Yafet or

Yefet, #Ali or #Eli) and meanings (e.g., Ar. Hasan


. serving as an equivalent of the Hebrew
Yafet), see Bargs, Excerpta, pp. iiviii, xxi; Gnzig, Proverbien, pp. . Cf. also
Bargs, Canticum, p. iii.
21 The year or has been suggested as the date of Yefets birth. For the most
chapter one

the middle of that century he must have immigrated to Jerusalem, where


he resided and was active in the above-mentioned Karaite house of
learning throughout the second half of the tenth century, until his death
at a ripe old age, sometime at the beginning of the eleventh century.22
It is there that he is believed to have written his magnum opus
namely, the huge Arabic commentary (tafsr or sharh) . on the entire
Hebrew Bible, including its systematic translation into Arabic (tarjama).
Although continuous Bible translations were already known among the
Karaites in the first half of the tenth century23 and other Karaites before
him had also written running commentaries on selected portions of
Scripture, Yefet appears to have been the first Jew in history whom we
know for certain composed a continuous translation and commentary
of the entire Hebrew Bible.24 Apparently it took him about thirty years
(between and ) to complete this monumental taskone decade
for each part of Scripture: Pentateuch, Prophets and Writings.25 It has
even been suggested that he managed to complete a second recension of
his entire Bible commentary.26

recent version of the possible dating of Yefets life, see Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. ; idem,
Japheth, and further bibliography there. Cf. also Bargs, Excerpta, pp. viiix.
22 For the most recent discussion of at least two findings, which testify to Yefet still

being alive in the first decade of the eleventh century, see Wechsler, Esther, pp. and
further bibliography there; idem, Japheth, p. . Cf. also Blumfield, Ruth, p. ; Gil,
History, par. []; Polliack, Tradition, p. .
23 The first and oldest continuous Karaite Bible translations of selected portions of

Scripture are attributed to Salmon ben Yeroham, . as well as to other commentators active
in Jerusalem in the first half of the tenth century. See Polliack, Tradition, pp. , .
24 This can be attested to by the words of Simhah Isaac Luzki, who declares: Yefet
.
ha-Levi, known as Abu #Ali, composed a commentary on the entire Torah, Prophets
and Writings, which today is in our hands. See Mann, Texts, p. . Cf. Auerbach,
Proverbiorum, p. ; Bargs, Canticum, p. iv; Birnbaum, Yefet, p. ; idem, Hosea, p. viii;
Frank, Search, p. x; Lehrman, Jephet, p. ; Poznanski, Anan, (), p. ; Polliack
& Schlossberg, Hosea, p. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , ; Schorstein, Rth, p. ; Skoss,
Jefet, p. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. ; Zawanowska, A-mystical, p. ; Zotenberg,
Catalogues, pp. , no. , . For the plethora of Mss. (over manuscripts
indexed by the JNUL website), see http://jnul.huji.ac.il. Cf. Wechsler, Japheth.
25 For evidence of this chronology and its discussion, see Ben-Shammai, Recension,

pp. ; Gil, History, par. []; Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. ; Marwick, Order,
pp. ; Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Polliack, Tradition, p. .
26 It was first suggested by Poznanski and subsequently accepted by other scholars as

a fact. See Poznanski, Opponents (), p. [= (), p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies,


p. ]; idem, Writings, p. , n. [= Birnbaum, Studies, p. , n. ]; idem, Anan,
(), p. , n. . Cf. also Lehrman, Jephet, pp. ; Margoliouth, Catalogue, p. ,
xvi, par. []; Steinschneider, Introduction (), p. ; idem, Literatur, pp. , par.
[]; Schenker, Danielkommentars, p. ; Skoss, Jafet, p. ; Sokolow, Negation,
yefet and his times

Although Yefets fame and influence were due primarily to his compre-
hensive biblical commentaries, the sustained literary activity of this pro-
lific Karaite author was by no means limited to exegetical compositions,
as many other works of different genres (polemics, liturgy, and prayer,
books of precepts, grammatical treatises, and even religious poetry,
piyyut. im) have been attributed to him.27
He enjoyed prominence and was held in high regard among Karaite
Bible exegetes, as the numerous honorific titles conferred on him by his
coreligionists confirm. In a single manuscript containing Yefets com-
mentary on Genesis, he is called: Yafet ha-gadol (Yefet the great),
he-hakham
. ha-gadol (the great sage), he-hakham
. ha-gadol ha-shalem
(the great [and] perfect sage), he-hakham
. ha-maskl (the knowledge-
able sage), he-hakham
. ha-gadol ha-maskl ha-ra b (the great sage, the
knowledgeable teacher), he-hakham
ha-mufla" ha-mazhr (the discern-
.
ing and resplendent sage), he-hakham
. ha-rab (the wise teacher), ha-
rab ha-maskl (the knowledgeable teacher), ha-ra b ha-gadol (the great
teacher), ha-rab ha-gadol ha-maskl (the great and knowledgeable

ve-rabenu (our teacher and master), al-imam al-
teacher), morenu
#alim (the knowledgeable scholar),28 al-#alim al-fadil . (the distin-
guished sage), ro"sh hakhame
. bene miqra (the leader of Karaite
sages).29

p. . On the alleged second recension of Yefets commentary on Psalms, see Poznanski,


Review , p. . For later arguments disputing and disproving this hypothesis, see Ben-
Shammai, Recension; Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , , ; Khan, Question; Wechsler,
Esther, p. . Cf. also Sasson, Proverbs, p. .
27 For the most recent, detailed description of all the works attributed to Yefet, see

Wechsler, Esther, pp. ; idem, Japheth. Cf. also Bargs, Excerpta, p. xxxii; idem,
Canticum, p. iv; Lehrman, Jephet, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Sokolow,
Deuteronomy, p. v. For one of Yefets poems, see in this book, p. , n. . Cf. also
Bargs, Excerpta, pp. xxiiixxiv (Heb.), pp. xxivxxv (Lat.); Mann, Texts, pp.
(Heb.); Nemoy, Anthology, pp. (Eng. trans.). Cf. Pinsker, Geschichte, II, p. ;
Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. and bibliography there; Wieder, Scrolls, p. , n. . For a
polemical poem against Jacob ben Samuel the Obstinate and its possible attribution to
Yefet, see Pinsker, Geschichte, II, pp. ff.; Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. []
[= (), p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, pp. xxxivxxxvii.
For the attribution of this poem rather to Sahl ben Mas.liah, . see Mann, Texts, p. ; Nemoy,
Anthology, p. , n. ; idem, Epistle, pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
28 On the Arabic title Imam serving as an equivalent of the Arabicized nisba al-Law,

see Bargs, Excerpta, pp. vvi; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .


29 All these titles are taken from Mss. P BN hb. and hb. . For other honorific

titles, see Hussain, Job, p. vi; Pinsker, Geschichte, II, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp.
; Skoss, Jafet, p. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. ; idem, Japheth, p. . On the Hebrew
chapter one

He is believed to have still been alive in the first decade of the eleventh
century, which would mean that his life spanned about ninety years.30
We also know that Yefet had at least two sons, #Al Sa#d (or Sa#adya) and
Abu Sa#d Lev ha-Lev, who followed in his fathers footsteps engaging
in biblical exegesis, and, like his father, taking an active part in Ibn Nuhs
.
school.31

. Yefets Commentary on Genesis

.. Dating and General Description


In accordance with the aforementioned chronology, Yefet was occupied
with writing his commentary on the Pentateuch for about ten years,
between and . Thus, assuming that his work progressed succes-
sively, he should have completed his interpretation of Genesis by .
The commentary on this book is among the largest of all his Bible com-
mentaries, occupying more than one thousand pages in folio. Undoubt-
edly, it is also one of the most interesting ones, encompassing a large
number of his exegetical and translation methods, and ideological stands,
as well as private interests, preferences, beliefs and opinions, which were
given extremely prominent expression.32 Nonetheless, aside from short
fragments tentatively edited and published in various articles,33 only very

term maskl as meaning, among medieval Karaites, teacher, guide, enlightener, or


instructor (rather than wise man, man of understanding, scholar, enlightened
man, or sage), see Wieder, Scrolls, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
30 It has been suggested that Yefet lived ninety-five years. See Pinsker, Geschichte, II,

pp. , . Cf. Lehrman, Jephet, p. . On Yefets longevity (ca. years),


see also Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. vi.
31 On Yefets son, Abu Sa#d Levi ha-Levi, see Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. ,

pars. [][]; Gil, History, par. []; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Margoliouth, Ibn al-
Ht, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Polliack, Tradition, p. ;
Poznanski, Review ; idem, Opponents, () pp. , par. [] [= (), pp.
; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Wechsler, Levi.
32 Cf. with Poznanskis opinion that The commentaries of Yefet, especially those on

the Pentateuch, afford very much valuable material for the history of the older Karaite
literature and theology. See Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. [] [= (),
p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. In a more general vein Skoss also admits: J.s
Kommentare enthalten wertvolles Material fr die Geschichte der lteren karischen
Literatur und Theologie und bilden zugleich eine wichtige Quelle fr die Kenntnis der
Karer berhaupt. See Skoss, Jefet, p. .
33 See Frank, Search, pp. , , , , (Gen :; :; :,

, ; :, , ); idem, Scripturalism, pp. (Gen :; :, , ;


:; :, ; :; :; :; :; :); Kahle, Bibelbersetzungen, pp.
yefet and his times

small parts of this large composition have been critically edited until
now.34 Similarly, scarcely any attempts have been made to analyze it, even
selectively, and, even more so, to make it the main subject of an entire
study.35
On the whole, Yefet strives for linguistic-contextual and rationalistic
interpretation, seeking to make the most of the intellectual accomplish-
ments of his time by skillfully incorporating various disciplines of science
or contemporary fields of knowledge such as grammar, lexicography,
rhetoric, history, geography, philosophy (or theology), and others.36 Con-
currently, he avoids the non-literal, non-scientific, midrashic, atomiz-
ing, and de-contextualizing tendencies, which dominated rabbinic exe-
gesis in the post-biblical and early medieval period. To be sure, Yefets
commentary on Genesis contains both literal and non-literal interpreta-
tions of the biblical verses; nonetheless, the former constitute the unques-
tionable majority, whereas the latter are restricted to a very limited
number of instances, predominantly those of a prophetic character, or
those laden with a long-standing tradition of non-literal exposition (e.g.,
Jacobs last blessings in Gen or the mysterious covenant Between
the Parts in Gen ). In the same vein, applied exegesis or prognostic
orientation is marginal.37

(Gen , :); Munk, Notice (Gen :; :; : ff.; :); Polliack,


Tradition, p. (excerpt from the introduction), pp. (Gen , only Ar. trans.);
Poznanski, Miscellanies, pp. [= Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ] (Gen :);
idem, Writings, pp. [= Birnbaum, Studies pp. ] (Gen :; :); idem,
Anan, , pp. (Gen :); idem, Allegorische, pp. (Gen :); Vajda,
Commentaires (Gen :; : only in Fr. trans.); Zucker, Saadya, pp. , esp. pp.
and (Gen ).
34 See Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. (Gen :, , , , , , , ,

, ; :, , , , , , ; :, , , , , , ; :; :; :; :; :,
; :; :, ; :; :; :); Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, pp. (Ar.),
pp. (Heb.) (Gen :); Vajda, Glanes, esp. pp. (Gen :).
35 See Ben-Shammai, Doctrines; idem, Mudawwin; Fenton, Image; Frank, Search;

idem, Scripturalism; Goldstein, Superfluity; idem, Pentateuch; idem, Composition;


Polliack, Tradition; idem, Techniques; idem, Trends; idem, Conception; idem,
Voice; Sirat, Thories (incl. Fr. trans. of excerpts from Yefets comments on Gen :,
; :; :); Stauber Geographical; Zawanowska, Approach; idem, Dialectical.
36 Cf. e.g., Goldstein, Beginnings, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. .
37 On the general Karaite tendency to employ applied exegesis () in regard

to certain passages from Scripture, see Polliack, Trends, p. . For examples of Yefets
applied exegesis, see, e.g., Frank, Search, pp. , ; Polliack, Trends, pp.
, ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets, pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. ;
Wieder, Scrolls, index; Wechsler, Esther, pp. , n. . For a discussion of the applied
exegetical tendency in Yefets Bible commentaries as being overshadowed by the literal,
rational, linguistic-contextual dimension of his exegetical approach, see especially the
chapter one

.. Language and Style


The forerunners of the Karaite movement such as Benjamin al-Naha-
wand and Anan ben David, as well as its earliest representatives and
exegetese.g., Daniel al-Qumisadvocated a return to the Hebrew
language. Very soon, however, this idea was abandoned and Arabic was
adapted for use as the main medium of Karaite literary expression.38 This
adapted Arabic, commonly called Judaeo-Arabic, is in fact a Jewish
dialect of medieval Middle Arabic, written either in Arabic or Hebrew
characters.39
Yefet was active during the Golden Age of the development of Karaite
exegesis, a time when this dialect was already well established as a vehicle
for written expression. Like other Karaites of the time, he was deeply
embedded in this exegetical tradition, yet in contrast to Saadia Gaon,
who endeavored to employ a more classical version of Arabic to translate
and interpret Scripture, Yefet composed all his biblical commentaries,
including the one on the Book of Genesis, in Judaeo-Arabic.
It has been conjectured that the autographs of Yefets Bible com-
mentary were written in Arabic script,40 even though all the existent
manuscripts of his commentary on Genesis known to us cannot cor-
roborate this theory, all of them being written in Hebrew script. Yet this

comprehensive articles by Meira Polliack (Polliack, Emergence; idem, Pesher; idem,


Wherein). On the historicizing rather than applied exegetical orientation of Yefets Bible
commentaries, see Polliack, Historicizing; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. .
For an example of Yefets historical explanation, see below, p. , n. .
38 A good example of this gradual process of Arabic replacing Hebrew in Karaite

writings may be seen in the literary activity of Salmon ben Yeroham,


. who continued to
employ Hebrew, but limited its use to polemical purposes. See, e.g., Drory, Emergence,
pp. ; Polliack, Tradition, pp. , .
39 See especially Blau, Grammar; idem, Emergence; idem, Dictionary. On understand-

ing medieval Judaeo-Arabic as a voice or genre within the Middle Arabic scriptolect (a
voice which participated in the creation of Middle Arabic) rather than a transitional lan-
guage between Classical Arabic and Neo-Arabic, see Sabih, Jeremiah, pp. and
. On the tendency to use Hebrew and Arabic script interchangeably, see Khan, Ques-
tion. Cf. also Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . On the Karaite innovation of transcribing
Hebrew into Arabic script, see Sabih, Jeremiah, pp. , , esp. pp. , . About
the Karaites adaptation not only of the Arabic language, but also of Arabic literary forms
and genres, see especially Drory, Emergence. Cf. also idem, Contacts; idem, Function;
idem, Models; idem, Rle.
40 See Ben-Shammai, Recension, and later developments in idem, Transmission.

For an argument that Yefet may have been writing in Hebrew characters, see Hirschfeld,
Nahum, p. .
yefet and his times

fact cannot entirely disprove the above-mentioned theory, since the auto-
graph of Yefets commentary on this book has not survived to our times,
or has not yet been discovered.

.. Structure and Composition


The most famous precursors of Karaite exegesis active at the end of the
ninth and beginning of the tenth centuries, namely Daniel al-Qumis and
his younger co-religionist, Abu Yusuf Ya#qub al-Qirqisan, composed
continuous, two-tiered commentaries on the Bible, which contained the
Hebrew source text and the actual commentary. Although for exegetical
purposes al-Qumis primarily used Hebrew while al-Qirqisan wrote in
Arabic, their commentaries had one thing in common: they did not
include a continuous translation of the biblical text in question.
The first continuous Karaite Bible translations only emerged in the first
half of the tenth century. The oldest and most substantial evidence for
them is to be found in the tenth-century work of Salmon ben Yeroham. 41
.
It is noteworthy that he was also the first Karaite who adapted Arabic for
the needs of Bible exegesis, whereas the Jewish rabbinic milieu had a long
oral tradition of Arabic Bible translations, culminating in the famous
Tafsr of Saadia Gaon (ca. ).42
Sometime in the middle of the tenth century both of these traditions
the two-fold structured commentary and the continuous translation of
the Hebrew Bible into Arabicmust have merged and naturally devel-
oped into the paradigm of the three-fold structured commentary (as
noted above, employed by Saadia Gaon and by Salmon ben Yeroham), .
which became a standard form in later Karaite exegesis.43 This model of
Bible commentary, idiosyncratic to medieval Karaite exegesis, blossomed
and found its most accomplished manifestation in Yefets oeuvre. He was

41 See Polliack, Tradition, p. .


42 On Saadias Arabic translation of the Bible, see Zucker, Saadya; idem, Genesis.
On Jewish traditions of Arabic Bible translations in general, and subsequent Karaite
translations in particular, see Polliack, Tradition and bibliography there.
43 This form was also known among the Rabbanites. Polliack (Tradition, p. ) dis-

cusses the possibility that it may have developed from older forms of Jewish exegesis
(both Karaite and Rabbinic). For more evidence that Yefets translation and commentary
were, at one stage, independent phenomena, see Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , , , .
On the hypothesis of Arabic influence on the development of Karaite exegesis in reference
to the early Karaites adaptation of Arabic writing models, see Drory, Emergence, pp. ,
. Cf. also Goldstein, Composition.
chapter one

less a pioneer than a leader in the realm of Karaite exegesis, in the sense
that he did not initiate, but rather made significant strides in developing
existing exegetical traditions and brought them to perfection.
In the main, Yefets commentary is comprehensive in the sense that it
attempts to avoid omitting any word or phrase in the Scripture, translat-
ing and commenting sequentially on each verse, and in general following
both the order and division of the Hebrew Bible.44 Occasionally he trans-
lates several verses in a row without commenting on them immediately,
doing so only after quoting and translating an entire pericope comprised
of several verses that he considered to be one semantically integral unit
(e.g., Gen :; :; :; :; : etc.).45 Only
rarely does the translation of such semantically connected verses come
after the entire pericope, rather than following the specific verse to which
it refers (e.g., Gen :; :).
Aside from rare exceptions, the overall structure of Yefets commentary
on Genesis appears to be clearly defined, usually advancing from the
general to the specific (e.g., Gen :), while sometimes returning to the
general (e.g., Gen :).46 He begins by quoting the biblical verse in its
entirety. This is followed by the intermediary layer of Arabic translation,
which consistently follows the original Hebrew text, explains its meaning,
and clarifies its fundamental semantic as well as syntactic structure.
After that comes the layer of commentary sensu stricto, which Yefet
usually begins with a general exposition on the subject moving on to
the elucidation of particular words and expressions. Subsequently, the
meaning of the interpreted verse is quite often put into the broader
context of the biblical narrative. Next, Yefet may also raise theoretical
objections (masa"il) and quote the diverging opinions of other Bible
commentators. In such instances, he provides arguments for and against
these opinions and, finally, assesses them while projecting an authorial
voice, which usually determines the bestthat is, the most likely or most
probableinterpretation in his view.47 In this sense, his commentary

44 For the exception to this general rule, see below, pp. ff.
45 This is true primarily for the narrative portions of the book of Genesis, as well as
aphoristic and poetic passages of Scriptures. On Yefets proceeding pericope-by-pericope
in other narrative biblical texts, see Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. and references there.
46 For Yefets comment (ad Hos :) indicating his conscious decision to discuss the

meaning of the biblical text in a similar fashion, i.e., from the general to the particular, see
Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.),
p. (discussion). Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , .
47 On the rhetoric of disputation in Yefets commentary on Proverbs, see Sasson,

Proverbs, pp. , , .
yefet and his times

on the Hebrew Bible reflects earlier as well as contemporary Karaite


exegetical traditions not only in terms of its form, but also its content.
As such, Yefets exegetical achievements constitute the culmination of
Karaite medieval exegesis, which was further crystallized in the later
work of Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah.

. Earlier and Contemporary


Karaite Commentaries on Genesis

The five scrolls of Moses, the Holy of Holies among the twenty-four
books of the Hebrew Bible, has always aroused the most profound inter-
est among exegetes. This is especially true of the Book of Genesis, which
contains artfully designed and intriguing, though somewhat problem-
atic, stories about the vicissitudes of the forefathers and has generated
copious commentaries and interpretations, more than almost any other
book in the Holy Scriptures. It is no wonder, therefore, that medieval
Karaite exegetes also produced a considerable number of commentaries
on this book, of which only fragments have survived or been discovered
and identified up to now.48

.. Benjamin al-Nahawand
Benjamin ben Moses al-Nahawand (ninth century) was a native of
Nahawand (Nihavend) in Persia, as indicated by his nisba, who appar-
ently never immigrated to Palestine.49 He played a pivotal role in the
early stage of the Karaite movements development, being considered,

48 For excerpts from anonymous, unidentified early Karaite commentaries on the

Pentateuch, or those of uncertain attribution (mainly to Benjamin al-Nahawand or


Daniel al-Qumis), see Mann, Commentaries, esp. (), pp. (Gen ::);
(Lev); (), (Gen :); (Gen :); (Gen
::); ; (Gen :; :); ; (Gen :; :
); (Gen :; ). See also Mann, Texts, pp. ; Poznaski, Miscellanies,
pp. [= Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ] (Lev :, passages from commentaries
by Said Shiran and Nathan ben Yehudah).
49 For more on Benjamin and his teachings, see al-Qirqisan, Kitab, I, pp.

(Ar.) (Nemoy, Al-Qirqisan, pp. [Eng. trans.]); Ankori, Karaites, pp. , ,


, ; Baron, History, V, pp. ; Erder, History, pp. , ; idem,
al-Nehawandi; Frst, Geschichte, I, pp. , pars. [][]; Gil, History, pars. []
[]; Graetz, Geschichte, V, pp. ; Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, pp. ; Mahler,
Movement, index; Munk, Nachrichten, p. ; Nemoy, Anthology, pp. ; idem,
Nehawendi; Neubauer, Bibliothek, pp. , ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Poznanski,
Benjamin; Steinschneider, Polemische, p. ; Wolfson, Angel; Paul, Ecrits, pp. .
chapter one

along with #Anan, as its founder. Unlike #Anan, who wrote in Aramaic,
and later Karaite exegetes, who used mainly Arabic to serve the needs of
their literary expression, al-Nahawand composed his works in Hebrew.
Later Karaites did not accept some of his teachings, especially his belief
that God had created an angel and that it was this angel who created the
world and is responsible not only for all the other acts of creation, but
also for communicating with the prophets.
Apart from the Book of Precepts (sefer mis. vot) and the Book of Rules
(sefer dnm),50 he also composed Bible commentaries, not only on the
Pentateuch, but also on Isaiah, the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and
Daniel. Until now, only one manuscript of his commentary on Genesis
has been discovered and identified. It is housed in Oxford, at the Bodleian
Library (Heb.d.) and contains the interpretation of two passages from
this book (Gen :; :).51

.. Daniel al-Qumis
Daniel ben Moses al-Qumis (fl. ca. ) was one of the central
figures in early Karaite history who openly polemicized against rab-
binic Judaism and its atomistic method of interpreting Scripture, which
allowed for the possibility of a nearly unlimited number of meanings.52
He was one of the first Jewish exegetes to compose running Bible com-
mentaries and abandon midrashic models. Al-Qumis promoted, at least
on the theoretical level, a scripturalistic, linguistic-contextual approach
to Scripture, while being mindful of its coherent structure and paying
close attention to philology. He also advocated a return to the Hebrew
language as a literary vehicle for the transmission of religious concepts.53

50 See Firkovitch, Book; Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, pp. . Cf. Ankori, Anthology,


p. .
51 See Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, p. (mi-sefer ha-misvot); Marmorstein, Remnants,
.
pp. (Exod ::); Pinsker, Geschichte, II, pp. (Exod).
52 For the contradiction between al-Qumiss theoretical statements claiming that the

Bible possesses only one true meaning, and exegetical practice indicating that he allowed
for more than one rightful interpretation of Scripture, see Gordon, Meaning; idem, al-
Qumisi.
53 For more on his life and oeuvre as well as relevant scholarship, see Ben-Shammai,

Exegetes, pp. ; Frank, Search, pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, I, p. , par. []; Gil,
History, index, esp. pars. [][]; Goldstein, Composition, pp. ; Gor-
don, Meaning; idem, al-Qumisi; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Markon, al-Qumis; Nemoy,
Anthology, pp. ; Paul, Ecrits, pp. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Polliack, Tra-
dition, pp. ; idem, Pesher, pp. ; idem, Karaism, pp. ; idem,
Trends, pp. ; idem, Wherein, pp. ; Wieder, Scrolls, index; Zucker,
yefet and his times

Moreover, he openly renounced the Diaspora model of Jewish life, which


he judged sinful, and called for the return to the Holy Land. He settled
there himself, arriving from Khurasan around the year .54
Al-Qumis is believed to have been a prolific author; nevertheless,
only a few of his compositions have survived till today, including frag-
ments of two missionary epistles ascribed to him and five passages of
his halakhic work entitled Book of Precepts.55 Of his Bible commentaries,
only the commentary on the Minor Prophets has been preserved almost
intact,56 whereas only relatively small fragments from other exegetical
works have been found and identified until now, among them commen-
taries on every book of the Pentateuch as well as on Psalms, Daniel, and
Ecclesiastes.57

.. Ya#qub al-Qirqisan
Abu Yusuf Ya#qub b. Ishaq
. b. Sam#awayh al-Qirqisan, generally referred
to as Ya#qub al-Qirqisan, was an extremely productive writer and major
Karaite exegete, who lived in Iraq in the first half of the tenth century.58

Saadya, pp. . Cf. also Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.);


Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Poznanski, Review ; Walfish, al-Qumisi; Wechsler, Esther,
pp. , nn. , . On his possible influence on Yefet, see, e.g., Polliack & Schlossberg,
Hosea, pp. .
54 For this dating, see Ben-Shammai, al-Qumis; idem, Fragments, pp. . On

his propaganda activity, see Mann, Tract; Marmorstein, Derashot; Nemoy, Sermon;
Zucker, Saadya, pp. (Ar.), pp. (Heb.).
55 For a detailed description of all surviving compositions by Daniel al-Qumis,

including his Bible commentaries, see Gordon, Meaning, pp. ; idem, al-Qumisi,
pp. . For edited passages from his Book of Precepts, see Harkavy, Gesetzbchern,
pp. , (mi-sefer ha-mis. vot).
56 See Markon, Pitron. For a dispute over al-Qumiss authorship of this commentary,

see Marwick, al-Qumis; Polliack, Tradition, p. , n. .


57 For edited passages from the commentary on the Pentateuch attributed to him, see

Ginzberg & Davidson, Genizah, I, pp. ; II, pp. , , ,


(Gen ::, ; Lev ::; Num :; Deut :); Harkavy, Passages,
pp. , (Lev ::); Mann, Tract, pp. (Num :); idem, Com-
mentaries (), pp. , (Gen :, :, ::); Marmorstein,
Remnants (), pp. , , ; Poznanski, Miscellanies, pp.
(Lev :) [= Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Schechter, Saadyana, pp. (Lev
:, ::); Scheiber, al-Qumis (Lev); Wieder, Scrolls, pp. , (Lev) [=
corrected version of Ginzberg & Davidson, Genizah, II, pp. ]; Zucker, Saadya,
pp. (Exod), (Deut). Cf. Gordon, Meaning, p. ; idem, al-Qumisi,
p. , n. .
58 For the most comprehensive study of al-Qiqisans philosophical concepts, see Ben-

Shammai, Doctrines; Vajda, Etudes; idem, Prologue. For more on his life, works,
and achievements, see Ankori, Karaites, index; Astren, Qirqisani; Bacher, Qirqisani;
Frank, Search, pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. , par. []; Khan, Al-Qirqisani;
chapter one

He is best known as the author of the monumental and systematic code


of Karaite lawcomposed as a commentary on the legal portions of
the Pentateuchentitled Kitab al-Anwar wa-"l-Maraqib (The Book of
Lights and Watchtowers).59 He also composed an extensive commen-
tary on the non-legislative portions of the Pentateuch, Kitab al-Riyad.
wa-"l-Hada"iq
. (The Book of Parks and Gardens), as well as other Bible
commentaries (on Job and Ecclesiastes), and a separate commentary on
Genesis (tafsr bereshit), which may be a different recension of Kitab al-
Riyad. 60
. A relatively large number of manuscripts containing these com-
positions has been preserved and identified (primarily in the Firkovitch
collections).61

.. Salmon ben Yeroham


.
This Karaite scholar and exegetealso known as Salmon ben Yeruhi/m.
and Sulaym/Sulayman b. Ruhaym 62was a younger contemporary of
.
Yefet. He was probably born in the second decade of the tenth century,
between and , and may have lived in Jerusalem.63 He is primarily
identified with his polemical chef doeuvre entitled Milhmot
. Adonai (Wars

Nemoy, Anthology, pp. ; idem, Sciences; idem, Kirkisani; Pinsker, Geschichte,


p. ; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ; Poznanski, Opponents (), pp. , par.
[] [= (), pp. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]. Cf. Margoliouth, Ibn al-
Ht, pp. (Ar.), pp. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology, pp. ; Poznanski,
Review .
59 See al-Qirqisan, Kitab. For the study of this work, see especially Nemoy, Al-

Qirqisan; Vajda, Etudes. For his possible influence on Yefet, see, e.g., Polliack &
Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, pp. xviixix.
60 See Chiesa, Principii; idem, Fragment; idem, Creazione; Chiesa & Lockwood,

Commentary; Fenton, Image; Heller, Elments; Hirschfeld, Qirqisan; Nemoy,


Anthology, pp. ; Vajda, Prologue. On the possibility that the separate commen-
tary on Genesis was an earlier, shorter recension of Kitab al-Riyad,
. see Nemoy, Anthology,
p. .
61 For a list and short description of a number of Mss. containing al-Qirqisans

commentaries on Genesis, see Chiesa, Fragment, pp. . Cf. also the online
catalog at http://aleph.huji.ac.il/F/?func=find-b-&local_base=nnlall&con_lng=eng.
62 On this name and its possible different spellings, see Davidson, Wars, p. , n. ; Frst,

Geschichte, II, p. , n. , par. []; Margoliouth, Daniel, p. <=>; Pinsker, Geschichte, II,
pp. , ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. , n. .
63 See Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, p. (Ar.), pp. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology,

p. ; Poznanski, Review . For more on this author, his life and works, and possible
influence on Yefet, see Ankori, Karaites, p. ; Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. ; Frank, Search,
pp. ; Gil, History, index; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. , pars. [][]; Mann,
Texts, pp. ; Marwick, Studies; Nemoy, Anthology, pp. , , ; Pinsker,
Geschichte, index; Polliack, Tradition, index, esp. p. , n. ; Steinschneider, Literatur,
pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. and nn. , there; idem, ben Jeroham.
yefet and his times

of the Lord), which is directed against Saadia Gaon.64 Yet, he also com-
posed commentaries on Scriptures, especially those with special signifi-
cance for the early Karaite movement, and portions of his commentaries
on Isaiah (incorporated in his commentary on Ps ), Psalms, Song of
Songs, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther have been identified and
partially published.65 As for Salmons commentaries on the Pentateuch,
until now, only one manuscript containing a commentary on Genesis has
been found and identified as his: Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I . It con-
sists of eight poorly preserved folios. The manuscript appears to be in
disorder, and although it mentions Moses and Jerusalem, it is difficult to
pinpoint the specific part of the Pentateuch it refers to.

.. Sahl ben Mas. liah.


Sahl ben Mas. liah. ha-Kohen Abu "l-Surr was a contemporary of Yefet,
who lived in Jerusalem (in the second half of the tenth century), but
travelled throughout the Near East to spread the Karaite doctrine.66 He is
believed to have been a highly productive writer, who composed epistles,
Bible commentaries, a Book of Precepts, and others works.67
There are three manuscripts that have been identified as containing
Sahl ben Mas. liahs
. commentary on Genesis:

64 See Davidson, Wars. For more on his polemical activity, see Poznanski, Opponents

(), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; idem,


Beginnings, p. .
65 See Alobaidi, Psaumes; idem, Isaiah; Feuerstein, Klagenliedern (rev. Poznanski,

Review ); Marwick, Psalms; Riese, Ecclesiastes. Cf. also Ben-Shammai, Works; Frank,
Song; Hirschfeld, Chrestomathy, pp. ; Mann, Texts, pp. , ; Mar-
wick, Studies; Poznanski, Miscellen , pp. ; idem, Miscellen , pp. ;
Simon, Approaches, pp. (Heb.), pp. (Eng.); Shunary Salmon; Vajda, Com-
mentaires, pp. ; idem, Psaume; idem, Pricope; Wechsler, Esther, pp. .
He is also believed to have written commentaries on Job, Proverbs, and Daniel, which
have not yet been discovered or identified. Cf. Frank, Search, pp. , n. ; Frst,
Geschichte, II, pp. , par. []; Pinsker, Geschichte, II, pp. ; Polliack, Tradi-
tion, pp. ; Steinschneider, Literatur, pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
66 See Ankori, Karaites, index; Frank, Search, pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp.

, pars. [][]; Gil, History, index; Gil, Palestine, esp. pars. [][]; Goldstein,
Sahl; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Nemoy, Anthology, pp. ; idem, Sahl; Pinsker,
Geschichte, index; Poznanski, Opponents (), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp.
; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; idem, Beginnings, pp. ; Sokolow, Kid-
napping. Cf. also Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, pp. (Ar.), pp. (Eng.);
Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Poznanski, Review .
67 See Nemoy, Epistle; Pinsker, Geschichte, I, pp. ; II, pp. .
chapter one

i. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of rather badly


preserved folios containing commentary on Genesis :. The
lunar and solar calendar are mentioned in reference to the dating
of the flood;
ii. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of rather badly pre-
served and probably disordered folios. Given the state of the manu-
script, it is difficult to determine precisely which part of the Pen-
tateuch it refers to. In the beginning, it cites Genesis :. In the
sequel, it contains rather lengthy passages in Hebrew, calling for
the return to the Holy Land and to God, as well as for repentance
(teshuba). It recommends abandoning the man-made command-
ments (Isa :) and praises the land of Israel. It mentions Ezra
ha-sofer (fol. v) and quotes the Book of Ezra : (fol. v). More-
over, the Hebrew term pitaron is used (fol. v);
iii. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of rather well- pre-
served folios containing commentary on Genesis ::, though
many passages or pages seem to be missing (e.g., the stories about
Cain and Abel, the flood, the tower of Babel). It repeatedly men-
tions Moses (e.g., fols. , v, r, r, v) and Abram (starting
from fol. v). Moreover, the Messiah is mentioned (fol. r). It pro-
vides more philosophical than grammatical explanations of the bib-
lical text, though some textual phenomena are also discussed (e.g.,
vav al-nasaq, fols. v, v; ikhtis. ar, fols. v, v; pluralia tanta,
fol. r);
Another manuscript (RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ), consisting of rela-
tively well-preserved folios (there is also a folio r) that contain com-
mentary on Genesis ::, has also been attributed to Sahl.68

.. Yusuf b. Nuh.
Joseph ben Noah, . better known by his Arabic name Yusuf b. Nuh, .
was a native of Iraq and for this reason he was called the Babylonian
or teacher of the Diaspora (mu#allim al-jaliya). According to Ibn al-
Ht, he spent thirty years of his life in Jerusalem.69 A contemporary
of Yefet (tentheleventh century), Yusuf b. Nuh. is recognized as the

68 For the attribution of this Ms. to Sahl ben Mas.liah,


. see, e.g., Erder, History, p. .
69 See Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, pp. (Ar.), (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthol-
ogy, p. ; Poznanski, Review ; Mann, Texts, p. . On the merging in certain sources
of Yusuf b. Nuh. with Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (Bakhtawaih), see below, p. ,
n. .
yefet and his times

founder of the aforementioned Karaite house of study in Jerusalem;70


he was not only a well-known grammarian but also a prolific Bible
commentator.71 Available to us are several manuscripts containing Abu
"l-Faraj Haruns
. abridged adaptation of Ibn Nuhs
. commentary on the
Torah, known as the Talkhs. , which have been preserved and identified
as belonging to this work.72 Of these, four comprise the commentary on
Genesis:
i. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of folios, containing
commentary on all of the books of the Pentateuch (in disorder),
including commentary on Genesis , , , , ,
(roughly fols. );
ii. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of folios, contain-
ing inter alia commentary on Genesis :, :: (roughly
fols. );
iii. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of folios, containing
commentary on Genesis ::;
iv. Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , consisting of folios, contain-
ing commentary on all the books of the Pentateuch (in disorder),
including commentary on Genesis :: (fols. ).

.. David ben Bo#az


David ben Bo#az (tenth century) was an older contemporary of Yefet,
who apparently lived in Jerusalem and served as the head of the local
Karaite community (nasi"). He is mainly known for his Bible translations
and commentaries. Apart from his commentary on the Pentateuch and
Ecclesiastes, Ibn al-Ht also attributes to him a work on the principles of
faith (Kitab al-"Us. ul).73

70 On the Karaite house of study, see above, p. , n. .


71 Until now, the most comprehensive studies of this exegete and his achievements
have been undertaken by Geoffrey Khan and Miriam Goldstein. See Goldstein, Begin-
nings; idem, Superfluity; idem, Pentateuch; idem, Composition; Khan, Diqduq; idem,
Contribution. See also Ankori, Karaites, pp. , ; idem, Ibn al-Ht, p. ; Frank,
Search, pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, I, pp. , pars. [][]; Gil, History, index;
Khan, Ibn Nuh; . Mann, Texts, pp. ; Nemoy, Anthology, pp. ; Pinsker,
Geschichte, index; Polliack, Tradition, pp. . On his possible influence on Yefet, see,
e.g., Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
72 For a detailed description of all these Mss. and their content, see Goldstein, Penta-

teuch, pp. .
73 See Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, p. (Ar.), pp. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology,

p. ; Poznanski, Review . For more on this exegete and his work, see Gil, Palestine,
chapter one

There are a number of manuscripts identified as containing David


ben Bo#azs translations and/or commentaries on the Pentateuch, but
apparently none of them comprises his interpretation of Genesis.

.. David ben Abraham al-Fasi


A Karaite scholar and native of Fez in Morocco, as indicated by his
nisba, al-Fasi, he visited Palestine and was probably active during the
tenth century.74 He is best known for his monumental Hebrew-Arabic
Dictionary of the Bible entitled Kitab Jam# al-Alfaz. , also known as the
Agron.75 This work contains not only lexicographic, but also grammatical
and exegetical explanations, many of them related to the Book of Genesis.
He is also believed to have written Bible commentaries (on Psalms and
the Song of Songs), although they have not survived or have not yet been
discovered.

. Later Karaite Commentaries on Genesis

.. Judaeo-Arabic Commentaries
Of the later Arabic Karaite commentaries on the Pentateuch in general,
and on Genesis in particular, a considerable number of manuscripts
identified as compositions authored by Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah have been
preserved including both his short and long commentary on the Torah.76

esp. par. []; Mann, Texts, pp. , ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Polliack,
Tradition, p. ; Poznanski, Opponents (), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp.
; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; idem, Beginnings; Wechsler, ben Boaz.
74 For more on this scholar and his works, see al-Fas, Jami#, I, pp. xxxilxv; Ankori,

Karaites, n, , n; Khan, Contribution; Neubauer, Notice (); Frst, Geschichte,


II, pp. , pars. [][]; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ;
idem, al-Fasi; Poznanski, Opponents (), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp.
; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Steinschneider, Literatur, p. ; Skoss Alfassi. On
his possible influence on Yefet, see, e.g., Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. ; Sokolow,
Deuteronomy, pp. xviixix.
75 See al-Fas, Jami#.
76 For an overview and description of his works that have survived, see Ben-Shammai,

Yeshuah, esp. pp. . For more on this scholar and his oeuvre, see Frst, Geschichte, II,
pp. , pars. [][]; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Margoliouth, Writings; Pinsker,
Geschichte, index; Polliack, Alternative; idem, Tradition, pp. ; Poznanski, Oppo-
nents (), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ];
Schreiner, Studien; Tirosh-Becker, Jeshua.
yefet and his times

Moreover, various manuscripts containing #Al ben Sulaymans com-


mentary on the five books of the Torah have also survived till today,
and one of them, his commentary on Genesis, has been published by
Solomon Skoss.77 In addition, there exist several manuscripts of Abu "l-
Faraj Haruns
. abridged version of the commentary on the Pentateuch by
Yusuf b. Nuh. (as indicated above).78

.. Hebrew Commentaries
One of the greatest translators of the Arabic works of Jerusalems Karaite
sages, and most probably the first to translate Yefets works into Hebrew,
was the Karaite scholar, exegete, and liturgical poet of Byzantium, Tobiah
ben Moses ha-abel (the mourner) (ca. ).79 He composed,

inter alia, a monumental halakhic commentary entitled Sefer Os. ar
Nehmad
. le-va-Yiqra" (Book of Delightful Treasure on Leviticus), which
includes materials from Yefets commentary on this book.
However, the most important medieval Karaite commentary written
in Hebrew is a work entitled Sefer ha-#Osher (The Book of Riches),
composed by the scholar and Bible exegete, Jacob ben Reuben (late
eleventhearly twelfth century), also of Byzantium.80 It contains a concise

77 See Skoss, Commentary. For more on this exegete, see Frst, Geschichte, II, pp.

, pars. [][]; Mann, Texts, pp. ; Margoliouth, Ibn al-Ht, p. (Ar.),


p. (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Poznanski, Review
; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ; Skoss, Commentary, pp. ; idem, Date.
78 For more on this exegete, see Ankori, Karaites, index; Bacher, Grammairien;

Basal, Excerpts; idem, al-Mushtamil ; idem, al-Mushtamil ; Becker, Ways; Frank,


Search, pp. ; Khan, Kitab; idem, Abu "l-Faraj; Mann, Texts, p. ; Margoliouth, Ibn
al-Ht, pp. (Ar.), (Eng.); Nemoy, Anthology, p. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, index;
Poznanski, Mouschtamil; idem, Nouveau.
79 For more on this exegete, see Ankori, Relations; idem, Bashyachi; idem, Karaites,

index; idem, Correspondence; Astren, Understanding, pp. ; Baron, History,


index; Frank, Study, pp. ; idem, Exegesis, II, pp. ; idem, Medieval,
pp. ; idem, Literature, pp. ; Frst, Geschichte, II, pp. , pars. []
[]; Gil, History, index; idem, Kingdom, II, par. []; Nemoy, Anthology, pp. , ,
; Mann, Texts, index; Pinsker, Geschichte, index; Poznanski, Anan (), p. n;
idem, Toviah;
. idem, Opponents (), pp. , par. [] [= (), pp. ; =
Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Wieder, Terms; Zawanowska, Tobiah and further
bibliography there. Cf. also Tamani, Tradizione, p. .
80 For more on this exegete, see Ankori, Karaites, index, esp. pp. ; Baron, His-

tory, V, p. ; Frst, Geschichte, pp. , pars. [][]; Mann, Texts, pp. ,


; Pinsker, Geschichte, I, pp. ; II, pp. ; Poznanski, Opponents (),
pp. , par. [] [= (), pp. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. ]; Steinschnei-
der, Catalogus, pp. , ; Zawanowska, Jacob ben Reuben. On Yefets influ-
ence on Jacob ben Reuben, see Birnbaum, Yefet, pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. xxxix
chapter one

commentary on the entire Bible (with Greek glosses), which is based on


selected, abbreviated interpretations of Karaite scholars from Jerusalem
(especially Yefet ben #Eli, but also Yusuf b. Nuh,
. Salmon ben Yeroham,
.
#Al ben Sulayman, and Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah)81 translated from Arabic,
as well as selected Rabbanite sources (Jonah ibn Janah, . Dunash ben
Labrat, and others). 82

xlii; Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. ixx; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy,
pp. viiiix; Wechsler, Esther, pp. .
81 For an analysis of his achievements, see Brin, Issue; Frank, Literature, esp.

pp. . For Yefets works as preserved in Jacob ben Reubens Hebrew translations,
see Tammani, Tradizione, pp. .
82 Mss. of Sefer ha-#Osher can be found in the libraries of St. Petersburg, Moscow, Paris,

Lund, and Leiden. Fragments of the commentary on the Pentateuch have been published
by Pinsker. See Pinsker, Geschichte, I, pp. ; II, pp. .
chapter two

WHO WROTE THE TORAH?


YEFETS VIEW ON THE AUTHORSHIP
OF THE PENTATEUCH*

It would be difficult to study commentaries on any book of the Bible, but


especially those on the Torah, without addressing the paramount ques-
tion of the commentators thoughts on its authorship. Studies of the way
in which this fundamental issue was viewed by medieval Karaites have
focused on the analysis of diverse aspects of the novel and innovative con-
cept of the biblical author-redactor or compiler-editor (al-mudawwin).
Apparently, it was introduced by Karaite exegetes with a view to explain-
ing both internal textual phenomena and the external historical context
of the creation of particular biblical texts, or the Bible as a whole.1 Most of
the research devoted to this subject has scrutinized the role and distinct
functions fulfilled by the mudawwin in medieval Karaite Bible commen-
taries, but has rarely dealt with the question of his identity.2 This is espe-
cially so in the case of the Pentateuch, which Scripture itself, not to men-
tion long-standing Jewish tradition, has always associatedat least to a
certain extentwith the figure of Moses,3 this question was either never

* Drafts of this chapter were presented at the th Annual Conference of the Associ-

ation for Jewish Studies (Washington, December ) and the th Conference


of the Society for Judaeo-Arabic Studies (Tel Aviv, August ).
1 It was probably Ya#qub al-Qirqisan who introduced both the term and the concept

of al-mudawwin to medieval Karaite exegesis. It was subsequently adopted and used by


many Karaite exegetes from the Jerusalem school such as its founder, Yusuf b. Nuh, . his
student Abu "l-Faraj Harun,
. . and Yefet ben #Eli. On this school or house
Sahl ben Mas.liah,
of study, see above p. , n. .
2 See especially Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin (I am grateful to Prof. Ben-Shammai for

having permitted me to read this article prior to its publication); Polliack, Conception;
idem, Voice; Simon, Approaches, pp. (Heb.), pp. (Eng.); Ben-Shammai,
Review. See also Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , , , , ; Drory, Emergence, pp. ff.
and n. there; Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ; Polliack, Trends, pp. ;
Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets, esp. pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. ; Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. . On the role that Yefet ascribed to the
human mudawwin in editing different biblical books as well as the Bible in general, see
also Marwick, Order. On the influence of this concept on later Karaite and Rabbanite
exegesis, see Steiner, Redaction.
3 For a discussion in which Moses is identified as the human author of the Pentateuch
chapter two

discussed at all, or it was assumed that Moses, the traditionally under-


stood author of the Torah, was the person associated with this term.4
This chapter, therefore, will investigate the relationship between Moses
and the conglomerate term mudawwin in light of Yefets commentary
on the Pentateuch with the aim of reconstructing the exegetes concept
of the process of tadwn and the identity of the mudawwin.5 In other
words, it will address what seem to be simple questions: Who, in Yefets
opinion, wrote the Torah? Was it Moses or someone else? Was it a one-
stage process, an action performed by a single, concrete individual (be
it Moses or someone else) within a clearly defined time period, or did it
involve more agents who were active during a much longer span of time?6

. Formal Statements

In keeping with Jewish tradition, Medieval Karaite exegetes, just like


their Rabbanite counterparts, acknowledged the unparalleled position
of Moses as the greatest of all prophets, (Deut :),7 the only one to

by tradition rather than by Scripture itself, see Sternberg, Poetics, pp. , where
the author states: Tradition thus casts Moses in the role of author or mediator of the
Pentateuch. Yet the narrative itself makes no such claim. (. . .) In short, Moses appears
as writing within the plot rather than as the writer within the narrative, still less as self-
styled writer (p. ). On the Torah leaving deliberately vague the question of Moses
role in the process of writing the Pentateuch, see Polliack, Conception, pp. ;
idem, Voice, pp. .
4 On Ya#qub al-Qirqisans identification of al-mudawwinas the human author of

the Torahwith Moses, see Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, pp. ; Drory, Emergence,


pp. ff. and n. there. On a similar identification in the Bible commentaries of Yusuf
b. Nuh. and Abu "l-Faraj Harun,
. as preserved in the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch,
p. . On the identification of al-mudawwin with Moses in Yefet ben #Elis Bible com-
mentaries, see Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin; Wechsler, Esther, p. . The exception to this
general tendency is the series of illuminating articles by Meira Polliack, where the author
envisions a much more complex view of the mudawwin of the Torah, at least on the part
of Yefet ben #Eli, than the simple identification of this figure with Moses. See Polliack,
Trends, p. ; idem, Conception, pp. ; idem, Voice, pp. .
5 See Polliack, Voice, p. . The Ar. term tadwn denotes the act of writing down,

composing, recording, compiling, or committing something to writing. See Blau, Dictio-


nary, p. ab. On the Ar. root dawwana, its derivatives and their possible meanings,
see below, p. , n. and further bibliography there.
6 The term writing here refers to both the mechanical act of writing down or

copying something, and the creative act of composing, fashioning, as well as editing the
text.
7 The unique position of Moses among the prophets was emphasized by most

medieval Jewish philosophers and exegetes, beginning with Saadia Gaon, who referred to
Moses (along with Aaaron and Miriam) as our masters and crowns ( )
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

whom God communicated His revelation directly, mouth to mouth


(Num :), without an intermediary (wasit. a).8 In the rabbinic tradi-
tion, this unique face to face divine revelation (Exod :) was typ-
ically believed to have been faithfully written down almost entirely (with
the possible exception of the last eight verses of Deuteronomy) and

and highlighted that, according to the Torah the Creator has never spoken to anyone
without an intermediary except to our teacher Moses alone (
). See Saadia, Amanat, VIII:, p. ; II:,
p. . Eng. trans. per Saadia, Book, pp. and . On al-Qirqisans reappraisal of Saa-
dias views of the authorship of the Torah, see al-Qirqisan, Kitab, I, chaps. , pp.
. According to al-Qirqisan, Saadia was of the opinion that Moses wrote down the
entire Torah by himself with the exception of the last eight verses of Deuteronomy (i.e.,
Gen :Deut :). For the discussion of this text, see Vajda, Etudes, (), pp.
. For the study of the Karaite perception of the unique character of Moses prophetic
experience (directness, mouth to mouth; intimacy in conversation; completeness, all-
embracing nature: God revealed all the precepts to Moses) and its role in interreli-
gious polemics, see Frank, Search, pp. , . On five (or alternatively six)
degrees of prophecy and the highest of them as pertaining to Moses alone, as well as on
Moses unparalleled position among the prophets, according to Yefet, see Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, I, pp. , ; II, pp. , , , . See also Yefets comment on
Gen : (text, pp. **), and his comment on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. Cf.
Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. , n. . See also Lasker, Prophecy; Sirat, Thories,
pp. . The unparalleled position of Moses among all the prophets is also confirmed
by Maimonides, who made this a pivotal point of his theory of prophecy. In his Guide he
explicitly states that the prophecy of our Teacher Moses was distinguished from that of
other prophets (p. ), his mission was without a parallel in the history from Adam to
Moses, or among the prophets who came after him (p. ); therefore the term prophet
is applied to Moses and other men homonymously (p. ). According to Maimonides,
Moses was the only prophet who received the direct revelation of the Law from God in
the sight of all Israel. Moreover, as opposed to other prophets, his revelation did not con-
sist of similes. In numerous instances he emphasized the unique character of Moses as a
prophet unlike any other; he was the chief of the prophets (pp. , , , ), the
wisest of all men (pp. , , , ), who rose to the highest degree of prophecy
(pp. , , ). See Maimonides, Guide. Furthermore, in his introduction to Mish-
neh Torah, Maimonides emphasizes that Moses wrote down the entire Torah, including
its last eight verses before he died, by his own hand. Yet, given the problematic nature
of these last eight verses, their status is differentin his viewfrom the rest of the Pen-
tateuch, in as much as there is no need for a minyan to read them (Mishneh Torah, Laws
of Prayer :).
8 E.g., in his comment on Deut :, Yefet expounds:

:
( =) (And there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like
unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face: And there arose no more prophet of God
in Israel like Moses, with whom the Master of the Universe spoke face to face, meaning
without any intermediary medium). Subsequently, Yefet states that Moses reached the
highest, sixth degree of prophecy, which involves revelation by means of the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly enough, Moshe shared this experience with some other prophets, however,
chapter two

transmitted by Moses himself.9 At first glance, it appears that the Karaites


also attributed the writing down of the entire Torah, including these
last eight problematic verses, to Moses. In the introduction to his
commentary on the narrative parts of the Pentateuch entitled Kitab
al-Riyad. wa-"l-Hada"iq
. (The Book of Parks and Gardens), Ya#qub al-
Qirqisan enumerates thirty-seven hermeneutic propositions (funun),
and already in the first one he declares:
We should know that our prophet and master Moses, may peace be upon
him, was the one who recorded (dawwana) this Torah from the beginning
of (the Book of) Genesis until its (= the Torahs) end.10

no other prophet had face to face communication with God. (


) (Ms. L BL Or. , fols. rr). For
the discussion of this passage in the context of interreligious polemics, see Frank, Search,
p. . Cf. also Yefets comment on Deut :, where he discusses the lack of an inter-
mediary medium ( ), while interpreting the meaning of the expressions face
to face as direct observation and mouth to mouth as direct conversation (Ms. SP IOS
B, fols. rv). On the difference between these two expressions in Yefets com-
mentaries, see Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I, p. ; II, pp. . Throughout the book,
all translations of citations from the Hebrew Bible are based on the English translation of
the Jewish Publication Society, , with slight modifications when necessary. For the
reasons behind this decision, see Wechsler, Esther, p. .
9 See b. B. Bat. ba; b. Mak. a, although the discussion in b. B. Bat. b

a concludes by attributing the writing down of the entire Torah to Moses, with God
dictating the text to him word by word. In contrast, in b. Meg. a, Moses is given a
certain degree of responsibility for fashioning the text of the Torah. For the discussion
of variant answers supplied by the rabbis to the unique question of scriptural authority
and two competing models of writing Scripture (i.e., inspirational vs. empirical), see
Sternberg, Poetics, pp. , esp. pp. . Cf. also Friedmann, Bible, pp. . For
Yefets explanation of the expression mouth-to-mouth as signifying direct auditory
revelation (raf# al-wasit. a f bab al-mukhat. aba), whereas the term face-to-face signifies
direct revelation through vision (raf# al-wasit. a f bab al-nazar),
. see his comment on Num
: in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. .
10 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. ): 5?  (5. 7? ,-&. @123 AB7C DE1FG  H2IG  %JG

D?KL M N1OK8  PC 7".. Al-Qirqisan continues (per ibid.): D01Q DC R1-S DE1. RQ 5. 7? 
@8 N1TB U2I. 5-V  7WX  @YDQ N# M ZDI. [ \2L 5EC DFL] PC
^DIY  _` [ 7# DaX 7WX  @Y7Y D-b Rc7C d-e f
7g] !' 50Q (Moreover, [Moses] was the one who handed it over to us, [including
therein] all the reports that it contains, from the [time, when] God created the universe,
till the time of [Moses] death, as [Scripture] says: And Moses wrote this law [va-yikhtob
Moshe et ha-Tora ha-zo"t], etc. [Deut :]. For this reason, in several places [the Torah]
is called by [Moses name] and it is his Torah, as [Scripture] says: according to that which
is written in the law in the book of Moses [k ka-katub ba-Tora be-sefer Moshe] [ Chr
:], and also [as testified by] the words of God, exalted be He, Remember ye the law of
Moses My servant [zikhru Torat Moshe #abd] [Mal :; per JPS, : Mal :]. This is
one of the fundamental principles.) Cf. ibid., p. (discussion); Nemoy, Anthology, p.
(Eng. trans.). Cf. also Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, pp. ; Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. ;
Polliack, Conception, p. . On al-Qirqisans distinction between Moses as human
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

This brief assertion bestows upon Moses the responsibility of having


committed the entire Torah to writing. By doing so, it undermines the
above-mentioned, widely accepted rabbinic conviction that Moses could
not possibly have written the last eight verses of the Book of Deuteron-
omy, which describe his own death and funeral.11 Prima facie, it appears
that al-Qirqisans opinion attests to a more widespread belief among the
early Karaites. At the end of his commentary on Deuteronomy Yefet not
only undermines the above-mentioned rabbinic view, but also enters into
an open polemic against it in the arguments he provides to support his
opinion. He expounds:
We should explain how it was possible for Moses, may peace be upon
him, to write (about himself in the past tense) So Moses the servant of the
Lord died there (Deut :), being not dead (yet). We maintain that God,
exalted be He, said to him: Write: So Moses (the servant of the Lord) died
there (Deut :)! Thus, (in this verse) Moses, may peace be upon him,
does not report about himself that he has already died, but rather he has
(just) recorded it (= this statement) (dawwana tadwnan) following (Gods)
instruction. As a result, the Israelites present in the lifetime of Moses,
may peace be upon him, believed that Moses, may peace be upon him,
would die in the place, about which (God), exalted be He, had informed
(Moses), (when He said to him) and die in the mount (whither thou goest
up) (Deut :), as well as that he would be buried there, and that no
one from the people (of Israel) would know the (exact) place, where he
would be buried. Similarly, (some people) say about Asaphs words: O God,
the heathen are come into Thine inheritance, etc. (Ps :), They have set
Thy sanctuary on fire, etc. (Ps :), that God, exalted be He, inspired him

narrator of the Torah and God as its divine author, see Drory, Emergence, pp. ff.
and n. there. On scholarship related to this introduction, see also Chiesa, Principii,
pp. ; Heller, Elments; Vajda, Prologue.
11 See b. B. Bat. ba. Interestingly, the Talmud in this place quotes a longer

discussion among the rabbis which may testify to the initial lack of agreement with respect
to the authorship of last verses of the Pentateuch: The Master has said: Joshua wrote the
book which bears his name and the last eight verses of the Pentateuch. This statement is
in agreement with the authority who says that eight verses in the Torah were written by
Joshua, as it has been taught: (It is written), So Moses the servant of the Lord died there.
Now is it possible that Moses being dead could have written the words, Moses died there?
The truth is, however, that up to this point Moses wrote, from this point Joshua wrote.
This is the opinion of Rabbi Judah, or, according to others, of Rabbi Nehemiah. Said Rabbi
Simeon to him: Can (we imagine the) scroll of the Law being short of one word, and is
it not written, Take this book of the Law? No; what we must say is that up to this point
the Holy One, blessed be He, dictated and Moses repeated and wrote, and from this point
God dictated and Moses wrote with tears, as it says of another occasion, Then Baruch
answered them, He pronounced all these words to me with his mouth, and I wrote them
with ink in the book. Eng. trans. per Epstein, Talmud.
chapter two

with that (knowledge of future events), in order that he might declare it (=


this prediction). Hence, he (pronounced these verses) being informed (by
God) about what would happen, (just) as (God) informed (other prophets)
about all the other future (events), many of them (being) expressed in past
tense, as it is said Thou hast been favorable unto Thy land, etc. (Ps :) and
the like. Therefore, in accordance with what we have (just) mentioned, it
is not surprising that God, exalted be He, said to Moses: Write from: So
Moses (the servant of the Lord) died there (Deut :) (onward)! and we
need not say that (it was) Joshua (who) wrote down (the passage) from
So Moses (the servant of the Lord) died there (Deut :) until in the sight
of all Israel (Deut :). Moreover, it is known that the soferm reckoned
these (last eight) verses as part of all the verses of the Torah. Hence, the
one who thinks that Joshua, may peace be upon him, wrote down these
verses, (just) because of the statement So Moses (the servant of the Lord)
died there (Deut :), is mistaken. Yet, (similarly thinking people) claim
that David and the ten prophets wrote down the Book of Psalms. It would
be said to (them): If, in your opinion, it was possible for David, may peace
be upon him, to write (the verse) O God, the heathen are come into Thine
inheritance, etc. (Ps :), so why then would it be impossible for Moses,
may peace be upon him, to write So Moses (the servant of the Lord) died
there (Deut :)? For it is clear that there is no difference in meaning
between (these) two (views) which they clung to.12 Thus it is proved that
Moses, may peace be upon him, wrote down (kataba) the (entire) Torah,
to make (the teaching [Tora]) great and glorious (Isa :), (starting) from
(the letter) bet (in the phrase) In the beginning (be-re"sht) (Gen :) until
(the letter) lamed (in the phrase) (and in all that mighty hand, and in all
the great terror, which Moses wrought) in the sight of all Israel (le-#ene kol
Yisra"el) (Deut :), and transmitted (it) intact to the Jewish nation13 that
their (future) generations might successively inherit it for the duration of
time, as (Scripture) says, Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance of the
congregation of Jacob (Deut :).14

12 The very fact that here Yefet makes a comparison between the revelation received

by Moses, and that received by David and the ten prophets is significant and hintsin
my opinionat the possibility that, just as regards the Book of Psalms, Yefet could have
perceived the process of committing the divine revelation to writing in the case of the
Torah as well as a more complex process than he was ready to overtly admit. See below,
p. , n. .
13 For the meaning of the Ar. "umma as Jews, see Blau, Dictionary, p. b.
14 ( =)

( =) . ( =)

( =) ( =)
( =)
( =)

=)
(
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

According to this lengthy deduction, Yefet saw no obstacle to believ-


ing, on a purely theoretical level, that Moses had written down the entire
Torah on his own, including the last eight problematic verses. The ques-
tion remains, however, whether Yefet really believed that this was true.
And if he did, how did he conceive of Moses role in this literary under-
taking? In other words, what did it mean to him that Moses wrote down
(kataba) the (entire) Torah?15 Was he a writer, who took the liberty of
fashioning Gods revelation according to his own will and literary taste?
Or did our exegete perceived him rather as a mere scribe, ordered by God
to write down exactly what had been dictated to him by the Creator, the
real and sole author of the entire Pentateuch?

. One Book, Various Authors

.. God as the Divine Author of the Torah


On certain occasions Yefet asserts that God Himself said or stated some-
thing in His Book. In fact, he sometimes even makes God responsible
for the redaction of the Torah. For instance, in his comment on Genesis
: Yefet states:
This story, as well as every story that resembles it, God recorded
(dawwana) in His Book and established them firmly for eternity.16

.
( =)
.
=) ( =)
. (
( [] =) ( =)

(Ms. SP IOS CO, fols. rv).
15 On the difference between the verbs to write or to copy (kataba) and to record

or to fashion (dawwana), in the sense of the prophets copying (kataba) of a revelational


Urtext given to him by God and subsequently, fashioning it (dawwana) under divine
inspiration into canonical text, see Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
16 (Ms. SP

IOS B, fols. rv). Cf. Polliack, Conception, pp. ; idem, Voice, p. . On


Scriptures identification of God as one of the figures engaged in writing the Pentateuch,
see, e.g., Exod :. For another example of God being identified by Yefet as the divine
author of Scriptures, see, e.g., the exegetes comment in his introdution to the commentary
on Job in Ben-Shammai, Job, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.); idem, Doctrines, II, pp. ; Blau,
Judaeo-Arabic, p. ; Hussain, Job, p. .
chapter two

This view of Gods authorship and Moses role as a passive medium


in transmitting Gods Scripture to humanity is further corroborated
by statementsfrequently attested in medieval Karaite commentaries
on the Pentateuchasserting that God said, included, or recorded
something in His Book, or that God ordered us through Moses to do
certain things and prohibited others.17 For example, in the introduction
to the aforementioned commentary on the narrative parts of the Penta-
teuch, al-Qirqisan declares:
We wish to undertake the explanation of the Book of our Creator, may His
praise be great, which he revealed through Moses, may peace be upon him,
I mean the Torah.18
It could be assumed, therefore, that, according to medieval Karaite
exegetes, Yefet among them, Moses wrote down the entire Torah at Gods
bidding, following His exact instructions. Hence, it would seem that
Moses served as a mere scribe, a copyist, or a passive medium of trans-
mission, in the sense of an executor of the divine will who faithfully
recorded in writing the words of God, the one and only real author of
the Torah.19

.. Moses as the Earthly Author of the Torah


Yet not all the passages in Yefets commentaries on the Torah are so
clear-cut and conclusive with regard to Moses role in the process of
writing down the Torah. On the contrary, our exegete very often limits
himself to a statement that Moses wrote down the Torah (or that an
anonymous mudawwin recorded it) without asserting that God dictated
it to His prophet. This leaves the door open to assuming that Moses could

17 Similar statements referring to Moses as a medium through which God reveals His

will to humanity already appear in the Torah. See, e.g., Lev :; Num :. Cf. al-
Qirqisans statements: (God commended us through Moses)
(Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v); (until Moses
came, and God forbade it through him) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r, and
similarly fol. v). Similarly, Sahl ben Mas. liah. ascertains that the Book was revealed
through our mater, Moses, may peace be upon him ([ =]
) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v).
18 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. ): (!X h-3 @.iG 5. DEj _` DE8 D"k d-&lY m26G !XKG /-GDQ

7". AE3 ,-&. @123 AB7C Cf. ibid., p. (discussion); Nemoy, Anthology, p. (Eng. trans.).
Cf. Polliack, Conception, p. .
19 On Yefets perception of the mudawwin as the transmitter (raw) of divine revela-

tion, who merely relates the words of God (marw #an Allah), see his comment on Deut
: in Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. . For the examples from the Talkhs. of Moses being
ordered by God to record something in the Torah, see Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

have had at least a tiny share in the fashioning of the Pentateuch, and
perhaps in its authorship as well. For instance, while commenting on
Deuteronomy :, Yefet laconically acknowledges:
The statement (And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing
the words of this law in a book), until they were finished is a clear indication
that (Moses) wrote down (kataba) the entire Torah.20
Whereas his comment on Deuteronomy : reads:
We will say that the Master of the Universe, may His name be blessed,
commanded our prophet Moses, may peace be upon him, to write down
this Law (bi-kitaba hadhihi al-shar#a), as it is said Moses commanded us a
law (Tora) (Deut :), and he established it as an inheritance which he
transmitted to the congregation of Jacob (Deut :).21
Thus we may deduce that God commanded Moses to write down
(kataba) the Torah. Yet it is by no means obvious whether God told Moses
exactly what to write down, word for word, or whether He simply trans-
mitted to His prophet the main idea, with the wording and fashioning of
the text being left up to Moses.22 Moreover, if Yefet believed that God dic-
tated the Torah to Moses word for word, then why would our exegete dif-
ferentiate between the words or voice of God, and the words or voice
of Moses, all verses being the words of God faithfully recorded by His
prophet?23 In his commentary on Genesis : Yefet says:
The words And the Lord God said (v. ) are those of the narrator (or
storyteller) (al-muhk),
. Moses, may peace be upon him, (who) reports
to us the words of God, just like he has reported to us (other) of Gods
utterances (starting) from And God said: Let there be light (Gen :) until
this verse, which are (altogether) eighteen utterances of God.24

20 (Ms. SP IOS CO, fol. r).


21 ( =)

(Ms. SP IOS CO,


fol. v).
22 For similar ideas expressed by al-Qirqisan, see Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, p. .
23 For a discussion of this subject in Yefets Bible commentaries, see Polliack, Concep-

tion; idem, Voice. For examples of the differentiation made by the Talkhs. between the
speech of God and the words of al-mudawwin, see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. .
24 ( =)
. Yefet
continues:


.
(Nine
chapter two

Here Yefet not only clarifies the distinction between the voice of God
and that of Moses, but also explicitly designates Moses as the narrator
(or storyteller) (al-muhk),
. who only quotes Gods exact words sparingly,
interweaving them in the reported story, whichto be surehe has
also learned from God, but apparently in broad outline alone.25 Further-
more, according to Yefet, in the entire Creation story there are only eigh-
teen utterances pronounced by God, the rest evidently being the words
of Moses. It may be assumed, therefore, that Moses, having been com-
manded by God to write down the Pentateuch, was not instructed con-
cerning its exact wording, but rather wrote it down of his own accord,
only occasionally having recourse to Gods words and quoting His exact
utterances. Yefets younger colleague from the Jerusalem school,26 Sahl
ben Mas. liah,
. also distinguishes the voice of Moses as a narrator or story-
teller in the Torah, as the one who reports past events to the Israelites. In
his commentary on Genesis : Ben Mas. liah. states:
This is a story reported by Moses (hikayat
. Moshe), may peace be upon him,
telling the Israelites that every tree of the field that they (could) see on the
earth and every herb of the field that they (could) observe, had not been
beforehand on the earth.27

of them are related to the Creation, and they are: Let there be light [Gen :], Let there be a
firmament [Gen :], Let the waters (. . .) be gathered together [Gen :], Let the earth put
forth grass [Gen :], Let there be lights [Gen :], Let the waters swarm with swarms
[Gen :], Let the earth bring forth [Gen :], Let us make man [Gen :], It is not good
that the man should be alone [Gen :]; one of them [God directed] to the snake [i.e.,
Gen :, starting from: Because thou hast done this]; two [of them He pronounced]
to Eve [i.e., Gen :, ]; two of them [He said] to Adam and Eve, and they are: and
God said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply [Gen :], And God said, Behold, I have
given you every [herb yielding seed (. . .), and every tree (. . .)to you it shall be for food]
[Gen :]; four of them [God directed] to Adam alone, and they are: and said unto him:
Where art thou? [Gen :], [And He said]: Who told thee that [thou wast naked?] [Gen
:], [And unto Adam he said]: Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife
[Gen :], And the LORD God commanded the man, saying: [Of every tree of the garden
thou mayest freely eat] [Gen :]. As for Behold, the man is become [as one of us] [Gen
:], it is possible that it is also a statement [said] to Adam, but it is [equally] possible
that they are words of wisdom [just] like the rest of [passages opening with the words]
and God said [va-yo"mer elohm] pronounced during the Creation.) (Ms. SP IOS B,
fols. rv).
25 For another example of Moses fulfilling the function of the narrator (or storyteller),

who reports to us what he has heard from God, see, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen :,
where he contends: ( =) (This is a story reported by
Moses [hikaya
. Moshe], may peace be upon him.) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
26 Cf. p. , n. .
27 ( =)


yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

Both quotations demonstrate the exegetes awareness of the existence


of more than one (divine) voice in the biblical account. Although the
information about past events undoubtedly came to Moses from God,
the wording or phrasing of the reported account seems to be attributed
by medieval Karaite exegetes to His prophet. Yefets comment on Genesis
: may be adduced as another proof-text of the combined heavenly-
earthly authorship of the Torah, whereby divine and human voices are
inextricably interwoven in the narrative; as he expounds:
The words And God made the firmament (v. ) constitute a statement by the
mudawwin, may peace be upon him, whereas (the expression) Let there be
a firmament (v. ) and the rest of the verse are the words of God, exalted be
He. Similarly, (in) the previous passage, only four words are pronounced
by God, exalted be He, Let there be light (yeh or) (v. ), day (yom) (and)
night (layla) (v. ), whereas the rest of the chapter is a story reported by
the mudawwin (hikayat
. al-mudawwin), may peace be upon him.28
Here Yefet again singles out the words of God, but this time he does not
even mention Moses, attributing the rest of the account to an anony-
mous mudawwin.29 Likewise, Sahl distinguishes the voice of God from
the voice of an anonymous mudawwin in the biblical account. In his com-
mentary on Genesis : he states:
This verse is a story reported by the mudawwin (hikaya . min al-
mudawwin), telling (us) that God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam,
and when he fell asleep, (God) took one of his ribs and closed the flesh in
this place.30

(Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r). Another example of Sahl singling out the voice
of the narrator in the biblical account can be adduced from his comment on Gen ::
(The statement [And out of the
ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is] pleasant to the sight, and good for
food [Gen :] informs [us] that these are words of the storyteller) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-
Arab. I , fol. v).
28 ( =)

=) ( =)
( =) () (Ms. SP IOS
CO, fol. r).
29 Another example of Yefet distinguishing different voices in the Torah may be

found in his comment on Gen :. While interpreting this biblical passage, he singles
out verse nine, which in his opinion contains a kind of parenthetic remark made by Moses
(qawl Moshe). See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r. On different voices discerned by Yefet in the
Bible, see especially Polliack, Voice. See also below, pp. ff.
30

(Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r). Cf. Polliack, Voice,


p. , n. .
chapter two

Furthermore, even if we assume pro tempore that the mudawwin is


identified with Moses, this figure, the greatest of all prophets, who relates
to us what he has heard from God, wasaccording to Karaite exegetes
selective in writing down what God told him. When commenting on
Genesis :, Yefet states that Adam knew many commandments, but
Moses mentioned only one of them, namely the one which was specific
to Adam, the one against which he transgressed and for which he was
expelled by God from Paradise. Our exegete concludes:
Moses recorded (dawwana) for us this commandment from among all the
commandments that had been (imposed) upon Adam.31
Thus it appears that God had informed Moses about past events,32 the
process of Creation, and the stories of the forefathers in detail, including
the commandments given to them, but Moses decided on his own what to
include in the Torah and what to omit, as well as how to fashion the text.33
It is interesting to juxtapose this statement by Yefet with the opinion of
one of his contemporaries, the exegete Yusuf b. Nuh, . as preserved in
an abridged adaptation of his commentary on the Pentateuch known
as the Talkhs. , composed by Abu "l-Faraj Harun.
. While commenting on
the two formulations of the Ten Commandments, the authors ponder
the question of why they were actually proclaimed twice (Exod ,
Deut ) and why these two renderings are different. The Talkhs. raises
three possibilities. According to the last one, Moses included the second
version of the Ten Commandments on his own initiative in order to
clarify the first one. The exegetes assert:
It is also said that they (= the children of Israel) were addressed only once.
But the prophet mentioned (the Ten Commandments) for the second time
unto the plains of Moab (Num :) in order to elucidate the statements

31 (Ms. SP IOS CO,

fol. r). For examples from the Talkhs. of Moses adding something in the Torah of
his own accord, see Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. . On Yefets perceiving Adam as a priest
who received divine instructions and revealed commandments, as well as on Scripture
omitting a mention of this, because it would have constituted irrelevant information
that would (not) have benefited us, see Frank, Scripturalism, pp. .
32 E.g., Yefets comment on Gen : reads: ( =)

(Moses, may peace be upon


him, says that he was informed by God that when Adam had left Paradise, he knew Eve,
his wife [Gen :]). (Ms. SP IOS CO, fol. v).
33 On Yefet perceiving the mudawwin as responsible for the final decision about what

to include and what to omit in the Bible, see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. .
Cf. with Yefets comment on Dan : in Margoliouth, Daniel, p. no (Ar.), p. (Eng.).
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

that were condensed in the act of recording (al-kalam al-mukhtas. ira fi


"l-tadwn),34 and the words (that were) added or omitted (in the first
rendition of the Ten Commandments).35
It is significant that the authors of this comment find the last possibility
to be the most probable.36 Accordingly, just like Yefet, the Talkhs. also
seems disposed to agree that Moses was far from being a mere scribe, or
a passive medium of divine revelation, and might easily be considered a
human co-author of the Torah, not only formulating in his own words
what he heard from God, but also and of his own accord omitting and
adding entire passages to the Holy Text. Yet this raises another problem:
was Moses indeed the only earthly scribe-recorder or author-redactor of
the Pentateuch?

.. Joshua and Other Co-Authors of the Torah


In his commentary on Deuteronomy :, Yefet points to two possible
writers or copyists, namely Moses and Joshua. He explains:
It is possible that the statement Now therefore write ye (ve-#ata kitbu

lakhem) this song for you, (and teach thou it the children of Israel) (v. )
(in the plural) points out Moses and Joshua, but the teaching and the

34 On this concept, see below, p. , n. .


35

(Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r ).


Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. .
36 Cf. with Yefets comment on Deut ::

( =) (Know that
the speech [of God] is elliptical here, [for] God, exalted be He, told Moses to abbreviate
its recording here and explain it [in detail] in the Book of Deuteronomy [Mishne Tora]
when He said and make thee an ark of wood [Deut :].) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
In his comment on Deut :, Yefet is more specific and explains what, in his view, was
omitted and what was added in the second recension of the ten commandments:

.
(Know that in [the passage, beginning with the words] When thou takest [Exod
:] [Scripture] mentions [an exchange of] words that occurred between [Moses] and
the Master of the Universe, [which] it abbreviates and does not mention here [= Deut
:], and it is from And the LORD said unto Moses: Whosoever hath sinned against
Me [Exod :] till And the LORD said unto Moses: Hew thee [two tables of stone]
[Exod :]. It abbreviates [this conversation] here, but it mentions the prayer, which
it does not mention there.) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rv). On the biblical
stories, which Yefet perceived as mutually complementary rather than overlapping, and
as such needing to be read in conjunction with one another and not separately, see below
pp. ff.
chapter two

instruction came from Moses, as it is said and teach thou it (ve-lamedah)


the children of Israel (v. ) (in the singular).37

Hence, although Moses undoubtedly enjoyed a privileged position with


God, being directly inspired by the Creator, he was not necessarily the
only person who committed the received information, be it stories or
commandments, to writing. In his commentary on another passage of
Deuteronomy (v. ) Yefet expressly declares his conviction concern-
ing Joshuas participation in the process of writing down the Torah:
When (Scripture) has finished informing (us) what would happen to the
people (of Israel), which is the (main) teaching38 of this Song (= the Song
of Moses), it mentions Moses obedient fulfillment of (Gods) command,
as it is said, So Moses wrote (this song) (v. ). Yet (before this God)
commanded, Now therefore write ye (ve-#ata kitbu lakhem) (this song for
So (Moses) wrote (va-
you) (in the plural) (v. ), whereas here it says,
yikhtob) (this song) (in the singular). This refers to the unambiguous
that Joshua participated in the writing (f kitabi) of this Song.
principle
Moreover, (Scripture) abbreviates and does not say and He put it in their
mouths (= a paraphrase of v. ), but it follows the above-mentioned
pattern, for it is one of the expressions that may denote the act of writing
(tadwn), as we have explained in the comment on (beyond the Jordan, in
the land of Moab,) took Moses upon him to expound this law (Deut :).39

As if this was not enough, in a different place Yefet allows for the possi-
bility that there were even more writers of the Law than these two. In
his comment on Deuteronomy : Yefet expounds:

37

(Ms. SP IOS CO, fols. rv).


38 For the meaning of the Ar. word fa"ida as instructive remark, see Blau, Dictionary,

p. b.
39

. .


(Ms. SP IOS CO, fol. r). In commenting on Deut :, Yefet explains:

.
(The statement [took Moses upon him] to expound this
law [be"er et ha-Tora] [Deut :] means an oral explanation and not a written explanation,
albeit this word [may also] denote writing [tadwn], like And thou shalt write [ve-katabta]

upon the stones all the words of this law very plainly, etc. [Deut :] and likewise [Write
the vision] and make it plain [u-ba"er] upon tables [Hab :]. Yet here it is impossible that
it was in writing [tadwn], for it says afterwards saying [Deut :] and [the expression]
saying refers to an oral [explanation] and not a written [explanation].) (Ms. SP IOS B,
fol. v).
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

The statement And Moses wrote (this law) (va-yikhtob Moshe et ha-Tora ha-
zo"t) (v. ) informs us that Moses, may peace be upon him, wrote down the
Torah (kataba al-Tora) (starting) from (the letter) beth (in the phrase)
In the beginning (be-re"sht) (Gen :) until (the letter) lamed (in the
phrase) in the sight of all Israel (le-#ene kol Yisra"el) (Deut :). The
majority of scholars say that he wrote it down by his own hand, but some
of them say that he summoned experienced (i.e., professional) scribes and
dictated to them, so that they wrote it down in his presence.40
It appears, therefore, that in Yefets opinion, though God communicated
directly with Moses, he did not necessarily write down the information
he was given in his own hand, conceivably commissioning professional
scribes to whom he dictated the Torah, or at least instructed as to the
manner of its composition, just as he had Joshuaaccording to the
previously quoted statement. Thus the chain of transmission of Gods
revelation becomes longer and begins to appear alarmingly like the game
of telephone. God says something to Moses, who repeats it, possibly
in a selective way and perhaps also in his own words, to Joshua or
experienced scribes, who, we can only assume, do their best to write
down exactly what Moses dictates to them.

.. The Anonymous Mudawwin as the Final Author of the Torah


Yet the question may be asked: Did Yefet truly believe that Joshua or these
professional copyists recorded exactly what Moses told them? Or did
Joshua or these commissioned scribeswhoever they may have been
also take the liberty of selecting, arranging, and editing the information
they received? Or was another person involved in the process of shaping
the heavenly revelation into the earthly book, and thus responsible for the
final edition of the text? There are no clear answers to these questions,
but we find a hint in Yefets comment on Genesis :, where he seems,
first of all, to differentiate between Moses and the person who recorded
the Torah. Secondly, he seems to have believed that whoever this person
was, he decided of his own accord what to include in the Torah and what
to omit. While pondering the question of whether the forefathers knew
the dietary laws concerning permitted and prohibited foods (halal
. and

40 .


(Ms. SP IOS CO, fol. r). Cf. Polliack, Conception, p. ; idem, Voice,
p. . I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Mordechai Akiva Friedman for having
suggested certain corrections to my translation of this passage.
chapter two

haram),
. Yefet quotes the opinions of other sages and concludes with the
one that he regards as the most probable interpretation. He explains:
Some people say that similar things (i.e., what can be eaten and what
cannot), were revealed to Adam, though (the mudawwin) did not record
it (ikhtas. ara tadwnahu) there (i.e., in the account about Adam), but
recorded it here (i.e., in the account about Noah). Similarly, (the
mudawwin) recorded what was told to Moses (alladh khutiba bihi Moshe):
These are the beasts which ye may eat (Deut :), but abbreviated (and did
not) record the information about (what was) permissible and prohibited
for Adam and Noah. This is the most likely (interpretation).41
Although in this comment Yefet does not explicitly mention the
mudawwin, he clearly distinguishes between Moses and the anonymous
he who recorded or omitted Gods words directed to the prophetthat
is, he decided on his own what to include in the Torah. In Yefets commen-
tary on Exodus we find a further proof-text indicating that our exegete
did not perceive Moses as the editor-in-chief of the Torah, and that
whoever compiled the final version of the Pentateuchbe it Joshua, or
scribes commissioned by Moses, or a totally different person who col-
lected and edited the previously recorded reportsdid not play merely a
passive role in transmitting Gods revelation mediated by Moses. Yefets
comment on Exodus : reads:
I am inclined to think that (the verse) And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh:
Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My son, My first-born (Exod :) and the
passage (commencing) with Thus saith the Lord: About midnight (will I
go out into the midst of Egypt) (v. ), until And all these thy servants shall
come down unto me (v. ) God had said to (Moses) before (He commanded
him:) Speak now in the ears of the people (v. ). But when the mudawwin
condensed (ikhtas. ara) Gods words to Moses, About midnight will I go out
(into the midst of Egypt) (v. ), he put (the verse) Speak now (in the ears
of the people) (v. ) after (the verse) he shall surely thrust you out (hence
altogether) (v. ).42
Thus Yefet appears to be making a clear distinction here between as many
as three independent entities involved in the process of producing the
book called the Torah. () The first is God, the divine author, who fulfills

41


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
42
.
(Ms. SP IOS B,
fol. r). Cf. Erder, Moral, esp. pp. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

the function of the originator of Scripture and speaks to Moses. () The


second is Moses, whom we know from previous citations as the authorial
narrator or storyteller who relates (either in his own words or by quoting
Gods words verbatim) the reports that he had heard from the Creator.
As may be inferred from the above quotations, he is also concerned with
the transmission of the divine message by ensuring that it is committed
to writing. Moreover, from the above we can see that, in Yefets opinion,
it is by no means obvious who actually recorded the Pentateuch: Moses
himself, Joshua, professional scribes, or perhaps somebody else? () The
third and last individual whom Yefet distinguishes in this passage as
being responsible for preparing and shaping the final version of the
entire text is the compiler-editor (al-mudawwin) in-chief, who took the
liberty of changing, arranging, and condensing Scripture, including the
words of God directed to Moses.
An additional example of Yefets distinguishing between Moses and
the anonymous mudawwin may be found in his comment on Exodus :,
where he expounds:
Know that the mudawwin said: And the angel of the Lord appeared unto
him (in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush) (v. ) and reported about
Moses: he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, (and the bush was
not consumed) (v. ).43
It may be conjectured that if Yefet had believed that Moses was the
final mudawwin of Scripture, who was reporting in this case something
about himself, our exegete would have phrased this sentence: know
that the mudawwin ( . . . ) reported about himself. This can be seen in
other instances in Yefets commentary on the Pentateuch, where he states
that Moses says or said something about himself (qawl/qala/yaqulu
Moshe #an nafsihi).44 Therefore, it seems plausible to conclude that

43 (Ms. SP IOS
B, fol. r). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, p. .
44 //. See, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen : (Ms. SP IOS B,

fols. vr). A further proof-text attesting to Yefets making a clear distinction between
the figure of the mudawwin and Moses emerges from his comment on Exodus :
wherein he expounds:
( =)
. (Know that this time, the mudawwin changed his habit, according to which he
had been recording for us the speech of God, the Sublime, directed to [Moses] without
[including] the prophets repetition [of Gods words] to Pharaoh. Whereas this time, he
did the opposite.) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). See also Yefets comment on Ps in Bargs,
Excerpta, p. (Ar.), p. (Lat.).
chapter two

according to Yefet, the compiler-editorat least in certain instances


was not identical with Moses, though it remains uncertain whether in our
exegetes opinion he was equated with the scribe, who was commissioned
by Moses to write down the Torah, or perhaps a totally different person,
possibly even living in a completely different period of time.45
The last, most apt example will be adduced from Yefets comment on
Numbers :, where he elucidates the statement that the man Moses
was very humble. He concludes:
The mudawwin reported from God that Moses, may peace be upon him,
had been the humblest of all men, as it is said very (v. ). Next he informed
(us) that (Moses) had had no equal upon the earth in terms of humbleness.
For their (= Miriams and Aarons) words Hath the Lord indeed spoken only
with Moses? (v. ) mean that they perceived Moses (as) being above them.
Therefore Scripture informed (us) that he, may peace be upon him, had
been humble and neither above them nor above others.46

In this passage Yefet clearly differentiates between Moses and the fig-
ure of the mudawwin of the Torah. Apparently, it was difficult for him
to accept that the humblest of all men would make such a declaration
about himself.47 Having overtly acknowledged the existence of someone
else other than Moses as being involved in the process of bringing the
Pentateuch into being, he hastened to explain that whoever it was, he
worked under divine inspiration, reporting from God about past events.
The fact that in this passage (as well as in many others) Yefet interchange-

45 When commenting on Gen :, where it is written: And Joseph made it a law over

the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of
the priests only, which became not Pharaohs, Yefet makes an interesting remark:

(In my opinion the closest [interpretation of] the statement unto this day [Gen :]
is that this law had remained until the time of Nebuchadnezzar, who drove them [i.e.,
the people of Israel] away and destroyed their country.) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). This
statement on Yefets part can be understood in two ways. First, that the exegete did not
exclude the possibility that the Bible (or the Torah in this case) received its final shape
only in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and that its final mudawwin informed us that the
law made by Joseph remained in effect in Egypt until his (the mudawwins) days. Second,
that the exegete merely attempted to establish a historic fact by determining how long
the law made by Joseph remained in effect in Egypt, without relating in any way to the
question of the time of the redaction of the Bible. Cf. Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, p. .
Cf. above p. , n. .
: ( =)
46

: .
( =)
(Ms. C TCL , fol. r).
47 On the controversiality of this verse, see, e.g., Friedmann, Bible, p. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

ably employs the terms mudawwin and Scripture (al-kitab) gives one
the impression that he is doing so deliberately so as to camouflage his
somewhat daring answers to this age-old hermeneutic crux (interpre-
tum).48

. The Term Mudawwin as Camouflage

In light of the above, it is my contention that in Yefets view not all of


the Torah was written down by Moses, neither in the sense of mere
recording nor even in the sense of providing a loose report of the words of
God. Furthermore, either the person commissioned by Moses to commit
Scripture to writing or someone who came afterwards with a view to
editing the previously accumulated records and compiling them into a
book had taken the liberty of changing, arranging, and abbreviating the
text. In other words, Yefet inferred that this person, of his own volition,
consciously and purposely subjected the text to a process of literary
shaping and fashioned Scripture according to his own wishes and tastes.
In Karaite commentaries, all of the distinct individuals involved in the
making of the Pentateuchnamely, the author, narrator or storyteller,
scribe or recorder, compiler or editorwere often designated by one Ara-
bic umbrella term, al-mudawwin. Indeed, the use of this term may have
served as a convenient camouflage or a way of evading the religiously
inconvenient question of biblical authorship, in the sense of both com-
mitting the revelation to writing or recording, and shaping or editing the
text.49 (It is important to note that a similar function can also be fulfilled
by the elusive term Scripture [al-kitab], since its use also enables the Bible
exegete to avoid providing a clear-cut answer to the above-mentioned
problematic questions.)50 At the same time, this concept was certainly

48 See below, n. .
49 On the term al-mudawwin serving as a camouflage, see Polliack, Voice, p. ;
idem, Conception, p. .
50 In various places in his commentary, Yefet makes Scripture (al-kitab) the subject of

sentences, and states that Scripture mentions something (yadhkuru) (e.g., his comment
on Gen :, Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v), or reports (yanus. s. u) about something (e.g.,
his comment on Gen :, Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). Moreover, there are instances in
which Yefet makes Scripture responsible for its own redaction and structure. For example,
when commenting on Gen :, Yefet says:

(Scripture condenses for us its record [ikhtas. ara al-kitab yudawwina lana] of
the [exact] words directed by Joseph to the king [sult. an] and [what] other subjects were
spoken about between them. It only mentions the purpose [of the whole conversation]
chapter two

a very useful abstract tool for understanding and analyzing both distinct
textual phenomena as well as the process behind the final edition of the
Torah, certain aspects of which could not be so easily explained if its final
redaction was attributed unambiguously to Moses.
Still, the question of whether or not Moses was the sole author-
redactor of the entire Torah must have been, in all probability, an
extremely significant one for Yefet, a genuinely religious person. Yet, once
his textual investigation led him to conclude that other mudawwinun
may have been involved in shaping the final version of the Pentateuch,
Yefet demonstrated no interest in ascertaining their identity, probably
assuming that their role was limited to the more technical aspects of edit-
ing the Holy Writ.51
This lack of concern for establishing the identity of the author or final
redactor of the Pentateuch might also be due to the fact that the Torah
itself does not overtly identify him, and nowhere are Moses recording
activities identified with Pentateuchal discourse as a whole, nor always

and informs [us] that Pharaoh believed in the words of Joseph, when he said and there
is none that can interpret it [Gen :].) (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). Another
example of Scripture being the subject of a sentence describing its own redaction can
be adduced from Yefets comment on Gen :. Here the exegete informs us that some
people thought that Pharaoh was a fool not to ask Jacob about anything related to wisdom,
but just about his age. According to Yefet, however, this is not true, since Pharaoh did
ask Jacob about other things as well, even though Scripture did not record them (lam
yudawwinha al-kitab), since it records only what is instructive for the reader (

) (Ms. SP
IOS B, fols. rv). In the same manuscript, we find Yefets interpretation of Gen :
, in which the exegete explains how it was possible for Pharaoh to know about Josephs
request even though it was conveyed in a conversation with the house of Pharaoh, not
with Pharaoh himself. Yefet concludes:
(Scripture abbreviates [and does not] record for us the conversation [between] the house
of Pharaoh and Pharaoh.) (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). For an explanation of the
same passage by the Talkhs. (without reference to Scripture), see Goldstein, Pentateuch,
pp. . For the use in the Talkhs. of the term Scripture (al-kitab) as the subject
of sentences, see ibid., pp. . Al-Qirqisan, too, often makes Scripture the subject
of phrases, stating that Scripture says, ascribes, or informs (us) about something
(e.g., Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab I , fols. v, v, v). Sometimes, instead of the term
Scripture, Karaite exegetes use the term text (al-nas. s. ), e.g., Sahl ben Mas. liah. states that
the text mentions something (yadhkuruhu al-nas. s. ) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ,
fol. r).
51 On the lack of evidence for Yefets identification of the mudawwin with Moses, see

Polliack, Voice, p. . For an explicit identification of the biblical narrator or storyteller


with Moses, see, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen :: =)
) (This is a statement [pronounced] by the storyteller Moses, may peace be
upon him) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). For additional examples, see below p. , n. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

or straightforwardly with corresponding parts of the discourse.52 It is


plausible to assume that this deliberate vagueness could have discouraged
the exegete from seeking the man behind the book and contributed to
the shift in his line of inquiry from the identity of the original author
to the compositional processin other words, from composition as
genesis to composition as poesis.53 Accordingly, it could beas has been
suggested in relation to the authorship of the Book of Psalmsthat
Yefet was simply not interested in identifying the historical figure behind
the term mudawwin; rather, he was more concerned with analyzing the
process behind the composition of the biblical text than with pinpointing
the particular person responsible of its final redaction.54
The lack of interest in identifying the author of the Torah may also be
connected with the idiosyncratic Karaite ethos of anonymous scholar-
ship, understood as a long and gradual process of building knowledge by
accumulating and crystallizing anonymous ideas, valued on the basis of
their worth, irrespective of the identity or authority of their authors. They
may have related to the process of tadwn in a similar manneri.e., the
identity of the final mudawwin was overshadowed by the importance of
the Book that he merely edited, as well as by its original, earthly author,
Moses, who was inspired by God.
Be that as it may, the fact that the mudawwin could not be unequivo-
cally identified with Moses and remained anonymous evidently had no
bearing, in Yefets opinion, on the importance of the Torah as a divinely
inspired text.55 God was still believed to have been the heavenly origi-
nator of the Pentateuch and Moses its earthly author, in the sense that
he wrote it down, either on his own or by dictating its first version or
drafts56 to others after giving them suitable instructions, whereas the
final redactor merely copied, rearranged, ordered, and edited the col-
lected text or texts.57 Moreover, it seems reasonable to assume that, as
in the case of the Book of Psalms, here too Yefet was inclined to believe

52 See Sternberg, Poetics, p. .


53 See ibid., pp. , esp. pp. . Cf. also above, p. , n. .
54 See Simon, Approaches, p. (Heb.), p. (Eng.).
55 On the lack of reluctance on Yefets part to acknowledge the anonymity of the

mudawwin of the Book of Psalms, see ibid., p. (Heb.), p. (Eng.).


56 On similar concepts expressed by Yefet with regard to the Book of Psalms, see ibid.,

p. (Heb.), pp. (Eng.).


57 On Yefets conviction that the biblical texts (in opposition to the Oral Law) were not

transmitted orally, but in writing, and were compiled in the epoch of their authors, see
ibid., p. (Heb.), p. (Eng.).
chapter two

that this editing work was not a purely human undertaking, the final
mudawwinno matter who he may have beenhaving also functioned
under divine inspiration.58
It is noteworthy that, according to Yefet, Moses not only received a
direct, face-to-face revelation by which were transmitted to him all the
commandments, but he was also given a share in the process of revela-
tion inspired by the Holy Spirit (and thus also in its product), whether
in expressing blessing (Deut ) or composing Psalms (Exod :;
Ps :). In this regard, Moses was no higher in rank than any other
prophet who received revelation from the Holy Spirit (David, Solomon,
the sons of Korah, Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun). Yet in the final analysis,
Yefet appears certain that the ultimate source of all these revelations was
God, about whom the exegete sometimes attests that He also authored
literally, wrote (kataba)other books of the Bible.59
Yefet is apparently convinced, moreover, that in certain respects Moses
resembles other prophets. For instance, when commenting on Genesis
: he equates Moses and Aaron with other prophets in that none
of them is capable of performing miracles by means of his own power,
but only through God, who enacts miracles through the hands of his
prophet.60
Making Moses equaleven if only in certain respectsto other
prophets together with the common Karaite conviction that the Five
Books of Moses are no better a source of religious legislation than other
books of the Bibleall the precepts and commandments being faithfully
reported by prophets61allowed Yefet to differentiate between the author

58 On the idea of the mudawwin being divinely inspired, see ibid., p. (Heb.), p.

(Eng.). On the comparison made by Yefet between Moses and other prophets concerning
their respective modes of receiving the divine revelation, see ibid., p. (Heb.), p.
(Eng.), and above, p. , n. .
59 Cf., e.g., with Yefets statement in his comment on Prov :, where he declares

(with slight corrections, per Gnzig, Proverbien, p. xx):


( =) .
(The statement That thou
mayest [walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous] [Prov :]
is connected with the preceding [verse, which states] For wisdom shall enter into thy
heart [Prov :]. For God recorded in His Book the reports about the most excellent
[representatives of the human race], like Joseph, may peace be upon him, and Job and
others alike, so that people may learn from their deeds.) On the didactic purposes of
revelation, see below, pp. ff.
60 Text, p. *.
61 In his comment on Num :, Yefet contends (per Simon, Approaches, p. ): The

prophets sent to mediate between the Lord and the nation resemble Moses in that they
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

of the Torah (i.e., the person who actually received the divine revelation
or inspiration) and its mudawwin, just as he did in case of other biblical
books. By doing so, he apparently went further than any Karaite author of
his day, sinceas far as I am awareno other medieval Karaite exegete
differentiated between Moses and the final mudawwin of the Torah.

. The Karaite Innovation of the Biblical Mudawwin

Finally, one may ask why such a complex perception of the Torah and
its authorship developed among the early medieval Karaite exegetes. To
answer this question it is instructive to recall Judah Halevis words:
Those who speculate on the ways of glorifying God for the purpose of His
worship (i.e., the Karaites) are much more zealous than those who practice
the service of God exactly as it is commanded (i.e., the Rabbanites). The
latter are at ease with their tradition, and their soul is calm like one who
lives in a town, and they fear not any hostile opposition. The former,
however, is like a straggler in a desert, who does not know what may
happen. He must provide himself with arms and prepare for battle like one
expert in warfare. Be not, therefore, astonished to see them so energetic,
and do not lose courage if thou seest the followers of the tradition, I
mean the Rabbanites, falter. The former look for a fortress where they can
entrench themselves, whilst the latter lie down on their couches in a palace
well fortified of old.62
The Karaites are portrayed here as those who zealously speculate
that is, who seek knowledge of God as a precondition for worship-
ping Him and in order to convince others (and possibly themselves as
well) of the rightness of their belief. This parable, so vividly sketched by
Halevi, is highly illustrative for our discussion, irrespective of whether
Karaite intellectual uneasiness actually stemmed solely from the need for

report the words of the Lord as they heard them, without addition or omission. Cf. ibid.,
p. (Heb.). On Yefets conviction that the prophet cannot be mistaken with respect to the
received revelation, neither forget nor change it, see Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I, pp.
; II, pp. . Cf. also with Yefets comment on Jer : in Wendkos, Jeremiah, p.
.
62 (per Baneth & Ben-Shammai, Khazar, III:, p. ):

 :



 . Trans.
per Halevi, Kuzari, pp. . Cf. Lasker, Judah Halevi, p. .
chapter two

self-definition in relation to other religions (polemical reasons), or was


also stimulated by contact with the Islamic culture and science of the time
(acculturation).
Hence, the Karaite elaboration of the concept of the mudawwin may be
explained in different, but not mutually exclusive, ways: () as an expres-
sion of the internal Jewish debate over the nature of Scripture and its
authorship; () as part of an exclusively Karaite approach to the Holy Writ
and its study; () as a response to external, predominantly (though not
uniquely) Muslim polemics against the Bible, which initiated a kind of
textual criticism of the Bible; () as an outcome of the productive influ-
ence of the surrounding Islamic culture, which stimulated the develop-
ment of literary and historical consciousness. Indeed, in the final analysis
it may easily be conceived of as the result of a mixture, or amalgam, of all
these disparate explanations.

.. Internal Jewish Debate


The innovative elaboration of the concept of the mudawwin of the Torah
can be understood in terms of the Karaite voice in the ongoing inter-
nal Jewish debate concerning the nature of divine revelation. This debate
affected the very conception of Holy Scripture and its authorship, and,
as a result, the way it can or should be interpreted. By stressing the role
of a human agent involved in the process of shaping the biblical text, the
Karaites inevitably opposed the widely accepted (though by no means
unique) perception of the Torah in rabbinic Judaism as the divine Word
emanating directly from God, or at least having been dictated by Him
word for word to Moses, and as such inherently and completely different
from any human text. Moreover, this rabbinic approach to Scripture rein-
forced the accepted absence of superfluity in its form and the omnisig-
nificance of its content, making it possible to devise a practically endless
number of equally good interpretations even of the minutest elements of
the divine message.63
Without totally rejecting a vaguely conceived, divine origin of Scrip-
ture, the medieval Karaites opposed this rabbinic view by, among other
things, asserting that there had been a human author-redactor or
compiler-editor (mudawwin) of the Bible as a wholeand of its most
holy part, the Torahand that this earthly author had taken an active

63 See below, p. , n. . Cf. also Frank, Scripturalism, pp. and n. there;


Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. and n. there; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

part in its formation by employing his ownthat is, humanlanguage.64


From these assumptions Karaite exegetes could infer and adopt a herme-
neutic stance that it was not only possible, but even advisable to eluci-
date Scripturewhich, ultimately, has one true meaningwith the aid
of conventional, human tools.65
Some of them, moreover, like Yefet, took this concept even further,
casting doubt on the important religious tenet that Moses had been the
earthly author or final mudawwin of the Torah who actually wrote
down or recorded the entire Pentateuch by himself. Nevertheless, it is
worth noting that on the purely theoretical level Yefet did not consider
it impossible for Moses to have written down the entire Torah, including
the description of his own death.

.. The Karaite Approach to the Bible


The Karaite movement emerged during the fierce discussion over the
status of the Oral Law. Rejecting its binding authority, the early repre-
sentatives of Karaism were compelled to work out a whole new system
of religious legislation that would be based entirely and uniquely on the
Written Lawthat is, the Hebrew Bible.66 In order to do this, the Karaites
recognized the possibility of deriving new legislation from all the Scrip-
tures, not only from the Five Books of Moses, as was the case in rab-
binic Judaism. Once this demarche was made, there was no more need
to stress the absolutely unparalleled position of the Torah among the
twenty-four books of the Tanakh as the sole source of religious legisla-
tion, or to emphasize its divine authorship as legitimizing the validity of
this legislation.67

64 See below, pp. ff.


65 On the internal Jewish debate (Karaites vs. Rabbanites) over the methods of Bible
exegesis as a source of Karaite interest in the structural analysis of the Holy Text, as well
as on Karaite preference given to the use of methods that would distinguish them from
the Rabbanite Jews, see, e.g., Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. . On Yefets conviction
that the Bible ultimately possesses one true meaning, see below, p. , n. .
66 Apparently, it is not inconceivable that the Karaite egalitarian ethos of biblical

studiesi.e., that everyone can and should study the Biblenot only gave expression
to the rebellion against the monopolization of this study by the rabbinic intellectual elite,
but was also aimed at encouraging people to join in the immense undertaking of creating
a novel system of religious legislation. See below, p. , n. ; p. , n. ; p. , n. .
67 As opposed to rabbinic Judaism, which recognized only the Five Books of Moses

as the sole source of religious legislation (halakhah), the Karaites asserted the validity of
any biblical text found in the twenty-four books of the Hebrew Bible to form the basis
for inferring religious law. For more about the reasons behind this shift in the Karaite
chapter two

Therefore, without undermining the unique character of the Mosaic


revelation given by God directly to the greatest of all prophets, the
early Karaites felt at liberty to claim that the process of committing this
revelation to writing and compiling it into a book was not so essentially
different from parallel processes that had taken place with respect to
other books of the Bible. At the same time, this claim either concurred
with or ensued from the early Karaites genuine interest in the study
and unbiased investigation of the biblical text and its in-depth analysis,
though without filtering it through the prism of preconceived ideas or
any binding exegetical tradition.

.. Polemical Response
It is not implausible to explain the Karaites introduction of the
mudawwin to their exegetical discourse as an apologetic act designed
to defend the holy character of the Bible against the Islamic doctrine of
the abrogation (naskh) of the Hebrew Writ, which, the Muslims claimed,
was superseded by the last, Qur"anic revelation. This Muslim doctrine,
possibly drawing on earlier Christian sources, was based on allegations
of human falsification or forgery (tahrf),
. and distortion or alteration
of Scripture (tabdl). This was proven, in the polemicists opinion, by
shameful stories about the prophets, the immoral behavior of certain bib-
lical heroes or forefathers, anthropomorphic descriptions of God, inter-
nal incongruities, absurdities, inconsistencies, and contradictions in the
Bible. Finally, it entailed the accusation that the Hebrew Bible was cor-
rupt and therefore failed to reliably transmit divine revelation (tawatur),
making the biblical text vulnerable and faulty.68 All these allegations,
which sought to reveal traces of human tampering in a text of pur-

approach to religious legislation, see Vajda, Etudes (), pp. . On the initiation
of this process by the alleged founder of the Karaite movement, #Anan ben David, see
Ankori, Karaites, p. ; Baron, History, V, p. ; Graetz, Geschichte, V, p. ; Poznanski,
Anan (), p. and n. there; Wieder, Scrolls, pp. . See also Lasker, Influence,
esp. pp. and n. . Cf. Gnzig, Proverbien, p. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , ,
, , . On the legislative activity of post-Mosaic prophets, see Frank, Search,
pp. . Cf. with Yefets comment on Jer : in Wendkos, Jeremiah, p. .
68 All these accusations directed against the Hebrew Bible did not stop Muslim

exegetes and polemicists from searching for the predictions of the advent of Muhammad .
and Islam in the same refuted Scripture (e.g., Gen : and Deut :). They claimed
that these objections did not concern the aforementioned biblical testimonies, which had
been miraculously preserved from distortion. On Muslim polemics against Judaism, see,
e.g., Adang, Writers; Lazarus-Yafeh, Criticism; Perlmann, Polemics.
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

portedly divine origin,69 could not remain unchallenged in the Jewish


world. They therefore aroused the need for apologetic explanation or jus-
tification, which in turn initiated the development of textual or biblical
criticism.70
Making a human, the earthly mudawwin, responsible for different
stages of writing, editing, and compiling the heavenly revelation into a
book allowed Karaite exegetes to ascribe to him all the apparent mis-
takes and anachronistic remarks, along with all the unclear, strange,
or inadequate formulations that the Muslim polemicists so assiduously
sought out in the Hebrew Bible. All these dubious instances could easily
be understood and explained as additions or comments on the part of the
earthly mudawwin of the Holy Writ. By giving this figure a share in the
fashioning of the sacred text, medieval Karaites could successfully rebut
the Islamic arguments against the Bible and at the same time preserve its
holy character: it was committed to writing by a human, who not only did
not record it word for word, but also consciously edited the divine reve-
lation, adding his own explanatory remarks. Furthermore, the idea that
Scripture might not have been recorded fullythat apart from additions
it also contained omissions made by its earthly mudawwinaided in
refuting the allegations of abrogation. Admitting that words and passages
in the Hebrew Bible were purposefully condensed by its earthly author-
redactor, the Karaites could easily claim that God had never changed
His mind and that His Law had never been abrogated: it was simply not
recorded in full by its human recipient.71 Thus, paradoxically, in order to

69 See Frank, Search, p. .


70 On the role of Muslim polemics against the Bible in contributing to the emergence
of biblical criticism, see Lazarus-Yafeh, Criticism; see also idem, Ezra#Uzayr. I am
grateful to Prof. Yoram Erder for directing my attention to this article.
71 The ongoing debate among the early Karaites on the issue of whether or not the

commandments preceded the revelation was probably influenced by Islamic discus-


sions about the principles of abrogation (naskh), modification (bid#a), and falsification
or forgery (takhrf ). It entailed various questions concerning the differences between
the Torah of Moses and the Torah of the Patriarchs, and whether or not the Patriarchs
who preceded Moses practiced Gods commandments. As demonstrated above, Yefet was
inclined to think that at least certain commandments already known to Adam were not
recorded by the mudawwin. In general, the Karaites divided the commandments into
two categories: rational (#aqliyya) and revealed (sam#iyya), and they tended to agree that
the former existed from time immemorial, whereas there were divergent opinions with
regard to the latter. See, e.g., Erder, Conceptions and bibliography there. Cf. also Ben-
Shammai, Doctrines, I, pp. ; II, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Zucker,
Saadya, pp. ; idem, Genesis, pp. (Ar.), (Heb.). See above p. ,
n. .
chapter two

preserve the sanctified status of this timeless, immutable revelation and


its incontestable, unchanging validity as divine will encapsulated in the
form of the Holy Book, it was necessary to acknowledge the significant
role of the human factor in its shaping, as well as the appropriateness of
such an imperfect earthly presentation of the heavenly will.72

.. The Impact of Arabic Culture


Without doubt, contact with Arab culture had an enduring effect on the
development of Jewish culture in general, and Karaite exegesis in partic-
ular. It led to the introduction of new exegetical terminology, and inno-
vative tools and methods, as well as the refinement of old ones used
in biblical interpretation, and gave rise to the refocusing of the general
hermeneutic approach to the text. Nevertheless, this refocusing did not
entail the abandonment of rabbinic methods or an unquestioning, slav-
ish acceptance of new Islamic concepts, but rather a conscious and selec-
tive process of choosing and then innovatively adapting methods and
concepts from both of these reservoirs.73 Furthermore, the impact of
contemporary Arabic culture, mediated by the achievements of Greek
culture, had a bearing on the exegetes literary awareness, which led to
the emergence of new literary genres as well as entirely new fields of
study and scholarly interest, such as the art of writing. Thus the devel-
opment of the concept of mudawwin and his identity may also be seen as
a manifestation of this growing literary consciousness among medieval
Karaites.74
Moreover, it is conceivable that the complex Karaite concept of tadwn
as being comprised of various stages executed by more than one person
was influenced by Islams recognition of the historical process behind the
collection of the loose sections (s.uhuf
. ) of the Qur"an into the final version
of the complete text (mus. haf
. ), which was compiled by humans other
than the prophet Muhammad. and only during the time of the fourth
caliph, #Uthman. The elaboration of the concept of a biblical mudawwin

72 For a discussion of polemical reasons behind the rejection of the theory of human

editor(s) of Scripture by later Bible exegetes from Spain, see, e.g., Steiner, Redaction.
73 See, e.g., Astren, Understanding; Polliack, Karaism; idem, Rethinking.
74 On the direct and indirect influences of Islam and Qur"an exegesis on Karaism,

see, e.g., Ben-Shammai, Doctrines; idem, Kalam; Frank, Search, pp. ; Schwarb,
Meaning; idem, Kalam. On the possible influence of the writings of the Brethren of
Purity on the development of the concept of the mudawwin by the medieval Karaite
exegetes, see Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, pp. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

might also have been influenced by the Muslim historical scholarship that
endeavored, inter alia, to investigate the circumstances of the revelation
of particular verses or suras (asbab al-nuzul) or the origins of a given
hadth. 75
.

. Conclusion

Religious doctrine, as partially attested to by the Holy Writ itself and fur-
ther consolidated by widely accepted Jewish tradition, maintained that it
was God who inspired, and Moses who wrote down the Pentateuch. Nev-
ertheless, genuine intellectual reflection along with early Karaites grow-
ing historical and literary consciousness, and the polemic and apologetic
urge to defend the validity of Scripture from attacks by believers of other
religions raised objections to and challenged this simple, if not simplistic,
view.
It has been argued that certain medieval Karaite exegetes understood
and described the recording of the Prophets and Writings as a two-stage
process, differentiating between the original author of the book and a
later compiler-editor (mudawwin).76 In light of citations from different
commentaries on the Pentateuch analyzed above, it seems safe to assume
that some of these exegetes perceived the recording of the Torah in a like
manner.
It appears, however, that Yefet conceived the process of writing down
the Torah as an undertaking carried out in four stages that involved:
() God as the heavenly source of revelation and its original author
(i.e., its originator); () the prophet, as an earthly recipient of the divine
inspiration, its human author, fulfilling the function of the authorial
narrator or a storyteller who reportedsometimes in his own words,
other times quoting Gods exact utteranceswhat he heard from the
Creator; () the scribe or the recorder (who may or may not have been
identical with the prophet); and () the final compiler-editor or redactor
(who, again, may or may not have been identical with the two previous
individuals). Accordingly, this exponent of medieval Karaite exegesis,

75 For the use of the term tadwn in Islamic scholarship, see Juynboll, Tadwn, where

it is stated: In the science of hadth,


. the term (= tadwn) indicates the collecting of
traditions in writing in order to derive legal precepts from them and not as a mere
memory aid.
76 See above p. , n. . See also Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets, pp. ; idem,

Hosea, pp. . Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. .


chapter two

although he would never have admitted it openly, probably envisioned


the recording (tadwn) of the Pentateuch as a much longer and more
complex process than what he was willing to declare officially in formal
statements such as: Thus it is proved that Moses, may peace be upon
him, wrote down (kataba) the (entire) Torah.77
Yefet appears to have been aware that of these four distinct functions,
only the reporting and storytelling or narrating could be attributed
to Moses with no reservations. This does not mean, however, that in
Yefets opinion Moses did not also fulfill, at least partially, the other roles.
Nonetheless, he probably felt that these other functions could not easily
be attributed to the greatest of all prophets in an uncontested and clear-
cut manner. This is probably why the term mudawwin, encompassing all
the different functions without being inevitably associated with one con-
crete person, was such a useful and convenient inovation. It enabled him
to explain different internal textual (literary or other) phenomena, as well
as external, historical, and other circumstances related to the formation
of the Bible, without having to determine who was responsible for the
final edition of Scripture. It also allowed the exegete to avoid confessing
openly to an intuitive or scholarly opinion that might diverge from the
commonly accepted religious tenet, in keeping with Maimonides warn-
ing: It is right that a man should belong to that class of men who have a
conception of truth and understand it, though they do not speak of it.78
Hence the use of the term mudawwin in reference to the anonymous
editor of Scriptureother than Moseswas an aid to understanding, on
an intellectual level, the literary process behind the composition of the
Holy Writ without diminishing its importance.
As previous studies have shown, this novel concept, probably intro-
duced to Karaite exegesis by Ya#qub al-Qirqisan and subsequently
employed by a number of exegetes from the Jerusalem school, was devel-
oped significantly as an abstract literary and exegetic tool by Yefet. It
would be tempting, moreover, to assume that Yefet applied this term so
extensively throughout his Bible commentaries not only for theological-
exegetical concernsto credit someone else, other than Moses, as being
the earthly author-redactor or compiler-editor of the Torah in order to
explain textual difficultiesbut also as a way of genuinely acknowledg-

77 See above, p. , n. . On the contrast between more conservative theoretical,

exegetical positions, as expressed by certain exegetes, and their actual exegetical practice,
see Polliack, Voice, p. .
78 See Maimonides, Guide, p. .
yefets view on the authorship of the pentateuch

ing the limits of his knowledge and understanding about who was really
responsible for compiling the Torah into a book.
Having reached the conclusion that Moses was not the final redactor
of the Pentateuch, Yefet did not seem to be greatly concerned about the
identity of the editor. The part played by the anonymous mudawwin in
compiling and editing the Holy Writ did not diminish, in our exegetes
eyes, its importance as a divinely inspired text, nor did it divest Moses
of his role as the earthly originator of the Torah (but the teaching and
the instruction came from Moses). In our day, likewise, the work of an
editor and the changes he introduces to a manuscript do not undermine
the essential authorship of the work itself. In this sense, Yefet, though
he remained a true homo religiosus, was ready to accept the intellectual
conclusion that Moses did not produce the final version of the Torah.
As a Karaite, this was even easier for him, since he did not need to
stress the position of the Torah as the sole source of religious legislation,
or to emphasize its divine authorship to legitimize the validity of this
legislation.
The introduction of the human mudawwin, who played a more signif-
icant role than that of a mere scribe, copyist, or recorder of Gods words,
testifies to the growing historical and literary awareness of the medieval
Karaite exegetes, which was influenced by the achievements of the sur-
rounding Islamic culture. This concept may also be considered an out-
come of the internal Jewish debate over the nature and status of the Holy
Writ and the ways in which it should be interpreted, or as an intrinsic
element of Karaite hermeneutic conceptualization. At the same time, it
may also be understood as an apologetic endeavor to refute the Muslims
allegations against the Hebrew Script. Indeed, paradoxically, in order to
preserve the divine dimension of the Holy Writ and its heavenly origin,
it was necessary to acknowledge the active involvement of a human hand
in the process of shaping the final version of the biblical text, written for
humans, and therefore in human language and by humans.
Nonetheless, Yefets identification of someone other than Moses as the
final redactor of the Pentateuch was overstepping the bounds vis--vis
his own coreligionists, in addition to being a dangerous weapon for the
anti-Bible polemicists. It thus remains concealed under the ambiguous
term of al-mudawwin.
chapter three

IN QUEST OF TRUTH:
YEFETS HERMENEUTIC CONCEPTS*

In the most general terms, the purpose of biblical exegesis is to establish


and explain the meaning of divine revelation as preserved in the Holy
Writ. Yet this overriding aim can be achieved in various ways, depend-
ing to a large extent on the manner in which a given exegete perceives
Scripture, the methods he applies, the way he defines his own role, and
the provisional goals he sets for himself in the process of interpreta-
tion.
In this chapter, the introductions to the commentaries on the Five
Books of Moses by Yefet will serve as a point of departure for reconstruct-
ing the exegetes self-conception as a commentator of Scripture, in terms
of how he perceived his role as an interpreter of the Bible, the goals or
tasks he set for himself, and the methodology he used in his exegetical
undertaking.

. Rational Inquiry as a Divine Commandment

The midrashic exegetes confronted Scripture through the medium of


the Oral Law, which the rabbis equated with the Written Law. The early
Karaites, by contrast, reclaimed direct access to the Bible, which they con-
sidered the sole repository of the divine will (paralleling, to a certain
degree, the confession of the Protestant Reformation: sola scriptura).1
This anarchistic rejection of both the religious authority of the rab-
bis and the binding legacy of prophetic tradition represented by them

* A draft of this chapter was presented during the th Congress of Jewish Studies

(Jerusalem, August ). See Zawanowska, Concept.


1 On the Karaite desire to reinstate the revelational text as the sole basis of religious

practice, and reject the concept of received tradition as a complementary source of


religious authority, see Polliack, Karaism, esp. p. and bibliography there. Cf. Frank,
Scripturalism, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. . On the paramount role of
scripturalism in early Karaism, see Ben-Shammai, Controversy; idem, Return; Cook,
Origins; Polliack, Rethinking. On Yefets rationalistic scripturalism, see Wechsler,
Esther, pp. and esp. p. . See also below, p. , n. ; p. , n. .
chapter three

demanded that the Karaite commentators of that era propose an alter-


native, solid foundation on which to erect a new exegetical edifice. In
accordance with the Zeitgeist of the time, they acknowledged the uncon-
tested primacy of rational investigation as a fundamental premise under-
lying any exegetical activity and accepted human reason as a sufficient
replacement for the oral supplement,2 which rabbinic tradition con-
sidered indispensable for a proper understanding of the written Torah.3
The dominant role accorded to reason in the process of interpreting
Scripture is attested by the fact that it is the first divine commandment
quoted by Yefet in his vast commentary on the Pentateuch and the only
one cited in his introduction to the commentary on Genesis. As he
expounds:
(Some people) are ignoramuses and do not inquire in the best possible
way, for (if they did so), they would believe in what is required by rational
inquiry (al-nazar).
. (After all,) that is what our Master Moses, may peace
be upon him, commanded usto investigate attentively the knowledge
of the Creator, exalted and magnified, by means of reason, when he said,
know this day, and consider it in thy heart, that the Lord, He is God in
heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else (Deut :).
He thereby enjoined us to know Him by means of reason, and did not
therefore establish conclusive evidence for us in his Book concerning the
knowledge of the Creator, Magnified and Sublime.4
Thus, in Yefets view, reason is essential for gaining a proper under-
standing of the divine will so as to be able to live in accordance with

2 On the Oral Law perceived in rabbinic Judaism as the oral supplement to the

Written Law ( ), see, e.g., Baneth & Ben-Shammai,


Khazar, III:, p. . Cf. Halevi, Kuzari, p. .
3 Judah Halevi observes (per Baneth & Ben-Shammai, Khazar, III:, p. ):

 . (The view of the rabbis is


based on the tradition of Prophets; the other [i.e., the view of the Karaites], however, on
speculation alone. [trans. per Halevi, Kuzari, pp. ]). On the importance of reason
among the early Karaites in general, see, e.g., Gerson D. Cohens study of Ibn Da"uds Sefer
ha-Qabala (Book of Tradition), in Cohen, Qabbalah, p. , nn. , p. , n. , and
bibliography there. On the importance of reason according to Yefet and al-Qirqisan, see
Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I, pp. . See also Yefets comment on Prov :, where he
acknowledges that reason is the foundation (of everything) [i.e., it is the most important
thing off all] ( ), in Hacohen, Proverbs, p. . Cf. also Sasson, Proverbs,
pp. . On the traditional rabbinic source of authority as supplanted by rational
methods of interpretation by the early Karaites, see also Blumfield, Ruth, p. .
4 ( =)

( =)
.
(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). Cf. Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, II, p. ; Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

it.5 Elsewhere, he openly expresses his conviction that God gave human
beings both reason (#aql)which enables them to acquire knowledge
and earthly wisdom, i.e., rules of conduct (ma#arif al-hikma
. wa huwa
adab)6and revelation (sama#)conceived of as a different kind of wis-
dom accessible only through revelation (hikma
. ukhra wa-hiya "l-ma#rifa
min tarq al-sama#)as two indispensable and mutually complementing
means by which to prosper both in this world and in the hereafter.7 As
such, they constitute two pillars of religious life comme il faut, both of
them necessary, but each of them insufficient on their own.8

. Bible Study as a Religious Duty

While polemicizing against the Karaites, Judah Halevi stated that there
is no road to the knowledge of the commandments of God except by the
way of prophecy (i.e., prophetical tradition as deposited in the Oral Law
and represented by rabbinic authority), not by means of speculation and
reasoning.9
By interpreting the above quoted verse from Deuteronomy as impos-
ing upon the believer the duty of rationally investigating Scripture so
as to acquire knowledge of God, Yefet elevated these activities to the
heights of divine commandments and, apparently, a prerequisite for wor-
shipping God.10 In his view, moreover, this commandment was binding

5 On the paramount role of research and rational inquiry (al-bahth wa-"l-nazar), as


. .
opposed to tradition (taqld), see, e.g., Yefets comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea,
pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb), pp. (discussion)
and n. there. Cf. also Yefets comments on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah; Polliack,
Rethinking, pp. .
6 On Yefets understanding of this term, see also his comment on Eccl : in Bland,

Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.).


7 See Yefets introduction to his commentary on Proverbs in Gnzig, Proverbien, p. iii.

See also his comment on Prov : in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. , and in
Hacohen, Proverbs, p. . Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , (discussion), pp. (Ar.),
p. (Eng.). See also Yefets comments on Deut : in Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. ,
and on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.),
p. (Heb.), as well as his introduction to the commentary on Hosea in Birnbaum,
Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).
8 For Yefets acknowledgement of true or valid transmitted information (khabar

s. adiq) as the third source of knowledge, see his comment on Exod : in Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, II, pp. (Ar.); II, p. (Heb.). Cf. ibid., I, pp. ; II, viiiix, xivxv
(discussion).
9 (Per Baneth & Ben-Shammai, Khazar, III:, p. ):

. Trans. per Halevi, Kuzari, p. .


10 On the exegetes conviction that lack of knowledge may lead to sin and, therefore,
chapter three

upon every believer (that is what our Master Moses commanded us, he
thereby enjoined us). In accordance with this line of thinking, being an
exegete becomes a religious imperative for every Karaite.11
Similar convictions brought about the development of the Karaites
idiosyncratic egalitarian ethos of study according to which the respon-
sibility of investigating and interpreting the Bible no longer lies with the
trustworthy authority12 of the rabbis, but applies to every believer, each
of whom is not only allowed, but even obligated to study Scripture.
Yefet must have valued this ethos above all others. He probably took an
active part, if not in its creation, then at least in its popularization among
the Karaites, since it is in his commentary on the Minor Prophets that we
find the first mention of the famous saying attributed to the purported
forefather of the Karaite movement, #Anan ben David, exhorting believ-
ers to search Scripture diligently, without relying on my opinion.13

that it is the duty of the people (. . .) to acquire learning so that they may know their duty
toward God, see Yefets comment on Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p.
(Eng.). See also his comment on Prov : in Sasson, Proverbs, p. . Cf. ibid., pp. ,
. See also his comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. ; Polliack &
Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.), and on Jer : in Wendkos, Jeremiah,
p. . For Judah Halevis accusation against the Karaites to the effect that: a complete
knowledge of God must precede His worship (
), see ibid., Conclusion, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.).
11 See, e.g., Yefets comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schloss-

berg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).


12 Trustworthy authorities ( ) is what Judah Halevi calls the rabbis. See

ibid., III:, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). On Yefets habit of including and debating many
diverging opinions in his Bible commentaries and on this being congruous with the
principle of intellectual freedom with which the early Karaites operated, see Blumfield,
Ruth, pp. ; Khan, Diqduq, p. . On Yefets methods of debating the views of others
and presenting his own, see Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , .
13 See Yefets comment on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. Only the first part of this

citation appeared in an earlier manuscript written in Arabic script, whereas the second,
written in Hebrew, may have been an addition of a later copyist; see Ben-Shammai,
Recension, esp. p. . Cf. also Ankori, Karaites, pp. . On this statement and its
interpretation as meaning the absolute rejection of the Oral Law and unreserved return to
the Written Law, see also Poznanski, Anan (), p. . On the political implications of
this rallying-call, see Wieder, Scrolls, p. , n. . Cf. also Baron, History, V, pp. ,
n. ; Erder, Origins, I, p. , n. ; Frank, Search, pp. ; Gnzig, Proverbien, pp. ;
Khan, Diqduq, pp. ; Lasker, Judah Halevi, p. , n. ; Polliack, Tradition, p. ,
n. ; idem, Emergence, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, p. ; Simon, Approaches, p. ,
n. (Heb.), pp. , n. (Eng.); Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . See Judah Halevis
accusation of the Karaites (per Baneth & Ben-Shammai, Khazar, III:, pp. ;
III:, p. ): ( . . . )
( . . . )
. (Should Karaite methods prevail there would be as many different
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

. The Pedagogical Purpose of Cumulative Exegesis

Declining to rely unquestioningly on the opinions of #Anan or others


does not mean that they were ignored. On the contrary, according to
Yefet, anyone engaging in biblical exegesis must have a current acquain-
tance with the achievements of earlier as well as contemporary sages. In
this sense, he perceives Bible commentary as an ongoing andat least
temporarilyan open-ended process of acquiring knowledgeperhaps
until the advent of the teacher of right (interpretation) (more s. edeq).14
This process consists not only of studying the biblical text itself and
expressing ones own opinion about it, but also involves collecting and
analyzingand if need be, correctingpreserving, and transmitting
other sages opinions on Scripture.15 In the following part of his intro-
duction to the commentary on Genesis Yefet declares:
We will now commence translating the words of this Book and explaining
its meanings according to what we have heard from our teachers, the
exegetes, and what we have read in the books of the deceased (sages), may
God be pleased with them, as well as according to what we deem proper.16

codes as opinions. [. . .] The Sages are in concord, the Karaites in discord. And: Follow
not, therefore thy own taste and opinion in religious questions, lest they throw thee into
doubts, which lead to heresy. [trans. per Halevi, Kuzari, pp. , ]). Cf. with
al-Qirqisans testimony about the early Karaites hardly agreeing on anything, Kitab, I,
p. .
14 On Yefets self-perception as a link in the chain Karaite exegetical tradition, see

below, p. , n. . On the awaited teacher of right (interpretation) or teacher of


righteousness, viz., the prophet Elijah, see, e.g., Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v. See also
Yefets commet on Amos : in Marwick, Retribution, pp. , and the related
discussion in Tomal, Polemics, p. . On the teacher of right (interpretation) and
on this translation as a more accurate rendering of the Hebrew term more s. edek when
it appears in Karaite sources, see Polliack, Wherein, pp. , esp. p. , n. .
On the conception of the teacher of righteousness as an inspired exegete, see Wieder,
Scrolls, pp. . For the critical reappraisal of similar illuminational exegesis by the
Karaites, see Polliack, Wherein, p. .
15 Cf. Poznanski, Anan (), p. . This at least partial reliance on others opinions,

however, did not reflect a respect for the authority of tradition per se on Yefets part, that is
for exclusive rabbinic and institutionalized tradition, but rather an egalitarian approach
to exegesis, which allows for multiple, equally good options, provided they are all based
on linguistic competence as the sole source of authority. See above, p. , n. , and below,
p. , n. ; p. , n. . On the possibility of scholarly tradition serving Yefet as a kind of
substitute or replacement of rabbinic tradition, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. . For
al-Qirqisans view of the authority of tradition as based on the transmitted consensus of
the entire Jewish nation, see ibid., pp. .
16

( =)
(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ; Butbul &
chapter three

Thus the task of the exegete, as depicted in this passage, consists of


translating and interpreting the biblical verses while relying on three
sources: () the orally expressed opinions of other sages; () written
exegetical compositions; and () the exegetes own judgment.17 In his
introduction to the Book of Numbers Yefetapart from again evoking
his sourcesattempts to emphasize his own small contribution to the
development of biblical exegesis by explicitly calling himself a humble
disciple of previous and contemporary scholars and sages. To justify why
he nonetheless decided to compose his own commentary, he expounds:
We will now commence to explain the words (of Scripture) and provide
their meanings according to what we have heard and read in the books
of the sages, who exhausted their souls for the sake of the disciples, by
teaching and (writing) books, which we have read and from which we
have learned. May God reward them therefor, and make their position
(equal to) the position of those of whom it is said, And they that are
wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; (and they that turn the
many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.) (Dan :). We have
had the audacity to write what we have written not because we surpass
others; on the contrary, we do not equal them, being the least among their
disciples, who were admonished18 by them. Nonetheless, we have written
(this commentary) down19 for four reasons: first, because the way of every
disciple is to be meticulous (not) to20 forget anything he has heard, and to

Stroumsa, Genesis, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.). Cf. Polliack, Tradition, p. (Ar.), p.


(Eng.); Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , ; Wechsler, Esther, p. .
17 For similar statements acknowledging Yefets indebtedness to previous and contem-

porary scholars and testifying to his self-perception as a link between past and future
Karaite exegetes, see, e.g., his introduction to the Book of Exodus (Ms. SP IOS B,
fols. vr). See also Bargs, Excerpta, p. ; Ben-Shammai, Job, p. (Ar.), p.
(Heb.); Blau, Judaeo-Arabic, p. ; Blumfield, Ruth, p. ; Butbul, Ruth, p. (Ar.),
p. (Heb.); Hussain, Job, p. ; Margoliouth, Daniel, p. >=> (Ar.), p. (Eng.); Nemoy,
Anthology, p. ; Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p.
(Heb.); Schorstein, Rth, p. vi (Ar.) and p. , n. (discussion). Cf. Polliack & Schlossberg,
Hosea, p. , n. and p. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. . On apologizing for his audacity
in attempting to propose his own novel and original interpretations, and on the impor-
tance of bringing up new ideas despite the danger of error, see, e.g., Yefets comment on
Zech : cited by Poznanski, Anan (), pp. . Cf. also Vreugd, Zechariah. Cf.
Bargs, Excerpta, p. , n. ; Dukes, Mittheilunen, pp. ; Frank, Search, p. ; Polli-
ack, Karaism, p. ; idem, Emergence, p. ; Simon, Approaches, pp. (Heb.),
pp. (Eng.); Wechsler, Esther, pp. and , n. . See below, p. , n. ; p. ,
n. ; p. , n. .
18 For this meaning of the Ar. #abara, see Blau, Dictionary, p. b.
19 For this meaning of the Ar. athbata, see ibid., Dictionary, p. a. Cf. Ben-Shammai,

Mudawwin, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .


20 For this meaning of the Ar. verb shahaha, with the omitted negation no to be
. .
restored, see Blau, Dictionary, p. a.
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

be pleased to preserve everything that comes to his hands, by committing


it to writing; second, that we might mention what is (the most) pure of
all that we have heard; third, for the sake of something that the sources
brought to our mind (and) which we have deduced therefrom; fourth, (we
did so) at the request of some disciples, so that they might study it carefully
together, at any time. We seek help in this (undertaking) by the Giver of
knowledge, just as Solomon, may peace be upon him, said, For the Lord
giveth wisdom, (out of His mouth cometh knowledge and discernment) (Prov
:); He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright (He is a shield to them that
walk in integrity) (Prov :); and (as it is) said He giveth wisdom unto the
wise (and knowledge to them that know understanding) (Dan :).21

In fact, the four reasons Yefet provides to explain why he decided to


compose his own commentary on Scripture also constitute the four
provisional goals that he undertakes to fulfill throughout his exegeti-
cal endeavor: () to transmit and preserve acquired knowledge in writ-
ing; () to extract or select the best existing opinions; () to present
the exegetes own views; and () to provide a wide-ranging and use-
ful study aid, a handbook, for potential disciples.22 Exegetical composi-
tions are thus intended to serve pedagogical purposes and fulfill mainly a
propaedeutic role, preparing potential interpreters of Scripture for their
own struggle with the Holy Text. The exegete himself is conceived of as
a scholar-teacher whose task is to collect, present, assess, and pass on to
his pupils the best explanations and ideas, including his own.23

21


.

.
. .
.
( =)
(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
22 See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. v r. For Yefets mention of potential disciples

as an argument for writing a commentary and his intention to be concise and brief
for their sake, see Alobaidi, Isaiah, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.); Bargs, Excerpta, p. ;
Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. xxiii (Heb.), p. (Ar.). On Yefets intention to expound the
meaning of each verse in a concise yet sufficient manner, see his comment on Ruth :
(Blumfield, Ruth, p. ; Butbul, Ruth, p. [Ar.], p. [Heb.]; Schorstein, Rth, p. vi;
Nemoy, Anthology, p. ). Cf. also with Yefets comment on Dan : in Margoliouth,
Daniel, pp. op>qp> (Ar.), p. (Eng.). On the diametrically opposed assessments of
his commentaries as verbose vs. succinct, see also Birnbaum, Yefet, p. ; idem, Hosea,
p. xxiv; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
23 Yefets belief in the overall educative purposes of both the Bible and biblical exe-

gesis may be further demonstrated by the frequent appearance throughout his Bible
chapter three

According to these goals, the most appropriate form of Bible commen-


tary is an eclectic one, since it familiarizes the studenta future com-
mentator in the propaedeutic phase of his interpretative activitywith a
selection of the most accurate interpretations to-date in order to prepare
him for his own inquiry.24

. A Selective and Critical Approach to Sources

Such an aggregate conception of Bible interpretation, whereby the


exegete feels deeply indebted to other sages and meticulously collects
their interpretations in his own commentary, should by no means be
uncritical. Indeed, in his introduction to the Book of Genesis, Yefet
explicitly states:
Yet if (something) came from us inattentively or by mistake, we implore
God, the Supreme, to disregard it, for He knows of our purpose, that we
do not intend to diverge from the truth. Our purpose is to transmit the
most likely statements of sages and to omit faulty opinions that are not
drawn from the Book of God, the Supreme.25
Thus, in Yefets opinion, the Bible commentator should critically assess
the collected interpretations in order to transmit only the most accu-
rate among them. The unique criterion for omitting or including a cer-
tain opinion in the commentary is its intrinsic quality. In other words,
the interpretations or ideas are perceived as far more important than

commentaries of expressions such as we have learned by that (#allamna), it teaches


us (yufdna), etc. For the analysis of the didactic functions of Karaite Bible translations,
see Polliack, Tradition, pp. . Cf. also Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. . For
the didactic purposes of biblical narratives, see the discussion below, pp. ff. On Yefet
being perceived as a teacher and preacher, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , .
24 On the compilatory or eclectic aspect of Yefets Bible commentaries, see, e.g., Birn-

baum, Yefet, pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. viiixii; Wechsler, Esther, pp. , . On
his commentaries being considered eclectic or an encyclopedic inclusive compendium
of interpretations, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , . For Yefets assessment
that acquiring knowledge is a long process (made up) of degrees upon which the wise
individual climbs step by step, see his comment on Prov : in Sasson, Proverbs, pp,
. Cf. also ibid., p. .
:
25 ( =)


( =) (Ms. SP IOS
B, fol. v). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. ; Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis,
p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

their authors. This conviction is further emphasized by the fact that


Karaite exegetes quote alternative interpretations anonymously.26
The hermeneutical statement cited above, which acknowledges the
selective choice of quoted ideas in the quest for the one true meaning
of Scripture, is clearly reflected throughout Yefets exegetical praxis as
well as by his frequent confessions that although he knows many other
opinions, he decided to refrain from mentioning them because of their
unlikelihood.27

. Epistemological Principles of Biblical Exegesis

This critical and selective attitude towards both the exegetical legacy of
previous generations and contemporary interpretative achievements is
also closely connected with Yefets fundamental epistemological convic-
tions, his confidence in the progressive development of knowledge, and
his concept of one ultimate truth.28 Certainly every believing exegete
must accept the presupposition that the Holy Writ of his religion is of
divine origin and therefore perfect, meaningful, and entirely truthful, yet
each religious doctrine draws different conclusions from this assump-
tion.

26 Just like other Karaite commentators of his day, Yefet often quotes the opinions of

other exegetes referring to them by the Arabic term mufassir. Geoffrey Khan was the
first to point out this specifically Karaite practice and suggest the pedagogical purpose
underlying the anonymous citation, which encourages individual inquiry rather than
passive acceptance of authority and stresses that the value of a given opinion does
not depend on the authority enjoyed by its author. See Khan, Diqduq, pp. , .
Cf. Polliack, Emergence; idem, Karaism, p. . This Karaite practice contradicts
the rabbinic conception, which stresses the significance of quoting in the name of the
author, as encapsulated in the saying: Everybody who quotes in the name of the author
brings redemption to the world (m. "Abot :). On anonymous citations in Yefets
commentaries, see, e.g., Polliack, Trends, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. ;
Wechsler, Esther, pp. . See above, p. , n. ; p. , n. , and below, p. , n. .
27 See, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen :, where he states:

(Other unlikely interpretations of [this verse], have been proposed, but


I have abbreviated them.) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). Cf., e.g., with Yefets comments
on Amos : and Obad : in Marwick, Retribution, pp. , .
28 On one ultimate (God-given) truth, see Yefets comment in his introduction to the

commentary on Job in Ben-Shammai, Job, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.); idem, Doctrines,


I, pp. , ; II, p. ; Blau, Judaeo-Arabic, p. ; Hussain, Job, pp. xviixviii
(discussion), pp. (Ar.). See also his comment on Amos : in Marwick, Retribution,
p. , and on Jer : in Wendkos, Jeremiah, p. . On the Karaites belief that the
Bible ultimately possesses one true meaning, see Ben-Shammai, Between, p. ; idem,
Return, p. . Cf. Polliack, Tradition, p. , n. . On Yefets perception of Bible exegesis
chapter three

For the rabbinic authors of the Midrash, the perfection of Scripture


meant its omnisignificance in the sense that it contained no superflu-
ous elements, each detail being meaningful irrespective of its original
context.29 This approach allowed for a practically endless number of dis-
tinct, often contradictory, yet equally valid interpretations, each of them
thought of as legitimate reflections of countless distinct aspects of the
inherently all-encompassing, and thus multi-faceted, divine revelation.
In other words, the authors of the Midrash assumed that the very multi-
plicity of opinions inspired by the biblical text testified to its divine origin
and reflected the infinity of an all-embracing God.30
Unlike them, as we shall see below, the Karaites believed that the
divine Originator of Scripture wished to direct an unequivocal mes-
sage to humanity; He therefore formulated it in conventional human
language, subject to the rules of grammar and logic, in order to con-
vey one unambiguous meaning. For them, the divine perfection of the
revealed text was manifested in the fact that it possessed this one abso-
lute, original, and ultimate meaning, whereas the multiplicity of disparate
opinions merely reflected the limitation of human cognitive capacities
that could not grasp the truth.31 Furthermore, they cherished a belief
that this imperfect stage could change in tandem with the development
of human knowledge and understanding, which would consequently
facilitate the discovery of the sole, correct, and true significance of the
Bible. In the introduction to his commentary on Exodus Yefet again pro-
claims:
We implore God, the Sublime, to assist us (in our endeavor) to establish
the truth and to (provide) the proper (explanation of Scripture), for He
trieth the heart (and reins) (Ps :; per JPS, : PS :) and knows of

as a gradual process of acquiring knowledge and, thereby, approximating the truth, see
Simon, Approaches, p. (Heb.), p. (Eng.). Cf. with Yefets comment on Dan : in
Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. <=>p=> (Ar.), pp. (Eng.). Cf. also Birnbaum, Hosea, p. x;
idem, Yefet, p. ; Polliack, Rethinking, p. . See also above, p. , n. , and below,
p. , n. . On Bible exegesis as work performed under divine inspiration, see Wieder,
Scrolls, p. . For its critical reappraisal, see Polliack, Wherein, p. .
29 The term omnisignificance has been advanced and developed by James Kugel. See

Kugel, Idea, esp. pp. . Cf. above, p. , n. .


30 Cf., e.g., Heinemann, Methods, pp. ; Weiss Halivni, Exegesis, pp. ; Stern,

Midrash, pp. . On Karaite views concerning the possibility of Scripture possessing


multiple meanings, see, e.g., Ben-Shammai, Controversy; Drory, Emergence, pp.
; Gordon, Meaning; idem, al-Qumisi; Polliack, Emergence; idem, Karaism,
pp. ; idem, Trends, esp. pp. .
31 Cf. Frank, Scripturalism, esp. p. .
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

(our) intention to make an effort in the quest for truth (by searching) for
what is most likely among all the opinions that we have read in the books
of the previous sages and what we have heard from the present ones.32
Here our exegete again acknowledges his reliance on previous as well as
contemporary exegetical achievements in the quest for truth. Further-
more, it would appear that to Yefet the term truth had a very specific
significance, clearly defined by Scripture itself. In his introduction to the
Book of Deuteronomy he provides a precise explanation about the mean-
ing of this term, invoking biblical passages to support it. He states that
truth may signify two things:
The word truth (emet) bears two meanings. First, it is the plain sense (of
Scripture) (zahir),
. devoid of hidden (aspects) [or ambiguity] (bat. in), for
this word possesses a similar meaning in Daniel, when it is said And now
will I declare unto thee the truth (Dan :), to wit: And now I will inform
you (in) plain speech (kalam #ala zahirihi).
. For Daniel was listening to
things that had non-literal interpretations (ta"wlat), like the ram which
thou sawest (having the two horns, they are the kings of Media and Persia)
(Dan :), and the four living creatures that he saw. This time, however,
he saw nothing that has a non-literal interpretation (ta"wl) and heard no
speech that bears anything other than a plain meaning (z. ahir). Second,
it is (everything) that is not contradicted by reason, for the word truth is
found (in Scripture) possessing a similar meaning, as (Solomon) said, For
my mouth shall utter truth, (and wickedness is an abomination to my lips)
(Prov :), by which he means that reason is concurrent with the wisdom
of the Torah.33
Hence the term truth (emet) signifies two things to Yefet: () the plain
(literal, apparent, external) meaning of the text, devoid of secret, hidden,
or obscure aspects (or ambiguity); and () that which cannot be contested
by reason.

32 ( =)


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). For a similar comment, see Ms. SP IOS
A, fol. v.
33





(See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv).
chapter three

. The Literal-Contextual Approach to Scripture

This conceptualization of truth constitutes the most fundamental ele-


ment of Yefets overall exegetical approach, determining its main areas
of interest and providing the basic criterion for judging the validity of
the interpretations of other exegetes. Operating in tandem with the dis-
cussed below conviction that God revealed His message to mankind in
conventional human language is the implication that the best interpreta-
tion of Scripture (i.e., the closest to the truth) is the one that follows its
literal or plain meaning.
Ya#qub al-Qirqisan, Yefets predecessor, had already enumerated
thirty-seven hermeneutical propositions (funun) in the aforementioned
introduction to his commentary on the narrative parts of the Pentateuch,
Kitab al-Riyad. wa-"l-Hada"iq
. (The Book of Parks and Gardens). In the
second proposition he declares:
In the main, Scripture is to be (understood) literally, except for (the pas-
sages), whose plain (meaning) may imply something objectionable or
involve an ostensible contradiction. Only in these or similar cases, which
necessitate the abandonment of literal (exposition), as when, for instance,
a preceding or following passage requires it, is it necessary to abandon the
plain (meaning).34
According to al-Qirqisan, the only exceptions to the desirable and rec-
ommended literal exposition of the Holy Writ are those passages which
contain something objectionable or those contradicted by other scrip-
tural texts. In his comment on Genesis : Yefet makes a similar asser-
tion in a slightly different way, affirming that
it is necessary (for us) to follow the text according to its plain meaning,
unless there is some necessity that calls on us to interpret it figuratively.35
Hence, in Yefets view as well, the Bible should, as a rule, be explained in
keeping with its literal or plain meaning, unless there is a necessity to

34 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, pp. ): D-r  D&Q K?Ds \-t DC M K?Ds h-3 uD8 D"6. 

@. @F`7X ,-k !I8 76X  ,-k @C!W"X  _vC w.  K?Dx. K-y @. %`7X D-z d-e  w. Dk DQ @a#DEC
K?Dx. P3 KL M 5{E1' |1"' w.. Cf. ibid., p. (discussion); Nemoy, Anthology, p. (Eng.
trans.); Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . On the linguistic-contextual orientation of exegesis
already being present in Daniel al-Qumiss Bible commentaries, see, especially, the
studies of Nehemia Gordon (Gordon, Meaning; idem, al-Qumisi). Cf. also Goldstein,
Composition, pp. ; Polliack, Trends, pp. , ; Sasson, Proverbs,
p. , n. .
35 Text, p. *.
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

do otherwise. Yet he only provides a precise definition of this necessity


that may oblige an exegete to take recourse to a non-literal interpretation
in a different placehis comment on Daniel ::
It is not justified to abandon the plain meaning of the text of the words
of God or of His prophets, save where the plain meaning is obscure or
unacceptable, being contradicted by reason or by (other) unambiguous
text.36
Accordingly, an exception to the desired and strongly recommended lit-
eralistic approach is made for ambiguous passages37 that violate human
reason (#aql) or that contradict other, unambiguous passages of Scripture
(nas. s. ),38 since, as Yefet states in his comment on Genesis ::
The best (explanations) are (those) confirmed by the biblical text, so we
(should merely) search for ways to extract them in order to establish (the
meaning of) the Torah.39
An additional exception to the literal exposition of the Biblea necessity
which calls us to interpret it figurativelyis made for those scriptural
passages that employ metaphorical language and contain obvious similes.
In his comment on Ezekiel : Yefet expounds:
The (scriptural) texts should by no means be extracted from their plain
meaning, save for one of two (possible) reasons: either because reason

36 (per Margoliouth, Daniel, p.  !I8 ] @}D1FG 7# PC  RY [ 7# PC ~E. K?Ds RQ M _1FB ]

_WI. -8  @E18 \Q7X |XK- ~E. 5-V  w. !E3 H2I1Q @IQ!X H6- ~G  @IQ!X _WI. 76X 18 RE"TX  D"IX
H6- ~E. -8 . Cf. ibid., p. (Eng.); Frank, Search, p. ; idem, Scripturalism, p. ;
Wechsler, Esther, pp. .
37 For example, Jacobs dream in Gen : is ambiguous, since it cannot be explained

rationally and thus, in Yefets view, needs non-literal exposition. See Ms. SP IOS B,
fols. rv.
38 According to Saadia Gaon, there are four reasons for which it is permitted to

abandon the literal, apparent or external (zahir) . interpretation of Scripture for the sake of
its non-literal or allegorical exposition (ta"awl): () if ones sense of perception rejects it;
() if reason repudiates it; () if it is contradicted by another scriptural passage; () if it is
inconsistent with authentic tradition. See Saadia, Amanat, VII:, pp. . Cf. Saadia,
Book, pp. . See also Saadias discussion of these reasons in his introduction to
the commentary on the Pentateuch in Zucker, Genesis, pp. (Ar.) and pp.
(Heb.). On Saadias exegetical conception in general, and the concepts of zahir . and ta"awl
in particular, see Ben-Shammai, Tension. On the understanding of the term zahir . by
Saadia as meaning the authoritative reading of the biblical text, see Rippin, Sa#adya.
On Saadias interpretation of this passage and its rejection by early Karaite exegetes, see
Mann, Commentaries, esp. p. .
39 Text, p. *. See also his comment on Deut : in Sokolow, Deuteronomy, pp.

. For Yefets criticism about not relying on the scriptural text or interpreting its words
independently of a broader context, as voiced in his comment on Zech :, see Poznanski,
Anan (), p. . Cf. Vreugd, Zechariah. See above, p. , n. ; below, p. , n. ; p. ,
n. .
chapter three

rejects it (i.e., the literal exposition) and declares it impossible; or because


the text is (intended as) a simile (annahu mathalan madrub .
an), like the

passage about a great eagle, etc. (Ezek :) and the passage (beginning
with the words), Behold, I will kindle a fire in thee, etc. (Ezek :), as
well as other (biblical) passages wherein similes are indicated by (obvious)
hints40 and by (their) location in a (specific) place (i.e., in a pericope or
book containing metaphors), like the Song of Songs and that which is of
the same kind.41

Thus Yefet is convinced that it is not only rational consideration and the
internal integrity of Scripture as a whole, but also the literary genre of
particular biblical books determines the way they should be interpreted.
Yet aside from these exceptions, the exegete should not, in his view,
depart from literal interpretation, no matter how unusual the events
described by the Bible, his role being merely to extract the sense from
Scripture.42
This limited literalistic approach to the Bible, which is demonstrated
by Yefets attempt to produce, as far as possible, a close Arabic translation
and his overall tendency to elucidate Scripture according to its plain
sense, does not, however, imply a slavish reliance on the literal meaning
of particular words and expressions irrespective of their context, for
such absolute literalness would lead to a misreading of the Bible.43
On the contrary, Yefet appears to be fully conscious that in biblical
Hebrew, as in all conventional, human idioms, the meaning of individual
semantic units is dependent on and determined by the context. He clearly
acknowledges this in his commentary on Genesis ::

40 Cf. Blau, Dictionary, p. b.


41 (per Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ):
: :


.
42 Yefets consistency in implementing this hermeneutic principle can be seen in his

comment on the mysterious covenant Between the Parts in Gen :, in which he


attacks Saadia Gaon for having delved unnecessarily into an allegorical explanation of the
cut up animals, comparing them to the four kingdoms and interpreting the entire passage
as an allusion to the resurrection of the dead. Similarly, Yefet refrains from mentioning
the allegorical explanation (ta"wl) for Gen : found in other Karaite commentaries,
i.e., that it is an allusion to future events regarding the four kingdoms that will rule
over Israel and the messianic victory over them. Text, p. ** and **. For a
discussion of this explanation, see below, p. and n. there. See also below, p. ,
n. . For a comparison of sources, see, e.g., al-Qirqisans lengthy, allegorical exposition
of this passage in Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. vv or a much more succinct
interpretation provided by the Talkhs. in Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rv.
43 Cf. Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. .
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

Scripture frequently condenses [or elides], and therefore (its meaning)


depends on what is in the (broader) account.44
Thus, Yefets so-called literalistic approach is at its core contextual, since
it assumes that it is the context that determines the significance not only
of particular words or expressions, but also of longer phrases, pericopes,
and entire passages. One of the crucial tasks of the exegete is therefore to
decipher this context by thoroughly analyzing the structure of the biblical
text.

. Hermeneutical Tenets Underlying


Yefets Exegetical Approach

One of the most pertinent hermeneutical tenets underlying Yefets over-


all approach to Scripture is his conviction that the Bible, including the
Pentateuch, was revealed and written down in conventional human lan-
guage. Otherwise, it would be impossible to understand it with the aid of
reason and conventional tools such us grammatical, semantic, or struc-
tural analysis.45
The idea of divine revelation addressing mankind in human language
was well-accepted at the time, having been popularized by Muslim ratio-
nalist theologians who adhered to mu#tazilite philosophy.46 Yet the con-
cept itself is much older, having already appeared in a famous rabbinic
dictum ascribed to Rabbi Ishmael, according to whom the Torah speaks
in the tongue of men ( ).47 This dictum found

44 Text, p. *. Cf. Polliack, Trends, p. . For further examples, see below, pp. ff.
45 For the general assertion that Yefet conceived of the biblical language as an expres-
sion of a universal (conventional) language, to which may be applied the conventional
tools of linguistic and literary analysis without undermining the belief in the Divine ori-
gin of Scripture, see Polliack, Trends, p. . On the dialectical tension inherent in the
belief in the divine origin of the content of Scripture and its human form, shaped by the
earthly author-redactor (mudawwin), and on different ways of dealing with this tension,
see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Zawanowska, Dialectical.
46 Already in the Qur"an God Himself asserts (Sura :): @C7# D&28 ] 7B PC DE2B DC

H-V -F1. (We have sent no messenger save with the language of his own people so that he
makes [the divine message] clear to them). On mu#tazilite influence on Yefet, see Ben-
Shammai, Doctrine, I, pp. ; II, p. xliii; idem, Trends, pp. ; Birnbaum,
Yefet, pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. xvxix; Hussain, Job, pp. iii, xxvii; Sasson, Proverbs,
pp. , , ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. , n. , p. , n. , p. , n. ; Wendkos,
Jeremiah, p. xii; Wechsler, Esther, pp. . Cf. also Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. viii; Sirat,
Thories, pp. . For Yefet making explicit reference to mu#tazilite philosophy, see his
comments on Isa : and Ps : in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. , .
47 See b. Ber. b. We do not know exactly how the rabbis understood this statement
chapter three

its way into medieval Karaite exegesis and was even quoted verbatim by
Ya#qub al-Qirqisan in the aforementioned introduction to his commen-
tary on the narrative portions of the Pentateuch. In his fourth exegetical
proposition he states:
Scripture speaks to men in a manner accessible to their understanding and
according to what had become customary for them (in communicating)
between themselves. This is the meaning of the rabbinic dictum, The
Torah speaks in the tongue of men (b. Ber. b).48
For al-Qirqisan this principle served, first and foremost, to clear God
of the charge of anthropomorphism. According to al-Qirqisan, in order
to be understood by human beings God intentionally spoke about Him-
self in the Bible using anthropomorphic expressions because people are
familiar with them from personal experience. The original purpose of
this proposition was therefore to solve exegetical difficulties within the
text by enabling a reconciliation between the theological tenet of the
Creators incorporeality and the anthropomorphic descriptions of Him
in the Holy Writ. Yet this statement also has an important ramification
for ones overall approach to the Bible: it implies that God formulated
the message He directed to humanity in a language akin to their own,
so that they could comprehend it. Al-Qirqisan goes on to assert that
God speaks to men in a manner adapted to their reason and accessi-
ble to their understanding.49 He is thus convinced that divine revela-
tion, as encapsulated in Scripture, was fashioned in conventional human
language, for otherwise it would not be accessible to their understand-
ing.
Although Yefet never overtly states, as al-Qirqisan did, that God or
the Torah speak in human language, it is possible to infer from comments
scattered throughout his commentary on Genesis that he holds a similar
opinion. This can be seen in his repeated efforts to elucidate the meaning

and very often we tend to interpret it anachronistically, through the prism of the later
Spanish school of exegesis, which used this statement as a kind of proof-text for its
hermeneutic concept of literal exegesis (peshat. ). On this rabbinic concept and its
different meanings in the history of Jewish Bible exegesis, see, e.g., Weiss Halivni, Exegesis,
pp. . On its possible influence on Karaite exegesis, see, e.g., Goldstein, Beginnings,
p. , n. and pp. ; Polliack, Wherein, pp. ; idem, Rethinking, p. ;
Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. and n. there.
48 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisani, pp. ): !# DC  H0"QKIC @2FY -1' PC DE. %IDL D"6. 

P-1GD8K. 7# AEIC 7? 5?  H0E-18 /-1-Q H-D3 @8 K`. Cf. ibid., pp.
(discussion); Nemoy, Anthology, pp. .
49 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisani, p. ): H0QDIC @2FY -1' PC  72WI-X -1' PC DE. %ID-X [ .

Cf. ibid., pp. (discussion); Nemoy, Anthology, p. .


in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

of biblical verses in accordance with the rules of Hebrew linguisticsbe it


grammar, lexicography, or coventional usage (idioms)and to establish
the most likely interpretation on the basis of similar considerations.
An apt example of Yefets acceptance of the possibility that God
adopted human linguistic conventions to express His intentions may be
found in his comment on Genesis :, where he attempts to explain
why God, in talking about Himself, uses the plural form. To solve the
exegetical (theological) problem posed by the unusual formulation of
the Makers wish to create mana formulation that may suggest a mul-
tiplicity of creatorsYefet quotes the opinion of another exegete and
states:
Another opinion about (the statement) Let us make man (v. ) is that God
alone pronounced it, though He said Let us make man according to the
convention well known among linguists whereby the ruler may say, Let
us do and Let us make, even though he is one (individual). Similarly,
we have noted Daniel, may peace be upon him, saying, and we will tell
the interpretation thereof before the king (Dan :), even though he alone
interpreted the dream. And were someone to say (that in the latter case) the
proof was established by the fact that Daniel alone interpreted the dream, it
may be responded to him in like fashion (that) the proof that God (alone)
created man is adduced (from) the verse, And God created man (v. ),
as well as from the statement, He created him (v. ). For it does not say
(And) they created (man), created they (him). Moreover, it says about
Eve, I will make him a help meet for him (Gen :), not, We will make
and she is included in His declaration, Let us make man (v. ). So too it
says, And God created man in His own image (v. ), not, in their own
image. Thus we learn that His words Let us make man in our image, after
our likeness (v. ) constitute a convention of language, and do not imply
(that) God had an associate in His Creationnot to mention that this
would be rationally inconceivable.50

50




.
.

(Ms. SP IOS BO, fols. rv). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I,
pp. ; II, pp. . Cf. also below, p. , n. . See also Yefets comment on Gen :
(text, p. *). For the study of various interpretations of this passage provided by Yefet
and other Karaite exegetes of the time, see Fenton, Image, esp. pp. .
chapter three

Yefet therefore firmly believes that it was God and He alone who
said Let us make, and that He said so about Himself using the plural
form, a linguistic convention in human languages that permits the use
of the plural form in reference to one individual when that person is
particularly august and distinguished (pluralis majestatis), such as a ruler.
Accordingly, Yefet appears convinced that God, who addresses mankind
in His Scripture, employs the human idiom in a purely conventional
way.51
This conviction is repeated in various places throughout Yefets com-
mentary on the Pentateuch. For example, in his comment on Deuteron-
omy :, he explains how it was possible for God to say about the idol-
aters idols that they did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine
of their drink-offering. To explain this theologically problematic formu-
lation pronounced by God, Yefet states:
The statement is formulated in a way to be believed (true) by their (= the
idols) worshippers.52

This comment testifies to Yefets belief that the biblical expression does
not really mean that the idols actually ate or drunk something, since this
is unacceptable by virtue of reason, but rather that it was formulated
in this manner so as to be comprehensible to the addressees of the
divine message. In other words, God formulated His revelation in human
language in the sense that He adapted it to both the linguistic conventions
and the mental capacities of the people to whom it was addressed.53

51 The same verse is used by al-Qirqisan in his twelfth exegetical proposition as an

example that sometimes the Bible uses the plural form in the sense of singular and vice
versa. He states (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisani, pp. ): 7TI. K- ~- K-X !# D"6. 
7- K- 7TI.  (Scripture expresses the singular using plural and the plural using
singular). Cf. ibid., p. (discussion). Saadia Gaon also affirms that the Hebrew language
allows for using the plural form when referring to an august person (pluralis majestatis).
As a proof-text he quotes Gen :, Num :, and Dan :. See Saadia, Amanat, II:,
pp. . Cf. Saadia, Book, pp. . When commenting on Gen :, Sahl ben
Mas.liah. simply states that irrespective of the plural form, it was God alone who created
man, as it is said male and female created He them (Gen :). See Ms. SP RNL Evr. Arab.
I , fol. v.
52 (per Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. , fols. rv):

. Cf. ibid., p. (Heb.), p. xviii (discussion). See also Yefets comments on Deut
:, in Sokolow, Deuteronomy, pp. , , and his comments on Dan
: in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. poo (Ar.), p. (Eng.), on Eccl : in Bland,
Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.), and on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. Cf. Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. , .
53 Another example in which Yefet explains the meaning of certain biblical expressions

that God uses according to their commonly accepted meaning in conventional Hebrew
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

In Yefets view, therefore, Scripture was formulated in conventional


humanthough undoubtedly holylanguage as the most convenient
vehicle for transmitting the divine message to humanity. Hence it may be
elucidated with the aid of conventional tools, be it grammar, rhetoric, or
logical-contextual deduction; and humans, being equipped with reason,
are not only capable of, but even naturally predisposed to interpret it
correctly.

. The Ideal of Comprehensive,


yet Focused Bible Commentary

To fulfill the overriding purpose of establishing, by means of reason,


the one true meaning of Scripture, Yefet utilized and brought to per-
fection the innovative Karaite model of threefold running commen-
tary, which best suited his hermeneutical agenda. As described above
(pp. ff), this structure consists of three interdependent layers or enti-
ties: the original Hebrew verses, their translation into Arabic, and the
commentary sensu stricto. It also reflects the three interconnected disci-
plines that come together to systematically and methodically disentan-
gle the biblical text with the aim of determining its literal-contextual

and in keeping with the requirements of its grammar may be adduced from his comment
on Gen :: When God says And ye shall be circumcised (v. ) shall be circumcised
among you, every male (v. ) must needs be circumcised (v. ), He does not mention the
instrument with which to cut (the foreskin). Yet, we have noted God saying to Joshua:
make thee flint cutting-tools (harawot)
. (Josh :), it being a necessary (requirement) to
circumcise with flint cutting-tools. The translation of flint cutting-tools is sharp knives or
every tool (made) of iron, with which the cutting is possible. For we have found that the
word cutting-tools applies to every iron tool which cuts, including a sword, which is a
common word; a knife; a chopping tool, known as an ax, as it is said for if thou lift up thy
cutting-tool upon it, thou hast profaned it (Exod :). Thus every iron tool which cuts is
called a cutting-tool in the Holy Tongue. So when (God) says here cutting-tools and does
not single out a knife, nor scissors neither any other (tool), He permits us to circumcise
with every tool (made) of iron, for the meaning of flint is sharpness, like Yea, Thou turnest
back the flint of his cutting-tool (Ps :). Similarly, the statement Then Zipporah took a
flint (Exod :) means a sharp tool (made) of iron. And His order (directed to Joshua is)
to make cutting-tools (is formulated in the plural) because the people were numerous and
they needed cutting-tools that would be sharp, so that they could cut rapidly. For if His
words flint cutting-tools were to indicate scissors, as some sages claimed, as He expressed
it in the plural form, we would have to say that Zipporah opposed His words, (as it is said)
Then Zipporah took a flint, for (in her case) (Scripture) says a flint and it is (expressed) in
singular form. Text, p. *.
chapter three

meaning:54 () philology (for the grammatical analysis of the source text);


() translation (limited literalist-imitative while adhering to the strictures
of grammatical analysis); and () interpretation (primarily rationalistic,
literal-contextual, relying on the translation).55 Yefet asserts:
Our intention was (to provide) a translation of the words of Scripture and
an explanation of its meanings according to what its words require, and
we did not occupy ourselves with what goes beyond our aim by entering
into (different matters, i.e., unrelated to the Bible), as other commentators
did.56
Here Yefet harshly criticizes other exegetes who instead of sticking to the
biblical text and its interpretation delve into other subjects not directly
connected to Scripture, such as descriptions of various theories or refu-
tations of diverse opinions. As opposed to them, Yefet limits himself, he
declares, to the faithful translation and interpretation of the biblical text.
In his commentary on Genesis : he reiterates:
Our purpose is to translate (every) verse and to provide its meaning, and
we will not occupy ourselves with anything else.57
In other words, Yefet acknowledges that his aim is to produce a properly
focused commentary and not a kind of encyclopedia of knowledge
in which are discussed a variety of subjects not directly related to the
text.

54 Cf. Birnbaum, Yefet (), p. ; idem, Hosea, p. xxxiv; Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. xxi;

Polliack, Tradition, p. ; idem, Trends, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets,


p. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. .
55 On linguistic competence being thought of by the early Karaites as a prerequisite

for proper translation and interpretation, see below, p. , n. .


56

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. (Ar.); Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, p. (Ar.),
p. (Heb.). Cf. Polliack, Tradition, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). For a discussion of this
passage and the possibility of identifying the commentator mentioned with Saadia Gaon,
see ibid., pp. . For the suggestion that Yefet might have been referring here to Ya#qub
al-Qirqisan, see Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, pp. , n. . For this citation as
alluding to Dawud b. Marwan al-Muqammis., see Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . For the
possible identification of al-Muqammis. as a Karaite, see Stroumsa, Maqala, pp. ;
Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . For Yefet making explicit reference to al-Muqammis., see
his comment on Ps : in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. .
57 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

. Following the Holy Text

In his comment on Genesis : Yefet again describes his exegetical ap-


proach:
My method is to follow the text and to act in accordance with what is
obligated by the Revered Text.58
This statement may mean that both the translation and the interpre-
tation should adhere to the biblical source text in several senses: ()
both should proceed verse by verse (running commentary that literally
follows the text); () they should not stray from the literal-contextual
meaning by entering into allegorical explanations or discussing vari-
ous subjects unrelated to the biblical text; and, finally, () the inter-
pretation should correspond with the translation and vice versa (the
translation is the result of Yefets understanding of the given verse
that is, its interpretationwhereas the interpretation is dependent on
translation).59
Indeed, on the purely graphic level, Yefets commentaries literally fol-
low the Hebrew source text in the sense that he translates and inter-
prets the Bible verse by verse. Only in a few cases does he stray from this
method and comment on a larger group of verses. For instance, while
expounding on chapter five of the Book of Genesis he first provides the
Hebrew source verses, , accompanied by their translation into Ara-
bic, and only after that interprets all of them at once. Yet, being consis-
tent in his exegetical strategies, Yefet feels obliged to justify this deviation.
Hence, he explains:
We have arranged the lineage of these nine generations one after another,
since the meaning (of them) is equal, so we will mention (the meaning of
all of them) together.60
An exception to this rule is Yefets comment on Genesis :,
where he refrains from translating the biblical verses into Arabic alto-
gether. He limits himself to providing a short explanation of their mean-
ings, dividing them into pericopes of two verses. This is probably due to

58 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).

Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ; Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, p. (Ar.), p.


(Heb.).
59 Cf. Polliack, Tradition; idem, Views.
60

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


chapter three

the fact that all of them follow an identical pattern And X lived so-and-
so years, and begot Y; And X lived after he begot Y so-and-so years, and
begot sons and daughters, so there is very little information that needs
to be clarified in translation.

. Pragmatic Aspect of Bible Exegesis

Among the medieval Karaites, the ethos of study (i.e., both teaching and
learning) and the importance of acquiring knowledge in the quest for
truth, along with their perception of reason as a prerequisite for these
pursuits, can hardly be contested. However, the scope of knowledge that
Yefet was interested in acquiring was apparently rather limited, being
restricted to the knowledge of the Creator, exalted and magnified, and
His Law, since this knowledge is indispensable for serving God obedi-
ently, with a view to meriting His reward and avoiding His punishment
in the hereafter.61 In a similar vein he explains the meaning of the term
Torah:
We maintain that the meaning of the deisgnation Torah is instruction
and guidance, for man learns from it and is guided by it towards all the
benefits of this world and the hereafter.62

In the introduction to his commentary on Deuteronomy Yefet notes


that God created the world for the sake of the positive and negative
commandments,63or, as he states elsewhere, the world was created

61 Cf. with Yefets comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schloss-

berg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.). Yefet states elsewhere that study has two purposes:
() to know the commandments; (). to know the end (qes. ). In his view, this knowledge
can only be acquired by means of research (bahth) . and inquiry (nazar).
. See his comment
on Dan : in Margoliouth, Daniel, p. >> (Ar.), p. (Eng.). On the earthly benefits
of information provided in the Pentateuch, including its narrative portions, as well as
its benefits for human beings in the hereafter, see, e.g., Yefets introduction to the com-
mentary on Deuteronomy (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vv). Cf. also Vajda, Commentaires,
p. .
62

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). Cf. below, p. , n. .


Cf. with Yefets comment on Amos : in Marwick, Retribution, p. .
63 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). See also Ms.

SP IOS B, fol. v. On Yefets conviction that God created man in order that he may
know Him, fear Him, and observe His precepts, see the exegetes comment on Eccl :
in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, p. . On Yefet
perceiving obedience to God (t. a#a) as a fundamental religious value and the best thing
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

for the sake of the Law (al-shar#a)64whereas the benefit of the Torah
consists in the teaching of these commandments to man.65 Thus, not
only is the study of Torah limited, but it is also not disinterestedthat
is, it is not pursued for its own sake, but serves the ultimate purpose of
discovering Gods will in order to carry it out.66 In the introduction to his
commentary on Exodus Yefet praises Karaite scholars who:
did not seek knowledge for the sake of earthly leadership, but in order to
establish the truth (so as to be able to) implement (it) with all delight, as it
is said, Make me to tread in the path of Thy commandments; for therein (do
I delight) (Ps :).67
As opposed to the rabbis who elevated the Oral Law to the heights of
divine revelation, the Karaites believed that the sole repository of Gods
will accessible to human beings was the Bible.68 In their hierarchy of
study, therefore, the examination of Scripture came before everything
else, all of which was subordinate to it. As Yefet states elsewhere: the
wisdom of Torah is above everything.69

that man can do, see, e.g., his comment on Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.),
p. (Eng.). See also the exegetes comment on Joel :, where he explicitly states that
Israel needs to deserve (yastahiq)
. its special God-given position and the gift of prophecy
by means of obedience (Marwick, Retribution, p. ).
64 (per Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ): . Cf.

Yefets comment on Hos : (wherein he calls the Torah your cure and your health) in
Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).
65

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


66 In his commentary on Ps , Yefet enumerates three benefits of studying the Torah:

. It helps to draw the believer away from reading other books; . it prevents the Torah
from being forgotten; . it enables the implementation of the divine precepts contained
within it. See Bargs, Excerpta, pp. (Ar.), pp. (Lat.). On Yefets conviction that
men are distinguished from beasts because they are under the commandment of God
and the Day of Judgment, and do not follow their passions like the beasts, which have
no discernment (tamz), or reckoning (hisab),
. or Scriptures (kitab), see his comment on
Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). Cf. Avni, Balaam, pp. ;
Vajda, Commentaires, p. ; Mann, Texts, p. .
67

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r ). Cf. Polliack, Rethinking,


p. .
68 On the reversal of the traditional Jewish hierarchy of studies by the early Karaites,

see Drory, Emergence, pp. . See also above, pp. ff.


69 . Cf. Vajda, Commentaires, p. . On the importance of

knowledge, see ibid., p. . See also above, pp. ff. and ff. This statement reverberates
the old rabbinic dictum: . See m. Pe#ah :.
chapter three

Moreover, our exegete believed that the Bible contains everything that
man should know, all the truth.70 He thought of it as a kind of exhaustive
manual that teaches a person how to live; without it he would resemble
someone wandering in the wilderness, unable to find his way.71 Thus,
according to Yefet, each passage of Scripture, even its non-legislative,
narrative portions, is meant to teach us something, and it is the role of
exegete to discover and elucidate this teaching.72

. Beneficial Purposes of Biblical Narratives

The question may yet be asked: What benefit do the stories included
in the Book of Genesis possess for the believer, since they are, after all,
almost devoid of divine commandments? In other words, why, from the
exegetes point of view, were the narrated stories recounted and included
in the Holy Writ?
There should be no doubt that Yefet perceived the mere fact of their
inclusion as the result of a conscious, well-thought-out decision and
a purposeful, intentional act. Time and again, he gives expression to
this belief by indicating the reason for including a certain report or
mentioning a particular detail. A good example of such an attempt on
Yefets part is seen in his comment on Genesis :, where he states:
After (Scripture) had completed (recounting) the story (qis. s. a) of the sev-
enteen years (of hunger), wherein it informed (us) how the affairs of
Egypt developed during (these years), it returned to its purpose(viz.,)
to inform us about the stories of our fathers, in order to connect them one
to another.73

This passage demonstrates that to Yefet the purpose of the narrative por-
tions of the Pentateuch was to recount the stories of the forefathers of the
Jewish nation, whereas all the digressions not directly related to these

70 On Yefets perception of the Bible as containing all the truth, see Vajda, Commen-

taires, p. . On Yefet perceiving the Torah as a kind of litmus test for checking the
veracity of different concepts and doctrines, see his comment on Prov : in Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. . See also above, p. , n. and p. , n. .
71

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


72 On Yefets belief that the biblical mudawwin included or omitted certain passages

in Scripture on the basis of the didactic-moralistic criterion, see Polliack & Schlossberg,
Hosea, pp. .
73

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

accounts are subordinate to the aforementioned, overriding purpose,


serving primarily as a background to them. The conviction that bibli-
cal narrative is intentionally limited to these stories is further corrobo-
rated by other statements found in Yefets commentary on Genesisfor
instance, the one on Genesis :, where he elucidates:
After (the mudawwin) had completed (reporting) the stories (akhbar) of
Abraham, he commenced to connect to them the stories of Isaac. That is
why he opened (the verse) with the vav of conjunction (i.e., And these are
the generations of Isaac, Abrahams son [v. ]). Yet he omitted (ikhtas. ara)
recording the stories of the sons of Keturah and Ishmael, since the purpose
of the mudawwin was to bring together the stories of our origins (us. ulina),
and also because he did not wish to preoccupy us with the stories of
those (other descendants of Abraham), which are like the stories of the
rest of the world. Rather, he mentioned for us the reports about the
forefathers (al-awliya") that possess benefits for us (as their descendants),
and for this reason he omitted (ikhtas. ara) mention of (the stories of)
those (other descendants of Abraham) and mentioned (only) the stories
of Isaac.74
From this citation it is clear that in Yefets view the purpose of recounting
the biblical stories is not to provide the reader with extensive knowledge
about the history of the world and its inhabitants as such, but rather
to preserve only the stories of the forefathers of the Jewish nation
specifically those that possess benefit for future believers, the descendants
of the righteous biblical characters.75
One may then ask: What is the benefit of recounting these particu-
lar stories about the forefathers to future generations? And why did our
exegete believe that recounting them, one after another, was so impor-
tant? Did the mere fact that they have been retold and thus preserved

74



(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. v
r). Cf. Polliack, Trends, p. . On the term al-awliya, see Wendkos, Jeremiah, p. .
75 It should be noted that, although in the case of Genesis Yefet appears convinced that

the books purpose was exclusively to preserve the edifying stories of the forefathers
of the Jewish nation, in the case of other biblical books he does not adhere to similar
religios-ethnic criteria for the selected pericopae, stating instead that some of them were
intended to preserve the stories of the righteous regardless their origin. Such is the case
regarding the story of Job, whom Yefet considers to be a non-Jew. See his introduction to
the Book of Job in Ben-Shammai, Job, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.); Blau, Judaeo-Arabic, p. ;
Hussain, Job, p. . On Yefets open and inclusive attitude towards the representatives of
other nations, provided that they are righteous monotheists, see Polliack & Zawanowska,
Canaanites.
chapter three

constitute a purpose in and of itself, or does their inclusion in Holy


Scripture serve some other, more lofty purpose? The answer to these
questions can be found in Yefets comment on Genesis :, where he
explains:
(God) obligated the (following) generations to remember (these stories)
so that they might serve as His proof (hujja)
. for them, that if they follow
in the footsteps of the righteous, they will succeed, as Solomon, may peace
be upon him, said: That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, etc. For
the upright shall dwell in the land, etc. (Prov :), and (as it is) said:
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him, etc. (Isa :). But if
they follow their own passions, their souls will not be protected (and God)
will punish them by the strongest punishment, as it is said: Woe unto the
wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him
(Isa :).76

Hence, the benefit of including the stories of the forefathers who received
rewards for their pious behavior was didacticnamely, to establish them
for future generations as an argument or proof (hujja). demonstrat-
ing that it is not only good and advisable, but also beneficial to be righ-
teous, whereas it is not only bad and abominable, but also dangerous to
be wicked. The aim of providing such proofor exemplumwas to
convince people to emulate the pious forefathers and to follow in their
righteous path, while avoiding wickedness.
Similarly, the didactic purpose in recounting and preserving these sto-
ries emerges from Yefets comment on Genesis :, where the exegete
attempts to answer the question why God decided to test Abraham:
We must know that God, Blessed and Supreme, does not need to try
people, nor to test them, for He declares the end from the beginning (Isa
:). Rather, He tested (Abraham) for (the sake of) the inhabitants of
the world in the course of the (future) generations, for He, the Almighty
and Exalted, knew that Abraham would obey him in everything that He
would order him, as it is said, and You found his heart faithful (before
Thee), etc. (Neh :). So He tested him for (the sake of) the inhabitants
of the world, in order to inform people of the (future) generations about
his obedience to God, that they might repent with him and follow in his
footsteps. So too Job, may peace be upon him, was tested with respect to his
progeny and his property, as well as his own body, that his obedience and

76

( =)

(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). Cf. Polliack, Conception, pp. ;
idem, Voice, p. .
in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

the excellence of his perseverance might become evident, that the people
(who read of him) might then follow in his footsteps and persevere in trials
and vicissitudes like these.77 God also brought about (similar trials) for
people of distinction (from among) the most excellent, that the inhabitants
of the earth benefit from (their example).78
According to Yefet, therefore, the purpose of ordering Abraham to offer
his beloved son as a burnt offering was not to test him, since God, being
omniscient, does not need to test people, knowing in advance whether
they would obey His orders or not. Rather, the purpose of the trial was
didacticnamely, to demonstrate Abrahams obedience to other people
in order to encourage piety in them by presenting him as an example to
them, that they might follow in his footsteps and imitate his righteous
behavior.79
Moreover, the reward for emulating the righteous forefathers is not
limited to prosperity in this world, as Yefet asserts in his comment on
Genesis ::
This is a teaching for the (future) generations, that they might follow it
and gain life in this world as well as in the hereafter, as it is said, That thou
mayest walk in the way of good men, (and keep the paths of the righteous)
(Prov :).80

77 The Midrash and later rabbinic Bible exegetes also made comparisons between the

figure of Abraham and that of Job. See, e.g., Gen Rab. , ; Rashi, ad loc.
78 Text, p. *. For a similar idea expressed by Yefet in his commentary on Job, see

Ben-Shammai, Job, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.); idem, Doctrines, II, p. ; Blau, Judaeo-


Arabic, p. ; Hussain, Job, p. . Saadia Gaon also emphasized that this trial is meant to
demonstrate to believers that God chooses only perfect people after having tested their
obedience and that not everyone is capable of being as perfect as Abraham. Moreover,
Saadia is convinced that the trial should increase Abrahams reward. See Zucker, Genesis,
p. (Ar.), pp. (Heb.). On the pedagogical value of the Bible even in terms of its
form, conceived by Saadia as being ordered in the best pedagogical way, see Goldstein,
Composition, esp. pp. . The authors of the Talkhs. are also of the opinion that
God tempted Abraham to show his great obedience to God. See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab.
I , fols. vr.
79 For additional examples of Yefets being convinced that Scripture records only what

is instructive or beneficial for the reader, see above, p. , n. and p. , n. . Cf.


also with his comment on Dan in Margoliouth, Daniel, p. op (Ar.), p. (Eng.). On
Yefets searching for the ethical meaning of the Bible, see Lehrman, Jephet, p. . About
similar guiding principles behind what is included in the narrative noted by the authors
of the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. .
80 Text, p. *. Interestingly, unlike Yefet, who provides a didactic explanation of Gen

, the Talkhs. and Ya#qub al-Qirqisan interpret this chapter in an allegorical manner as
an allusion to the four kingdoms and their final defeat by the Messiah. Cf. above, p. ,
n. , and below, p. and n. there. See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. vr;
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rv. Cf. Gen Rab. , .
chapter three

In keeping with this pedagogical perspective on biblical narrative,


Yefet is of the opinion that if a certain account had no value for mankind
in terms of its moral intent, it would not have been included in Scrip-
ture. This is eivdent from his commentary on Genesis :, where he
asserts:
Since there would be no benefit for us from mentioning the stories about
the generations from Seth to Noah, (Scripture) omitted mentioning
them.81
Hence, the purpose of including the stories of the pious forefathers in
the Bible was didactic, inasmuch as they were intended to serve as mor-
alizing examples of righteousness to be followed by future generations
of believers. Indeed, in the introduction to his commentary on Proverbs
Yefet maintains that, apart from the Pentateuch, there is no book that can
be compared with Proverbs in terms of encouraging the acquisition of
knowledge and moralsi.e., rules of conduct and good manners (adab),
which the exegete equates with wisdom (hikma). 82
.

. The Restricted Interdisciplinarity


of Biblical Exegesis

Despite the fact that medieval Karaites believed that Scripture contained
everything that man should know, they acknowledged that it was impos-
sible to understand it properly without having recourse to other scholarly
disciplines, such as grammar, geography, history, etc.83 Nonetheless, all
of them, in Yefets opinion, play merely an auxiliary role in the process
of interpreting the divine revelation. Furthermore, he labels the study
of certain other branches of knowledge not related to the Bible and not

81 Text, p. *. For another example of Scripture (or its author, whoever he may be)

omitting what is not beneficial for the reader, see above, p. , n. . Cf. also with Yefets
comments on Dan : in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. > (Ar.), p. (Eng.), and on Esth
: in Wechsler, Esther, p. , (Ar.), p. (Eng.).
82 ( =) . See

Gnzig, Proverbien, p. v. Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , n. (discussion), p. (Ar.),


p. (Eng.). For a comparison between wisdom (hikma). and morals (adab), see Gnzig,
Proverbien, p. iii. For Yefets rendering the Arabic term adab as morals (musar), see his
translation of Job : in Ben-Shammai, Job, p. ; Hussain, Job, p. , and of Prov :;
: in Hacohen, Proverbs, pp. , .
83 For quasi-scientific explanations provided by Yefet in his Bible commentaries, see,

e.g., Simon, Approaches, pp. (Heb.), p. (Eng.).


in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

necessary for gaining an understanding of it as not only superfluous, but


even dangerous.84 In his introduction to the Book of Genesis he harshly
criticizes other commentators, like the one85 who
has filled his commentary with the opinions of the heretics, the dualists,
the philosophers, and the skeptics, having engaged in their refutation.
By embellishing his book with (their views) he went beyond his (initial)
intention (to explain the plain) meanings of the words of Scripture and
touched upon dangerous matters, engaging in what our master David,
may peace be upon him, disapproved when he said, neither do I exercise
myself in things too great, or in things too wonderful for me (Ps :). He
thereby corrupted the interpretation (of Scripture) departing from what
the explication of (its) words requires of us and describing the Creation
according to the opinions of the Gentiles and what is mentioned in their
books, which contradicts the meaning of the Book of God, the Sublime.86
From this passage it appears that Yefet considered the study of various
disciplines and branches of knowledge that were unrelated to the Bible
and nonessential for understanding it as not only an unnecessary waste
of time, but even a dangerous matter. He likewise cautions elsewhere
against pursuing secular knowledge for its own sake or for penetrating
Gods secrets.87

84 On Yefets aversion to the study of secular sciences for their own sake and his

advice to minimize the study of such things, since they are not among the things that
are beneficial for the life of the world to come, see his comments on Eccl :, , in
Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. , , (Ar.), pp. , , (Eng.), esp. p. . On Yefets
anti-intellectualism, see Vajda, Commentaires, p. . Cf. also Ben-Shammai, Doctrines,
I, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , , , . See also below,
pp. ff.
85 By referring to another exegetes commentary without mentioning the authors

name, this passage is another illustration of what is sometimes called the Karaite egalitar-
ian ethos of studying the Bible, where, in contradistinction to rabbinic Judaism, diverse
interpretations and concepts are quoted and discussed anonymously, so as to empha-
size their inherent value, which does not stem from the authority or reputation of their
authors. See above, pp. ff. and also p. , n. ; p. , n. ; p. , n. . For various
possible identifications of this another commentator, see above, p. , n. .
86


. ( =) ( =)

( =) (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). Cf.
Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ; Butbul & Stroumsa, Genesis, pp. (Ar.), p.
(Heb.).
87 Cf. Vajda, Commentaires, pp. and .
chapter three

. The Limits of Human Knowledge

Not all biblical passages, however, are easily elucidated by means of


reason, for, as our exegete admits in his comment on Deuteronomy :,
He, the Magnified and Sublime, knows the truths of all things, whereas
men can know (only) some of them.88 In such cases Yefet proposes to
refrain from providing an answer, and instead of vain speculation he
prefers to remain silent about what cannot be rationally explained. Most
frequently, he limits himself in such places to succinct statements like,
Blessed be the One who knows the truth (barukh yode# emet), or,
Blessed be the One who knows the secrets (barukh yode# nistarot).89
In his commentary on Job : our exegete openly acknowledges that
per definitionem not all kinds of knowledge are available to man:
In this verse he (i.e., Zophar) indicates that God has wisdom and knowl-
edge that men cannot attain, for there are three kinds of wisdom and
knowledge. (First is) the kind God gave to men, who know it partly by rea-
son and partly through revelation, and its essence is revelatory. The second
kind is more restricted than the first one, God sometimes allowing men to
acquire it, and concerning it he says: And that He would tell thee the secrets
of wisdom, etc. (Job :). The third kind is the most restricted and deep-
est of all, God divulging nothing of it to men, and concerning it he (i.e.,
Zophar) says: Canst thou find out the deep things of God? (Job :).90

88 (per Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. ):


. Cf. with Yefets comment on Job :, wherein he states:

(The meaning of this verse is that man perceives [only what is] apparent, but does not
know what is concealed, whereas the Creator knows [both] the apparent and the hidden
[aspects of things]). See Hussain, Job, p. .
89 See, e.g., Mss. SP IOS B, fol. r, SP IOS B, fol. v, SP IOS B, fol. v.

For additional examples as emerging from Yefets commentaries on other biblical books,
see Yefets comment on Esth : in Wechsler, Esther, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.) and his
comment on Jonah : ( ) in Marwick, Retribution, p. . See also
his comments on Zech :; : in Vreugd, Zechariah. On the exegetes conviction
that man cannot fully understand the wisdom of God and that he should seek the
knowledge of those things which reach him through the senses or which God has revealed
in His Scriptures, but not become engrossed in seeking out things too great and too
marvelous so that he perishes, see his comment on Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p.
(Ar.), p. (Eng.). See also his comments on Eccl :; : in ibid., pp. ,
(Ar.), pp. , (Eng.). Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , . See also Yefets
comments on Dan :, in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. n<, <=< (Ar.), pp. ,
(Eng.).
90 (per Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ):



in quest of truth: yefets hermeneutic concepts

In light of this passage it becomes clear why, according to Yefet, silence


may sometimes be the most appropriate response to exegetical or theo-
logical conundrums, which he usually labels by the biblical expression as
things too great and too wonderful (gedolot ve-nifela#ot; Ps :).

. Conclusion

The ultimate purpose of any religious person is to live according to Gods


will. Knowledge of Gods will must precede worship of Him in the sense
that a person must know what God wants from him in order to be able
to comply with His will. The sole repository of this will, the early Karaites
believed, was the Bible, which they perceived as possessing one ultimate,
true meaning and containing everything that mankind needs to know
in order to be able to live properly. Furthermore, they were convinced
that studying and interpreting Scripture is a religious imperative for every
believer.
Accordingly, all of Yefets exegetical undertakings stemmed from the
sense of duty that he must learn Gods will so as to be able to com-
ply with it; thus it served a very pragmatic purpose. At the core of
his exegetical approach, as well as that of other, contemporary Karaite
exegetes, was the conviction that God formulated His message, which
was directed to humanity, in conventional human language so as to be
understood by the earthly recipients of His divine revelation, for its pur-
pose was, after all, didactic. Indeed, the perception of Scripture as writ-
ten in human language underlaid their overall limited-literal, linguistic-
contextual approach. Yefet believed, moreover, that the Creator equipped
His creatures with reason as a basic tool for understanding His revelation.
In accordance with these two fundamental assumptions, Yefet defines
the term truth as the plain meaning (z. ahir) of the Bible, which con-
forms with the evidence of human reason (al-#aql). The role of the
exegete, therefore, consists of discovering, or at least approximating, this
truth by means of a rational, limited-literal, linguistic-contextual (as
well as structural) analysis of Scripture based on sound philology and
in conformity with the rules of logic. In order to achieve this ultimate
aim, Yefet assigns Bible exegetes four provisional goals or tasks: () the
study and transmission of previous as well as contemporary exegetical


.
chapter three

achievements; () a critical assessment and selection of the best interpre-


tations; () the formulation of ones own opinion; and () the composi-
tion of a commentary that fulfills pedagogical functions. Hence, Yefets
concept of the exegete resembles that of the scholarly teacher who pre-
pares the next generations of exegetes for their own studies of the Holy
Text, and by doing so contributes to the progressive development of
knowledge. To fulfill this pragmatic purpose, he produces a comprehen-
sive yet focused running commentary whose threefold structure provides
potential scholars with the Hebrew source text and its Arabic translation,
while at the same time acquainting them with the selection of the best
i.e., most likelyinterpretations.
In this sense, Yefet envisioned biblical exegesis as a quasi-science,
firmly grounded in reason, progressively developing over time, pos-
sessing clear-cut parameters for determining the veracity of proposed
interpretations, and informed by other scholarly disciplines. In keeping
with these exegetical guidelines, he preferred to refrain from interpret-
ing those biblical passages that he could not subject to the well-defined
hermeneutical tenets described above.
chapter four

BETWEEN THE HOLY TEXT AND ITS UNHOLY CONTEXT:


POLEMICAL OVERTONES IN
YEFETS COMMENTARY ON GENESIS*

It would not be an exaggeration to say that nearly all Jewish writing in the
medieval period was in one way or another commentary on Scripture.1
Little wonder, then, that this all-encompassing exegetical activity was
not always a neutral, objective discipline aimed at discovering the true
meaning of the Holy Writ. In reality, Bible commentaries often served
the quite mundane interests of their authors, being used and abused as
weapons for polemics to prove or disprove disparate religious claims.2
Especially in the case of a new religious movement, it seems reasonable
to expect that its adherents would attempt to find legitimation for their
innovative religious tenets in Scripture, if not its very existence.
Apparently Yefet was well aware of this common trend of interspersing
the interpretation of the Holy Writ with unholy matters unrelated to
the Bible. Therefore, as we saw above, at the very beginning of his vast
commentary on the Pentateuch, this well-known supporter of a rational
and linguistic-contextual, or limited-literal approach to exegesis declared
thatunlike other exegetes, who filled their commentaries with diverse
opinions and engaged in their refutationhe would not go beyond his
aim of translating the words of Scripture and explaining their meaning

* A draft of this chapter was presented at the st Annual Conference of the Associ-

ation for Jewish Studies (Los Angeles, December ).


1 For similar reflections concerning Jewish writing as a whole throughout history,

see, e.g., Harold Blooms Foreword to Yerushalmi, Zakhor, where the author states:
Till today nearly all subsequent Jewish writing has been commentary upon Scripture,
however indirect (p. xxiv). And: their Jewishness consists in their intense obsession
with interpretation, as such. All Jewish writing tends to be outrageously interpretative.
(. . .) What Jewish writing has to interpret, finally, and however indirectly, is the Hebrew
Bible, since that always has been the function of Jewish writing, or rather its burden
(p. xxiii).
2 Cf. with Gerson Cohens remark that history, too, was not always a neutral discipline;

it often served as a weapon for religious polemics, being used (or it would be better to
say abused) to prove or disprove the validity of disparate religious claims. See Cohen,
Qabbalah, p. .
chapter four

according to what its words require.3 Along with this declaration, Yefet
depicted what he regarded as an ideal Bible commentary: it should focus
only on the interpretation of Scripture with the aim of finding its true
meaning, and not diverge from this main, holy task to discuss or refute
diverse opinions unrelated to the text at hand.4
The above notwithstanding, it seems reasonable to question whether
Yefet really managed to completely avoid entering into different matters
and engaging in their refutation.5 In this chapter we will therefore
scrutinize Yefets massive commentary on Genesis in order to verify: first,
whether Yefet was indeed able to completely refrain from polemicizing
against specific individuals or religious movements, irrespective of the
theoretical declaration about his genuine quest for the best interpretation
and despite the ethos of anonymous citation; and second: the object of his
critique, if it nonetheless turns out that he was prepared to temporarily
desist fromas he puts itthe translation of the words of Scripture and
explanation of its meanings according to what its words require so as
to enter into polemics. Finally, an attempt will be made to address the
question: Why did Yefetin a limited number of cases, and contrary to
his habit of anonymous quoting and avoiding polemicsdecide to cite
certain opinions in order to refute them while mentioning the name of
their authors.6

3 Cf. above, p. , n. .
4 See Yefets comment on Gen :, where he apologizes for engaging into polemics,
his goal being to interpret Scripture (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). Cf. Sklare & Batat,
Catalogue, p. ; Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. [] [= (), p. ; =
Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. For the assessment that Yefet clearly distinguishes between
his role as an exegete and his role as a polemicist, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp. and
n. there.
5 For the assessment that Yefets Bible commentaries in general, and his commentary

on Genesis in particular, are replete with polemics, see, e.g., Hirschfeld, Nahum, pp. ,
where the author states: One might say that Jefeth began his task (= writing commen-
taries on the Bible) with the primary object of refuting Sa#adyahs expositions. This, at any
rate, is the impression gained by the perusal of his commentary on the Pentateuch. Cf.
also Lehrman, Jephet, p. ; Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. [] [= (),
p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. For a more moderate view on this matter, see, e.g.,
Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , .
6 For the exceptions to this general tendency in Yefets commentaries on other biblical

books, see, e.g., Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. >=><=> (Ar.), p. (Eng.) (Ibn Bakhtaw,
Benjamin, ben Yeruhim, . in a comment on Dan ); Poznanski, Anan (), pp.
(#Anan, Benjamin in a comment on Zech :). Cf. also Vreugd, Zechariah. See above,
p. , n. ; p. , n. ; below, p. , n. .
between the holy text and its unholy context

. Christianity

It is very probable that Yefet and other Karaites alike were acquainted
with Christian Bible exegesis, and that certain Christian concepts or
interpretations might have influenced them. One of the important figures
of the time, Dawud b. Marwan al-Muqammis. (first half of the ninth
century), may have contributed to the circulation of Christian ideas
among (Judaeo-)Arabic speaking Jews,7 and Yefets above-mentioned
critical remark may have been directed towards him.8 In his commentary
on Genesis, however, Yefet refers directly to Christians and their doctrine
only twice, both times while commenting on the problematic expression
let us make man in Genesis :. He asserts:
We know that the statement let us make (man) in our image, after our
likeness (v. ) is an idiom (lit. convention of language) and that God
did not have a partner in His Creationnot to mention that this would be
inconceivable with respect to reason. Many sages have already refuted the
Christians who think that the expression in our image, after our likeness
reinforces (the Christians) claim (about) the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Spirit. Yet, we need not refute our Gentile adversaries, since many
commentators have already done so and also (because) the Gentiles refute
one another. Rather, we should (only) refute (the opinion of one) who
agrees with us concerning the Sender (of the divine message, i.e., God),
the messenger (i.e., Moses), and the message (i.e., the Bible). And we will
not go beyond that, so as not to spoil the commentary.9
This quotation may be thought of as paradigmatic for Yefets overall
approach to polemics, since it establishes the precise identity of those
with whom he intends to polemicize. According to this statement Yefet

7 See Stroumsa, Maqala, esp. pp. . For al-Qirqisans views on al-Muqammis, see
.
al-Qirqisan, Kitab, p. ; Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. (Ar.); Nemoy, Anthology, p. (Eng.
trans.). For a quotation in al-Qirqisan identified as being from Christian teachings, see
Chiesa, Creazione, pp. . For Yefet citing al-Muqammis. views, see Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, I, p. ; II, pp. , ; Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. xvixvii; idem,
Yefet, pp. ; Munk, Mlanges, p. , n. ; Vajda, Commentaires, p. , n. . For the
influence of Syrian Christianity on the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ;
idem, Composition, pp. .
8 See above, p. , n. .
9




(Ms. SP IOS B
fols. ba). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. (Ar.) and its partial Heb. trans. in
ibid., I, p. . Cf. also above, p. , n. .
chapter four

intends to enter into discussion with and refute only the opinions of
those who share his fundamental religious tenetsnamely, a belief in the
same God, His prophet Moses, and the Hebrew Bible. Throughout his
vast commentary on Genesis Yefet consistently refrains from engaging
in the refutation of Christian beliefs as such and mentions them explic-
itly in only one other place in his manuscript.10 There he alludes to the
belief in the Holy Trinity just to state that certain sectarian interpreta-
tions have the advantage of effectively refuting this particular Christian
concept.11

. Rabbinic Judaism and Jewish Sects

Rabbinic Judaism and its spiritual leaders, the rabbis, seem to be the most
obvious target for Yefets polemical attacks. As opposed to Christians,
they share with the Karaites the belief in the same Sender, messenger,
and message; therefore, those of their concepts which Yefet finds faulty
need to be refuted. It is noteworthy that although the early Karaites
undermined the binding nature of rabbinic authority and its interpreta-

10 For an example of possible hidden polemic against not so much Christianity per

se as the Christian interpretation of the Bible, see Yefets comment on Gen :: It is


not possible to think that the words And the Lord appeared unto him (by the terebinth
of Mamre) (v. ) (refer to) three men, (for) in the statement at the end of the chapter:
And the men turned from thence, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before
the Lord (v. ) (Scripture) informs (us) that the people left, whereas the Glory (of God)
remained. Therefore, the opinion of someone who thinks that (Abrahams) words My lord,
if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, (from thy servant) (v. )
were (directed) to the three men, and that (Abraham) called (the Glory of God) by three
men, is false. Thus it is confirmed that (the statement) and the Lord appeared unto him
(v. ) (refers to) the Glory (of God) that appeared to (Abraham), (and) not the three men.
Text, p. *. This comment on Yefets part can be understood as bearing polemical over-
tones directed against the Christian exposition of this passage, which tended to identify
the three messengers as the allegorical representation of the concept of the Holy Trinity.
This interpretation must have been well-known at the time, since it is also mentioned and
refuted by Saadia. See Saadia, Amanat, II:, pp. . Cf. Saadia, Book, p. . For other
examples of Yefets polemical remarks directed against Christianity, see, e.g., Yefets com-
ments on Dan : and : in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. <np, >>np> (Ar.),
pp. , (Eng.). See also Auerbach, Proverbiorum, pp. ; Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, II, p. and its partial Heb. trans. in ibid., I, p. (ad Ps :), and
ibid., II, pp. (ad Obad :), (ad Ps :), (ad Ps :),
(ad Ps :); Marwick, Retribution, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Wend-
kos, Jeremiah, pp. , . Cf. Margoliouth, Daniel, p. vii, n. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. ,
n. .
11 See below, Yefets comment on Gen :, p. , n. .
between the holy text and its unholy context

tions of the biblical text as encapsulated in the Oral Law, they did not
reject rabbinic tradition and its exegetical legacy in toto. It was the status,
not the content of the Oral Law that remained a bone of contention
between Karaites and Rabbanites.12

.. The Rabbis
Not surprisingly, this fundamental dispute also finds expression in Yefets
composition. When commenting on Genesis : Yefet enters into
a virulent and lengthy polemic against the rabbis concerning questions
related to the calendar and its calculation. He vehemently criticizes not
so much the way the rabbis interpreted this passage as the rabbinic con-
vention of using the Mishnah as a proof text.13 Yefet accuses Rabban-
ite Jews of claiming that the Mishnah, like the Bible, is a Holy Scrip-
ture transmitted by God through the prophet and written down by the
human compiler-editor (mudawwin).14 In his view, this attitude towards
the Mishnah resulted in the acceptance of incorrect interpretations con-
tained within it as binding law for the community of believers.

.. Saadia Gaon
Yefet not only refers to rabbinic Judaism as a whole and its leadership
in general, but also to its most famous and influential representative at
that time, namely, Saadia Gaon. Yefet refers to Saadia by his well-known
honorific, the head of the Academy (ra"s al-mathba [= Heb. ro"s ha-
yeshba]),15 or simply as the man (al-rajul) or this man (hadha "l-
and quotes his opinions in order to refute them. The most striking
rajul),
examples of such an explicit reference to Saadia and his works are found

12 See especially Polliack, Rethinking and further bibliography there. Cf., e.g., Pol-

liack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. . See also above, p. , n. , and below p. ,
n. .
13 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). The entire

polemic spans many pages, roughly fols. . On similar comments made by Yefet
in his comment on Zech :, see Wechsler, Esther, pp. , n. and pp. , n. .
See also his comments on Zech :; :; :, , in Vreugd, Zechariah. See
above, p. , n. ; p. , n. ; p. , n. . For examples of Yefets polemics against the
rabbis as emerging from his commentaries on other biblical books, see, e.g., his comments
on Ps : in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. , on Jer : in Wendkos,
Jeremiah, p. , and on Dan : in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. =>> (Ar.), pp.
(Eng.).
14 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
15 See Poznanski, Writings, pp. .
chapter four

in the context of halakhic discussions concerning the calendar.16 Since


all of Yefets legislative polemics against the famous gaon are lengthy and
have all been discussed by Samuel Poznanski, inter alios, I will refrain
from quoting them here, limiting myself to mentioning that at the end of
one of these refutations, Yefet simply states that Saadia and his followers
have exhausted their arguments against the Karaites, who know the
truth.17
Apart from the passages of his commentary on Genesis where he
refutes Saadias halakhic views, Yefet mentions him two more times. Both
instances concern hermeneuticsi.e., the way in which Scripture should
be interpreted. In the first, Yefet refutes Saadias non-literal interpretation
of the enigmatic covenant Between the Parts described in Genesis
::
When the Head of Yeshiva was distracted he made the heifer (represent)
the kingdom of Chaldees, the female goat, the king of Greece, and the
ram, the king of Persia and Media, but he became confused about Edom
and Ishmael. Once he said that a turtle-dove, and a young pigeon (v. )
were Edom and Ishmael, whereas another time he said that the turtle-dove
represented Edom and Ishmael together and (that) the young pigeon stood
for Israel.18

16 The most striking example of such an explicit reference to Saadia Gaon and his work,

mentioned, it must be noted, under the title Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction), is
found in Yefets comment on Gen :, which constitutes a thorough refutation of the
gaons ideas concerning the calendar (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rr). Throughout this
refutation Saadia is called the man (al-rajul). See Poznanski, Opponents (), pp.
, par. [] [= (), pp. , ; = Birnbaum, Studies, pp. , ]. Another long
refutation of Saadias ideas, also related to the calendar, is found in Yefets comment on
Gen :, where our exegete discusses the chronology of the flood and mentions not
only Saadias Kitab al-Tamyz, but also his Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation) (Ms. SP IOS
B, fols. rv). For the discussion of this passage, see Poznanski, Opponents (),
p. , par. [] [= (), p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. Similar ideas concerning
the calendar and various Jewish festivals (Pesah, Shavuot, Sukkot) are also refuted by Yefet
in his comment on Gen :, where he again mentions Saadias Kitab al-Tamyz
(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rr). See Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. []
[= (), p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. For other examples of Yefets polemical
remarks directed against Saadia, see his comments on Exod :; : in Ben-Shammai,
Doctrines, pp, , . On Yefets overall approach to Saadia, see Birnbaum, Yefet,
pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. xxxxi; Hirschfeld, Nahum, pp. ; Hussain, Job, pp. lxxviii
lxxxix; Lehrman, Jephet, pp. , ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. ; Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. xi; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. , pp.
.
17


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).
18 Text, p. *. On the concept of four kingdoms in Jewish tradition, see, e.g., Cohen,
between the holy text and its unholy context

After having pointed out all the internal incongruities of such an


interpretation, Yefet concludes:
All of this indicates (Saadias) confusion with regard to this passage. Had
he proceeded with (the texts) literal meaning (zahir),
. as is his method in
many places, wherein he opposes people who without hesitation abandon
the literal meaning of Scriptures for the sake of (their) allegorical expla-
nation (ta"wl), he would have been safe from this big slip. Yet the exile is
darkness in which everyone becomes confused.19
In the above citation Yefet refutes Saadias non-literal interpretation of the
biblical text. Not only does he oppose the very idea of explaining these
particular passages figuratively, but also points out internal incongruities
within the framework of the non-literal interpretation proposed by the
gaon, which would be inadmissible for Yefet, even if he had decided to
interpret this passage metaphorically.
Yefet refers to Saadia a second time in his comment on Genesis ::
When the Head of Yeshiva realized what (the literal interpretation) of
this story compelled him (to do), he folded it over and thought that (the
expression) and they did eat (Gen :) could refer to Ishmael, Abrahams
servants, and women, (whereas the first part of the statement) and he
stood by them under the tree, and they did eat (Gen :) (would refer
to Abraham). Dont you see (that) Abraham, may peace be upon him,
stood at the head of (both) his servants and his son (and therefore would
not serve them)? Moreover, if it were possible that (the personal pronoun
them in the phrase) and he stood by them indicated three men, whereas
the verb and they did eat referred to (some) other people, (the statement)
And they said unto him (Gen :) should refer to the people who ate
[i.e., according to this interpretation, Ishmael, Abrahams servants, and
women], for (the latter passage) is the closest to (the former) in the
immediate context. Furthermore, how would it be possible to say and they
did eat and ascribe this verb to the people (who have) not been (previously)
mentioned?20
In both of the above-quoted passages Yefet does not polemicize against
Saadias religious convictions, nor does he attack him as a representative

Qabbalah, pp. . On Yefets interpretation of this concept, see Yefets comment on


Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. See also Margoliouth, Daniel; Sokolow, Negation. Cf.
also above, p. , n. and p. , n. .
19 Text, p. *. See Poznanski, Opponents (), p. , par. [] [= (), p. ;

= Birnbaum, Studies, p. ]. Cf. Birnbaum, Hosea, p. xix; idem, Yefet, p. ; Frank,


Scripturalism, esp. p. . Cf. with the rabbinic views on the danger (or calamities) of
exile in, e.g., y. Ta#an. c; b. Rosh. Hash. b.
20 Text, pp. **.
chapter four

of rabbinic Judaism, but only refutes his methods of interpretation by


pointing out their internal incoherency.21

.. The Brahmins
An interesting, possibly Jewish sect mentioned by Yefet in his commen-
tary on Genesis is a rather mysterious religious group called Brahmins
(Barahima).22 They rejected all prophets after Adam on account of their
belief in the supremacy and sufficiency of the human intellect. Yet even
though they argued against prophecy, they accepted the idea of the initial,
divinely inspired creation of a human being. In his comment on Genesis
: Yefet states:
This verse demonstrates (several) things and we deem proper to mention
here in brief its main teachings. First, (it confirms) what has previously
been stated, that Adam was created (as a) rational (and) understanding
(being). Second, (it demonstrates) that (Adam) believed that he had a
Lord and Creator, for had he not believed in that (by) acknowledging
Him, he would not have spoken to Him. Third, (Adam) imposed upon
his reason the revealed commandment, or at least approved of it, for had
Adam not recognized that God spoke to him, as the supporters of the
doctrine of Barahima claim, he would not enjoin upon himself any of Gods
commandments or prohibitions.23
In this comment Yefet does not attempt to polemicize against the Brah-
mins and their religious beliefs, but merely, and seemingly in passing, to
dismiss one of their convictions by pointing out its incongruity with the
scriptural text.

21 On Yefet holding Saadia up not for ridicule but as a paradigm of exactness and

verisimilitude, see Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. xi.


22 On the complex question of the identity of this sect (Indian Brahmins, Sabians,

Abrahamites, or others), see Stroumsa, Freethinkers, pp. ff. Cf. Frst, Geschichte, I,
pp. , par. []. For Saadias views on this sect, see Saadia, Amanat, III:, p. ;
Saadia, Book, p. . For other examples of Yefets polemical remarks directed against the
Brahmins, see his comments on various biblical passages in Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II,
pp. (ad Exod :), (ad Deut :), (ad Isa :), (ad Ps :).
Cf. ibid., I, pp. , , (Heb., discussion); idem, Attitude, p. ; Sasson, Proverbs,
p. , n. . See also Yefets comments on Deut : in Sokolow, Deuteronomy, p. ,
and on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah.
23




(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv).
between the holy text and its unholy context

. Karaism and Karaite Sects

.. Benjamin al-Nahawand
In his commentary on Genesis Yefet refutesquite extensivelya well-
known early Karaite scholar, Benjamin al-Nahawand, whom he men-
tions by name, at times simply calling him this man (hadha "l-rajul).
Benjamin viewed God as being too sublime to interact with the mate-
rial world; therefore, he believed that an angel, created by God as an
intermediary power, had created the world and interacted with man in
revelation.24 The most extensive exposition of Benjamins ideas appears
in Yefets comment on Genesis :. He quotes Benjamins interpretation
of the plural expression Let us make man with the aim of refuting it and
uses it as a pretext to completely disprove Benjamins basic philosoph-
ical tenets. According to Yefet, Benjamin interprets this verse as words
uttered by one angel to another:
Those who interpreted @ # (v. ) as let us make man disagree
concerning two matters. Some of them think that it is an utterance (pro-
nounced by) angels, one to another. Thus says Benjamin (who) exceeded
(all) bounds in this great mistake. That is to say, when he saw the expres-
sion in our image, after our likeness (v. ) it appeared to him impossible to
refer (this expression) to the Creator, so he referred it to angels. (This idea)
became reinforced (in his mind) for several reasons. First, he saw (that)
the name God (elohm) (might) refer to an angel, as it is said Yet Thou hast
made him but little lower than the angels (me-elohm), etc. (Ps :). Second,
he saw that an angel (could) do what a son of man was unable to do. Third,
he saw (that there were) deeds that God performed by the hand of a cre-
ated (being), which (Scripture) ascribed to (men), as it is said And Moses
and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, etc. (Exod :). So (Ben-
jamin) said, If it is possible (to believe) that God made signs and wonders
by the hand of Moses and ascribed them to (Moses), it is also possible (to
believe) that (God) created the world by the hand of an angel and ascribed
the deed to an angel. As a (supporting) argument (Benjamin) advanced
this speculation, containing another absurdity that I do not deem proper
(even) to mention. His mistake therein is obvious for several reasons.25

24 For more on Benjamin, see above pp. ff. For more on Yefets polemics against

Benjamin, see Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I, pp. , ; II, pp. , . For Yefets references
to Benjamin in his commentaries on another biblical book, see above, p. , n. . See also
his comment on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. For Saadias critique of Benjamin, see
Saadia, Amanat, VI:, pp. ; Saadia, Book, pp. . For al-Qirqisans views
on Benjamin, see Kitab, index. Cf. Nemoy, Al-Qirqisan, esp. p. and pp. .
25


chapter four

After this exposition of Benjamins interpretation and arguments, Yefet


systematically refutes his ideas one by one and concludes that this refuta-
tion invalidates all that this man has claimed. Yefet refers to Benjamins
ideas again in his comment on Genesis ::
The holy man, the righteous one, has informed us that the bodies of angels
(are made of) winds and fire, as it is said Who makest winds Thy angels,
the flaming fire Thy ministers (Ps :). This text refutes (the opinion of)
Benjamin who thought that (it was) an angel (who) created the world, since
fire and winds (were) created (along) with the earth (and not before it). It
also refutes (the opinion) of those who thought that angels were not created
(beings), but allegories and similes.26
In this passage, Yefet abandons the explanation of the meanings of Scrip-
ture according to what its words require and alludes to Benjamins con-
cept, summarizing his main teachings in a few words in order to disprove
them on the basis of Scripture. Again, in commenting on Genesis :,
Yefet uses the biblical verse merely as a pretext to mention, briefly define,
and reject Benjamins ideas:
Truly, there is no need to have recourse here to the interpretation of
Benjamin al-Nahawand, who says that (it was) an angel (who) created the
world, for God invested him with power to do so. It is a false statement that
we have already refuted (while commenting on) the chapter (describing)
Creation.27

.. #Anan ben David


In his commentary on Genesis Yefet refers to one other early Karaite
authority, #Anan ben David, who a posteriori began to be considered the
founding father of this movement. It is likely that the original text of his
Sefer ha-Mis. vot (Book of Precepts) was not available in tenth-century
Jerusalem and reappeared there only in the middle of eleventh cen-



.


(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vr).
Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. ; Cf. also ibid., I, p. (Heb.).
26

.
(Ms. SP
IOS B, fol. r). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. .
27 Text, p. *.
between the holy text and its unholy context

tury. Until then, his writings were probably known only through sum-
maries of one sort or another.28 Be that as it may, Yefet cites #Anans
opinions twice in his commentary on Genesis, both times in the con-
text of halakhic discussions,29 and finds his opinions convincing in both
cases. These two instances are cited here not only because they polemi-
cize against rabbinic religious legislation, but also because they are rare
examples of Yefet naming the author whose opinion he quotes. The first
is found in our exegetes comment on Genesis :, where he discusses
questions related to the calendar and, inter alia, cites #Anans interpreta-
tion:
Therefore #Anan, may God be pleased with him, and those who say (so) in
his name, stated that in case someone were to argue against the observa-
tion of the new moon on the twenty-ninth (day), let us count to the thir-
tieth (day), as Noah (did), (when he was) enclosed in the ark, before he
opened the window and could inquire about the new moon. It is a likely
interpretation.30
Yefet mentions #Anan a second time in his comment on Genesis :,
where he discusses the commandment of circumcision and quotes
#Anans solution to the judicial problem of performing a circumcision on
the eight day when it falls on the Sabbath:
Know that all the Jews (ijma# al-yahud) are unanimous, that the child is to
be circumcised on the eighth day, neither before nor after. #Anan, may God
be pleased with him, has already introduced (a solution) for the judicial
contradiction (shibha) concerning the Sabbath. He has made obligatory his
(i.e., the childs) circumcision at sunset, at the time (when) the interdiction
of work (ceases) and the restrictions (hudud)
. of the Sabbath are (no longer
in force).31 For if it were (at the time when) the restrictions of the Sabbath
are (still) in force and the performing of work is forbidden, the sacrifice
of circumcision would be made obligatory at the time (when) work is
forbidden. Therefore no one would have to postpone32 the circumcision
because of (the interdiction) thou shalt not do any work (Exod :), and
it would remain for him to provide the evidence that one (can) circumcise
him (i.e., the child) at any time during the period of the Sabbath.33

28 See Ben-Shammai, Between; Erder, Mourners.


29 For other instances of Yefet quoting #Anan, see Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, p. . See
also his comment on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah.
30


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).
31 On the negation missing in this passage, see Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, p. .
32 Alternative reading: to refrain from.
33 Text, p. *.
chapter four

Hence, unlike rabbinic Judaism, which allows circumcision when the


eighth day is a Sabbath or festival, according to #Anan the circumcision
should not take place if the eighth day is a Sabbath. Similarly, the burnt
offering prescribed for the eighth day (Lev :) should not be offered
if this day is a Sabbath. Yet, the circumcision should take place during
the twilight of the Sabbath, when the sun has already set but it is still not
dark. In this way the circumcision and the burnt offering are performed
at the appropriate time prescribed for them, yet without violating the
Sabbath.34

.. Abu #Imran al-Tifls


Another person whom Yefet mentions by name in order to refute his
ideas is Abu #Imran al-Tifls (= Musa al-Za#faran), a Karaite who
founded a new sect at the beginning of the ninth century.35 A native
of Za#faran, a town in Persia, he moved to the city of Tifls, as his
nisba indicates. Yefet disproves his concepts in the course of the most
prolonged dispute contained in his commentary on Genesisviz., the
above-mentioned one concerning the calendar. There, in his comment
on Genesis :, he cites the opinions of Karaites, Rabbanite Jews,
Saadia, and Abu #Imran, and states:
I will say that (concerning the calendar) I find the (Jewish) nation disagree-
ing with regard to two matters, no more. () First is the calculation (of the
calendar). () Second is the observation (of the new moon). Furthermore,
the supporters of calculation are divided into two sub-groups. (.) Some
of them make consensus the basis of calculation. They are Abu #Imran al-
Tifls and his followers. (.) The second (sub-group) are the Rabbanites,
who base calculation on the (observation of the) new moon. As for the
supporters of observation (of the new moon), every faction deriving from
the Rabbanites (belongs) to it, save for Abu #Imran alone. And as for the
followers of the Badriyyah and the Sadducees, no one of them remains
(down to our time) who would require refutation.36

34 Cf. Harkavy, Gesetzbchern, pp. . Saadia Gaon also relates to this issue in his

commentary on this passage. See Zucker, Genesis, p. (Ar.), pp. (Heb.). For
the meaning of the term twilight and its implications for Karaite religious legislation,
see Erder, Origins.
35 For al-Qirqisans views on Abu #Imran al-Tifls, see Kitab, index. Cf. Nemoy, Al-

Qirqisan, esp. pp. and p. . For more on this personage, see Frst, Geschichte,
I, pp. , par. [].
36



between the holy text and its unholy context

In this passage Yefet mentions Abu #Imran al-Tifls, as if in passing,


just to explain the basic internal divisions and disagreements within the
Jewish community. He also takes this opportunity to allude to two other
religious groups, the Sadducees and Badriyyah, whose beliefs he does not
even bother to explain, let alone refute, since, as he points out, they no
longer exist. Later on Yefet succinctly states: It is well known that (Abu
#Imrans method) of calculation has been invented (i.e., it is unreliable,
not being based on Scripture).

.. The Tustarians
In his comment on Genesis : Yefet refers to another intriguing
Karaite group or sect from Tustar (in southwestern Persia), the so-called
Tustarians (Dastarians).37 He reports:
The Tustarians say that the statement Behold, the man is become as one of
us, (to know good and evil) (v. ) is said by Moses about himself and it
is not a report of (the words of) God. Similarly, they interpret what we
have quoted with regard to (the verse) Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness (Gen :). They claim that Moses said to the children
of Israel: The Lord God said at the time when man was made as one of
us (= of humans) to know good and evil. Thus, the (only) words of God
would be and now, lest he put forth his hand, (and take also of the Tree
of Life, and eat, and live for ever) (v. ), whereas these eleven words [in
Hebrew] (= And the Lord God said: Behold, the man is become as one of
us, to know good and evil) would be the words of Moses, may peace be
upon him.38
In this passage Yefet states that he refuted the Tustarians interpretation of
another verse earlier in his work, when commenting on Genesis :. In


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). Cf. Erder, History,
p. , n. ; Poznanski, Anan (), pp. ; ibid., pp. . For more on
Badriyyah, see Erder, History, pp. , , , ; Poznanski, Writings, pp.
. For al-Qirqisans view of this sect, see al-Qirqisan, Kitab, p. .
37 For al-Qirqisans views on the Tustarians, see Kitab, index. Cf. Nemoy, Al-

Qirqisan, esp. pp. . For the most comprehensive study of this sect, see Gil, Tus-
tarians. Cf. also Ben-Shammai, Attitude, pp. .
38

( =)

( =) (Ms.
SP IOS B, fols. rv). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, I, p. , n. ; II, pp. ;
idem, Mudawwin, p. .
chapter four

his lengthy commentary on this verse he does not mention the Tustarians
by name, but quotes their opinion anonymously. Nonetheless, from the
previous quotation we may deduce which of the various anonymously
cited opinions is that of the Tustarians. After presenting it, Yefet con-
cludes:
This interpretation (not only) flows well with the language but it (also)
solves three difficult problems (present in this text). First, (it solves) the
problem of the plural form, since the Creator, blessed and exalted be He,
is one. (. . .) Second, it solves (the problem) of attributing to God an image
and a likeness. Third, it refutes the claim of Benjamin who says that the
statement let us make man is an utterance of one of the angels to another.
(. . .) Yet even if (this interpretation) solves these (three) problems, it still
has to (face) another problemnamely, (to explain) the verse (describing
Gods) deed: (And God created man in His own image,) in the image of God
created He him (v. ).39
Throughout this disquisition Yefet endeavors to analyze sine ira et stu-
dio the interpretation proposed by the Tustarians, designating its weak
points, but also indicating its strong points. In the end, he refutes their
argument, but his in-depth scrutiny and overall reserved tone may be an
indication of his quest for objectivity and genuine interest in finding the
most likely interpretation, no matter who expressed it.

.. Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw


Among the later Karaites whom Yefet quotes by name so as to disagree
with their opinions we find Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (Bakhta-
waih). This sage might be identical with Yusuf b. Nuh, 40
. whose com-
mentary on Genesis has survived in an abridged version known as the
Talkhs. , compiled by Abu "l-Faraj Harun.
.
41 Yefet quotes this exegete by

name only once, in his commentary on Genesis ::

39

( . . . ) .
.
( . . . )
(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv). Cf. Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II,
p. .
40 On the merging of these two figures, see Blumfield, Ruth, p. ; Goldstein, Exegesis,

pp. and n. there; Khan, Diqduq, p. . Cf. Polliack, Trends, p. , n. ; Wechsler,


Esther, p. , n. . For more on this exegete, see above, pp. and n. there.
41 See above, pp. ff. and ff.
between the holy text and its unholy context

The scholars disagree about the interpretation of the statement (Behold,


the man) is become as one of us, (to know good and evil) (v. ). (. . .) This
commentator says that the Lord God said: Behold, upon taking (of the
fruit) from the Tree (of Knowledge) Adam has acquired the knowledge of
good and evil. And now, having entered this state, he should not remain
in the garden lest he stretch out his hand to the Tree of Life, just as he has
stretched out his hand to the Tree of Knowledge, and eat and live forever,
with the result that Our punishmentfor in the day that thou eatest thereof
thou shalt surely die (Gen :)not be fulfilled. We will therefore banish
him lest he eat from the Tree of Life. This is the interpretation of Abu
Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw, may God have mercy on him.42
When we compare Yefets commentary on Genesis to the Talkhs. we
find that, in many places, Yefet agrees with the interpretations it has
preserved. Nevertheless, in this particular passagethe only time he
quotes the alleged opinion of Ibn Nuh. in the name of its authorYefets
interpretation is different from the one proposed by the writers of the
Talkhs. .43

. Islam

Notwithstanding the fact that Genesis includes the founding story of the
origin of the Arabs and their forefather, Ishmael, who with time became a
symbol of the Muslim religion, Yefet does not explicitly mention Islam or

42 ( . . . ) .



. .
(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vr). Cf.
Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, p. . Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. . For other
instances of Yefet referring to this exegete, see above, p. , n. .
43



(Another
commentator says, and it is the most likely [explanation of all] previously mentioned, that
God, the Lord, said: Behold, man became like an independent individual with respect to
knowing good and evil. That is, until now, man had consulted Us and We had taught
him wisdom and knowledge. Yet, now he has became like an independent individual,
who learns [on his own] and does not perceive [it proper] for himself to learn from a
teacher, for he ate [the fruit] from the Tree of Knowledge and came into the possession
of knowledge, which We had not taught him. Since this is how he is [now], he should not
remain in the garden. ) (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vr).
chapter four

its prophet even once in his commentary on this book of the Bible.44 At
most we find indirect references and slight polemical overtones in the
way that he elucidates Genesis :, the well-known polemical locus,
where the angel of God speaks to Hagar foretelling Ishmaels future:
(The angels) declaration (And) he shall be a wild ass of a man (v. )
means that just as the wildest of animals seeks refuge in the wilderness,
so will Ishmael, a wild ass of a man, seek refuge in the wilderness. Thus
(Hagar) learned that (Ishmael) was not Abrams promised son who would
inherit the land of Canaan, and the hope that she had cherished expired.
Therefore, this statement (on the angels part) obliged her to come back
to her mistress and submit to her. (The angels) declaration his hand shall
be against every man (v. ) means that (Ishmael) will mix with nations
and they will mix with him in the matter of marriage and customs, as
it is said, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men (Dan :),
as opposed to the description of Israel as a people that shall dwell alone,
and shall not be reckoned among the nations (Num :). This is the most
accurate explanation that I have come across.45
Yefet understands this prophecy to mean that Ishmael will seek refuge
in the wilderness and, as opposed to Israel, mingle with (other) nations
( . . . ) in marriage and customs. Unlike this interpretation, which he
declares to be the most accurate one he has come across, he finds
the opinions of other exegetes whom he quotes less plausible; their
expositions tended to provide an applied exegetical interpretation of this
prophecy as referring to their own time, to the kingdom of the Arabs and
its military conquests:
But another commentator says (in this respect) that (this verse) means
that (Ishmael) will overcome everybody at some time and it is happen-
ing (now), in this (current) time, but when the end (of time) will come
everybody will overcome him. Furthermore, another (commentator) says,
that it means that (Ishmaels) place is among all the nations, that is to say,
that he has no place cut off (from other nations) like the rest of the nations
(have), but rather he is like the wild (animals), wandering from place to
place. (To this commentator the angels) declaration and every mans hand
against him (v. ) means travelling in caravans through the deserts, in
which (Ishmael) will seek refuge. Moreover, he interprets (the expression)

44 For the study of Yefets attitude towards Islam, see, e.g., Ben-Shammai, Attitude;

Erder, Attitude; idem, Mourners, pp. ; Hirschfeld, Nahum, pp. ; Hussain,


Job, pp. xxxixxxiv; Margoliouth, Daniel, p. vii, n. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Sokolow, Negation.
45 Text, pp. **. For a similar explanation provided by Saadia Gaon in his com-

ment ad loc., see Zucker, Genesis, pp. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).


between the holy text and its unholy context

his hand shall be against every man (as meaning that) his place is every-
where and everyones place is his place, just like Thou shalt have a place
(Deut :). This indicates that (Ishmael) is not the offspring promised
to Abraham by His words Unto thy seed will I give this land (Gen :).
And (the angels) declaration and he shall dwell in the face of all his brethren
means that he will spread out in the desert in the territory of the sons of
Keturah and the sons of Esau and the land of Israel. The meaning of this
verse has already been explained in connection with the verse, And they
dwelt from Havilah unto Shur (that is before Egypt), etc. (Gen :). From
his words in the face of all his brethren (v. ) (Hagar) learned that Abram
would have other children and therefore she submitted herself and came
back (to Abram and Sarai).46
It is impossible to definitively establish the provenance of the opinions
Yefet quoted anonymously, though they resemble those expressed by
other exegetes of his day.
Ya#qub al-Qirqisans comment on Genesis : is much more spe-
cific. He interprets the phrase he shall be a wild ass of a man as meaning
that Ishmaels descendants will be Arabs, Bedouins living in the wilder-
ness. He also says that this verse is a kind of introduction () to
Genesis : where it is said, And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran.
Al-Qirqisan explains the expression his hand (will be) against every
man as meaning that the offspring of Ishmael, whom he understands
as the empire of the Arabs, will fight and lead wars against the rest
of the world.47 He also provides another possible interpretation of this
expressionnamely, that at first Ishmael will overpower the rest of the
world ( ), but afterwards the rest of the world will over-
power him.
Another even more intriguing interpretation of this passage is found
in the Talkhs. , where the authors expound:

46 Text, p. *. For an interpretation of this passage in the context of interreligious

polemics, see Frank, Search, pp. ; Sokolow, Negation. For other examples of
Yefets polemical remarks directed against Islam, see, e.g., Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II,
p. and its partial Heb. trans. in ibid., I, p. (ad Ps :). See also ibid.,
II, pp. (ad Isa :), (ad Hab :), (ad Ps :). Cf.
Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . For additional examples, see, e.g., his commets on Dan :
; :; :; :; : in Margoliouth, Daniel, pp. q<>p, qoo, qoq,
<<><p>, p>=> (Ar.), pp. , , , , (Eng.). See also the
exegetes comments on Nah :; :, in Hirschfeld, Nahum, pp. , , (Ar.),
pp. , , (Eng.), and on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah.
47 (Ms. SP RNL

Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v).


chapter four

The statement (And) he shall be a wild ass of a man (v. ) means the
wildest of men, seeking refuge in the wilderness, just as the wildest of
animals (do). Upon (hearing) this, therefore, (Hagar) ceased to think that
(Ishmael) was Abrahams promised child who would inherit the land (of
Canaan). Moreover, it is said that (the statement) his hand shall be against
every man (v. ) means (that Ishmael) will last for some period of time
namely, until the appearance of the false-messiah (i.e., Muhammad)
. and
the spreading of his ideas and his empire in the world. Then the situation
will change, and every mans hand will be against him, and his time will
come to an end.48
This comment found in the Talkhs. constitutes an obvious polemic
against Islam and its prophet, Muhammad,
. usually denoted by his Jewish
opponents as unfit () instead of prophet ().49 Yefet may have
felt compelled to mention this interpretation, at least in an evasive man-
ner, in his comprehensive commentary. Although probably well-known
at the time, he was apparently cautious about including it; he therefore
only discusses the idea of interpreting the analyzed verse as relating to
his own times, without attempting to demonstrate that it refers specifi-
cally to Islam and current events.
Assuming that no one can be either polemical or non-polemical in
absolute terms, but only relatively so in comparison to others, it may
be concluded that in his commentary on Genesis Yefet is relatively non-
polemical and endeavors to avoid entering into an open crusade against
other religions.50

. Conclusion

In would appear that, contrary to his declaration in the introduction to


his commentary on Genesisi.e., that he would focus on translating and
interpreting the words of the Holy Writ according to what its words

48



(Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. r and rv, or
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r ).
49 On Jewish opponents designating Muhammad by the derogatory Hebrew epithet
.
pasul, patterned after the Arabic honorific rasul, see, e.g., Lazarus-Yafeh, Criticism, p. .
For examples of Yefet employing this term in his commentaries on other biblical books,
see, e.g., his commets on Dan : in Margoliouth, Daniel, p. >p> (Ar.), p. (Eng.).
Cf. also Sokolow, Negation, p. .
50 On Yefets being considered relatively cautious about polemical comments in his

commentary on Hosea as well, see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .


between the holy text and its unholy context

require, and refrain from entering into (different, unholy matters) and
their refutationYefet deals with questions neither directly related to
Scripture nor serving a precisely defined purpose. He is prepared to desist
for a while from his avowed purpose to discuss certain, more general
hermeneutical issues, such as the most appropriate way to approach and
interpret the biblical text (e.g., his polemic with Saadia over the issue
of whether Scripture should be elucidated literally or allegorically), or
which texts should be considered holy (e.g., his polemic against rabbinic
Judaism and the status of the Mishnah within it). Moreover, Yefet feels
the need to expose in detail and minutely refute certain philosophical
systems or concepts, like the one proposed by Benjamin al-Nahawand.
Yet such expositions are relatively few in number and brief in terms of
the space they occupy in Yefets commentary.
Furthermore, all these polemical targets are limited by two very basic,
selective criteria, which determine the ideas that need to be discussed
and, if necessary, refuted. Yefet precisely defines the first criterion by
stating that he will not deal with the opinions of those who do not share
with him the belief in the same God, His prophet Moses, and Holy
Scripturei.e., the Hebrew Bible. Accordingly, Christianity and Islam
did not in principle arouse his interest, whereas rabbinic Judaism and its
representatives (Saadia), as well as other Jewish sects, be they Rabbanite
(Brahmins?) or early Karaite (Abu #Imran al-Tifls, the Tustarians), did.
The second criterion deals with prevalence or duration, since Yefet was
not interested in sects and movements no longer extant, and saw no point
in refuting them (e.g., Sadducees, Badriyyah).
We may still wonder why he made such initial assumptions and what
caused him to adopt these particular selective criteria. The answer to
this question becomes evident when we realize that, for centuries, the
purpose of biblical exegesis was not to satisfy ones own curiosity or
to fulfill a disinterested yearning for knowledge, but rather to realize
a most pragmatic aim: to know Gods will so as to be able to live in
accordance with it. Incorrect interpretation of Scripture might lead to the
most dreadful consequencesi.e., to sinand, as a result, to Gods well-
deserved punishment. Hence the paramount importance invested in the
interpretation of Gods word and the belief that exegetical disputes and
their outcomes had a bearing on the life of the entire religious community
in general, and every believer in particular, in both this world and the
hereafter.
Finally, we might ask why Yefet felt that selected personages and
religious movements deserved to be mentioned by name, whereas the
chapter four

opinions endorsed by a great many other sages remained anonymous.


It seems plausible to assume that certain interpretations of the Bible
became widely accepted and popular, and enjoyed considerable promi-
nence among believers, mainly due to the position and authority of their
authors. In such cases it would have been more effective to refute an idea
quoted in the name of its author, as if Yefet had said, Despite such an
eminent person saying so and so, it is a fallacious, unlikely, or far-fetched
interpretation.51

51 On the importance of referring to a prominent person by his name and title in order

to be persuasive, see Yefets comment on Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.), p.


(Eng.).
chapter five

SCRIPTURE AS THE SUPREME COMPOSITION:


LITERARY ASPECTS OF YEFETS EXEGESIS OF GENESIS*

Biblical narrative, especially that which is contained in the Book of Gen-


esis, requires interpretation not only because of its sometimes problem-
atic content, but also because of the inherent features of its form: its
terseness makes the meaning oblique and its laconic style leaves many
details unexpressed altogether. Interpretation is also necessary in view of
Scriptures general disregard of the temporal-spatial circumstances of the
described events and its somewhat casual attitude towards chronology.
This is all the more problematic since the Holy Writ claims to contain
the ultimate truth.1
Rabbinic tradition has been dealing with these problems for centuries.
In response, it erected an exegetical fence, a comprehensive system of
interpretative traditions known as the Oral Law considered to be the
embodiment of a parallel chain of divine revelation and an indispensable
complement to the Written Torah. Rejecting the binding character of the
whole corpus of rabbinic exegesis, the early Karaite exegetes faced the
challenge of once again filling the resulting vacuum and confronting the
bare text of the written revelation without the intermediary layer of its
authoritative oral exposition.2
They believed that the divine originator of Scripture wished to con-
vey an unequivocal message to humanity, a message whose one unam-
biguous meaning follows the rules of logic; He therefore formulated it in
conventional human language, subject to the rules of grammar.3 Hence,
the only possible way to discover the ultimate, one true meaning of the

* A draft of this chapter was presented during a seminar at Tel Aviv Universitys

Department of Biblical Studies (Tel Aviv, December ).


1 Cf. Auerbach, Mimesis, pp. .
2 Cf., e.g., Scholem, Tradition; Leibovitz, Conversations, pp. . On the rejection

of the Oral Law and the self-sufficiency of the Written Law by the Karaites, see Wieder,
Scrolls, pp. . Cf. Lasker, Judaism, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , ,
, . See also above, p. , n. ; p. , n. .
3 Cf. above, pp. ff., and esp. pp. ff.
chapter five

Bible is to extract it from the scriptural text by a thorough rational anal-


ysis of its language and overall structure, using conventional tools. This
conviction helped them realize the existence of an inherent connection
between the form and content of Scripture (viz., the meaning of the text
and the way it is expressed)4 and gave rise to the interest in its formnot
only in terms of grammar and lexicon, but also style and composition
the analysis of which became a significant element and an inseparable
part of exegesis, indispensable to understanding the content of the Holy
Writ. Consequently, the emergence of the Karaite movement, some time
in the ninth century ce, brought about a momentous change in the Jewish
outlook toward biblical studies: the advent and dynamic development of
what we would today call the literary approach to Scripture, which found
its most prominent and mature expression in Yefets exegetical oeuvre.5
Within the confines of his literary focus, the innovative aspect of his
hermeneutical undertaking is his general perception of the Holy Writ as
a literary text that requires literary analysis. Yefet gives voice to this liter-
ary orientation of biblical exegesis on various levels of his commentary.
First, it is reflected in specific terminology drawn from Arabic literature,
which Yefet uses extensively when describing Scripture and its inherent
elements. He also draws attention to the literary character of the Bible in
terms of its form: the manner of expression and style, or the general struc-
ture and composition of the text. Furthermore, when analyzing content,
Yefet distinguishes, either directly or indirectly, three main categories of
what we would consider modern literary criticism:
i. The account, perceived as a cohesively structured, multilayered
storyincluding one main theme and a number of sub-plotswith
a precisely defined framework containing basic elements such as
an introduction or exposition and an ending or dnouement (the
narrative);

4 Cf. Polliack, Trends, p. ; idem, Wherein, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg,

Hosea, pp. , . See also below, p. , n. .


5 On the paradigmatic shift by the medieval Karaite exegetes toward a new type of

understanding and reading of the biblical text (. . .) based on the in-depth analysis of the
Bibles language (grammar and lexicon), literary structure, and narrative techniques, see
Polliack, Trends, p. . See also idem, Karaism, pp. . On the major impetus,
inter alia, behind this shift, see ibid., pp. . On the emergence of a new Karaite
approach to Scripture, characterized by careful attention to the structure of the text
as well as new assumptions regarding the virtues of organized presentation, see also
Goldstein, Composition, esp. pp. . On the centrality of structural analysis in
Yefets Bible commentaries, see, e.g., Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. and pp. .
Cf. also Hussain, Job, pp. xx, xxivxxvi; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , .
scripture as the supreme composition

ii. An author-redactor or compiler-editor, who is responsible for the


intentional ordering and fashioning of the Bible, as well as its final
edition, and fulfillsat least to a certain extentthe function of the
modern storyteller or narrator, in addition to being responsible for
the act of narrating (the narration);6
iii. A protagonist (here I mean Yefets understanding of biblical char-
acters and their behavior, not the actual concept of a protagonist,
which he does not develop).7
The mere fact that Yefet takes notice of these three elements indicates that
his approach to the biblical text is, on the whole, a literary one. Thus he
anticipates not only the later Spanish school of exegesis, but also modern
biblical studies.8

. The Biblical Narrative: The Story and Its Composition

Tenth- and eleventh-century Karaite interpreters of Scripture shared the


conviction that the Bible was composed in a logical, carefully organized
way and possessed a well-thought-out structure, intentionally fashioned
by its author so as to convey the content of the revealed text in the
most effective manner. The in-depth analysis and interpretation of this
structure constituted, therefore, an indispensable part of their exegetical
activity, whose purpose was to gain a proper understanding of the Holy
Writ and its meaning. Although such structural analysis was frequently
carried out by the commentators of the time in an attempt to solve certain
exegetical difficulties within the text, it is also possible to discern in
their writings the emergence of a genuine interest in researching and
describing the particular features of biblical composition, the nature of
its construction, and its narrative development.9

6 For a discussion of the concept of the mudawwin understood as author-redactor,

compiler-editor, see above, pp. ff. and bibliography there.


7 For a discussion of Yefets perception of hominis ficti, see Zawanowska, Approach.
8 It is important to emphasize that although Yefet may appear to be using notions

similar to those of modern literary theory and its terminology, he apparently does not
have any actual or theoretical connection with them. See below, p. , n. . Cf. Polliack
& Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
9 In this sense, it is possible to attribute to the medieval Karaite exegetes the dis-

covery of biblical narrative, as Meira Polliack has suggested in her illuminating paper,
entitled The Medieval Discovery of Biblical Narrative, presented at the th Annual Con-
ference of the Association for Jewish Studies (Washington, December ). For
the study of different aspects of the literary approach to Scripture by medieval Karaite
chapter five

.. The Multi-layered Structure of Biblical Narratives


Yefet perceives the biblical stories as cohesive accounts and he takes pains
to analyze their structure, delineating as well the precise boundaries of
the literary units or sections, which make up a given account. In fact, his
contextual interpretations of particular biblical narratives are only artic-
ulated within the framework of these thematic chapters or pericopes.
Accordingly, throughout his Bible commentaries, he endeavors to pin-
point divisions between sections, and to indicate the beginning (awwal,
ra"s) and the end (akhar, kamal) of a story (qis. s. a) or thematic passage
(fas. l).10 From his comment on Genesis : we can see what portion of
the biblical text constitutes such a separate unit in Yefets view:
When (Abraham) finished the fulfillment of (his) duty (towards) them
(i.e., the three messengers), as God had permitted him, He then spoke to
him about (the matters) that (Scripture) mentions in this (= following)
section (fas. l). As for (the statement) And the Lord appeared unto him by
the terebinths of Mamre (v. ), (it is clear that) (God) revealed Himself
for the reason of this speech. Although at the beginning of the chapter (f
awwal al-fas. l) it does not explain for what reason (God) revealed Himself
(to Abraham), and about what He would speak to him, it explains it at the
end of the chapter (f akhar al-fas. l).11
By establishing the exact boundaries of the narrated story and the various
episodes it comprises, Yefet manages to solve an age-old exegetical crux
revolving around the question of who actually appeared unto Abraham,

exegetes in general, and Yefet in particular, see Frank, Search; Goldstein, Beginnings;
idem, Superfluity; idem, Pentateuch; idem, Composition; Polliack, Emergence; idem,
Techniques; idem, Trends; idem, Conception; idem, Voice; Polliack & Schlossberg,
Prophets; idem, Hosea, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ; Simon, Approaches,
pp. (Heb.), pp. (Eng.); Sokolow, Deuteronomy; Zawanowska, Approach;
idem, Dialectical.
10 On the Arabic term fasl as referring to smaller or larger thematic units, and on
.
Yefets habit of dividing the biblical text into such units, see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
pp. , . On the exegetes construction of such units, chapters, or pericopes, see
Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. vi. Cf. also Avni, Balaam, p. , n. . For examples of similar
overall structural descriptions of the biblical text provided by the authors of the Talkhs. ,
see Goldstein, Composition, pp. .
11 Text, p. *. As opposed to Yefet, al-Qirqisan considered the angel of God, called

Lord, as one of the three men who visited Abraham, the one who stayed with him when
the other two left. This interpretation explains the changes of form, from singular to plu-
ral, used in the account (e.g., Gen : and Gen :):
(The two [mes-
sengers] left to Sodom, whereas the angel stayed. It is said about him And the LORD said:
Shall I hide from Abraham [v. ] and therefore [Scripture] says but Abraham [stood] yet
before the LORD [v. ].) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r). Cf. above, p. , n. .
scripture as the supreme composition

God or His messengers: if it were God, why would He appear in the form
of the three men and how would it be possible for Him to eat? Yefets
structural analysis of this passage and the way he precisely demarcates
what he wishes to perceive as two distinct, though interwoven sections
or episodes, enabled him to interpret this problematic passage so as to
free God from an anthropomorphic representation. Our exegete achieves
this by temporarily removing Him from the stage, making God wait in
the wings until the three messengers conclude their visit with Abraham
(Gen :). To this end Yefet points out the cohesive structure of
the overall account, where different episodes (fus. ul)or what we would
today designate threads of the plotare interwoven in a way that
produces the most coherently organized composition.
Similarly, Yefet distinguishes an internal connection between the story
of Abrams first migrationfrom Ur of the Chaldees to Haran (Gen
:)and his second onefrom Haran to the land of Canaan (Gen
:). He views them as forming a single thread of the plot or the main
story line, whereas one verse, which provides information about Terahs
age and death, was inserted in the middle of this account. For Yefet this
constitutes another thread (khabar) pertaining to what he identifies as
the story of Terah or Terahs report; thus, in his comment on Genesis
: he states:
This speech (i.e., Gods words directed to Abram in Gen :) is con-
nected with (muttas. il bi) the statement, and they came unto Haran, and
dwelt there (Gen :), though in the middle (of these) was inserted
(udkhila)12 (the verse), And the days of Terah were (two hundred and five
years; and Terah died in Haran) (Gen :) so as to complete Terahs
report (khabar).13

12 On this term and its use by Yefet in Bible exegesis to describe the action performed

by the mudawwin, see the discussion below, pp. ff. and ff. Cf. Polliack & Schloss-
berg, Hosea, pp. , and nn. , there.
13 Text, p. *. For an additional example, see above p. , n. . See also Yefets com-

ment on Gen : (text, p. *). Similarly to Yefet, al-Qirqisan raises the question: Why
does the Bible first report about the death of Terah (Gen :) and only afterwards relates
that God ordered Abram to go out of his country (Gen :), despite the fact that Terah
died sixty years after Abrams departure? In an attempt to solve this exegetical puzzle, al-
Qirqisan also clarifies that Scripture wanted first to finish the report about Terah, which
ends with his death, before commencing to relate another story, i.e., the account about
Abram, which from the chronological point of view had already commenced in Terahs
lifetime, sixty years prior to his death (

). See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v.
Cf. Chiesa & Lockwood, Newly-found, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). Yet, al-Qirqisan
chapter five

Yefet demonstrates awareness of the fact that the main thread of the
plot, namely the story of Abraham, does not develop in a narrative
vacuum. Yet he realizes that it has been inevitably interwoven with
reports about other biblical characters and that overlapping among them
is unavoidable. He therefore attempts to identify occurrences where the
flow of the main story line is actually suspended for a while in order to
bring a certain sub-plot or report to a close.

.. Structural Elements of the Biblical Text


Yefet does not merely unravel disparate episodes, reports, or threads
of the plot and determine the boundaries of distinct biblical stories
and thematic passages or sections. He also singles outwhile clearly
delineating larger or smaller literary unitsthe principal parts of a given
account such as the introduction, preface, oras modern literary theory
defines itthe exposition (muqaddima, s. adr), as well as the ending
or conclusion, what we would call the dnouement (tamam, khatm,
or khatima).14 For instance, when commenting on Sarais proposition,
described in Genesis :, in which she suggests that Abram take
Hagar, her slave, as wife, Yefet explains:
(Sarais) words Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing (v. )
are an introduction (muqaddima) to the giving of Hagar (to Abram). Their
meaning is that had she not been barren, she would not have needed to
urge her request: go in, I pray thee, unto my handmaid (v. ).15
According to this comment, Yefet perceives Sarais confession about her
own barrenness as an introduction or exposition to the overall account of
Abrams unfortunate marriage with Hagar.16 Another noteworthy exam-

provides another possible answer to this problematic question:



(The answer to this [question] is that Gods words
get thee [out of thy country] were [directed] to Abram not after Terahs death, but sixty
years before Terahs death. This is an example of the way in which Scripture makes use of
anterior and posterior [muqdam u-me"uhar].
. ) Cf. below, p. , n. .
14 For the description of structural elements such as introductory and concluding

formulas in other commentaries by Yefet, see Goldstein, Beginnings, pp. ; Polliack


& Schlossberg, Hosea, p. and pp. , . On similar formulas as distinguished by the
authors of the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Composition, pp. .
15 Text, p. *.
16 The introduction does not necessarily need to serve as a preface to the entire story

or chapter, since it could also be introducing a smaller thematic unit or passage. For
example, when commenting on Gen :, Yefet states: The statement within herself,
saying (v. ) indicates that Sarah (was) astonished, but she did not articulate it in
words. This is an introduction (muqaddima) to (Gods) question wherefore did Sarah
scripture as the supreme composition

ple of Yefets distinguishing various divisions within one literary unit is


found in his comment on Genesis :, where he defines the first verse
as constituting a kind of preface to the entire story of the binding of Isaac:
The statement (And it came to pass after these things,) that God did prove
Abraham (v. ) is a preface (s. adr) by which the mudawwin introduced
(s. addara)17 the report of Gods command to Abraham, so as to make clear
that Gods intention concerning this command was for no other reason
than to test Abraham, and that His intention was not that the action
(denoted by the statement) and offer him there for a burnt-offering (v. )
would actually be fulfilled by Abraham. Therefore he opened with (s. addar)
the statement (And it came to pass after these things,) that God did prove
(Abraham) (v. ), so that when the reader read, and offer him there for a
burnt-offering, and afterwards read, Lay not thy hand upon the lad (v. ),
he would know that this (second) statement was neither an abrogation nor
an exemption (of the first one), but rather (that) it was (intended) after
the manner of a test. The reader knows about this from the Scripture of
God. But as for Abraham, may peace be upon him, he did not possess this
knowledgeto wit that the order was after the manner of a test, for had
he possessed this knowledge he would have been neither praiseworthy for
what he accomplished, nor rewarded.18

Providing such a structural interpretation of this passage helps Yefet solve


the theological problem of God apparently changing His mind, at first
demanding the sacrifice of Isaac, and then preventing its execution.19
Thus, in this particular case, the preface or exposition not only fulfills
a purely literary function, contributing to the internal structure of the
story, but also provides the reader with information that is indispensable
for a proper understanding of the entire account. It might also be under-
stood as a proleptic comment on the mudawwins part, which foreshad-
ows the actual occurrence of the binding of Isaac so as to inform the

laugh (v. ). In this case the introduction does not refer to the broader story, rather
its purpose is to introduce a relatively short passage recounting the messengers inquiry
on the reasons for Sarahs laughter, registered by Scripture (Gen :). Text, p. *.
17 On the verb saddara as meaning to anticipate (), see Polliack & Schlossberg,
.
Hosea, p. .
18 Text, pp. **.
19 This comment may be understood as a hidden polemic against the supporters of

the idea of abrogation, according to which God may order or promise certain things,
and subsequently abrogate them. In his commentary on this passage, Saadia Gaon also
opposed the idea of abrogation, but his arguments are different; he states that God is
capable of resuscitating Isaac after Abraham offers him, in order to keep all His promises
valid. See Zucker, Genesis, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.). For further arguments against the
idea of abrogation adduced from this passage, see Saadia, Amanat, III:, p. . Cf. Saadia,
Book, p. . For a study of this passage, see Rippin, Sa#adya.
chapter five

reader in advance that the events being related should be understood as a


test.20 It is interesting to note that in Yefets opinion the person who fash-
ioned the biblical narratives did so consciously and purposefully, while
bearing the potential reader in mind.21

.. The Cohesive Organization of the Scriptural Text


Yefets interest in describing the structure of the scriptural text is not,
however, limited to the classification and description of its structural ele-
ments. He is also concerned with analyzing the overall cohesive organi-
zation of the biblical narrative, which he does by indicating the internal
connections between its component parts and the relationships between
them. Accordingly, after providing a basic description of the smaller or
larger literary units, our exegete places them into the broader context of
the biblical narrative (qarna)22 and attempts to discover the consistent
principles governing their juxtaposition. He does this by demonstrating
the purpose of the particular order (nizam) 23 in which the units follow
.
one after another and the reasons behind their successive arrangement
(nasaq).24 To be sure, Yefet is convinced that none of this is accidental;

20 Cf. with al-Qirqisan, who in his comment on Gen : states:


(The beginning of this story is preceded by [a
statement] that it was a test and a trial from God to Abraham) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab.
I , fols. rv). On the literary device of foreshadowing and prolepsis utilized by the
mudawwin, see below, pp. ff.
21 It is also noteworthy that here Yefet distinguishes the reader as a distinct entity,

whom the author, whoever he may be, has in mind while shaping and fashioning the
text. Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , .
22 On the term qarna and its use in Yefets Bible commentaries, see Erder, Attitude,

p. , n. ; Polliack, Trends, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets, pp. ; idem,


Hosea, p. , n. and p. . See also below, pp. ff. and n. there. This exegetical
tool, which medieval Karaite exegetes used quite often, may have been shaped under the
influence of the rabbinic principle: (something learned/proved by the
context), see e.g., b. Sanh. a. It is included as the last principle of the seven middot of
Hillel and it corresponds to the tenth principle of the twelve middot of Ishmael.
23 On the term nizam as meaning congruent, convenient (
.
) and the verb nazama
. as denoting the action of ordering or organizing ( )
as well as their use in Yefets commentary on Hosea, see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
pp. and . On the use of the term nizam . in Yefets commentary on Psalms in
the sense of order or thematic link, see Simon, Approaches, pp. (Heb.), pp.
(Eng.). For the term nazm . as used by Muslim exegetes of the Qur"an and its possible
influence on Karaite exegetes of the time, see Goldstein, Composition, pp. . See
also below, p. , n. .
24 On this term and its possible connections with the rabbinic concept of semikhut

or hesmekh parashiyyot, as well as the study of its use by the authors of the Talkhs. , see
Goldstein, Superfluity, pp. ; idem, Composition, p. . Cf. also Polliack &
Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
scripture as the supreme composition

he earnestly strives to prove that both these deliberately applied factors


contribute to the overall cohesion of the text, on this higher organiza-
tional level as well.
For example, it is not without reason, our exegete maintains, that the
chapter describing Sarais offering of Hagar as a wife to Abram (Gen )
follows the account of Gods making the covenant with him (Gen ).
In that chapter, God promises Abram that He will multiply his offspring.
This ultimately convinces Sarai that the barrenness was in her and not in
Abram, so in order to enable the promise to come true, she suggests, in
the following chapter, that her husband go in unto her slave girl, Hagar
(Gen :). Yefet thus concludes: That is the reason why this chapter
comes after (nasaqa) the preceding one.25 Using the term nasaqathe
literal meaning of which is to string together, to set in order, to
alignhelps Yefet demonstrate the continuity of the biblical narrative
whereby the chapters and thematic sections follow one another in a
logical and well-planned order.
Another example of the exegetes attempt to elucidate the purposeful
arrangement of scriptural stories by highlighting the internal links that
contribute to the cohesiveness of the entire section may be adduced from
his comment on Genesis ::
The statement and the Lord (v. ) with an and has two senses. First, it
fulfills the function of the vav of conjunction (vav al-nasaq), for they (i.e.,
these verses or passages) constitute successive reports (akhbar muntasiqa).
Second, it represents an addition to what preceded (them) in the pre-
vious chapter with respect to the (expression of) divine providence for
(Sarah).26

Thus, in Yefets view, the conjunction and not only connects between
words or verses, but also between larger textual units, creating the over-
all impression of continuity within the narrated story. Sometimes, how-
ever, the order of the events described or their successive, chronological
arrangement seems to be disrupted. As we have seen above, Yefet points
out that this may occur because more than one report or thread of the

25 Text, p. *. For additional examples, see above, p. , n. and p. , n. .


26 Text, p. *. The Talkhs. also asks why this chapter commences with an and, but it
provides a slightly different explanation:
(There is no previous
[report] to which this and [could be meant to] connect [this verse], so the most likely
explanation is that it is an and of beginning and resumption, as is the case of the and
in [the phrase] and the earth was unformed [Gen :] and others [alike].) (Ms. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r). Cf. Wehr, Dictionary, p. b.
chapter five

plot is recounted within the biblical narrative, in which case one of them
is suspended until the other reaches a conclusion. In the passage quoted
above, a single verse sufficed to finish Terahs report.
There are instances, however, when larger thematic passages, chap-
ters, or stories are interwoven in the middle of a certain account. In
such cases, after the inserted story comes to an end, we may find what
we would call resumptive repetition, that is, a repetitionnot neces-
sarily in the same exact wordsaimed at bringing the reader back to the
temporarily suspended account.27 According to Yefet, the purpose of this
kind of repetition is to restore the disrupted order or successive arrange-
ment (nasaq) of events so as to maintain the cohesive structure of the
narrative as a whole, despite the digression. When commenting on the
story of Judah and Tamar, inserted in the middle of the account about
Joseph in Genesis he observes:
When (Scripture) had finished (recounting) his (= Judahs) story, it
returned to the story of Joseph, and it commenced in the (same) place
wherein it had been suspended so as to make a connection between the
accounts (li-yansuqa #alayhi "l-kalam).28
Although the term resumptive repetition (hazara
. meqasheret) does not
appear anywhere in Yefets commentary on Genesis, it is clear that, in his
view, the resemblance between the two verses (Gen : and :) is
purposeful, its aim being to make a connection between two parts of the
same account (kind of simplified chiasmus).
Similar explanations for certain repetitions in the biblical text emerge
from Yefets comment on Genesis : where he elucidates why the
information that God put the man in the garden was given here for a
second time, even though it had already been provided in Genesis :.
His response to the exegetical problem of this apparent superfluity is
that the information was repeated twice (so as) to connect the accounts
one after the other (hatta
. yansuqa "l-kalam shay" ba#da shay").29 Thus,

27 For the use of this technique by the Bible, see Polak, Narrative, pp. and

further bibliography there. For the use of this technique by some medieval Karaite
exegetes, see below, n. .
28

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).


29 .



(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). Cf. Polliack,
scripture as the supreme composition

the repetition in this case is not meant to provide the reader with any
new details, but rather it plays a purely organizational role: to make a
connection between the sections. In this way it contributes to the over-
all cohesion of the scriptural text. In the same vein Yefet also explains
why the fact that Jacob went to Beersheba is stated twice (Gen :
and :); he concludes that it was reiterated deliberately to connect
the two parts of the same account, which was interrupted in the mid-
dle with the story about the wives of Esau (li-yansuqa "l-kalam). He
asserts:
When (Scripture) wished to expound (on what) happened to Jacob, it
repeated the same (words that) it had suspended (before the digression
about Esau) in order to connect the accounts, that they might not be
scattered (mabtur)for this is not the way in which Revelation (arranges
its) accounts, as it tends to order (its) content [lit. subjects] (tanaz. z. um
al-ma#an) in the best compositional manner (bi-ahsan. ta"lf ).30

Yefet thus demonstrates awareness of the fact that disruptions in the


flow of the main plotin this particular case, the story about Jacob
are due to the existence of more than one thread within the biblical
narrative. Digressions and thematic shifts are inherent features of any
multilayered composition; nonetheless, different texts cope with them
in distinct ways. In our exegetes opinion the Bible deals with them in
the best possible manner: it makes clear verbal connections between the
two parts of the same reportinterrupted in midstreamby means of
resumptive repetition, which restores the original order (niz. am) to the
text and reflects Scriptures status as a superior literary composition.31

Techniques, pp. ; idem, Voice, p. , n. . For the discussion of other


examples of Yefet identifying similar structures in the Bible, see, e.g., Erder, Moral,
pp. and n. there; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. . See also his comment
on Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. For the discussion of chiastic connections in the
Bible, as described by the authors of the Talh
. s. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ;
idem, Superfluity, pp. .
30


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. . On Yefets conviction that
the biblical text is a manifestation of a perfect and flawless composition, see Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. , .
31 For another example of the use of resumptive repetition in Yefets commentary

on Genesis, see above, p. , n. . For additional examples as emerging from Yefets


commentaries on other biblical books, see, e.g., Bargs, Excerpta, p. (Ar.), p.
(Lat.); Marwick, Retribution, pp. , . See also his comments on Eccl :; : in
Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. , (Ar.), pp. , (Eng.). For the discussion of resumptive
chapter five

.. The Principle of Thematic Arrangement


Finally, one may wonder why, from Yefets point of view, the Bible some-
times decides to relate stories in a non-chronological order, whereas it
refrains from doing so in other cases. In his comment on Exodus :
he attempts to answer this question, which relates to the compositional
techniques applied by the biblical author, and formulates a more general
tenet concerning the way Scripture was composed and structured:
When Scripture wishes to arrange accounts it tends to order (them accord-
ing to) their subjects (li-yunaz. z. ima ma#anhuma) so that they might not be
scattered (hatta
. la tanbatira), and so that one account will not be inserted
in the middle, even if it belongs there chronologically. Rather, it follows
one of two options: either to (relate) the account earlier (. . .) so as not to
depart from the intended subject (. . .); or to place it at the end, after having
finished (relating) the account that it intended to report.32
According to this comment, Yefet believes that Scripture was purpose-
fully arranged so as to avoid scattering accounts. It follows the princi-
ple of arranging reports thematically, not temporallythat is, dividing
them on the basis of their intended subjects (ma#an), not according to
chronology.33 In other words, in our exegetes view, it is the purport of the
text that defines its form, which is subordinate to the requirements of the
content. If, therefore, there is a need to relate two thematically distinct

repetition in other commentaries by Yefet, see Goldstein, Superfluity, pp. ,


n. (ad Exod :); Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. (ad Esther :). On the influence
of Arabic literature conceived as the major stimulus behind the development of the new
approach to the Bible and its exegesis, see Drory, Emergence, pp. . On medieval
Karaite exegetes being interested in the structure of the biblical text under the influence of
the Arabophone scholarly environment and judging it according to the literary norms
of Arabic literature, see Goldstein, Beginnings, pp. ; idem, Composition, esp.
pp. . Cf. also Sasson, Proverbs, pp. . On the Karaite literary approach to
the Bible as grounded in Jewish sources, see Polliack, Trends, esp. p. , n. and
pp. ; idem, Rethinking.
32

( . . . )
.( . . . )
(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. ; idem, Composition,
pp. .
33 On Yefets belief that a similar principle governs the organization of prophetic texts,

see his comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.) and the discussion on pp. . For additional examples as
emerging from Yefets commentaries on other biblical books, see, e.g., his comments on
Eccl :, ; : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. , , (Ar.), pp. , , (Eng.). See
also the exegetes comment on Ps in Bargs, Excerpta, p. (Ar.), p. (Lat.). Cf. Sasson,
Proverbs, pp. , .
scripture as the supreme composition

stories that took place simultaneously, the Bible would rather recount
them one after another, according to their subjects, so as to avoid
breaking up the plot.

.. The Principle of Complementary Distribution


As we have seen, the ordering of biblical narrative may, according to
Yefet, diverge from its chronological order, since Scripture tends to orga-
nize its accounts according to the subjects it discusses. This style of orga-
nization, however, may lead to informational gaps and ambiguity. In
order to provide a correct interpretation, the task of the exegete should,
therefore, include inter alia the discovery and reconstruction of the actual
chronological order of the narrated story. Yefet openly elucidates this
point in his comment on Genesis :, where he interprets the two par-
allel reports about the Creation:
Before we commence (interpreting) the chapter about the serpent, we must
arrange this story (i.e., the story of creation in Gen ) in proper order.
We therefore maintain, as we have already stated before, that this chapter
(= Gen ) explains things that were omitted in the recording of the (first)
chapter about Creation (= Gen ). We have explained this at the beginning
of the chapter, for it is indeed quite necessary to establish the proper order
of (this) chapter.34
Hence Yefet, like many modern biblical scholars, is convinced that cer-
tain parallel biblical accounts are mutually complementary, rather than
overlapping, each giving different kinds of information about how the
world came into being.35 Consequently, to understand them properly,
the exegete needs to read and analyze them concurrently in order to be
able to reconstruct the exact order of the events described.36 Only in this
manner can he know what really happened and thereby gain a proper
understanding of the intent of the narrative. This conviction is related to

34


(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). For another example, see, e.g., Yefets comment on
Job : in Hussain, Job, pp. .
35 See Alter, Art, p. . Cf. Goldstein, Superfluity, p. . For additional examples of

biblical stories, which Yefet perceived as mutually complementing one another, see above,
p. , n. . Cf. also Hussain, Job, pp. xxi, xx; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , .
36 On the role of the biblical exegete as consisting of, inter alia, reconstructing an

abstract Ur-text by means of a comparison to another passage in Scripture, which pro-


vides (complements) the information missing in a given passage, see Polliack & Schloss-
berg, Hosea, p. .
chapter five

the fundamental tenets of biblical stylenamely, the belief that Scripture


does not divulge all of its information at one time, on the one hand, and
that it repeats nothing, unless necessary, on the other.

. The Art of Narration:


Biblical Style and Its Fundamental Tenets

As previously noted, in the preface to his commentary on the non-legal


portions of the Pentateuch, Ya#qub al-Qirqisan presented thirty-seven
exegetical propositions describing fundamental tenets of scriptural style
and establishing principles of Bible exegesis. Although Yefet never com-
posed a separate treatise on biblical hermeneutics, it is an idiosyncratic
feature of his commentaries that he intersperses them with theoretical
statements concerning the Bible and the way it should be interpreted. In
these comments he approaches the Holy Writ as a literary text, attempt-
ing to formulate general tenets regarding its style and striving to discover
the organizational and editorial principles that govern its composition, in
addition to identifying and classifying the linguistic, stylistic, or literary
conventions it employs.

.. Gradual Disclosure of Information


The manner in which Scripture provides information about past events
was a feature of biblical style already noted by the early rabbinic sages and
subsequently considered an important characteristic of the Holy Writ
by medieval Karaite exegetes; that is, information does not need to be
divulged in a particular location, and may not necessarily concur with
the chronological chain of events. Al-Qirqisan, in his seventh exegetical
proposition, included in the aforementioned preamble, maintains:
Scripture may recount a certain story without completely recounting
everything that occurred therein; yet that which at first it has not
recounted, it recounts in another place.37

37 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisani, pp. ):  D01Q Dk /-2k Kk 47"&X ] DC U# Kk5X !# D"6. 

KL Rc7C f D01Q Dk D-z Kk5X Z DC Kk5X. Cf. ibid., pp. (discussion); Chiesa, Principii,
pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . Similar comments on al-Qirqisans part
probably reflect the rabbinic conviction that the words of Scripture are deliberately
parsimonious in one place while expansive in another, as epitomized in the dictum:
(The words of the Torah are poor in one
place and rich in another). See y. Rosh Hash. a. Cf. Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
p. .
scripture as the supreme composition

Yefet, too, acknowledges that one of the distinct features of the Bibles
narrative style is that, occasionally, it does not provide an exhaustive
description of a given event in one location, though it complements the
missing details in another. In his interpretation of Genesis : he openly
admits:
The style of Scripture is to condense [or elide] in one place and to
explain (in detail) in another, according to what is (most) convenient at a
(given) moment. Therefore scholars (i.e., exegetes) must delve deeply into
Scripture in order to grasp (all of) its meanings.38
In Yefets opinion, accordingly, the information required for a proper
understanding of a given story is not provided at one time, but revealed
gradually and scattered throughout the text. Thus, in order to properly
understand and interpret the scriptural accounts, the reader (in this case
the interpreter or scholar) must delve deeply into Scripture with a
view to collecting all the dispersed information. Commenting on another
passage (Genesis :) he expresses a similar view:
This is the style of Scripture, (which) it employs in numerous instances,
to condense in some places and not supply the account in full, relying on
what it explains (concerning the same matter) in a different place.39
It is significant, according to Yefet, that although the Bible does not
always supply the account in full, dispersing the information among
various distinct places in the text, in the end it provides everything
that is necessary for a proper understanding of a given account. Yet it
provides only that, wasting no words on redundant details or superfluous
repetitions. In other words, our exegete is convinced that the biblical
style is, in principle, concise, and as such it does not report the same
information more than once unless absolutely necessary. This is why it
sometimes disperses information and presents certain details only once,
in the most suitable place, so as to avoid repetition.

38

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).


Similarly, in his comment on Gen :, Yefet observes: Scripture expounds in (one)
place and abbreviates in another. Text, p. *. Cf. Frank, Scripturalism, p. and n.
there.
39

(Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r).


chapter five

.. Non-Chronological Arrangement
From Yefets aforementioned theoretical statements, in which he endeav-
ors to explicitly formulate the more general tenets of biblical style, we may
conclude that the scriptural narrative is not necessarily organized accord-
ing to chronological criteria. In his view this is because the overriding
principle governing its division into sections is not temporal, but the-
matic. Little wonder, then, that there may be temporal disruptions in the
flow of the biblical narrative. Indeed, it does not always need to develop
according to the chronological order of the events, but must sometimes
foreshadow or delay the disclosure of certain information.
Such exceptions to the overall continuity of the biblical narrative were
already observed by the early rabbis, who coined the maxim, There is
no anterior and posterior in the Bible ( ).40 This
maxim was employed as a temporal link to correct the textual phe-
nomenon known by the Greeks as hyperbaton or hysteron proteron
namely, the syntactical problem of anomalous word order, or the struc-
tural problem of an inverted chronological order in a chain of actions
and events. It, too, found its way into the list of exegetical propositions
formulated by al-Qirqisan, where the ninth one reads:
Scripture (was) recorded (in a manner that) gives priority in arrangement
(to the incidents) that took place later and defers (others) that occurred
earlier.41
According to this proposition, certain biblical statements occupy an ear-
lier or later place than they should, had they been arranged chronologi-
cally. Yefet also makes use of this exegetical principle to explain certain
textual ambiguities and disruptions in the general continuity of the bib-
lical narrative. In his commentary on the Abraham cycle we find only
one case (his comment on Genesis :) where he is inclined to accept
the possibility that the information was not provided in accordance with
the chronological order of the reported events. Quoting the opinions of
other scholars, Yefet states:

40 See b. Pesah. b. It broadly corresponds to the thirty-second exegetical principle of


.
Rabbi Eliezer. On its use in Karaite Bible exegesis, see Goldstein, Composition, pp.
; Khan, Diqduq, p. ; Lehrman, Jephet, p. ; Polliack, Tradition, p. ; idem,
Voice, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. , n. , pp. , .
41 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. ): 7? DC KL7X  KLD"C 7? DC PX!".  ,-". 4 !W-X D"6. 

!W"C. Cf. ibid., p. (discussion). Cf. Chiesa, Principii, pp. . Cf. above, p. ,
n. . Cf. Sasson, Proverbs, p. .
scripture as the supreme composition

Some people say that Abraham had married Keturah (already) before
Sarah gave birth (to Isaac), (when) he rose (in) his strength (so that he
could take another wife), in which case this (would follow the principle)
of anterior and posterior (i.e., what should come before, comes later)
(muqdam u-me"uhar). 42
.
The Bible does not state explicitly when Abraham married Keturah.
Apparently this lack of precise information bothered Bible exegetes in
general, and Yefet as well. We know that the Midrash sometimes identifies
Keturah with Hagar, in which case Abrahams marriage to Keturah would
indeed precede the birth of Isaac, with the information about it appearing
only later on.43 In opposition to this opinion, Yefet goes on to quote
another viewpoint according to which Abraham married Keturah after
Isaacs birth. The exegete refrains from expressing his own position on
this matter and does not assess the views cited, as is his habit in many
other places. By choosing not to voice his opinion he appears to accept
the possibility that, in this instance, the Bible inverted the chronological
order of the chain of events it describes.

.. Purposeful Elisions
Sometimes the Bible not only puts off providing certain information, but
even withholds it altogether. The concept of summarization (condens-
ing), omission, elision, or ellipsis (ikhtis. ar)44 is mentioned in the eighth
exegetical proposition formulated by al-Qirqisan:

42 Text, p. *. Cf. with the Talh


. s. :
(It is said that
[Abraham] married Keturah while Sarah was [still] alive, after she had given birth to
Isaac and he had considered her forbidden. But the most likely [interpretation] is that it
occurred after Sarahs death, according to what is required by the successive arrangement
[of described events].) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I fol. r). Cf. Lev .
43 See Gen Rab. , . For additional examples of Yefet making use of this exegetical

principle as emerging from his commentaries on other biblical books, see, e.g., Bargs,
Canticum, p. qp; Birnbaum, Hosea, p. xli (discussion), p. (Ar.); Hirschfeld, Nahum,
p. (discussion), (Ar.), p. (Eng.); Livne-Kafri, Habakkuk, p. (Ar.), p.
(Eng.); Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.); Marwick, Retribution,
pp. , ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , ; Wendkos, Jeremiah, pp. , , , .
See also his comments on Zech :; : in Vreugd, Zechariah. Cf. Lehrman, Jephet,
p. .
44 The concept of abbreviation, omission, elision, or ellipsis (ikhtisar) roughly corre-

sponds with the ninth of the thirty-two principles (middot) of Eliezer ben R. Yose ha-
Gelili. In the Middle Ages, it was included in the forty-nine principles of Shemuel ben
Hofni and was developed in particular by the Muslim exegetes of the Qur"an. On the use
of this concept in Yefets commentaries, see Polliack, Trends, p. , n. and pp.
; idem, Conception, pp. ; idem, Voice, p. ; idem, Ellision; Polliack &
Schlossberg, Prophets, pp. ; idem, Hosea, p. , n. ; p. , n. ; pp. ,
chapter five

In some instances Scripture goes on at length and is prolix, whereas in


others it condenses and is terse.45
Yefet also acknowledges that on some occasions the Bible summarizes
and even omits certain details, either by merely alluding to them or by
refraining from mentioning them altogether. He is convinced, however,
that Scriptures application of the elision technique is purposeful and not
accidental. Moreover, he believed that sometimes the missing detail is
implicit in the text and could be inferred by means of logical reasoning
from the broader context of the story; hence it does not need to be
stated explicitly. For instance, in his comment on Genesis : Yefet
ponders a question that had already bothered the rabbis: did the three
messengers who visited Abraham eat bread or not, the bread being
mentioned as having been baked by Sarah, but not served. The rabbinic
Midrash states that the bread was not brought to the table, because it
had accidentally become unclean,46 so Abraham did not serve it, whereas
Yefet explains:
The statement And he took curd (v. ) means that when (Abraham) pre-
pared the bread and the calf, (he served) with it (also) curd and milk.
Yet while (Scripture) mentioned the additional food, it omitted (ikhtas. ara)
mention of the bread, for the additional food was (obviously) eaten with
the bread.47
Since, as already discussed, Yefet believed that the divine message to
mankind, as encapsulated in the Holy Writ, was formulated in accor-
dance with the rules of logic governing human reasoning, then anything
that can be understood implicitly does not need to be stated explicitly.
Thus, it was unnecessary to mention that the bread was served to the
guests, since the text had already related that the bread was being pre-
pared (Gen :). Our exegete concludes, moreover, that it would have

nn. , ; p. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , . See also Wechsler, Esther, pp.


. On the use of this concept (in a more narrow sense, as in the elision of letters) by Yusuf
b. Nuh. and in the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. ; Khan, Diqduq, pp. ,
, ; Polliack, Trends, p. , n. ; idem, Conception, p. , n. ; idem,
Voice, p. , n. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets, p. ; idem, Hosea, p. , n. .
Cf. Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
45 (per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, p. ): Rc7C f  DEI] 5-V Rc7C f _TI"&X !# D"6. 

D-]  D"L]. Cf. ibid., p. (discussion); Chiesa, Principii, pp. .


46 Eng. trans. per Ginzberg, Legends, I, p. . Cf. b. B. Mesi#a a; Gen Rab. , .
.
For further bibliography, see Ginzberg, Legends, I, p. , n. .
47 Text, p. *. For a similar explanation provided by Saadia, according to which there

was no need to state that the bread was eaten, see Zucker, Genesis, p. (Ar.), p.
(Heb.).
scripture as the supreme composition

been redundant to include the bread in the list of foods that were served,
since it is clear to him that the food must have been eaten with bread
such being, apparently, a common and well-known custom in the his own
times as well.
In his comment on Genesis : Yefet reaffirms that certain things
which are not explicitly stated in Scripture are included implicitly. Thus,
when addressing the question of how Pharaoh could possibly have
known that taking Sarai caused the plagues that afflicted him, Yefet states:
Truly, Scripture condensed that (information and did not provide it here),
as the sense (of the entire passage) implies. For it is inevitable48 that
(Pharaoh) learned about it (either) from Sarais words or (through) notifi-
cation from God in a dream. Yet since Scripture does not recount (Gods)
speech (directed to Pharaoh in a dream), as (the one directed to) Abim-
elech (Gen :), it is most probable that (Pharaoh) asked Sarai and she
informed him (that she was Abrams wife).49

Sometimes, however, a certain detail is omitted not because it is implicit


in the text, but because Scripture provides it explicitly in another place;
therefore, according to Yefet, its repetition would be redundant. In his
interpretation of Ruth :, for example, he affirms that the mudawwin
condensed and did not mention part of the sentence pronounced by
the heroine, knowing that she would repeat the same information in

48 It is inevitable or it is necessary; for this meaning of the Ar. la yukhlu, see Blau,

Dictionary, p. b.
49 Text, pp. . To answer the question of how Pharaoh learned that Sarai was the

reason for the plagues which affected him, al-Qirqisan formulated a more general tenet
of biblical style:


(In [the case of] narratives, what at first Scripture
does not explain in full, is related in another place, either explicitly or [in a manner that
it can] be understood from the essential purport [of the text]. Thus it might be possible
that God informed Pharaoh about both matters in a dream, as He informed Abimelech
[Gen :] and [as it occurred in other instances], which are similar and resemble
[this example]. So if [something in the scriptural account] is in the realm of the possible
[and] cannot be denied or refuted, it suffices to eliminate the uncertainty and provide a
general answer [to the question, which] is being asked.) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ,
fol. v). Cf. Chiesa & Lockwood, Newly-found, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). Thus, the
Talh
. s. states that either Sarai, seeing Pharaoh suffer from the diseases, informed him that
God afflicted him with these plagues for having taken her, since she was Abrams wife and
not his natural sister (
), or Pharaoh was informed (by God) in a
dream why these plagues were necessary ( ) (Mss. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r; SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v).
chapter five

the continuation of the text.50 In our exegetes view it would have been
superfluous to supply the same information twice, for the readers would
be able to complete the missing portion of the phrase from the later
passage in which the previously omitted information is found.
Being convinced, moreover, that different biblical passages are mutu-
ally complementary, Yefet often argues that it is possible to explain Scrip-
ture by means of a comparison to or logical deduction from a different
biblical passage. In such cases, he asserts, the Bible tends to purpose-
fully summarize, so as to avoid providing redundant information that
can otherwise be obtained by means of attentive reading. For instance, in
his interpretation of Genesis :, where he attempts to elucidate the
problematic portion of Scripture in which God reveals himself to Abra-
ham and, at the same time, three guests visit him (where it is semantically
unclear whether the guests are identical with God or not), Yefet states:
The mudawwin refrained from [or elided] (ikhtas. ara) mentioning that
God permitted him (= Abraham) to do so (i.e., to invite the three men to
eat by his tent); but from his (= Abrahams) words, Let now a little water
(be fetched) (v. ), we learn that (God) consented to his request.51
Thus Scripture does not need to inform us about every detail, since by
analyzing different biblical stories in conjunction with one another, com-
paring their content, employing logical deduction, and reading between
the lines, the reader can understand perfectly well what happened. Pro-
viding similar information would, in Yefets view, be unnecessary and
superfluous.

.. Meaningful Repetition
In view of its terseness of style and economy as regards the provision of
information, Yefet maintains that when the biblical text makes an effort to
repeat a word or expression, it must be purposeful and bear an additional
meaning ().52 Accordingly, he often identifies repetitions (a#ada,

50 See Butbul, Ruth, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.). Cf. also Schorstein, Rth, p. xxvi

(Ar.), p. (Ger.). For the discussion of this statement, see also Blumfield, Ruth, pp. ,
. For Yefets belief in the complementary distribution of information in Scriptures,
see above pp. ff. For the discussion of Yefet making the mudawwin responsible for
delaying certain information (flashback), see below, pp. ff.
51 Text, p. *. Cf. below, p. , n. .
52 The rabbis had already recognized that the repetitions were meaningful. This was

given expression in Rabbi Eliezer Yose ha-Gelilis dictum: (There is


no repetition without reason). On Yefets conviction that every word in Scripture is
there for a reason and that it contains no superfluous words along with a study of the
scripture as the supreme composition

qala min al-ra"s, raja#a) in order to explain their underlying meaning,


emphasizing that they are not superfluous or incidental (bi-ma#an, li-
ma#an, fa"ida fh, ghard. fh). For example, when commenting on Genesis
:, where the same action on the part of Abraham (he looked, he
saw) is mentioned twice (), Yefet observes:
(The fact that Scripture) says and when he saw (va-yar") (them) (v. )
after having said and he lifted up his eyes and looked (va-yar") (v. ) is
meaningful, for it is (meant) to inform (us) that when (Abraham) saw
them (i.e., the three messengers), he stood up on the spot and went to meet
them.53
Yefet considers the repetition of the same verb form () in this verse to
be necessary, since it provides the reader with additional information. He
explains that from the first part of the verse we merely learn that Abraham
lifted up his eyes and looked (va-yar") in the sense of looking around
and apparently seeing the messengers arriving, whereas the repetition
of the same verb in the second part of the verse highlights the fact that
as soon as Abraham saw (va-yar") the messengers approaching, he
stood up and went towards them to greet them. Thus, the impression of
redundancy here is deceptive, the repetition being meaningful because it
gives the reader additional information.54

repercussions of this view in his commentary on Proverbs, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp.
, . For the discussion of meaningful repetitions in the Talkhs. (often understood
as fulfilling the function of emphasis, Ar. ta"kd) and in Yefets Bible commentaries, see
Goldstein, Beginnings; idem, Superfluity. Cf. also Goldstein, Composition, pp.
.
53 Text, p. *.
54 Another example may be adduced from Yefets comments on Gen :: Then

(the messenger) repeated the statement (and) said: At the set time I will return unto thee
(v. ). His repetition has meaning, for had he refrained from his repetition, it would
have been possible to (think that) Gods (anger may) fall on her (= Sarah) on account of
(her) astonishment, and (that) Gods promise would not be fulfilled. So he repeated the
statement to inform (her) that the promise (remained) in effect, and that reproaching her
(was only) for her saying After I am waxed old (v. ), in accordance with what entered
her heart in terms of astonishment. Text, pp. **. Yefet is of the opinion that the
repetition in this case is meaningful, since it is needed to confirm that Sarahs inadequate
reaction to the promise (doubt, laughter, or at least astonishment) did not have a bearing
on Gods decision to grant her a child. Otherwise, it might be possible to think that the
good tidings became invalidated due to her improper behavior. Thus, in Yefets view,
the repetition here does not really provide additional information, rather it is meant to
confirm the validity of what was already said and to serve as a tool to convince the biblical
heroine and the Bible reader alike that Gods promises remained in effect, despite Sarahs
inadequate reaction. Hence, it is aimed at dispelling the ambiguity from Scripture.
chapter five

Furthermore, Yefet asserts that there are instances where the repeated
expression takes on a new meaning completely different from the one it
possessed in the first occurrence. For example, in his interpretation of
Genesis : Yefet refers to Abrahams repetition of the words directed
to God, that be far from Thee, and states:
(Abrahams) stating anew, Be that far from Thee (v. ), is meaningful, for
(his) saying (the first time) Be that far from Thee (v. ) means, Far be it
from You to do (something) like that, whereas his saying the second time
Be that far from Thee (v. ) means: Far be it from You that the people
attribute to You that You make no distinction between the righteous and
the wicked in this situation.55
According to Yefet, therefore, the identical expression Be that far from
Thee, repeated twice in this passage, does not merely provide additional
information, but instead bears two utterly distinct meanings: in the
first instance it (i.e., the implied subject) refers to the hypothetically
inconsistent expression (because of its unjustness) of Gods character
that is, the destruction of the righteous together with the wicked. In
the second instance, however, it relates to the hypothetically unjust
accusation of the people, which should be far from being attributed to
God on account of His action.56
In all of the examples quoted above, Yefet interprets the meanings
of repetitions of very similar or identical formulations appearing in
Scripture. He also attempts to explain why certain events occurred more
than once and why the Torah relates them in a distinct manner each time.
For instance, he wonders why, in Genesis :, God repeated His promise
to Abraham when it had already been given, albeit in different words, in
Genesis ::
Then (God) repeated: And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will
make nations of thee (v. ) so as to add to it and kings (shall come out of thee)

55 Text, p. *. A similar idea, that the expression that be far from Thee means that

Abraham was concerned lest those coming into the world would say that God punishes by
means of cruelty, is found in the Midr. Tanh.. , (on Va-yera). For a different midrashic
explanation of this expression, see Gen Rab. , .
56 Another example of Yefet assessing an apparent repetition as providing new infor-

mation may be seen in his comment on Gen :: (Scripture) has already said And
the men rose up from thence, and looked out (toward Sodom), etc. (Gen :). So (the
fact that) it repeats (it now) has a meaning, and it is to inform (us) that the men
had stood with Abraham till the time that (one of them) said to him: I will go down
now, and see (Gen :). Next they turned from the place of the conversation. Text,
p. *.
scripture as the supreme composition

(v. ). We have said that He repeated this (promise), for He had (already)
said and (I) will multiply thee (exceedingly) (v. ), the meaning of which is
like the meaning of And I will make thee exceeding fruitful. Moreover, He
said, and I will make nations of thee, although this may be inferred from His
words, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations (v. ). It is also
claimed that His saying and (I) will multiply thee exceedingly (v. ) included
the possibility that (Abraham) would multiply through people joining him
or (through) slaves and slave-girls, and multiplying through them, for
which reason (God) said to him, And I will make thee exceeding fruitful
to make clear to him (= Abraham) that he would multiply through his own
children, not others.57
According to Yefet the meaning of both expressionsand (I) will multiply
thee exceedingly (v. ) and And I will make thee exceeding fruitful (v. )
is the same, as is the meaning of and thou shalt be the father of a
multitude of nations (v. ) and and I will make nations of thee (v. ).
This is why, notwithstanding the difference in the formulation of both
promises, Yefet states that God repeated. Nonetheless, he is inclined
to believe that the repetition of essentially the same promises was not
redundant, but meaningful. First, God intended to add something to
His initial promisei.e., the repetition was meant to provide additional
information. Second, God wished to spell out the meaning of the initial
promise, assuring Abraham that He would multiply through his own
offspring and not through those of others, whether people joining him
or his slaves. God therefore reiterated His promise, directed intentionally
to Abraham, in order to exclude the latter possibility.

.. The Art of Reticence


Yefet not only pays heed to the repetition of similar expressions or ideas
in the biblical text, but also takes notice of their absencewhich he
also considers to be meaningful. In this sense he acknowledges that
the Bible may sometimes be selectively silent in a purposeful way.58
An interesting example of such meaningful reticence is found in Yefets
comment on Genesis :, where he endeavors to elucidate the question
of why Abram, after having heard the first promise from God, did not ask
whereby shall I know, whereas he did raise this question after hearing
the second promise from God. He writes:

57 Text, p. *.
58 See Alter, Art, p. .
chapter five

Someone may ask, What does it mean that (Abram) believed in the Lord
(v. ) with regard to the first statement, which (included) an unspecified
promise (of offspring) (wa#ad mursal), without asking Whereby shall I
know, whereas regarding this promise (of land) he did ask, Whereby shall
I know (v. )? The answer to this (question) is that, when the promise is
about the great number of offspring, God sometimes does similar (things)
for the idolaters. But as to the handing over of the land, God would give
it only to the obedient. It was possible, moreover, that Abrams offspring
would be obedient, but it was (equally) possible that they would disobey
and would not deserve it (i.e., the land). Hence Gods statement Unto thy
seed will I give this land (Gen :) would (only be fulfilled) if (your
offspring) are obedient to me. Thus (Abrams) words Whereby shall I know
mean, I want to know for certain that I will inherit it (i.e., the land), for
if I am certain of that I would know that my offspring will most certainly
be obedient. Therefore it is said (about Abram) in the first statement, And
he believed in the Lord (v. ), but regarding the second (one he asked),
Whereby shall I know?59
Yefets reply to the hypothetical question concerning the reason that
Abram refrained in the first instance from asking Whereby shall I know
invests this statement with meaning by claiming that it informs us about
the kind of promise that God made to Abram (conditional or abso-
lutely certain). According to our exegete, after Abram heard the first
promise, despite its imprecise formulation, he could be certain that his
offspring would indeed be numerous, irrespective of their deeds. The
second promise, however, was conditional and, after having heard it,
Abram could not be sure whether his descendants would really inherit
the land or not, since its fulfillment was dependent on their moral behav-
ior. Therefore, it was only in regard to the second promise that Abram
needed to ask God whereby shall I know, in order to be certain not
only that the promise would be fulfilled, but also, by implication, that his
descendants would be obedient.

59 Text, pp. **. The comment on this passage in the Talkhs focuses on condi-
.
tional and unconditional promises (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rr),
whereas al-Qirqisan discusses the matter of Gods promises and threats (Ms. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. r and v). For another example of Yefet considering reticence
to be meaningful, see, e.g., his comment ad Eccl : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. (Ar.),
p. (Eng.), or his comment on Esth : in Wechsler, Esther, p. (Ar.), p.
(Eng.).
scripture as the supreme composition

. Methods of Narration:
Rhetorical and Stylistic Devices, Linguistic
Conventions, and Patterns of Expression

.. Rhetorical Devices
The art of eloquence (fan al-balagha) became an important branch of
knowledge in Islamic culture in Yefets time and its development con-
tributed to the growth of the stylistic consciousness among the Arabic
speakers of the Muslim empire.60 It is therefore not surprising that Yefet,
too, introduced numerous stylistic comments into his Bible commen-
taries, pointing out various patterns of expression or distinct figures of
speech. For example, when interpreting the angels speech to Hagar after
she ran away from Sarai (Gen :), Yefet expounds:
He began by saying to her, Hagar, Sarais handmaid (v. ), to make her
aware of the ugliness of her deedthat she was Sarais slave and should not
have run away and vitiated Sarais property. After he made an impression
on her with his speech and informed her that he had power over her, he
said, Whence camest thou? (v. ) as an opening to (his) speech (istiftah. li-"l-
kalam), just as we have explained (Gods) words to Adam, Where art thou?
(Gen :), as well as His saying to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? (Gen
:).61

In our exegetes opinion the question the angel asked HagarWhence


camest thou?is not an ordinary one, but rather a rhetorical one, a device
for opening (istiftah)
. his speech to her. As such, it performs a mainly
stylistic function contributing to the proper construction of the speech,
which, according to the art of rhetoric, should begin with an introduction
before proceeding to the heart of the matter.62

60 Cf. Goldstein, Composition, pp. . For the study of rhetorical and poetical

techniques noted by Yefet in his commentaries on other biblical books, see especially
Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets; idem, Hosea, pp. . See also Sasson, Proverbs,
pp. , .
61 Text, p. *. The authors of the Talkhs also think that the angels question to Hagar
.
serves as an introduction to the speech ( ) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab.
I , fols. v and v). Similarly, al-Qirqisan emphasizes that the angels question
does not stem from his lack of knowledge, but rather it is an introduction to the speech
( ), as was the case with the question God directed to Adam (Gen :) (Ms.
SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r).
62 For additional examples from Yefets Bible commentaries wherein he employs the

Arabic terms istifta h. li-"l-kalam or iftitah. al-kalam to designate a rhetorical question


intended to serve as an opening to speech, see his comments on Job :; :; : in Ben-
Shammain, Job, pp. , (Ar.), pp. , (Heb.); Hussain, Job, pp. , , .
chapter five

.. Stylistic Devices
To indicate the stylistic devices employed in the biblical text Yefet often
makes use of the formula that a given expression is in the style of
literally, in the way of (#ala sabl, #ala t. arq)something. For instance,
while commenting on Gods promise to Abram of numerous offspring
(Gen :), he states that Gods command to count the stars is not an
actual order, but rather a hyperbolic expression. Our exegete explains:
(Gods) words (to Abram), and count the stars (v. ), are not a command,
for He most certainly would not command him (to do) what cannot be
accomplished.63 He therefore said, if thou be able to count them (v. ), which
is in the style of the hyperbole (#ala t. arq aj#al) meant to inform (us) that
(Abram) was unable to number them because of their multitude.64
Yefet even interprets certain seemingly unnecessary or redundant expres-
sions that do not provide additional information as stylistic devices
aimed at enhancing the portrayal of the recorded events as well as the
emotional attitude of the biblical characters involved. For example, he
notes such a stylistic device in Genesis :, which he interprets:
The addition of the expression to Abram her husband to be his wife (v. )
is in the style of emphasis (#ala sabl al-ta#z. m) for this situation, in that
(Sarai) was willing to give her slave-girl (= Hagar) in marriage to her
husband.65

63 While enumerating the instances where the commandment of circumcision should

be temporarily suspended (Gen :), Yefet reiterates this conviction, i.e., that God does
not impose on the believer what is impossible or too difficult to carry out (
). He concludes there:
(For the Master of the Universe does not assign what is impossible). Text,
p. *. Interestingly, a similar assertion, formulated in similar words as well, can be
found in the Qur"an (:), which reads: God does not assign to (lit. burden) any
soul more than it can bear (. . .) our Lord! do not place upon us the impossible (lit. a
burden greater than we have strength to bear) (]  DE8 (...) D-V D0IB ] D&lG U2. m26X ]
@8 DE. U#DI ] DC DE2T-). Cf. also with Saadias statement (per Saadia, Amanat, IV:, p. ):
(The All Wise does not charge
anyone with aught that does not lie within his competence or which he is unable to do).
Eng. trans. per Saadia, Book, p. .
64 Text, pp. **. Al-Qirqisan also reports what has been said about the order and

count: that it was meant to explain that it cannot be done (


), as indicated by the statement if thou be able to count
them (v. ). He continues:
(It is like someone who says to a man do so and so, if you are
able to [do it]. So it is not an order, but a report and information about the impossibility
[of doing it]). Al-Qirqisan compares this to other passages in the Bible when a similar
construction is used (Job :, Jer :). See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. vv.
65 Text, p. *.
scripture as the supreme composition

In Yefets view the expression to Abram her husband to be his wife


was added purposefully, since it serves as a repetitive device meant to
emphasize the gravity of the situation. It was probably also added so as
to put into relief the psychological difficulty, which Sarai, a legal wife,
had to face, sacrificing herself for the sake of her husband and his future
offspring.66
Yefets sensitivity to the variations of biblical style can also be seen in
those instances wherein he distinguishes the more poetic passages within
the overall prosaic narrative of the Abraham cycle. An example of such
a distinction is found in his interpretation of Genesis :, where he
concludes that Sarais words, God hath made laughter for me; every one
that heareth will laugh on account of me. (. . .) Who would have said unto
Abraham, that Sarah should give children suck? for I have borne him a
son in his old age were pronounced in the style of poetry (#ala sabl al-
sha#ar). It is uncertain what Yefet meant by the term poetry, but from
other occurrences in which he makes use of the same expression, it can
be inferred that he was probably referring to the figure of speech called
polyptotoni.e., the repetition of words derived from the same root.67

.. Patterns of Expression
Not only do the biblical characters make use of figures of speech, but,
as Yefet points out, Scripture itself possesses its own style and its own
particular patterns of expression. For example, in his comment on Gods
promise to Abraham in Genesis : (And I will make thee exceeding
fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.)
Yefet explicates:
The expression exceeding (bi-me"od me"od) is the style of Scripture (huwa
t. arq li-"l-kitab), which it employs when it wishes to express the utmost
degree of something.68
Hence Scripture has its own stylistic ways of expressing and describing
things, which anyone who wishes to properly understand and interpret
the text must be acquainted with. Yefet frequently distinguishes and
draws attention to particular expressions that follow certain patterns
(majr), typical of biblical style. An interesting example of such a pattern

66 For another example of Yefet distinguishing this rhetorical device (#ala tarq al-
.
isti#zam),
. see his comment on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg,
Hosea, p. (Ar.), p. (Heb.) and the discussion on p. .
67 See Yefets comment on Gen : (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v).
68 Text, p. *.
chapter five

can be seen in his comment on Genesis :, where he explains that the


word flesh preceding the word foreskin does not add any meaning
in Gods commandment to Abraham: And ye shall be circumcised in the
flesh of your foreskin (besar #orlatkhem); it is merely a pattern of expression
typical of biblical Hebrew, as our exegete states:
Know that (Gods) words the flesh of your foreskin (v. ) do not signify
any additional flesh, but rather the foreskin itself and nothing else. (. . .)
There are numerous additional (expressions) in Scripture that follow this
pattern (yajr hadha "l-majr) and everyone who understands the language
discerns them.69
According to Yefet the word flesh in this case should not be understood
in isolation from the entire expression of which it forms an integral
element. As such, it is by no means superfluous, although by itself it
does not have an additional meaning in this verse. In his opinion, this
constitutes a linguistic pattern, one of those fixed expressions common
in biblical Hebrew with which the exegete needs to be well-acquainted in
order to understand and interpret the Holy Writ properly.

.. Linguistic Conventions
On certain occasions Yefet openly discusses the custom (#ada, rasm) or
way (sra) of the Bible, the manner in which the characters or the anony-
mous author-redactor recounts the story and fashions the text.70 For
example, Yefet explains that Abrahams words to the three messengers in
Genesis :, And I will fetch a morsel of bread, should not be understood
literally, but rather as a linguistic convention, because it is an expression
which purposefully belittles the scope of the intended action:
(Abraham) said a morsel of bread, as it is the custom (rasm) of people to
diminish what they will do in terms of service, and what they will give in
terms of reverence.71
Thus, according to Yefet, Abrahams words a morsel of bread should be
understood as an expression that reflects the linguistic custom of verbally
diminishing ones own deeds (modesty).

69 Text, p. *. Cf. with the Talkhs. :


(No flesh from human flesh is called foreskin, but rather
the [word] foreskin is a description of [flesh], by which it [i.e., the flesh of the foreskin] is
distinguished from other [kinds of] flesh) (MS. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. r
r ).
70 See, e.g., Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
71 Text, p. *.
scripture as the supreme composition

Yefet also maintains that some expressions are merely stylistic devices
aimed at conveying certain social norms and conventions that determine
the interactions between the biblical figures. An example of such an
interpretation of a Hebrew expression can be found in Yefets comment
on Genesis ::
By his words, forasmuch as ye are come (to your servant) (v. ), (Abraham)
meant, I am obligated to host you, for you have passed by me. It is also
explained (as meaning), It is necessary that you stay by me, and eat my
food, for you have passed by me. He said to your servant, moreover, after
the manner of showing reverence (ikram) for them and according to what
good manners (adab) require.72
In Yefets opinion, therefore, Abraham did not really mean that he was
the servant of his guests; rather, he used this expression to demonstrate
his respect for them, as good manners require.

.. Tension Building Devices


In some cases Yefet does not employ a particular term to describe the
stylistic features of a given text; nonetheless, we can infer from his com-
ment that he perceived certain formulations and passages as serving
purely stylistic purposes. An interesting example of such an undefined
stylistic formula is found in Yefets comment on Genesis :, where
he expounds:
(God) put (the expression) your fathers house (v. ) at the end, for it is the
most difficult of the three (departures). And each kind (of departure) is
more difficult than the preceding one, for his (= Abrams) departure from
his land is easier than his departure from his relatives, and his departure
from his relatives is easier than his departure from his fathers house. Had
He not intended (to emphasize) this meaning (= the difficulty involved in
these three departures), His words Get thee out of thy country would have
sufficed, (for) once (Abram) left his country he would most certainly have
left his relatives and his fathers house.73

72 Text, p. *. Cf. with the Talkhs:


.
() (I have to host you, and honor you, forasmuch as ye are come [to your servant]
[v. ]). See Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r.
73 Text, p. *. Whereas Yefet seems to put the stress on the psychological aspect of

departure and its emotional difficulty, al-Qirqisan emphasizes that Gods order to Abram
to leave his family and relatives is intended to inform (us) about Abrams privileged
position, his righteousness, and his separation from them in terms of his obedience to and
worship of God ( ). See Ms. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r. In a similar vein, Saadia Gaon lists seven important purposes
chapter five

According to Yefet, God purposefully formulates His command to


Abram in a way that emphasizes the difficulty involved in its fulfillment.
The meticulous enumeration of all the requirements contained within
the simple instruction to depart from his land not only highlights all
of its painful aspects, but also creates an internal tension within the
text by gradually disclosing them, from the easiest to the hardest.74 In
other words, God expressed His command by employing the stylistic
technique of incremental repetition. Thus the outwardly superfluous
details it contains progressively intensify the divine instruction, building
up the internal tension within the text and setting in greater relief the
emotional challenge that this instruction represented to Abram.

. Biblical Narration: The Role of the Muhk


. and
the Mudawwin in Shaping the Biblical Narrative

Both the biblical narrative, conceived of as a coherent literary compo-


sition, and the art of narrating, understood as the means by which the
narrative is fashioned, are intrinsically connected with the concepts of
the mudawwin and the muhk. . It is not clear whether Yefet makes a
sharp distinction between these two figures and their respective, some-
what overlapping, functions, for it seems that, at least to some extent,
he employs both these terms interchangeably. Nonetheless, the role of
the muhk
. appears secondary, being limited to reporting, or narrating
and recounting the story in the sense of an activity performed by a sto-
ryteller or narrator.75 On the other hand, although the mudawwin may
sometimes play a similar role to the muhk,
. Yefet very often makes him

of Gods order to Abram to set out on a journey, of which six have been preserved in the
edited text: to bring benefit to the people ( ); to try Abram and, by doing so,
to increase his reward ( ); to demonstrate His signs and miracles (
); to provide Abram and his companions with happiness ( );
to recompense him ( ); to increase esteem of the land (
). See Zucker, Saadya, pp. (Ar.), p. (Heb.). Cf. Linetsky, Commentary,
pp. .
74 For another example of the gradual disclosure of information, arranged from the

easiest to the most difficult and perceived by Yefet as a rhetorical device, see his comment
on Hos : in Birnbaum, Hosea, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. (Ar.), p.
(Heb.) and the discussion on p. and n. there.
75 From the Ar. root haka, meaning to tell, to relate, to report, or to give an
.
account. On this term, see Polliack, Conception, pp. ; idem, Voice, p. ;
Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
scripture as the supreme composition

responsible as well for actually committing the biblical text to writing,


collecting different reports, molding them together, and shaping the final
form of Scripture.76

.. Recounting the Story


Providing information about biblical events by simply recounting the
story appears to be the main and the most basic role Yefet ascribes to
both the mudawwin and the muhk.. The exegete makes both of them
responsible for narrating events, as can be seen in his comment on
Genesis :, where he asserts:
(Terah) truly died being disobedient, and so the mudawwin states that
when Terahs intention abated with respect to his determination to enter
the land of Canaan, and (as he decided to) remain in Haran, the Master of
the Universe spoke to Abram about the departure from his father and his
relatives, and (about) going to the land of Canaan.77
Here Yefet bestows upon the mudawwin the responsibility for informing
readers about past events and explaining its details to them in the manner
of an authorial narrator or storyteller.

.. Combined Speech and Transitional Statements


Not only are the muhk
. and the mudawwin made responsible for recount-
ing events, but also for quoting dialogues between the protagonists and
inserting transitional statements to separate them.78 Thus Yefet seems
convinced that it is the biblical narrator who cites and intentionally

76 The Arabic term mudawwin derives from the root dawwana, which has a wide

semantic field. It can mean recording or putting down by writing a previously com-
posed text (as in the work of a scribe). Yet, it may also designate the act of composing or
the creative writing of a new text (as in the work of an author). Furthermore, it relates to
the act of putting together in terms of compilation or edition (e.g., Arabic diwan
collection of poems), and it is often translated as author-redactor or compiler-editor.
Sometimes it is also used in the sense of what we would today call authorial-narrator
or storyteller, viz., a literary device that serves the authors need to relate the events and
fulfills various other functions within the text. In Yefets commentaries on the narrative
portions of the Pentateuch, the term mudawwin is often used in this last sense, but even
more frequently in the sense of author-redactor or compiler-editor. See Polliack, Trends,
esp. pp. ; idem, Conception; idem, Voice; Polliack & Schlossberg, Prophets;
idem, Hosea, esp. pp. . Cf. also above, pp. ff.
77 Text, p. *. For an example of Yefet making the muhk responsible for narrating the
.
events, see above, p. , n. .
78 For a discussion of Yefet distinguishing different voices in the biblical text, see

especially Polliack, Voice. See also above, p. , nn. , .


chapter five

arranges the statements pronounced by biblical characters, including


God, separating them, if need be, by means of introductory formulas.
For example, in his comment on Genesis : our exegete explains:
Since the first sentence contained a promise from God to Abraham (i.e.,
Gen :), whereas this second sentence (i.e., Gen :) was a com-
mandment given to him, the mudawwin separated (afs. ala) these two verses
and (between them) said, and God said (v. ).79
In the above citation Yefet asserts that the mudawwin deliberately sepa-
rated (afs. ala) two pronouncements made by God to Abraham by insert-
ing a transitional statement, doing so on the grounds of their disparate
character, since one of them was a promise, while the other was a com-
mandment. Hence our exegete makes the biblical storyteller responsible
for the conscious and purposeful organization of the materials at his dis-
posal so as to express the intended meaning in the most unambiguous
and precise way.

.. Omission to Avoid Superfluity


Having attributed this role to the mudawwin, Yefet endeavors to describe
the principles governing the method used by the biblical narrator to
construct the account. Thus, he often ponders the question of why certain
dialogues and information are provided, whereas others are withheld, as
his comment on Genesis : demonstrates:
The statement and (Abraham) hastened (v. ) represents the words of the
muhk.
. They indicate that Abraham ordered him (= the cook) (to prepare
the food) with the most suitable urgency. Yet about Sarah (the muhk) .
employed concision (ikhtas. ara) and did not say that she hastened to dress
it (v. ), for (Abrams) words to her, (Make ready) quickly three measures (of
fine meal, knead it, and make cakes) (v. ), (undoubtedly) convinced her so
that she arose on the spot and hurried to prepare the bread.80
By identifying the words of the muhk
. in the above citation, Yefet makes
a clear distinction between his voice, telling the story, and the voices of
the biblical characters, all of them being, in our exegetes eyes, tightly
interwoven in Scripture.81 In this passage he confers on the muhk . the
79 Text, p. *. For other examples of Yefet making the mudawwin responsible for

inserting transitional statements, which include his own observations, see Margoliouth,
Daniel, p. (Ar.), (Eng.); Wechsler, Esther, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.). See also below,
p. , n. .
80 Text, p. *.
81 For Yefet making a distinction in his Bible commentaries between the voices of

distinct biblical characters, see especially Polliack, Voice, and also idem, Trends, p. .
scripture as the supreme composition

responsibility for quoting the conversation between Abraham and Sarah


and for providing transitional statements between their spoken com-
munications. Yet he realizes that the scene is depicted selectively, cer-
tain portions of it having been omitted and information withheld. In an
attempt to answer the question of why the muhk . decided to abbreviate
his report, Yefet formulates a more general statement about the princi-
ples according to which the biblical narrator shapes the account. In his
view, it was not necessary to overtly state that Sarah hastened to carry
out Abrahams instructions, since his words to herquickly three mea-
suresmust have convinced her to prepare the food with all due haste.
Our exegete therefore concludes that providing such information would
have been redundant; the biblical narrator recounts the story in an ide-
ally succinct fashion, divulging to the reader only the most relevant pieces
of informationthose which could not otherwise be inferred from the
broader contextwhile refraining from stating explicitly what is already
implicit in the text (amsaka, ikhtas. ara).
In Yefets opinion, moreover, the biblical narrator tends to shorten or
elide not only the information that is contained implicitly in the text, but
also anything that can be deduced from it by logical inference. An apt
example of such deliberate shortening or elision (ikhtis. ar) on the part of
the mudawwin can be seen in our exegetes comment on Genesis :,
where he elucidates:
The mudawwin elided (ikhtas. ara) mention of the fact that God had per-
mitted him (= Abraham) to do so (i.e., to invite the three men), yet from
(Abrahams) words Let now a little water (be fetched) (v. ) we learn that
(God) consented to his request (= Abrahams).82
From the biblical text it is not clear who appeared to or visited Abraham
(God, messengers, or both), whom he invited to eat, and with whom he
spoke in Genesis , since he uses both the singular and plural forms
interchangeably in the words he directs to his guest or guests. Yefet solves
this textual difficulty by distinguishing between two separate events that
occurred in this chapter: the appearance of God and the visit of the
three messengers. According to this interpretation God first appeared to
Abraham in order to speak with him about the destruction of Sodom
(v. ). Immediately afterwards, Abraham noticed three men approaching
(v. ) and so asked God to grant him a respite that would allow him to

82 Text, p. *. Cf. below, p. , n. .


chapter five

show them proper hospitality (v. ). Once the guests finished eating and
announced the birth of Isaac to Sarah, they left for Sodom, whereupon
Abraham returned to his suspended conversation with God (v. ). Yet
even if we assume that Abrahams words, and (he) said: My Lord, if now I
have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant.
(v. ), were directed to God, and that by pronouncing them Abraham
meant to ask God to wait until he could finish hosting the three men,
it is still not explicitly stated in the text that God actually consented
to Abrahams request. Yefet provides a solution to this exegetical crux
by concluding that, based on the mere fact that Abraham commenced
preparing food for his guests, it is possible to deduce that God agreed
to Abrahams request. This is why, he goes on to explain, the biblical
mudawwin had no need to express this in words. Yefet thus contends
that the mudawwin purposefully shortened the report and refrained
from providing information which would be redundant, since it could
be inferred from the broader context.

.. Adding Explanatory Comments


Yefet makes the biblical narrator responsible not only for recounting
the events in the most concise way, citing the lines pronounced by the
characters, and adding transitional statements between them, but also for
inserting additional explanatory comments (often marked by the terms
ziyada or idafa).
. The exegetes comment on Genesis : demonstrates
his consciousness that various distinct voices (those of God, the muhk
.
or the mudawwin, and other characters) are intermingled in the biblical
accounts, and that it is the mudawwin who provides an explanatory note:
From (Sarais) words the Lord hath restrained me (v. ) we learn that
she was certain of her barrenness and that she attributed this fact to
the Master of the Universe, which indicates the power of her faith (. . .).
Similarly, Jacob, may peace be on him, said, (Am I in Gods stead,) who hath
withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? (Gen :). (To a similar effect),
moreover, the mudawwin said, and He opened her womb (Gen :), and
he attributed the opening of the womb to (God), just as he attributed to
Him its closure and obstruction when he said about Hannah, the Lord had
shut up her womb ( Sam :). And He, the Almighty, combined (these)
two aspects in one sentence (when he said), Shall I that cause to bring forth
shut the womb? (Isa :).83

83 Text, p. *.
scripture as the supreme composition

In this passage Yefet points out the existence of different voices in


Scripture by attempting to disentangle the voice of God and that of the
narrator from the voices of the biblical characters. Here the exegete makes
the mudawwin responsible for including an explanatory comment, his
words fulfilling a primarily explanatory function, in the sense that he
explains to the reader that it was God who opened Leahs womb and
closed Hannahs.

.. Inserting Anachronistic Statements


Sometimes Yefet also makes use of the mudawwin or the muhk
. to solve
an exegetical conundrum by attributing to them certain anachronistic
statements in Scripture. A good example of our exegete assigning the
responsibility for a problematic utterance to the muhk
. may be adduced
from his comment on Genesis :, where he states:
(Scripture) informs (us) that the plain of the Jordan (had been) all very well
watered. Next it informs (us) when it had been in this condition and says,
before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrahwhich is a statement (on
the part) of the muhk,
. Moses, may peace be upon him, for in his time the
plain was (already) covered by water84 as it is said and He overthrow those
cities (Gen :).85
In the time of Abraham and Lot no one knew that the plain of the (lower)
Jordan would one day be covered by water. Conferring responsibility
for this comment on the muhk . therefore enabled Yefet to provide a
convincing exegetical solution to the question of how it was possible to
know, at a time prior to the destruction of the sinful cities, that one day
they would be destroyed along with the plain of Sodom.

84 Overflowed (or covered by water Ar. istabhara); for this meaning, see Blau,
.
Dictionary, p. a. For Yefets explanation of the anachronistic use of the name Dead
Sea (lit. Sea of Salt or Salted Sea, Heb. yam ha-melah) . by an anonymous muhk, . see
his comment on Gen :, text, p. **.
85 Text, p. *. Cf. with the Talkhs: ( =)
.
( =)
( :) ( :)
(The statement that it was well watered everywhere means [that] the plain of the Jordan
was well watered, thanks to its numerous water springs. It had been in this condition
before the overthrow of Sodom, [for] in the time of Moses, may peace be upon him, it
was [already] overthrown, as it is said and He overthrow those cities, and all the plain, and
all the inhabitants of the cities [Gen :]). See Mss. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. r;
SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. vr. Cf. Goldstein, Pentateuch, p. .
chapter five

.. Fashioning Form to Convey Meaning


The activity of the biblical narrator was, in Yefets view, by no means
limited to providing information about what happened, for he also
attributes to him the responsibility for how it was recounted. This
how was particularly important for the Karaite exegetes, who, as has
been noted above, discovered the inherent connection between form and
contentthat is, the significance of the manner in which the content is
expressed in wordsand the direct link between the two.86
Yefets comment on Genesis : serves as an example of his ascribing
to the mudawwin the conscious action of thoughtfully organizing and
fashioning Scripture. Here he points out the internal order and purpose-
ful arrangement of the information:
When the mudawwin commenced (s. addara) explaining what (Abraham)
had been ordered (to do by God), stating, and He said unto him: Abraham
(v. ), he informed (us) that (Abraham) was called by (God) and so
answered, Here I am (v. ). Next he informed (us) what the Master of the
Universe said to (Abraham): Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou
lovest (v. ).87
This comment demonstrates that Yefet is convinced that the mudawwin
purposefully arranged the information about what happened and the
details of the narrated story in the most appropriate, consecutive order.
In his interpretation of this passage our exegete endeavors to reconstruct
this order by indicating its logical, coherent structure. First there is a
general exposition (s. adr), which informs us that Abraham was called by
the Creator and that he replied to His call (Gen :). Only after this
introduction do we learn the reason that God called Abraham (Gen :).
In his comment on Genesis :, Yefet again attributes the purposeful
composition of the biblical text to the mudawwin:
Know that (the verse opening with) the statement And Abimelech said
(v. ) is connected (muttas. il) to the previous one, yet the mudawwin
separated (afs. ala) between them because its meaning is different from the
meaning of the previous verse. For the previous verse is (pronounced) in
the way of reproof, whereas this one is in the way of inquiry.88

86 Cf. Khan, Diqduq, pp. , ; Polliack, Trends, p. and p. , n. . See

also above, p. , n. .
87 Text, p. *.
88 Text, p. *. On Yefets identifying certain stylistic devices in Scripture, see above

p. ff. For another example of Yefet making the mudawwin responsible for inserting
transitional statements, see above, p. , n. .
scripture as the supreme composition

In this passage Yefet addressees the question of why Abimelechs


monologue was disrupted by the insertion of the transitional statement
And Abimelech said. At first glance it seems redundant, since the same
character is being quoted. Our exegetes explains, however, that it was
the mudawwin who deliberately separated the two parts of Abimelechs
discourse, since both of them, although formally connected (muttas. il)
(since they pertain to one and the same speech), possess a distinct char-
acter and have different purposes: one, to reproach, the other, to inquire;
and as such they should be separated (mufs. al). Thus Yefet made the bib-
lical narrator responsible for shaping the form of the scriptural text on
the basis of careful consideration of its content, adjusting the former to
better convey the meaning of the latter.89

.. Flashbacks
On numerous occasions the biblical author-redactor is accorded the
responsibility for deciding what to include in Scripture (e.g., inserting
explanatory comments, adding transitional statements, as well as redac-
tional or stylistic elements) and what to omit (e.g., shortening selected
passages to be completed in another place, condensing redundant infor-
mation, or omitting it altogether). He is also assigned the responsibility
for deciding when to divulge a given piece of information or detail in
the sense of delaying or foreshadowing its presentation. A good exam-
ple of Yefet attributing to the mudawwin the retrospective disclosure of
a conversation between biblical characters, whichfrom the chronolog-
ical perspectiveshould have been related earlier in the story, emerges
from his comment on Genesis ::
(Abraham) said (to Abimelech): When the Master of the Universe
ordered me to move away from my fathers house, I said to her (= Sarah):
do me this favor and say, in every place to which we will arrive: He is my
brother, so as to protect me90 from being killed. From his words I said
unto her: This is thy kindness (v. ) (we infer) that he addressed her with
these words upon their going away from his father, but the mudawwin con-
densed and did not record it there.91

89 On Yefet also assigning to the mudawwin the responsibility for linking (salsala)

different biblical reports together, see his comment on Esth : in Wechsler, Esther, p.
(Ar.), p. (Eng.) and p. (disussion). For a discussion in Yefets Bible commentaries
and in the Talkhs. about similar adjustments of the biblical form to fit the requirements of
its content by inserting transitional statements, see Goldstein, Superfluity, pp. .
90 Sec. Mss. C TCL (C / ) and P BN hb. (P1 / 1) to protect us.
91 Text, p. *. Cf. Polliack, Turn it, esp. p. ; idem, Trends, p. . For other
chapter five

From this remark it is obvious that Yefet believed that the dialogue
between Abraham and Sarah had occurred at an earlier stage in the
story. Nonetheless, for some reason the biblical mudawwin decided to
temporarily withhold this information in order to disclose it later by
means of what we would today designate as flashback.92

.. Foreshadowing
Yefet makes the mudawwin responsible not only for delaying the provi-
sion of certain information (flashbacks), but also for inserting proleptic
comments.93 An interesting example of such prolepsis (or foreshadow-
ing), which Yefet attributes to the biblical mudawwin, is Genesis :,
where reads: Now Abraham and Sarah were old, and well stricken in age;
it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. In his comment
on this passage our exegete contends:
The mudawwin inserted (adkhala) this verse in the middle, as an introduc-
tion (muqaddima) to what follows, in order to inform (us about) the reason
why (Sarah) was astonished94 when she said, After I am waxed old (v. ).
In like fashion he said, Joseph, being seventeen years old, etc. Now Israel
loved Joseph, etc. (Gen :), for these two verses constitute an intro-
duction (muqaddima) to what follows themto wit, the hatred of Josephs
brothers towards him.95
According to Yefet the mudawwin purposefully added this verse (Gen
:), inserting it in the middle of a conversation between Abraham
and the three messengers (Gen :) in order to explain why Sarah,
after having heard the announcement about the pending birth of Isaac,
was astonished (or pleased) and laughed. Thus, the main reason for
introducing this statement was proleptic: it anticipates Sarahs reaction
to the news of her pregnancy. Therefore, Yefet apparently believes that
the mudawwin is freely playing with the chronological order of events,

examples and a discussion of Yefet indicating what we would today call flashbacks
and foreshadowing in biblical narrative, see Polliack, Conception, p. , n. ; idem,
Voice, p. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. .
92 Thus, Yefet seems aware of the difference between the time span in which the

narrated events occurred and the time span in which the story about them is told. See
Polliack, Trends, p. . Cf. Polak, Narrative, pp. and further bibliography
there.
93 See Polliack & Schlosberg, Prophets.
94 Alternative translation: pleased.
95 Text, p. *.
scripture as the supreme composition

taking the liberty of foreshadowing (or withholding) certain information


so as to provide the reader with all the necessary hints for a proper
understanding of Scripture.96 Incidentally, this particular comment on
his part was also necessary to acquit Sarah of the suspicion of incredulity
or lack of faith in Gods promises, by elucidating logical reasons to explain
why she was surprised. Furthermore, in Yefets view the insertion of the
mudawwins remark in the middle of a conversation between biblical
characters fulfilled the stylistic or compositional purpose of serving as
an introduction or exposition (muqaddima) to the following section of
the dialogue (Gen :) in which Sarahs laughter is being discussed.
In other words, Yefet is again crediting the mudawwin with the conscious
redaction of the biblical text, in accordance with the stylistic exigencies
of what was probably conceived of as the art of eloquence.97

.. Building Tension within the Account


Numerous other passages in Yefets commentary on the Pentateuch con-
firm that, in his view, the biblical text exhibits the intentional and
thoughtful activity of the mudawwin. In his comment on Genesis ,
for instance, Yefet considers the reason why the first verse of the chap-
ter begins with the expression After these things (ahar . ha-debarm ha-
elle),98 or, more precisely, which things the mudawwin had in mind
when he used this expression. The exegetes lengthy answer to this ques-
tion testifies to his conviction that this phrase is meaningful and was pur-
posefully placed at the beginning of this particular chapter. Yefet eluci-
dates:
His expression After these things (v. ) is meaningful (qas. ada bihi ila
ma#an), for it refers to what preceded (in terms of) Gods promise to
Abraham, may peace be upon him, concerning Isaac, (which was stated)
in two (instances). The first instance was before Isaac was born, as it is
said, But My covenant will I establish with Isaac (Gen :); the second

96 For another example of a proleptic comment made by the mudawwin, see above,

p. , n. .
97 See above, pp. ff. and ff.
98 There are different ways of interpreting the Heb. word dabar (pl. debarm) in this

expression. Some commentators tended to translate it as words, others asthings, both


variants being possible. Yefets understanding of this expression is not clear from his
comment: after all the events that he enumerates as having happened to Abraham, or
after all the words that Abraham directed to Abimelech and others about what had
happened to him.
chapter five

instance was when (God) ordered him (= Abraham) to expel Hagar and
Ishmael and said to him, In all that Sarah saith unto thee, hearken unto her
voice; for in Isaac shall seed be called to thee (Gen :). After the days (had
passed by), and after these announcements, Isaac was born, and Abraham
came to the conclusion that Isaac (was the one who) would endure after
him and occupy his place, and that all the promises were specific for him (=
Isaac)which (Abraham) thus announced to Abimelech and others.99 The
mudawwin is therefore saying, (as it were,) After all these announcements
God said to Abraham, Take Isaac and offer him (as) an offering. It is for
this reason that (the mudawwin) opened (s. addara) with the expression
After these things.100
Already at the beginning of his interpretation of this passage, Yefet openly
acknowledges that the expression After these things is meaningful; in
other words, he contends that there was a good reason for the mudawwin
to begin the chapter about the binding of Isaac with this particular
phrase. However, before he could address this reason, Yefet needed to
explain which things the mudawwin was referring to in the verse. Our
exegete interprets this expression as relating to all the events that were
connected with the birth of Isaac, either those that preceded or immedi-
ately followed themnamely, () Gods promises to Abraham concern-
ing Isaac and his seed (Gen : and :); () the divine announce-
ment of the birth of Isaac directed to both Abraham and Sarah (Gen :
and :); and () Abrahams announcements to Abimelech and oth-
ers about Isaacs birth and his privileged position. Having offered this
explanation, the reason that the mudawwin opened the chapter recount-
ing the binding of Isaac with aforementioned expression becomes appar-
ent.
Nonetheless, despite Yefets statementIt is for this reason that (the
mudawwin) opened (s. addara) with the expression After these thingshe
does not explicitly state what this reason is; nonetheless, from his over-
all explanation it may be inferred that the biblical mudawwin employed
this expression with potentially two objectives in mind. First, it is prob-
able that he wished to create a more substantial connection between the
consecutive biblical chapters. That is to say, Yefet saw the mudawwins
purpose as seeking to improve the cohesion of the Abraham cycle as a

99 There is no place in the Bible, where Abram would explicitly inform Abimelech

about Isaac being his successor in terms of Gods grace and His promises.
100 Text, p. *. Interestingly, Saadia Gaon interprets it as referring to the ten trials, to

which Abraham was submitted by God, according to the Midrash. See Zucker, Genesis,
pp. (Ar.), p. (Heb.).
scripture as the supreme composition

whole by introducing this expression to serve as a link between distinct


episodes or the smaller thematic units comprising the overall story of this
patriarch. Second, the mudawwin may have opened with this particular
phrase in order to emphasize the contrast between Gods promises and
Abrahams expectations, on the one hand, and His subsequent order, on
the other.
By confronting Gods previous promises concerning Isaac with the
sudden commandmentpronounced by the same Godto sacrifice him
as a burnt offering, the biblical narrator underscores the apparent incom-
patibility of these two reports. According to Yefet, therefore, this partic-
ular opening phrase was purposefully inserted by the mudawwin as a
stylistic device meant to increase the tension within the narrative. The
insertion of this phrase, which hearkens back to the previous account,
inevitably strengthens the impression made on the reader by Gods unex-
pected command that Abraham sacrifice his twice-promised, solemnly
announced, and long-awaited son, Isaac, as a burnt offering. The phrase
after these things thus fulfills a significant compositional role, link-
ing distinct parts of the overall story, at the same possibly constituting
a stylistic device aimed at building tension within the story and evoking
a specific emotional reaction (surprise, astonishment) on the part of the
reader.

. Conclusion

Medieval Karaite exegetes, Yefet among them, believed that the Bible, as
the expression of divine revelation, represented the ideal composition in
the sense that its literary form was deliberately shaped so as to convey its
underlying meaning in the best way possible (bi-ahsan. ta"lf ). Hence they
attributed special importance to the study of the overall structure of the
Bible and its composition, its stylistic devices, and its literary strategies as
essential facets of the human textual medium through which the divine
truth was expressed.
Yefet accordingly believed that a formal literary analysis of the Holy
Writ was not only helpful, but in fact indispensable for a proper under-
standing of its content. This is why he appears so persitent in analyz-
ing the overall structure of the biblical text, discovering the organizing
principles of its narrative, and reconstructing the process underlying its
composition. His most basic comments are aimed at logically elucidating
the method by which the narrative is constructed and the information
chapter five

given. In his commentaries he calls attention to these features by using


fixed expressions such as After (Scripture) had finished doing so-and-
so ( . . . ), it commenced to do so-and-so (ba#da an ( . . . ) akhadha an), or
After (Scripture) had finished doing so-and-so ( . . . ), it returned to do
so-and-so (ba#da an ( . . . ) raja#a an).101
Generally speaking, Yefets analysis of the biblical text may be
described as case-structured. He singles out cohesive accounts (qus. as. ),
which may comprise one or more threads or reports (akhbar). For him
they constitute well-organized compositions, with beginnings and end-
ings clearly delineated (by the exegete himself!). Yefet divides these
accounts into smaller passages or sections (fus. ul), which he perceives
as coherent thematic units or chapters. He goes on to subject them to
detailed examination, pointing out their internal structure by defining
the smaller textual segments or elements of which they are comprised
(e.g., single verses [fawasq] or statements/expressions [aqwal, aqawl]).
In his view all of these elements are structurally united; together they
create a narrative continuity (nizam)
. in which the overriding ordering
principle is thematic rather than temporal.
Nonetheless, he is aware that the biblical narrative is multilayered and
that sometimes different threads of the plot are so closely interwoven
that it is impossible to separate them into independent accounts. In such
instances, Yefet maintains, the Bible temporarily suspends one narrative
thread and inserts a seemingly tangential verse in the middle in order to
complete another thread or report.
Moreover, if the main theme of the story is particularly long and
necessitates the recounting of chronologically simultaneous subplots,
Scripture may suspend the main account for a while and insert an entire
passage in its midst that relates this other information. In such cases it
may add a resumptive repetition at the end of the inserted passage so
as to connect the two parts of the account. Such a symmetrical envelope
structure is, in Yefets view, intended to bring the reader back to the
main theme of the story. Yet, these exceptions aside, Yefet asserts that the
Bible tends to divide the text into coherent stories, according to subject

101 See, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen : (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v). For other

formulas used by Yefet to describe the structure of biblical text, see Goldstein, Begin-
nings; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. . On the use of similar expressions by the Talh. s. ,
with a view to clarifying the connections between biblical chapters and verses, see Gold-
stein, Pentateuch, p. ; idem, Composition, p. .
scripture as the supreme composition

regardless of their chronological developmentwhich it subsequently


arranges in successive fashion (nasaq).
The biblical narratives, though wonderfully articulated, are in Yefets
view both highly laconic and mutually complementary. Thus, to be
understood properly, they must be read concurrently since the infor-
mation about past events is divulged gradually and not necessarily in
chronological order. All these features of the biblical text reflect the con-
scious composite artistry of its literary form, in which the content encom-
passes the complete meaning intended by God despite its economy of
words. This belief in the economical completeness of Scripture is fur-
ther corroborated by Yefets conviction that there are no redundant ele-
ments in the Bible, and that everythingeach repetition and elision, even
the silencesis meaningful and not accidental. This is why he pays atten-
tion to the slightest variations of style, while at the same time endeavor-
ing to identify the distinctive features of the biblical text. In addition, he
deduces general rules that govern its composition, the characteristics of
its structure, and the manner of its development, as well as its linguistic
conventions, rhetorical and stylistic devices, and patterns of expression.
In his opinion, these are all utilized purposefully with the aim of making
a particular impression on the reader.
Yefet identifies the mudawwin and the muhk . as the ones responsible
for reporting, writing down, and carrying out the literary editing of the
divinely inspired content of the Holy Scriptures, and for the sophisticated
manner by which it is expressed in the biblical text. Like many modern
biblical scholars, he acknowledges that, while fulfilling their respective
functions of biblical author-redactor and narrator, these often anony-
mous individuals exercised a good deal of shaping power over their
materials102 and were responsible not only for what they committed to
writing, but also for the thought that they put into the methods by which
they articulated it.

102 See Alter, Art, p. .


chapter six

THE LIMITS OF LITERALISM:


YEFETS APPROACH TO BIBLE TRANSLATION*

No translator can avoid interpreting (traduttore traditore). Yet even


though the process of translation is itself an integral part of the quest for
achieving the true meaning of the translated text, the product reflects
the quest far more than its fulfillment. Hence different translations may
vary as regards their closeness to the original texta quality usually
achieved at the expense of stylistic beauty or even grammatical correct-
ness in the target language.
Early medieval Karaite exegetes who were involved in translating the
Holy Writ into Arabic consciously and consistently strived for literalism.
Their aim was to render the divine message into the target language as
faithfully as possible, adhering closely to the original syntax, lexicon,
overall structure, and even phonetics, so as to remind the reader of
the sounds of the sacred text.1 The paradigm of interlinear translation
served this purpose well, since it emphasized the close correlation of the
translated text to its original version and the subordination of the former
to the latter.2

* A final draft of this chapter was presented during the conference From Theodulf to

Rashi: Uncovering the Origins of European Biblical Scholarship, organized by Hochschule


fr Jdische Studien (Heidelberg, September ).
1 See Blau, Emergence, p. , n. . Cf. Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. . For

the study of the Karaite tradition of Arabic Bible translations, see especially the seminal
works by Meira Polliack (Polliack, Views and idem, Tradition, as well as Polliack &
Schlossberg, Obadiah; idem, Hosea, pp. ) and further bibliography there. On
the basis of these analyses, it appears that, as opposed to Yefet, later Karaite exegetes from
the Jerusalem circle such as Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah were more concerned with conveying
the meaning of the Hebrew source text by providing an intelligible translation than with
producing the most faithful imitation of the syntax and lexicon of the former in the Arabic
target language. Cf. Polliack, Alternative.
2 For the study of Karaite views on the relationship between translation and interpre-

tation, and on translation being conceived of as an integral part of interpretation, to be


read in conjunction with it, see below, p. , n. and pp. ff. and bibliography there.
On the paramount importance of translation in the process of interpretation, see Polliack,
Trends, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. . For similar concepts found
in the Talkhs. , see Goldstein, Pentateuch, pp. . Cf. also Blumfield, Ruth, pp. ;
Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. xi.
chapter six

. The Literalistic Ideal

Yefets exegetical achievements are well-rooted in this Karaite tradition


in that they reflect the ideology of faithfulness to the source text,
on the one hand, while giving prominent expression to methods of
translation current among the Karaites of the time, on the other.3 His
aim was to create a comprehensible and accurate Arabic translation
of the entire Bible, its appropriateness being measured by how closely
it adhered to the original text, not by its grammatical correctness or
conventionality.4
Little wonder, then, that such a literalistic or imitative ideal, recog-
nized by some scholars as one of the most outstanding features of Yefets
translations,5 is sometimes achieved at the expense of grammatical cor-
rectness in the target language, not to mention elegance or eloquence.6
Arabic served him merely as an instrument to explain the meaning of
Scripture to the readeras an aid to comprehend it better, that is, the

3 For the most comprehensive comparative analysis of Yefets translation of the Pen-

tateuch, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. . On the theoretical concepts related to this
translation, see ibid., pp. . For a study of Yefets translations of other biblical books,
see especially Blumfield, Ruth, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ;
Wechsler, Esther, pp. . See also Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. xxxiiixxxvii; idem, Yefet,
pp. .
4 What should be accurate, according to Yefet, is the representation of the source text

in the target language in terms of the formers grammar, syntax, and lexicon, rather than
the actual grammatical correctness and conventionality of the final product.
5 Hartwig Hirschfeld states: An outstanding feature in Jefeths translations is liter-

alness. See Hirschfeld, Nahum, p. . For the studies of Yefets imitative literalism in
the translation of different biblical books, see Avni, Balaam, p. ; Birnbaum, Hosea,
pp. xxiiixxiv; idem, Yefet, pp. ; Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , ; Hussain, Job,
p. ix; Polliack, Tradition, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Sas-
son, Proverbs, pp. ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. .
6 On Yefet being considered the most imitative Bible translator among Karaite

exegetes of the time, strictly applying the principle of literalism and trying to emulate
as close as possible the form of the source language feature with only secondary consid-
eration of its function, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. , , esp. pp. , .
On Yefets adherence to strict literal translation, his being committed to strict literal-
ism, and the assessment of his translations as mostly extremely imitative and literal, see
Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , , . On the slavishness of Yefets Bible translations
as being congruent with their purpose: to be read in conjunction with the commentary,
see Polliack, Tradition, p. ; Wechsler, Proverbs :, p. ; idem, Esther, pp.
and n. there. Cf. also Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ,
, ; Wechsler, Proverbs :, p. . For the assessment that Yefets literalis-
tic, pedantic translation is sometimes carried to the point of absurdity, see Birnbaum,
Hosea, p. xxxiii; idem, Yefet, p. ; Nemoy, Karaites, p. a. See also below, p. ,
n. ; p. .
yefets approach to bible translation

translation was not an end in itself. Playing such an ancillary role, the
grammatical correctness or beauty of the language was of little concern to
the exegete. This is probably whyin contradistinction to Saadia Gaon,
who wished to convey primarily the content of the Hebrew Bible, and
less so its form, in an elegant classical Arabic styleKaraite exegetes of
the time, Yefet among them, preferred to employ the more widely under-
stood and commonly used Arabic vernacular to express the plain mean-
ing of Scripture.7
In Yefets commentary on Genesis this literalistic ideal and its prefer-
ability to grammatical correctness in the target language is expressed in
some of the ways by which he commonly renders lexical features of the
Hebrew source text:
i. He endeavors to use cognate Arabic wordsfor example, render-
ing the Hebrew term ha-ares. (the land) by the Arabic cognate
al-ard. (e.g., Gen :; :; :, ; :, ); frequently
using the Arabic term thamma to denote Hebrew sham (there;
e.g., Gen :; :, ; :); rendering the Hebrew verb
tiqqaber (Gen :) by Arabic tuqbaru, from qabara (to bury, to
and not by the more or less synonymous verb dafana; trans-
inter),
lating Hebrew qol (e.g. Gen :), meaning voice, by the similar-
sounding Arabic term qawl, which denotes utterance, statement,
or word; rendering Hebrew s. arekha (your oppressors) as
mus. aramuka (Gen :).
ii. He translates homophonic or polysemic Hebrew roots with one
Arabic root, even if it does not possess the same features as its
Hebrew equivalentfor example, rendering the Hebrew verb
yashab (meaning both to sit down and to settle, but used in the
Bible in the latter sense) by the Arabic verb jalasa (which means
only to sit down; e.g., Gen :; :; :; :; :);
rendering the Hebrew noun nefesh (denoting both soul and per-
son, but used in the Bible in the latter sense) by the Arabic noun
nafs (which does not denote person; e.g., Gen :); translating
the Hebrew verb #ala (meaning to go up, to ascend, but also to
sacrifice and to offer as a burnt offering) by the Arabic verb s. a#ada

7 For a study of Karaite Bible translations in comparison to those of Saadia Gaon, see

Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. xxxxiii; idem, Yefet, pp. ; Blumfield, Ruth, pp. ,
; Polliack, Tradition, esp. pp. , ; Wechsler, Esther, pp. . Cf. also
Gnzig, Proverbien, pp. .
chapter six

(which also means to rise, or to go up, but does not possess


the connotation of offering up a sacrifice; e.g., Gen :, ,
).8
iii. He uses artificial or invented Arabic forms, introduced on the
pattern of Hebrew words as calques (i.e., loan translations)as,
for example, the commonly employed word ays, representing the
Hebrew particle yesh (there is),9 dharriyya representing the He-
brew noun zera# (seed), and the reflexive verbal form itsa"ir repre-
senting Hebrew hithallekh (conduct yourself ) in Gen :. Other
notable examples include the literal rendering (e.g., Gen :) of
the Hebrew idiom meaning to make a covenant (karat bert) with
a phrase that is otherwise unattested in Arabic (qat. a#a ahd);10 trans-
lating the Hebrew va-ya#arkhu ittam milhama
. (and they arrayed
against them in battle) in Gen : by the unconventional Ara-
bic phrase wa-nadadu
. ma#ahum al-malhama;
. and using invented
forms to imitate Hebrew infinitive constructs (e.g., Gen :; :;
:).
iv. He refrains from translating certain wordsespecially Hebrew
technical termsinto Arabic (transference or borrowing), often
including an at least partial adaptation to the morphology of the
target language (naturalization)for example, his translation of
the Hebrew expression meaning everlasting possession (ahuzzat .
#olam) as ahazat
. al-dahr (e.g., Gen :);11 his translation of the
Hebrew term meaning the flesh of the foreskin (besar #orla) as
bashar qulfa (e.g., Gen :, , ); and his translation of
a furnace of smoke (tannur #ashan) as tanur dukhan (e.g., Gen
:).
On the syntactical level Yefet endeavors to reproduce the structure of the
biblical text by reproducing the word order of a sentence and adhering,
as far as possible, to a one-to-one representation of individual lexemes.
This is evident, for example, in his translation of Genesis ::

8 On different ways Saadia Gaon translates this term, see Rippin Sa#adya, esp. p. .
9 Cf. Blau, Emergence, pp. , ; idem, Dictionary, p. a. See also Blumfield, Ruth,
p. .
10 For a discussion of Yefets translation of this particular idiom, see Birnbaum, Yefet,

pp. ; idem, Hosea, pp. xxxiiixxxiv.


11 Cf. Blau, Emergence, p. ; idem, Grammar, pp. a.
yefets approach to bible translation

:
And they took Lot and his goods, the son
of Abrams brother, and departed, and he
(had been) dwelling in Sodom.12
In this case Yefets determination to follow the unusual word order of the
biblical text makes the Arabic rendering no less idiosyncratic than the
Hebrew source.

. The Limitations of Literalism

.. Linguistic Limitations
Medieval Karaite exegetes may have displayed a negligent attitude toward
classical Arabic and its grammar, but they felt strongly about mastering
Hebrew linguistics and being well-versed in its complexities,13 for oth-
erwise they would have been unable to correctly understand and faith-
fully translate Scripture. A thorough knowledge of Hebrew grammar and
lexicography was therefore considered a prerequisite to any exegetical
undertaking, including Bible translation. In David ben Abraham al-Fass
words, everyone who wishes to do that (i.e., to interpret the Bible) must
become proficient in the Hebrew language.14
In its simplest and most succinct form such linguistic analysis preced-
ing translation consists of drawing comparisons to other places in the
Holy Writ (biblical analogy) where a similar form appears in a more obvi-
ous context, thus enabling the exegete to deduce its grammatical function

12 Text, p. *.
13 On the early Karaites considering linguistic competence a prerequisite for a proper
translation and interpretation, as well as on Yefets prowess in this area, see Polliack,
Tradition, pp. ; idem, Trends, p. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
14 . See al-Fas, Jami#, I,

p. . Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, p. (Heb.); Polliack, Tradition, p. (Eng.), p. (Ar.).


For a similar statement, see also al-Fas, Jami#, I, pp. . Cf. Polliack, Tradition,
pp. (Eng.), p. (Ar.). For the appreciation, or even praise of Yefets mastery
and expertise in Hebrew grammar and lexicography, see Munk, Notice, pp. ;
Neubauer, Bibliothek, p. ; Pinsker, Geschichte, I, p. ; Sanders, Review, ; Sokolow,
Deuteronomy, pp. xxviixxviii. The latter study provides several outstanding examples
of Yefets prowess in these areas (i.e., grammar and lexicography). For more moderate
and biased, or even negative assessments of his ability in this field, see Birnbaum, Hosea,
pp. xxxvixxxvii; idem, Yefet, pp. ; Broyd Japheth, p. b; Margoliouth,
Daniel, p. viii. Cf. also Wechsler, Esther, pp. , n. .
chapter six

as well as its semantic field, and, finally, its underlying meaning.15 An


example of such succinct grammatical-semantic analysis is attested in
Yefets comment on Genesis :, where he explains:
I have translated (the word) ] as archer (ram) by analogy with his
archers (aU) compass me round about (Job :). Moreover, I have trans-
lated (the word) gK as bowmaker (qawwas), and not as bow (qaws),
for (the vowel pattern of) gK is like a (bearer of burdens) ( Kgs :;
Chr :, ) [and hence the former also denotes an occupation role]. Thus
(Ishmael) possessed the knowledge of two things: shooting bows and mak-
ing bows.16
Thus, Yefet must have considered knowledge of both Hebrew gram-
mar and lexicography, based on and verified by Scripture (in the sense
of citing proof-texts), as the foundation upon which biblical transla-
tion (and interpretation) should be constructed. To be sure, as discussed
below, this knowledge also implies an acquaintance with fixed expres-
sions common to the Holy Text,17 since to understand it properly one
must master not only the grammatical rules and standard vocabulary
of biblical Hebrew, but also its idiosyncratic expressions, phrases, and
idioms. A good command of Hebrew linguistics determines the limits
of literalistic translations by preventing renderings that might jeopar-
dize or violate its rules (e.g., an imitative, word-for-word rendering
of conversive vav). A notable example of grammatical considerations
precluding a literal translation is found in Yefets comment on Genesis
::
:
And the place was not able to bear them,
that they might dwell together; for their
substance was great and they were unable
to dwell together.18

I have translated W &  (lit., And the land could not sustain
them) as, And the place (al-mawdi#), . (etc.), because the land of Canaan
is broad and could house them as well as those others among the seven

15 As an example, see his comment on Obad : in Marwick, Retribution, pp.

. Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , , , , ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp.


, esp. .
16 Text, p. *. Like Yefet, the Talkhs also explains that the expression means
.
that Ishmael was an archer and a bowyer, viz., (the one) that makes bows (
) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v).
17 As an example, see his comment on Gen : cited above, p. , n. .
18 Cf. al-Fas, Jami#, II, p. , n. .
yefets approach to bible translation

(Canaanite) nations. Therefore it says  (masculine), and does not say


" (feminine), even though the (noun) W (land) should be described
by the feminine form.19
In this passage Yefet does not render the Holy Writ literally, but rather
according to the contextual implication that emerges from adherence
to the rules of Hebrew grammari.e., since there is no gender accord
between the feminine subject of the Hebrew sentence, W (land),
and the masculine verbal predicate  (could [not] sustain), Yefet
infers that W here is elliptical for a narrow/more defined space, such
as might be indicated by the phrase e  (that part of the
land)in any event resolving the gender discord and explicating the
more precise sense of the passage (as he sees it) by rendering the Hebrew
noun with the Arabic noun al-mawdi# . (the place) rather than the usual
(literal) equivalent al-ard. (the land). Having departed from the literal
translation, however, he decides to explain in detail, in the layer of
commentary, the reasons why he did so.20

.. Limitations of Usage
Although a thorough theoretical knowledge of the rules of biblical
Hebrew and its lexicon constitutes the most important bulwark against
literal or slavish translation, it is by no means the only one. Another factor
that limits the literalism of Yefets translation is what he calls the com-
mon usageor conventionof the language (isti#mal al-lugha) or
the well-known linguistic custom (mashhur al-lugha).21 Sometimes he
openly acknowledges that a certain translation, though non-literal, is the
most likely on account of its conformity to common usage, as can be seen
in his comment on Genesis ::
The expression e# allows for two (possible) translations (tafsrayn):
either it means that Israel served the Egyptianswhich is the most likely
(interpretation) vis--vis the common usage of language (wa huwa "l-aqrab
#ala mashhur al-lugha)or it means that the Egyptians enslaved Israel, for
many exegetes translate (the statement) of them may ye take your servants
(bahem ta#bodu) (Lev :) as: them (may you) enslave. And (the verse)
thou shalt not make him to serve (lo" ta#abod) (Lev :) (has been)
similarly interpreted.22

19 Text, p. *. For a similar explanation, see Yefets comment on Zech : in

Vreugd, Zechariah.
20 See below, pp. ff.
21 See above, p. , n. ; p. , n. .
22 Text, p. *.
chapter six

In this passage Yefet quotes two possible interpretations of the biblical


expression #abadum (either they served them or they enslaved them).
The first one is deemed the most likely because it conforms to the com-
mon usage of language (mashhur al-lugha). Since our exegete is nonethe-
less aware of the second option as an attested translation alternative, he
considers it appropriate to mention this possibility in his commentary on
the passage.23
In another example, his comment on Genesis :, we see that after
rendering the Hebrew expression va-ybarekh (lit. and he blessed) as
and he saluted (wa-sallama) in Arabic, Yefet feels obligated to explain
his choice:
I have translated (lit. And Jacob
blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh) (v. ) as
(And Jacob) saluted (Pharaoh, etc.), in accordance with (the statement),
If thou meet any man, salute him not (lo" tebarekhennu) ( Kgs :), for the
Hebrew language indicates salutation by the word blessing (berakha).24

This passage not only demonstrates the intrinsic connection between the
process of translation and interpretation in Yefets Bible commentaries,
as well as his predilection to establish the meaning of a given Hebrew
word by analogy with another biblical passage, but also his sensitivity
to linguistic usage. Accordingly, he prefers to reject the literal, imitative
rendering of a given expression in order to provide a translation that
complies with accepted linguistic custom. This is especially obvious here,
since Yefet could easily have tried to imitate the source text by using the
existing Arabic verbal equivalent: baraka (to bless). He refrains from
doing so, however, for, as he stresses, the root in the Hebrew language
includes in its semantic range the idea of salutation.

23 Another example where Yefet abandons the literal rendering of Scripture, justifying

his decision as being due to the common usage of language, is seen in his comment
on Gen :: A genuine translation of is shall be cut off to you, however,
I have translated it as shall be circumcised, for this (particular case of) cutting off is
known to be called circumcision. This passage reflects Yefets consciousness of the need
to set aside literal translation for the sake of a more adequate rendering in a given context
and accepted linguistic usage. Nonetheless, his awareness of another possible option of a
closer translation of this Hebrew expression impels him to share this knowledge with
the reader and justify the reasons behind his decision. Text, p. *.
24

(See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). Similar translation could also be conceived of
as ideologically motivated, aimed at evading the problematic picture of the forefather
blessing Pharaoh. See below, pp. ff., esp. the example from Gen : on p. .
yefets approach to bible translation

.. Concessions to Context
In keeping with his fundamental hermeneutical tenets, it is very charac-
teristic of Yefets overall translation strategy that his renderings of Hebrew
words and phrases into Arabic are not only literal and dependent on the
meanings that they possess in different passages of Scripture (per analo-
giam), but are also, and maybe even more so, deeply rooted in the imme-
diate and broader context of the translated verse or passage. Yefet admits
this on several occasions by stating explicitly that his translation depends
on the contextual meaning of a given word (mujawara, lit. proximity of
words).25 This is evident in his comment on Genesis ::
I have translated (the expression)  !! (v. ) as pour down, for such
is its contextual meaning (min mujawarati "l-ma#n) and it is similar to He
will pour down (n) storm and rage (upon) the ground (Job :), which
means (that) he will pour down his saliva (upon) the ground. Moreover,
I have translated "z (v. ) as and she emptied because such is its
contextual meaning (min mujawarati "l-ma#n), and it is similar to O empty
not ("z) my soul (Ps :).26
Here a contextual translation is further corroborated by the meaning
of the same expression in different passages in Scripture (biblical anal-
ogy). In Yefets view, however, both the immediate context in which a
given word appears (mujawara) and the broader one of the entire pas-
sage (qarna) have a bearing on its meaning and should be carefully con-
sidered in order to provide a proper rendering in the target language. A
similar contextual ideal may be seen in Yefets explanation of the way
he translated Genesis :. After stating that the Hebrew verb deriv-
ing from the root gamal is polysemic, having four different meanings, he
concludes that everywhere that this word occurs it should be translated
according to the context (qarna).27

25 Proximity of words; for this meaning of the Ar. word mujawara, see Blau, Dic-

tionary, p. a. For an additional example in Yefets Bible commentaries of contextual


meaning (mujawara) demanding certain translations and precluding others, see Mar-
wick, Retribution, p. . Cf. with Yefets comment on Jer : in Wendkos, Jeremiah, p. .
26 Text, p. *.
27 (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r). For

additional examples from Yefets Bible commentaries where the context (qarna, min
mawdi#ihi,
. min "l-ma#n) influences the way they should be translated, see Marwick,
Retribution, pp. , , , . See also his comment on Zech : in Vreugd,
Zechariah. Cf. also above, p. , n. . For the concept of the biblical passage (Ar. tilawa,
lit. passage in Scriptures) as being decisive in determining the meaning of given words
and expressions, see, e.g., Yefets comment on Gen : (text, p. **), where he
chapter six

Thus, in Yefets opinion, it is the context, both the immediate one and
the broader one, that should conclusively determine the meaning of a
particular word, and therefore its translation. Indeed, literalism, although
very desirable, does not appear to be the highest priority for our exegete,
since it is clearly limited by contextual considerations. This theoretical
statement is affirmed by his practice of rendering biblical words and
expressions in a manner more consistent with their contextual meaning
and less so with their literal (non-contextual) definitionwhich latter he
is quite ready to set aside, as illustrated by his comment on Genesis :,
where he notes:
I have translated (the word shalem) in accordance with what best suits the
order of the words (niz. am al-kalam).28
Hence, according to Yefet, the translation of words and expressions
should by no means blindly follow the source text, providing a literal
rendering regardless of the context in which they appear. On the con-
trary, it should be anchored in its context and fit the order of the words
(niz. am al-kalam), literalism being merely a course to follow when possi-
ble.

.. Rational Restrictions
Aside from analogies to other biblical passages, grammatical-semantic
considerations of the Hebrew language and its linguistic customs, as
well as attending to the contextual meaning of words and expressions,
other factors also limit the literalism of Yefets Bible translation. While
commenting on Exodus : he ponders the most suitable rendering of
the Hebrew verb deriving from the root sha"al, which conveys various
distinct meanings depending on the context. Usually it means to ask,
but it can also signify to request (e.g., Judg :) or to borrow (e.g.,
Exod :). Yefet concludes:
It is inevitably the case that this word possesses various meanings, and so
wherever (Scripture) mentions it the exegete must consider the context

clarifies that the expression And they said unto him (Gen :) refers to Abrahams guests,
who ate by his tent, because they are the closest to (this statement) in the passage
( ). Cf. Blau, Dictionary, p. b.
28 Text, p. *. On the term nizam, see above, p. , n. . For additional examples
.
from Yefets Bible commentaries where the particular order of words (nizam) . influences
the way they should be translated, see Marwick, Retribution, pp. , , . See also
Sasson, Proverbs (pp. , ), where the Arabic expression nizam . al-kalam is
understood as context.
yefets approach to bible translation

(al-qarna) and what is required by rational speculation (al-naz. ar). If the


context and rational speculation both require (a certain) translation, he
should adopt it.29

In this passage Yefet contends that a proper rendering of the source text in
the target language cannot be so literal or imitative that it fails to respect
the rules of biblical Hebrew grammar, agree with the meaning of the
word or expression in other scriptural passages, and be consistent with
the context. In other words, a given Hebrew word should be translated
into Arabic in accordance with its meaning in the broader context of
the biblical account, and not independently of it. Moreover, it must be
congruent with rational speculation and thereby respect the internal
logic of the source text.30 Hence, for Yefet, human reason constitutes an
important, additional factor in limiting the literalness of translation.
This conviction corresponds with Yefets basic hermeneutical tenets,
his overall approach to the Bible, and his conception of exegesis as a
rational, linguistic-contextual endeavor of which translation constitutes
an integral part.31 Thus, as with interpretation, so too with regard to
translation, Yefet is not fanatically literalistic. He is willing to restrict
or even reject the imitative rendering of Scripture into Arabic when a
literalistic translation of a given word or passage violates its contextual
meaning or contradicts reason. By taking this stance he shows himself
to be driven by a genuine desire to convey the real, underlying, true
meaning of the Holy Writ, which, he believes, is not always accurately
borne out by a literal exposition.

.. Paraphrasing
Another factor which seems to curb the extent of Yefets literalness in
translation is the target language itself. The Arabic rendering, even if it is
as faithful as possible to the original and elucidated in the commentary,
must be plainly understandable. Yefet would rather not imitate the sound
of the Hebrew source text or produce a slavish translation at the expense
of the comprehensibility of the Arabic.32 This is especially true when

29

(Ms. SP IOS
B, fol. v). Cf. Erder, Moral, p. .
30 Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , .
31 Cf. above, p. and n. there.
32 An example of a non-imitative translation of a biblical expression may be seen in

Yefets rendering of the Hebrew (And Abram called the name), which he
chapter six

we take into account that it is intended to be read in conjunction with


the Hebrew original. For this reason we find relatively extensive use of
paraphrase in his Bible translations.
The rather broad category of paraphrase includes any changes that
are made during the process of translation that deviate from a purely
literal representation of the original text and are intended to enhance
comprehensibility in the target language.33 Paraphrastic translations in
Yefets commentary on Genesis are accordingly designed to present a
better and more precise rendering of what he considered the real or
implied intention of the text, irrespective of its sometimes misleading
or ambiguous literal meaning. In this sense his practice bears out his
willingness to compromise on literality for the sake of comprehensibility.
A good example of paraphrase can be seen in Yefets rendering of Genesis
:, where he modifies the biblical verse in his translation so as to clarify
some perceived uncertainty in the passage:
:
Abram said, O Lord, God, what shall I do
with the reward that you give me, since
I continue childless, and (the one who is
responsible for) the management of my
household is Eliezer, whom I brought from
Damascus?34
The Arabic rendering of this verse constitutes an elaborate and exten-
sive paraphrase of the Hebrew source text. First Yefet omits the initial
vav in his translation, in all likelihood because he considered it to be
a semantically constituent part of the verb itselfthat is, a conversive
vav, not a conjuctive vav. Second, he clarifies the terse and somewhat
ambiguous Hebrew expression (What will You give me?) by
means of two additions: What shall I do with (ayy shay" a#malu bi-)
which shifts the interrogative focus from the identity of the gift to

rendered as: (And Abram named). Here he uses one Arabic word to translate
the two Hebrew components that form this phrase, despite the fact that he could easily
have used two Arabic cognate words to better imitate the original text in the target
language (Gen :, but also Gen :, ). Text, pp. *, *, *.
33 For a study of Yefets paraphrastic translations in contrast to those of other Karaite

Bible translations, and those of Saadia Gaon, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. . On the
use of paraphrase by means of addition in Yefets commentary on Hosea, see Polliack &
Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. . For a study of paraphrases made by expository clauses
in Yefets commentary on Proverbs, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp. , , .
34 Text, p. *.
yefets approach to bible translation

Abrams use/enjoyment of itand the reward (mina "l-ujra)which


clarifies the nature of the gift. Finally, Yefet solves the crux posed by the
semantic relationship of the last two words in the verse (often translated
Eliezer of Damascus) by glossing them: Eliezer whom I brought from
Damascus.
Another good example of paraphrase may be adduced from Yefets
rendering of Genesis :, where the literal translation is interwoven
with various non-literal, interpretative elements:

:
Thereupon Abraham rose up early35 in the
morning, and he took food and gave (it)
to Hagar, and put (it) on her shoulder, and
gave her also the child, and released her.
And she went and wandered in the wilder-
ness of Beersheba.36
First of all, instead of slavishly rendering the initial copula vav by Arabic
waw, Yefet adopts the more specific prepositional phrase #inda dhalika
(thereupon), thereby underscoring the immediacy of Abrahams obe-
dient response to Gods pronouncement in verses . Second, he
reduces two distinct Hebrew nouns, bread and a bottle of water, to
one general Arabic term, t. a#am (food). Next he resolves the ambigu-
ous syntactical relationship of the Hebrew expression and the child
(i) to the previous part of the verse (was he also placed on Hagars
shoulder?) by glossing: and he gave her also the child.37 To be sure, this
addition is not motivated by any external considerations, since its pur-
pose is merely to clarify the underlying meaning of the biblical verse;
nonetheless, this is achieved at the expense of a more literal render-
ing. Finally, Yefet translates the Hebrew expression "li, literally mean-
ing and he sent her away, by the Arabic expression wa-khallaha, mean-
ing and he released her/freed her/let her goquite likely representing
an apologetically-motivated adjustment, for according to this translation
Abraham does not cruelly expel Hagar, but rather generously frees her
from her status as a slave woman.

35 Rose up early; for this meaning of the Ar. dalaja, see Blau, Dictionary, p. b.
36 Text, p. *.
37 This kind of addition is called projection and consists of a recapitulation of a verb

before the second of what Yefet perceives as two direct objects in the translated verse. Cf.
Polliack, Tradition, pp. .
chapter six

The examples cited above constitute complex and refined paraphrases


of biblical verses. However, Yefets paraphrasing activity is very often
limited to the addition of an explanatory note or gloss. For instance, in
his translation of Genesis :, (lit.,
And Abraham called the name of that place, The Lord will see ), Yefet
inserts after that place the explanatory phrase, in which God called
him (alladh nadahu Allah fhi). This addition serves an elucidatory
purpose only; it was appended by Yefet in order to clarify the precise
location designated by Abraham as The Lord will see, and not out of
any extra-textual considerations. Similarly, in his translation of Genesis
, Yefet inserts other instructive amplifications, such as in a place
called (f mawdi#
. yuqalu lahu), or a people (who are) called (qawm
yuqalu lahum) (Gen :).
In another example an explanatory paraphrase is made by adding an
entire expression not present in the source text. Adduced from Yefets
translation of Genesis :, it describes the way the people of the East
used to water their cattle. When translating this verse into Arabic Yefet
adds the comment at the beginning, and it was their custom (wa-
kana min rasmihum), to explain why they performed this task in such
a complicated and difficult manner.38
Another type of paraphrase can be seen where Yefet, instead of provid-
ing a literal rendering of the Hebrew verse, prefers to explicate its mean-
ing by adding a word or two in the Arabic translation. For instance, he
renders the Hebrew in Genesis :,
(And God remembered Rachel; and God hearkened to her
and opened her womb), as
(Then the Master of the Universe remembered Rachel; and he
hearkened to her prayer, and so opened her womb).39 Similarly, Yefet
translates the laconic Hebrew expression in Genesis :,
(And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said), as
(And the Master of the Universe appeared
to Abram, and said to him) so as to specify that God said what He
said to Abram and no one else. On other occasions Yefet is prepared to
append even larger semantic units to make an elliptical Hebrew formu-
lation explicit to the readerfor example, in his rendering of the Hebrew
phrase (and his house) in Genesis : as (and

38 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r.


39 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
yefets approach to bible translation

everyone who [was] in his house); or when he translates the question


which the angel of God directs to Hagar in Genesis :, (lit.
and where will you go?), as (and where do you
intend to go?).
Although paraphrases comprised of various types of explanatory addi-
tions are much more common in Yefets commentaries than those cre-
ated by means of an omission, several interesting instances of this type of
paraphrase can be found in his commentary on Genesis. One occurrence
may be adduced from his translation of Genesis :; here he decides to
shorten the Hebrew verse by replacing the last part, (and
they came to the land of Canaan), with (and they came to it).
This paraphrase probably stems from the conviction that, with respect
to a proper understanding of this verse, it is superfluous to translate the
second part since its meaning is implicitly conveyed in the first part. This
probably holds true as well for the exegetes rendition of Genesis ::
And Sarai Abrams wife took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave girl, after
Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to Abram
her husband as a wife. Here Yefet refrains from translating the very last
part of this verse, (to him), most likely considering it unnecessary for
a correct understanding of the entire verse.40 A similar example of para-
phrase by omission may be seen in Yefets translation of Genesis :,
where he abbreviates the last part of the verse and renders the expression
(into Pharaohs house) as (into his house); appar-
ently he regards this information as being implicit in the first part of the
verse and, as such, redundant in translation.
It is noteworthy that none of these occasional omissions of nouns sub-
stituted by pronominal suffixes has any significant effect on the meaning,
nor are they motivated by any extra-textual considerations.41 Thus, it is
possible to classify the various types of deviation from literal translation
described above as paraphrase inasmuch as they are not motivated by any
ideology other then the genuine quest for an understandable and concep-
tually precise rendering of the source text into Arabic. In other words,
they are aimed at solving lexical and morphological problems within the
translated text, irrespective of any external considerations. Other types
of addition and omission that are not intended to clarify, but rather

40 Only Ms. L BL Or. (L3 / 3) preserves this preposition with the personal

pronoun suffix to him at the end of the translated Hebrew verse.


41 Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , .
chapter six

to modify the meaning of Scripture, should be thought of as non-literal


or ideological translations aimed at resolving theological, not textual
ambiguities.

.. Purposeful IndecisivenessAlternate Translations


Sometimes, when Yefet is uncertain about the most appropriate Arabic
equivalent of a Hebrew word or expression, he prefers to register his own
indecisiveness by providing a number of options, rather than clinging to
the most literal rendering.
Alternate translations of single words or entire passages is a well-
established phenomenon characteristic of medieval Karaite Bible transla-
tions. They appear mainly in places of particular lexical or morphological
difficulty (e.g., unusual expressions, or hapax legomena) and testify to the
translators search for the most suitable Arabic equivalent for the Hebrew
source word. This also enables the exegete, who does not seek to create
one authoritative or canonical translation, to avoid making a conclusive
choice. It is noteworthy that this approach stands in contradistinction to
Saadias aspiration of providing authoritative or canonical Bible transla-
tions based on two standards of authority: rabbinic tradition and his own
as the incumbent gaon.42
Accordingly, Yefet is not averse to quoting alternate translations of
other exegetes with competence in linguistics. These are usually intro-
duced by the conjunction aw (or) or, less frequently, the expressions
yuqalu (it is said) or qla (it has been said). Whereas aw often indi-
cates a homonymic or polysemic Hebrew word, and occasionally intro-
duces Arabic synonyms, the other expressions are frequently followed by
the presentation of the anonymous opinions of other exegetes with regard
to the meaning of the translated passage. Occasionally, alternate transla-
tions comprise two possible meanings of the same word, one a standard
and widely known meaning, and the other a rare or non-literal one.

42 For the description and analysis of the phenomenon of alternative translations, see

especially Polliack, Alternative; idem, Tradition, pp. . Cf. also idem, Views,
p. . For a discussion of this phenomenon in Yefets commentary on Hosea, see Polliack
& Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. . For the analysis of both alternative translations and
alternative interpretations in Yefets commentary on Ruth, see Blumfield, Ruth, pp.
, . For the study of alternative translations in Yefets commentary on Esther,
see Wechsler, Esther, pp. . For an analysis of alternative translations and their
didactic purpose in Yefets commentary on Proverbs, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp. ,
. For the conjecture that, at least occasionally, alternate translations are the result of
additions by later scribes, see ibid., p. ; Wechsler, Proverbs :, p. .
yefets approach to bible translation

An interesting example of an alternate translation is found in Yefets


comment on Genesis ::
:
: :
And these are the names of the sons of
Ishmael, by their names, according to
their provenance (i.e., status)though it
has also been said: according to the suc-
cessive order of their birth: the first-born
of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, and
Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and
Dumah, and Massa, Hadad, and Tema,
Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.43
Here Yefet refrains from endorsing either of the two options for translat-
ing the problematic Hebrew expression (le-toledotam), preferring instead
to leave the choice to the reader. This rendering also testifies to the
existence of two alternative traditions of translation, both of which the
exegete wanted to preserve.
Another example may be adduced from his translation of Genesis
:, where he offers two alternatives for the ambiguous Hebrew word
(sometimes rendered as precious things) as
(fruitsthough it has also said, vessels ).
In the examples cited above, alternative translations are integrated
into the layer of Arabic translation. Sometimes, however, Yefet decides
to introduce the alternate translation later on, in the commentary layer.
In such instances he usually discusses the diverging views at length,
assessing them and endorsing one view as more or most likely.44 An
example of Yefets relegating the discussion of alternate translations to
the commentary can be seen in his comment on Genesis ::
With regard to his (i.e., the angel of Gods) words, and hold him in thine
hand (v. ), it is said (that it means): hold fast (tamassak) to him
and do not despise himthough it is also said that (the expression),
(and hold him) in thine hand, means, strengthen (qaww) your hand
in him, (according to which latter view) he announced to (Hagar) that
(Ishmael) would occupy an important position and (that) she would be
strong through him, and her heart was pleased with this speech.45

43 Text, p. *.
44 Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, pp. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. .
45 Text, p. *.
chapter six

When rendering this verse into Arabic, however, Yefet adopts a more
strictly literal translationi.e., shidd yadaki bihi (harden/strengthen
your hand in him). Acknowledging, however, that the Hebrew expres-
sion may also posses a more figurative meaning, he deems it appropriate
to mention this non-literal alternative in the deliberative, and hence more
appropriate, commentary layer.

.. Specification
The attempt to specify the meaning of the Hebrew source text in the Ara-
bic translation, at the expense of literalism, in order to clarify the under-
lying meaning is similar to the presentation of alternate translations,
yet another manifestation of Yefets quest for the most suitable equiva-
lent. The difference between them is that whereas an alternate translation
implies a range of options, specification narrows down the possibilities
and leaves the reader with only one choice.46 The common denominator
of both methods of translation is that they set aside the literal or imita-
tive representation of the source text in order to better convey its essen-
tial meaning in the target language.
An example of a translation aimed at specifying the meaning of the
biblical verse may be seen in Yefets rendering of Genesis :,
(And Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac),
which Yefet renders as (And Abraham gave
all his possessions to Isaac). Another interesting instance in which Yefet
attempts to specify the meaning of the source text is his rendering of the
Hebrew verb (to hang) in Genesis : by the Arabic verb s. aluba
(to crucify or to impale).47 Since there are many different ways to
hang someone, Yefet endeavors to specify the most probable method
as he sees itof executing this punishment during biblical times in
Egypt. An additional example of this kind of explanatory specification
can be seen in Yefets translation of har . t. ume Mis. rayim (Genesis :

46 For a description and analysis of Yefets abandoning literalism for the sake of spec-

ification in his commentary on Hosea, see Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp.
. Cf. also Blumfield, Ruth, pp. . For an analysis of specification by an expan-
sion of meaning in Yefets commentary on Proverbs, see Sasson, Proverbs, pp.
.
47 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r. For the latter translation of the Hebrew verb tala

in other commentaries by Yefet, see, e.g., Wechsler, Esther, p. (Ar.), p. (Eng.) and
n. there with further references.
yefets approach to bible translation

and :), an ambiguous expression most commonly rendered into


English as the magicians of Egypt, which he renders as philosophers
(falasifa).48
Yet the most pertinent example of Yefets conscious and purposeful
specification of meaning in translation is the way in which he trans-
lates the Hebrew conjunction vav, which typically opens biblical verses.
Although a literal translation would automatically render it by Arabic
waw, Yefetlike Saadiavaries the way in which he renders it into Ara-
bic, depending on the context.49 It may be translated as wa- (e.g., Gen
:, :), wa-lamma or fa-lamma (e.g., Gen :; :; :), fa- (e.g.,
Gen :; :, , , , ; :, ), hatta
. (e.g., Gen :; :, ;
:), thumma (e.g Gen :, , , ; :; :, ; :; :, , , ), or
li-anna (e.g., Gen :). Sometimes Yefet also extends the meaning of
Hebrew vav by rendering it into Arabic as fa-#inda ma (e.g., Gen :),50
wa-ma#a dhaka (e.g., Gen :),51 or fa-#inda dhalika (Gen :). On rare
occasions he refrains from translating it altogether (e.g., Gen :; :).
Specifying the meaning in the target language in this way is clearly
an interpretative method of translation, since it abandons the imitative,
slavish way of rendering the source text by attempting to assign one
precisecontextually dependentmeaning to the highly elastic con-
junction vav, which performs manifold functions in biblical Hebrew.
Paradoxically, however, from a linguistic, contextual, and literary per-
spective, it allows for a more appropriate rendering of the biblical text
into the target language than would have resulted from the automatic,
ubiquitous translation of this conjunction by Arabic waw, which does
not possess as broad a semantic field as Hebrew vav. This practice thus
demonstrates Yefets [well-]developed textual consciousness,52 since it
is aimed at achieving a better display of the inner connections between
the verses of the Bible and thereby creating an overall narrative effect;53
therefore, in a literary-narrative sense, varying the conjunctions in the
Arabic translation is more correct.

48 See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. v and r. Cf. Yefets comment on Dan : in

Margoliouth, Daniel, p. > (Ar.), p. (Eng.).


49 For the most thorough study of the different functions of the Hebrew vav as reflected

in Karaite Bible translations, including those of Yefet, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. ;
idem, Techniques, esp. pp. . Cf. also Blumfield, Ruth, pp. .
50 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r.
51 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
52 Cf. Polliack, Techniques, esp. p. .
53 Cf. Rippin, Sa#adya, esp. p. .
chapter six

.. Non-Literal Ideological Translations


It has been suggested that in medieval Karaite Bible translations, spe-
cific and alternative renderings are two sides of the same coin, since they
attempt to solve textual problemswhether lexical or morphological
while setting aside a literalistic representation in the target language.54 In
contrast, non-literal translations attempt to solve theological problems
within the translated text, most often by adding (an explicative noun or
verb, for example), and only rarely by omitting a certain word. Metaphor-
ical or figurative explanations are another method utilized by Karaite
exegetes.
Accordingly, ideological or interpretative additions and omissions in
Yefets Bible translations most frequently stem from the desire to recon-
cile the Sacred Text with religious tenets and the doctrine of God (Theol-
ogy Proper). In other words, they constitute concessions for the sake of
theology at the expense of the literalistic ideal of translation.55
Among the best examples of Yefets ideologically motivated, non-
literal translations are his various attempts to avoid anthropomorphic
descriptions of God portrayed as an active agent, directly and materi-
ally involved in the narrative. To this end Yefet employs a broad range
of terms designed to eliminate the Creators personal participation in the
story. In Karaite Bible translations in general, and Yefets commentary on
Genesis in particular, the most common translation procedure used to
eliminate anthropomorphic descriptions of God and His direct involve-
ment in the scriptural account are theological, interpretative insertions of
a noun placed in construct (i.e., a nomen regens), which forms a construct
state with the name of God (the nomen rectum). Hence, Karaite exegetes
take the Creator out of the picture in the translation by replacing Him
and ceding His functions or role to one of His proxies.56

54 Cf. Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .


55 For the description and analysis of Yefets ideological translations (especially theo-
logically motivated, interpretative additions) against the background of similar transla-
tions produced by other Karaites of the time, see Polliack, Tradition, pp. . Cf. also
Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. xviiixix; idem, Yefet, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea,
p. ; Sasson, Proverbs, pp. . On al-Qirqisans recommendation to depart from
literal interpretation when confronted with problematic passages, see above, p. , n. .
For the study of the general Karaite tendency to avoid anthropomorphic descriptions of

God, see Zajaczkowski, Avoiding. I am grateful to Prof. Henryk Jankowski for direct-
ing my attention to this article. For the ideological reasons behind the desire to avoid
anthropomorphic descriptions of God, viz., the belief in Gods incorporeality typical of
the mu#tazila philosophy adopted by the early Karaites, see Ben-Shammai, Kalam, esp.
pp. .
56 For similar interpretative additions in translations, inserted by Yefet out of the
yefets approach to bible translation

This can be seen in Yefets translation of Genesis :, where, in an


effort to eliminate the anthropomorphic picture of God speaking directly
to Abraham, the exegete renders the Hebrew word that literally means
God (i.e., ) as the Glory (al-waqar).57 Another proxy that serves
as a substitute for God is His messenger (rasul Allah), who appears in the
translation of Genesis :. A third option that Yefet presses into service
to distance God from the earthly vicissitudes of the biblical forefathers is
divine assistance (ma#unat Allah), which is found in his translation of
Genesis ::
:
And Gods assistance was with the boy;
and his name became great; and he settled
in the wilderness and was an archer.58

This theologically interpretative insertion of the Arabic nominal mean-


ing aid, help, or assistance forming a construct with the name of
God not only reflects a standard translating practice aimed at eliminating
anthropomorphic descriptions of God, but also constitutes a polemical
statement; it means that God was not with Ishmael, rather, He merely
helped him. This conjecture is confirmed by Yefets translation, in the
same verse, of the Hebrew expression ci (and he grew/became great).
Our exegete renders this into Arabic as his name grew, or became great.
It should be noted that this kind of addition cannot be construed as a
paraphrase, since it does not serve the purpose of offering a more pre-
cise rendering of the meaning of the source text. It should be classified as
an ideological translation inasmuch as it reflects an apologetic attitude
according to which Ishmael himself did not became great, but only his
name became well-known.

theological concern about eliminating anthropomorphic description of God, see Polliack,


Tradition, pp. . The tendency to avoid anthropomorphic expressions with regard
to God was also present, though not predominant, among the rabbis, as demonstrated by
certain midrashim and Aramaic Bible translations (e.g., Midr. Rab. on Gen : and Tar.
Onq. ad Gen :; :). Saadia Gaon states that the appearance of anthropomorphic
descriptions of the deity is due to our endeavor to give a proximate and figurative
description of the deity and that they are not to be taken in the material sense in which
we would apply them to human beings. (
). See Saadia, Amanat, II:, p. ; Eng. trans. per Saadia, Book,
p. . In the later period, Maimonides established a principle that no prophecy or
revelation originates otherwise than in a dream or vision, and through an angel. See
Maimonides, Guide, II:, p. .
57 See also Yefets rendering of Gen :, text, p. *.
58 Text, p. *.
chapter six

Another noun that Yefet sets in construct to the word God for the
ideological purpose of cleansing Scripture of anthropomorphic images of
Him is His angel (mal(")ak) (e.g., in Gen :, but also in his comment
on Gen :).
A slightly different example of avoiding references to Gods direct
involvement in biblical stories or somewhat problematic descriptions of
Him are Yefets translations of expressions such as the Spirit of God
(ruah. elohm) in Genesis :, which he renders as inspiration
(ilham);59 the sons of God (bene elohm) in Genesis :, which he trans-
lates as the children of nobles (awlad al-ashraf );60 and the face of God
(lit. Your face, panekha) in Genesis :, which he renders as the
power of God (lit. Your power, miqdaraka).61
Another kind of ideologically driven modification of the source
text in the target language occurs when Yefet attempts to protect God
from any anthropomorphic connotations by changing the meaning of
actions attributed to Him. This can be seen in his translation of Gene-
sis :; Scripture states that God smelled a sweet savour (va-yarah) .
of Noahs offering, whereas Yefet renders the verb he received (wa-
qabila).62 Another example is his translation of Genesis : where
God says about Himself that He will not be able (lo" ukhal) to per-
form a certain action; Yefet renders this into Arabic as I do not deem
it proper/permissible (la astajzu).
A separate group of non-literal translations motivated by ideologi-
cal reasons consists of the conscious modifications or changes to words
and expressions in the Hebrew source text that remove any suspicion
of improper behavior (especially idolatry) from the revered forefa-
thers and matriarchs of the Jewish nation. An interesting example of
such a change can be seen in Yefets rendering of the Hebrew terafm
(the images or idols, which Rachel stole from her father) as is. t. arlab
(astrolabes; cf. Gen :, , ).63 In this case the exegete obviously

59 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r.


60 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v. Cf. with Yefets translation of Job : and with his
comments on Job :; : in Ben-Shammai, Job, p. , (Ar.), p. , (Heb.);
Hussain, Job, pp. , .
61 See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. v and v. For an additional example, see Yefets

translation of Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah, where he renders His (i.e., Gods) feet as
His presence (saknatihi).
62 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
63 See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. r and v. For similar translation of the Hebrew

terafm in other commentaries by Yefet, see, e.g., Birnbaum, Hosea, pp. , ; Polliack
& Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. , (Ar.), pp. , (Heb.). See also his translation of
Zech : in Vreugd, Zechariah. For an additional example of non-literal (ideologically
motivated?) translation, see above, p. , n. .
yefets approach to bible translation

intended to acquit the respected biblical heroine of any possible allega-


tion of idolatry. Another example may be adduced from his translation of
Genesis :, where he renders the Hebrew verb which literally means to
bow down, used here to describe Abrahams action before the children of
Heth (va-yishtahu)
. by the Arabic verb meaning to thank (wa-shakara),
so as to evade the problematic picture of the forefather bowing down to
heretics.
Nevertheless, only a rather limited number of such deliberate, ideo-
logically motivated alterations of translation can be found in the transla-
tion layer Yefets commentary on Genesis. In fact, he usually endeavors
to solve the ideological problems sensu stricto in the commentary layer
by providing a detailed explanation there. For instance, when it says at
the beginning of the Book of Genesis (:) that God saw (va-yar") that
the light was good (a possible anthropomorphism), Yefet translates it into
Arabic as such, but in his comment on this expression he states that the
verb to see () in this passage really denotes knowing and refers to
Gods knowledge of all things (an argument for Gods omniscience).64

.. Identification
Yefets habit of identifying the geographical locations where biblical
events took place represents another limitation on literalism and the imi-
tative tendencies of his Bible translation. In most instances he supplies the
contemporary Arabic name, rather than the biblical ones, in an attempt
to pinpoint the exact place to which Scripture is referring. By doing this
he tries to set the ancient text in a more contemporary contexti.e.,
one that would have been better known to the readers of his exegetical
compositions.65

64 ( =) ( =)

( =)

[] (We have
translated and God saw [Gen :] as: and the Master of the Universe saw, according to
what the language requires, but it refers to Gods knowledge of [a given] thing, as He must
[know of it], since He is Almighty and Sublime. Yet, He is described as if He perceived
things by sensation, like the creatures do. For we have found this verb being used with
regard to the creatures, and also referring to knowledge, as it is said when he seeth that
the lad [Gen :], and similarly my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge
[Eccl :]). (Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vr). Cf. Yefets comments on Eccl :,
; : in Bland, Ecclesiastes, pp. , , (Ar.), pp. , , (Eng.).
65 For a study of the Karaite methods of rendering biblical proper names, see Polliack,

Tradition, pp. ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. . On Yefets tendency


chapter six

For example, he identifies the place that Jacob calls Mahanaim, with
the Sabatean Jordan (Gen :).66 For him, the place which the Bible calls
Shur is equivalent to the Arabic site of Jifar (Gen :; :), whereas he
designates the land of Rameses as #Ayn Shams (Gen :).67 In addition,
the land of Shinar is equated with Iraq (al-#Iraq; Gen :, :),68 and
biblical Assyria with Mosul (al-Maws. il; Gen :; :).69 He identifies
the land of Elam (Gen :) as Khuzistan,70 and the place called El-
paran (Gen :) as Qant.ara al-Hijaz, 71 while the site known as Ham
.
(Gen :) is identified as Ghabajib. Furthermore, he renders the place
called Zoar (Gen :, :) as Zughar,72 equating both of them with
Bela73 and possibly with Lasha as well (Gen :, :).74 Finally, Dan
(Gen :) is identified by him with Banias,75 and Ashteroth-karnaim
(Gen :) is tentatively (i.e., in an alternate translation) identified with
al-Sanamayn. 76
.
Additionally, Yefet sometimes makes use of another scriptural passage
as a proof-text for identifying a certain biblical location. In his translation
of Genesis :, for example, he states that the place called Hazazon-
tamar is identical to En-gedi, as it is said in a different place: and, behold,
they are in Hazazon-tamarthe same is En-gedi ( Chr :).77 Likewise,
in his comment on Gen : and : he identifies the biblical Mamre,
said to be the same as Hebron, with Kiriat-arbawhich appears, it should

to identify geographical places mentioned in the Bible and possible reasons behind his
desire to do so, see Stauber, Geographical.
66 ( =) (Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v ).

The following references to biblical verses (in brackets) are merely examples and do not
constitute a complete list of all instances in which Yefet identifies a given biblical location
with a specific modern Arabic place name.
67 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
68 See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv.
69 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v; Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r. Cf. Birnbaum, Hosea,

pp. , ; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. , (Ar.), pp. , (Heb.),


pp. , (discussion).
70 I.e., a region in southwest Iran, located to the east of the Tigris River, across from

Babylonia.
71 Text, p. *.
72 I.e., a place in northern Syria, in the region of Aleppo (Halab).
.
73 In his comment on Gen : Yefet expounds: (Ms. SP IOS

B, fol. r).
74 Text, p. *.
75 Text, p. *.
76 While translating this verse into Arabic, Yefet adds an explanatory comment: It is

said that it is al-Sanamin (i.e., a place in Syria). Text, p. *.


77 Text, p. *.
yefets approach to bible translation

be noted, only in the Books of Joshua (:; :; :, :) and


Judges (:).78 Another example of identification by means of scriptural
analogy may be adduced from his comment on Genesis :, where he
endeavors to identify the place called Zidon:
(Scripture) informs (us) that their borders (= of Issachar and Zebulun) end
at Zidon, which is the border of the land of Canaan on the West side, as
it is said, And the border of the Canaanite was from Zidon, (as thou goest
toward Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest toward Sodom and Gomorrah and
Admah and Zeboiim, unto Lasha) (Gen :).79
Yefet identifies the place called Gerar, mentioned in this passage, with
Chelus (al-Khulus; Gen :, ; :). Moreover, possibly following Saa-
dia, he translates the land of Goshen as the land of Sadr (Gen :).80
As to the Holy City of Jerusalem, he sometimes renders it according to its
Arabic name, bayt al-maqdis, which alludes to the Holy Temple (e.g., in
his comment on Gen :, :)81 and identifies it with the place called
Kadesh or En-mishpat (Gen :); and the city of Shechem he equates
with Nablus (e.g., Gen :).82
Aside from identifying cities, villages, or geographic regions, Yefet also
attempts to pinpoint rivers, mountains, and hills mentioned in the Bible.
For example, he identifies Mount Gilead, referred to in Genesis :, as
Mount Jerash (jabal al-Jerash), modern Jerash in Jordan.83
Apart from identifying geographical locations in the translation by
providing their modern names, Yefet is also concerned with establishing
their exact location. For instance, on several occasionsnot only in
his commentary on Genesis (e.g., Gen :), but also other books of
the Pentateuch (e.g., Num :)he endeavors to identify the river
that the Bible designates the river of Egypt or the brook of Egypt
(nahal
. Mis. rayim). He comes to the conclusion that it is probably not
the Egyptian Nile, but rather a river called Wadi al-Takaw (?), which he
describes as being close to the border of Gaza. Hence, just like Saadia, he

78 See Yefets comment on Gen : (text, p. *). Cf. also Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r.
79 ( =)

(Ms. SP IOS B, fols. vr).


80 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v. The identification of Goshen with Sadr, a village

northeast of Belbes (todays Abbasseh), was already made by Saadia, who renders the
land of Goshen in Gen : as balad al-Sadr in Arabic.
81 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
82 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. r, but also fols. r and r.
83 See Ms. SP IOS B, fol. v.
chapter six

seems to equate this river with what is known today as Wadi al-#Arish.84
Another instance of Yefets attempt to pinpoint the exact location of rivers
mentioned in Scripture emerges from his comment on Genesis :
, where he gives the modern names and locations of the four rivers
that flowed out of Eden. According to his interpretation, Pishon is the
Egyptian Nile, Gihon is in Sudan,85 Hiddekel is a river to the east of
Mosul, which flows through Baghdadi.e., the Tigrisand the last river
is the Euphrates.86
The tendency to identify biblical places, not only by providing their
contemporary names in the translation, but also by their exact geo-
graphical positionoften in relation to other, well-known locations and
regionsmay be perceived as kind of reflection or emulation on Yefets
part of a similar tendency in Scripture itself. (For example, Gen :
identifies Mamre as Hebron, and Gen : equates the place called Luz
with Bethel.) This particular feature of the biblical text is a familiar one
that was already noted by earlier Karaite exegetes. Ya#qub al-Qirqisans
eleventh exegetical proposition (out of thirty-seven) includes the follow-
ing remark:
Scripture refers to things by names that were commonly known at the
time of its referring to them (i.e., not at the time when the recorded events
actually occurred).87
Thus, just like al-Qirqisan, so too Yefetas implied by his comments
on various biblical versesappears to have been aware of a somewhat
anachronistic use in Scripture of geographical names. He usually solves
this exegetical problem by acknowledging that the events described were
not recounted by the person who actually participated in them, but rather
by an inspired narrator who was acting under Gods instructions, not
at the time when the events actually occurred, but only post factum.88
A classic locus of such an anachronistic use of a geographical name
can be seen in Genesis :. This passage states that Abram pursued
the four eastern kings as far as Dan, though the name Dan was

84 See Ms. SP IOS C, fol. v.


85 Yefet states that there are two rivers possessing the same name, the bigger one in
Sudan, in the province of Khurasan, and the smaller one in the land of Israel, as attested
to by Scripture ( Chr :). See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv.
86 See Ms. SP IOS B, fols. rv.
87 (Per Hirschfeld, Qirqisan, pp. ): K0Y  D-r NQK3 !# A". /-B]D8 D1O] Kk5X D"6. 

D-V Kk N# 4. Cf. ibid., pp. (discussion).


88 See above, pp. ff.
yefets approach to bible translation

only given to this location by the children of Dan a long time after the
death of not just Abram, but also Moses. Yefet comments on this verse:
The statement and pursued as far as Dan (v. ) refers to (the place called)
Banias, which (only later on) was called by the children of Dan after the
name of their father, as it is said, and (the children of Dan) called Leshem,
Dan, after the name of Dan their father (Josh :). Thus (Moses) said (the
words) and pursued as far as Dan only under Gods instruction. And when
(the children of Israel) heard from Moses, and pursued as far as Dan, they
firmly believed that one of the places in that region would (in the future)
be called Dan. We would say the same concerning the statement, Are they
not beyond the Jordan, behind the way of the going down of the sun, in the
land of the Canaanites that dwell in the Arabah, over against Gilgal, beside
the terebinths of Moreh? (Deut :), for it is known that Joshua called
(this place) Gilgal after Moses death.89
In this case it was Moses whoin Yefets viewwas being instructed by
God to inform the Israelites that a certain place would be called Dan in
the future.90

. The Complementary Aspect of


Translation and Interpretation

Although it has been argued that translation and interpretation in Karaite


Bible commentaries were initially independent phenomena, and despite
the fact that these two inherent elements of Yefets commentaries con-
stitute separate structural units, the conceptual division between them
is vague. Indeed, the processes of translating and commenting seem to
proceed concurrently, one mutually impacting the other.91 From a struc-
tural point of view, the translation of a particular verse introduces the
commentary that follows and incorporates its interpretive conclusions.
In reality, therefore, the translation, which is seemingly the basis of the
commentary, only takes on its final form after it is elucidated in the
commentary.92

89 Text, p. *. Cf. Ben-Shammai, Mudawwin, p. . See also Yefets comments on

Gen : (text, p. *) and Gen : (text, p. *).


90 For the discussion of the possible identification of Moses with the mudawwin of the

Torah see above, pp. ff. and further bibliography there. For Yefets belief that whoever
wrote not only the Torah, but also the other books of the Holy Scriptures did so under
divine inspiration, see above, p. , n. .
91 For the recent discussion of this conjecture and arguments that support it, see

Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , , , . Cf. also Polliack, Tradition, p. . Cf. above,


p. and n. there.
92 See Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, pp. ; Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , .
chapter six

Indeed, not only does the translation reflect the final conclusions
reached by the commentary, but the commentary also discusses and
analyzes several distinct options of rendering the source text. On var-
ious occasions Yefet considers and debates, in addition to his own
translating alternatives, those proposed by other exegetes, judging them
as likely or unlikely, close to the original or far-fetched. When
the commentary is inconclusive or hesitant, the translation may also
remain indecisive, offering alternate translations. Thus, while reading
Yefets exegetical works one cannot avoid the impression that the trans-
lation and interpretation of biblical verses are interrelated and meant to
be studied in conjunction with one another, not separately.93
A good example of such interdependency, or subordination of trans-
lation to commentary and vice versa, is Yefets interpretation of Genesis
:, where the exegete attempts to justify, in the commentary layer, cer-
tain decisions that he made with regard to the specific, non-literal trans-
lation option that he chose:94

:
And he who is eight days old shall be cir-
cumcised: every male among you, through-
out your generations, and born in (your)
house,95 and bought with money; every for-
eign child, and he who is not of your off-
spring.

(. . .) I have translated (fassartu) as and born in (your) house,


with a vav of conjunction (vav al-nasaq). So too have I translated
as and who is not of your seed, since this is required by the
meaning; for if we did not indicate that born in (your) house (v. ) is not
included in every male (among you) shall be circumcised (v. ), (then the
expression) And he who is eight days old (v. ) would be restricted to he
who is born in (your) house or bought with money (v ) alone. Similarly,
if we supposed (that the expression) who is not of thy seed (v. ) refers
(only) to he that is born in the house or bought with money, it would mean

93 Cf. Bland, Ecclesiastes, p. xi: Thus his method of translation is an integral element

of his method of exegesis, conveying into Arabic the meanings and relationships which
are manifested in the Hebrew text in the order in which they appear. See above, p. ,
n. ; below, p. .
94 On Yefets deviation from literal translation when it impinges on the intended

meaning, usually foreshadowing the commentary, see Blumfield, Ruth, pp. , and
; Polliack & Schlossberg, Hosea, p. .
95 Cf. al-Fas, Jami#, I, p. .
yefets approach to bible translation

two things: First, that it is in fact meaningless, for he who is born in (your)
house or bought with money is certainly not of Abrahams offspring. Second,
that strangers who are neither bought with money, nor born in (your) house
are not included in this commandment.96
While rendering this verse into Arabic, Yefet decides to set aside a strictly
literal translation so as to better convey its underlying meaning. Having
done so, however, he feels the need to explain his action in the layer of
commentary. It is important to note that the mere fact that Yefet here
and in many other places as wellmakes use of the Arabic root fassara,
which can mean both to translate as well as to comment, seems to
further corroborate the purported vagueness of the conceptual division
between translation and interpretation.97
Another good example of Yefets justification in the commentary of
certain non-literal translations is found in his comment on Genesis :,
where he debates two possible ways of understanding this verse:

96 Text, pp. **. Similarly, the Talkhs states that there was an and of conjunc-
.
tion omitted from the expression born in the house (v. ), since the words among you
(v. ) necessarily include your children. So this expression really means and born in
the house, and refers to the child of a slave man and a slave woman, which was born in
their house, whereas bought with money means the slave, who was bought, and by analogy
also those who originate from the slaves, (whether) captive or gift (


) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ,
fol. r).
97 Cf. Blumfield, Ruth, p. . Polliack, Tradition, pp. , ; Polliack & Schloss-

berg, Hosea, p. , n. ; Wechsler, Esther, p. , n. . An additional example emerges


from Yefets comment on Gen :: I have translated as moved his tent, for this
word bears two meanings: pitching a tent and moving a tent. A similar (case) are the
expressions (appearing in the verses) of the land of the living (Ps :), (and) I
have seen the foolish (Job :). For of the land of the living means: to uproot,
but as for I have seen the foolish , it means: to spread the root. So had it been said
here: , it would have meant pitching of (Abrams) tent in Sodom. But since
it says: (v. ), it indicates that he moved his tent towards Sodom. Here
Yefet endeavors to illustrate complex problems that are part of the process of translation.
He takes as an example the case of a single Hebrew root, which in two different con-
texts and when put into two different grammatical paradigms, may bear two distinct or
even opposed meanings. This comment demonstrates Yefets deep consciousness of dif-
ferent, equally plausible options of translations, deriving from the inherent features of
the Hebrew language (polysemy, homonymy, etc.) as well as his need to justify his own
translation choices in the layer of commentary. Text, p. *. For a very similar interpre-
tation provided by the Talkhs. , see Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fol. v; Ms. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rv. Cf. also al-Fas, Jami#, II, p. .
chapter six

:
And the vale of the fields (was full of) slime
pits; so the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah
fled, and they fell there, whereas they that
remained fled to a place called Hera.

The statement and they fell there means (that the kings of Sodom and
Gomorrah) fell into the pits and disappeared from sight, whereas the
statement and they that remained means (that) the three other kings with
their armies fled to (the place called) Hera (hera). It is (also) said that they
fled to the mountain (ha-hara),98 for (some) believe (that one should read)
instead of99 T , but the first (reading) is more likely.100
T

In this passage Yefet cites and debates two divergent opinions regarding
the meaning of the Hebrew word . According to one, it is the proper
name of a place (read T ), whereas according to the other, it is the
Hebrew noun meaning mountain () with the directional suffix he"
(read T ). Nevertheless, since he favors the first opinion, Yefet already
adds an explanatory gloss in his translationi.e., (to
a place called)which leaves no doubt the Hebrew word is intended as
the name of a place.101

98 E.g., Gen :; :, .
99 instead of for this meaning of Ar. maqam see Blau, Dictionary, p. b.
100 Text, p. *. Cf. with the Talkhs:
.
(About the statement and they that remained fled to
the mountain, it is said [that] the [letter] he [added at the end of the word mountain]
has the same function as [the preposition] to [el] [which would precede the word
mountain], meaning [that] they fled to the mountain. It is also said that it is a name of
a place.) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , fols. rv). Tg. Onq. ad. loc. also renders this
expression as to the mountain (). Similarly, Rashi ad. loc.: (They
fled hera [means that] they fled to the mountain). Cf. also with Ibn Ezra ad loc.:
(They fled hera [means] to the mountain, but it is a strange
word).
101 An additional example may be adduced from his comment on Gen :. Hav-

ing translated the problematic Hebrew term Goyim with the unambiguous Arabic
nations, Yefet endeavors to solve, in the commentary, an exegetical debate revolving
around the meaning of this term: Two opinions are said about the statement king of
Goyim. (.) First, that it is the name of a tribe, (whose) name was Goyim; (.) (Sec-
ond), that (this name) refers to various mingled nations, like the Bedouins, all of them
being united under the obedience of Tidal. Text, p. *. Cf. with the midrash ad. loc. (per
Ginzberg, Legends, I, p. ): Tidal, the king of several nations. Cf. with the Talkhs. :
: ([About] the
statement king of Goyim it is said that it is a name of a place. It is also said [that it
means] mixed nations, over which Tidal was a king.) (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ,
fol. r).
yefets approach to bible translation

Interestingly enough, the interdependency of the translation and the


commentary is also expressed in the fact that Yefet sometimes decides
not to depart from the original Hebrew verse in his translation; instead he
renders it as closely as possible into Arabic, revealing the real meaning
only in the commentary. This is evident, for example, in his translation
and commentary on Genesis ::
:
And she called the name of the Master
of the Universe who spoke with her,
You are the One capable of seeing; for
she said, Have I also seen here after the
One who sees me?

(. . .) Her statement (lit., Have I also here seen after


the One who sees me?) means, Is it possible (that) I have indeed seen an
angel of God speaking with me, after he had seen me, when I was running
away in the direst of conditions?102
In this case Yefet translates the biblical passage in slavish agreement
with the Hebrew text; however, since its literal (though grammatically
obscure) meaning is not in agreement with his theological views, which
do not allow for anthropomorphic descriptions of God, he feels obligated
to clear the Bible of any such impressionsin this instance by explaining
its true meaning in the commentary by means of a paraphrase. Thus,
according to Yefet, Hagar saw an angel of God (Is it possible (that) I have
indeed seen an angel of God?) and not God Himself.
A similar example of relegating the explanation of what Yefet consid-
ered the real meaning of a Hebrew verse to the commentary is attested
by his comment on Genesis :. Here he acknowledges the necessity
of adding a word in translation even though he refrains from doing so:

:
And Lot lifted up his eyes and beheld all
the plain of the Jordan, that it was well-
watered every wherebefore the Mas-
ter of the Universe destroyed the land
of Sodom and Gomorrahlike the gar- :
den of the Master of the Universe; like
the land of Egypt until the border of
Zughar.

102 Text, p. *.
chapter six

(. . .) The statement (and he beheld all the plain [kikkar, a masculine noun]
of the Jordan,) that it was well-watered (kullah mashqe, a feminine adjec-
tive) every where requires an addition in translation, and it should be
expressed: and he beheld all the land of [eres. , a feminine noun] the plain
of Jordan, (etc.), for the (noun) plain (kikkar) is masculine, (whereas the
noun land [eres. ] is feminine). However another commentator says that
the (noun) plain (kikkar) is both feminine and masculine.103
This comment on Yefets part is meant to solve the grammatical problem
of gender disagreement between a noun and its adjectival attribute.
These two distinct ways of interpreting the Bible (i.e., providing the most
faithful translation possible and relegating the explanation of the true,
intended meaning to the commentary, and, vice versa, rendering the
Hebrew source text in a non-literal fashion so as convey its underlying
meaning, and justifying such a translation only in the commentary)
demonstrate the close interrelationship between Yefets translation and
commentary, and his intention that they be read in conjunction with one
another.104 This also sets in relief the dialectical tension between these
two inherent parts of Yefets comprehensive exegetical compositions.
Both the interlinear translation as well as the commentary are closely
related to the Hebrew source text of the Bible. This is expressed not only in
the literalistic ideal of faithful translationthe ever-present, albeit often
purposefully suspended goalbut also in the fact that throughout the
commentary sensu stricto Yefet constantly refers to minute fragments of
the source verse, which he has already translated and commented upon,
in order to explain them separately before fitting them into the broader
context of the passage.

. Conclusion

Notwithstanding the assumption that Yefets Bible translations (tarajim)


might have constituted an independent phenomenon at an early stage,
over time they became an integral part of his exegetical oeuvre, to be
read in conjunction with the commentary (sharh),. and not separately, as
was the case with Saadias Tafsr.
In translating the Hebrew Bible into Arabic, Yefet endeavors not only
to reflect the accurate and precise meaning of the Holy Writ in the
target language, but alsoas far as possiblethe words and syntax of

103 Text, p. *.
104 See above, p. , n. ; p. , n. .
yefets approach to bible translation

the Hebrew source text. This approach, which strives for faithfulness
to both the content and the form of the biblical source text, tends to
disregard the beauty of the Arabic target language and is often achieved
at the expense of accuracy (fas. aha).
. Yet, this literalistic ideal and the
quest for proximity to the original do not mean that Yefets translation
slavishly imitates biblical verses in Arabic or mechanically reproduces the
Hebrew words and their order in the target language. His goal was that
the translation should be firmly grounded in a thorough grammatical and
semantic analysis of the source text so as to most clearly and appropriately
express the nuances of scriptural meaning. To be sure, this does not
always allow for a word-for-word translation, as Yefet asserts:
It is necessary to interpret (Scripture) according to what fits the language
and according to what suits the meaning.105

Hence, the exegete believes that the interpretation of the Holy Text, and
thus also its translation, must not only comply with the grammatical rules
of biblical Hebrew, but also convey its underlying meaning, which is not
necessarily consistent with a literal exposition.
For Yefet the true meaning of biblical words and passages is often
obtained by means of comparison to other scriptural verses in which
the same word or expression appears. Such analogy, however, should by
no means be drawn mechanically, without giving due consideration to
the context or internal logic of the translated passage. Indeed, one of the
most important characteristics of Yefets translation is its commitment
to the broader context of the source text and its dependence on rational
inquiry. The mutually complementary aspect of his translation and his
commentary validates this overall approach to translation: the Arabic
translation must reflect, above all, the contextual meaning as confirmed
by rational inquiry (viz., the content), and less so the form of particular
words.
Accordingly, there are limitations on imitative translation. Though
unquestionably desirable in order to familiarize the reader with the
sound of the source text, imitation is subordinated to the requirements
of conveying the properthat is, the rational, linguistic-contextual
meaning of the original. Thus, the imitative tendency that is evident in
Yefets Arabic translation serves merely to enable the reader to taste the

105 (per Butbul, Ruth, p. ): AEI-D8 \F2X  U2. 4 ATX DC h-3 D?-lG  %J1Q. (comment on

Ruth :). Cf. ibid., p. (Heb.); Blumfield, Ruth, p. ; Schorstein, Rth, p. xxiv (Ar.),
p. (discussion).
chapter six

original text of the Hebrew Bible; it does not result in a slavish translation,
since this, as Yefet point out, might distort the true meaning of the Holy
Writ.
Similarly, when confronted with an unclear or ambiguous biblical pas-
sage, Yefet prefers to paraphrase it, clarify its intended meaning by speci-
fication, or provide several options for understanding its meaning, rather
than to translate it literally, since he believes that such a translation might
lead to misunderstanding and, as a result, distort the true meaning of
Scripture. Deviation from a literal translation for the sake of compre-
hensibility does not usually stem from any extra-textual considerations.
Instead, it should be considered characteristic of Yefets overall tendency
to provide a more contextual than literal rendering of the Bible, and his
effort to convey the true, underlying meaning of the biblical text rather
than slavishly imitating it in the target language.
Finally, it is also important to emphasize that every deviation from
literalism is intentionally made by Yefet. Indeed, one can sense a certain
disquiet on his part to his occasional unfaithfulness to the original
Hebrew text as borne out in his need to explain his actions to his readers.
He thus endeavors to draw their attention to the changes he introduces
in his Arabic translation, justifying his decisions and elucidating his
intentionsas in his comment on Genesis :, where he confesses: I
have added words in the translation of this verse to better indicate its
meaning.106

106 Text, p. *.
PART II

INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITICAL EDITION


chapter seven

DESCRIPTION OF MANUSCRIPTS
EMPLOYED FOR THE PRESENT EDITION

. Russian Collections1

.. Ms. A1 / 1 (Basic Manuscript)


Ms. SP IOS B; twelfth century; fols.; approximately . .
cm.; lines per page; most of the text is written in square Karaite script
(fols. vr);2 very good condition overall; copied by Abraham ben
#Amram (ha-Kohen)3 around the year , probably in Cairo (along
with Mss. SP IOS B, SP IOS B, SP IOS B, SP IOS B, and SP
RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , which are all parts of originally one Ms. containing
Yefets commentary on the entire Book of Genesis).4 Missing leaves: ,
, ; also missing leaves after fols. v and v. Several fols. are out
of order: fol. r should properly follow fol. r and precede fol. v.
Fol. r should properly follow fol. v, and precede fol. v, whereas
fol. r should follow v and precede fol. v. The last few leaves
(fols. vr) are lacunal. There in no colophon. Verses from the
Hebrew Bible preceding their translation into Arabic and commentary
are vocalized. Hebrew lexemes throughout the commentary are only

1 For the overview of European collections of manuscripts containing Yefets Bible

commentaries, see Tamani, Repertorio; idem, Tradizione; idem, Prolegomeni; for


Firkovitch collections I and II, see Ben-Sasson, Firkovitch; Beit-Arie, Manuscripts;
Sklare & Batat, Catalogue.
2 For a detailed description of different scripts employed throughout this manuscript,

see Ginzburg, Catalog, p. . I am thankful to Yisrael Dubitsky for bringing this book to
my attention.
3 Cf. Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, p. (Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ); Poznanski,

Kopisten, p. []. Cf. also Blumfield, Ruth, p. .


4 Although there is no colophon on this Ms., or its continuation in Ms. SP IOS B,

there is one on Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (containing Yefets commentary on Leviticus,


copied by Abraham ben #Amram in ), which is probably a part of a complete Ms. of

Yefets commentary on the Torah, copied by the same hand, of which our Mss. (containing
Yefets commentary on Genesis) are also part. I am grateful to Dr. David Sklare for
providing me with the detailed information about this Ms. For a possible later dating
of this Ms. ( c.), see Ginzburg, Catalog, p. .
chapter seven

vocalized sporadically, for the purpose of philological and grammatical


interpretation. There are neither lead words, nor numbers indicating
where quires begin and end. In several instances, it refers to Saadia Gaon,
calling him the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba) (fols. v
v, r), and to his works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction)
and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation) (fols. rv).5 It also mentions
#Anan (fol. v) and Benjamin al-Nahawand (fol. r). The Ms. was
catalogued by Ginzburg.6 It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :
:.7
At the beginning of the Ms. (fol. v), there is a note that indicates its
content, namely three parashiyot: Ele toledot (These are the generations),8
Lekh lekha (Get thee out),9 va-Yera" elav (And the Lord appeared unto
him),10 and that it was at some point in the possession of Ab Kahar Josef
Cohen, the son of Kahar Sefanya
. ha-Cohen, who bought it for his son
from Netanel Przaz, the son of Dan"el Rofe":


11

13 12

Moreover, before the commentary commences (fol. r), it reads:


(
-


5 For the discussion of this passage, see Poznanski, Opponents (), pp. ,

esp. p. , par. [] [= (), p. ; = Birnbaum, Studies, p. ].


6 See Ginzburg, Catalog, pp. [].
7 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vv); Gen :

(fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr ); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen


: (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv);
Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vr).
8 Gen ::.
9 Gen ::.
10 Gen ::.
11 = .
12 = .
13 = .
description of manuscripts

14

!V"   

(In the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God, who knows all the
hidden things, blessed be He for ever and ever, throughout eternity,
blessed be God, the God of Israel, the Unique, the Eternal, who is the First
[and] the Everlasting, without end, [who] creates the elements of things,
glorified be He, may His praise be great! With the aid of God the Sublime,
we commence the commentary upon Ele toledot Noah. [These are the
generations of Noah]15 and what follows it from the Book of Genesis.)
At the end of the Ms. (fol. r), after a standard formula (
), a poem, written by a different hand, is added:
/
16 /

At the beginning of Ms. SP IOS B17 (fol. v), which opens Yefets
commentary on Genesis, of which Ms. SP IOS B is a continuation,
there is a note (with full Hebrew vocalization) praising Yefet, his work,
and the benefits of studying it, and stating that this part of the Ms. was
also at some point in the possession of Ab Kahar Josef Cohen, the son
of Kahar Sefanya
. Cohen, who bought it for his son from Netanel Przaz,
the son of Dan"el Rofe":







18

23
22 21 20 19

14 = .
15 Gen ::.
16 Cf. with the poem ( ) by Moshe ha-Sofer me-Roma: b Y d"k

c" " !k !k e" / .e" !a!" i!" / ,_a! e! pN ! e /,_! See
http://www.piyut.org.il/textual/.html.
17 See Ginzburg, Catalog, p. [].
18 = .
19 = .
20 = .
21 = .
22 = .
23 = .
chapter seven




24

(
-
25
26

27

There is also Yefets poem inserted in this Ms. (SP IOS B, fol. v), be-
fore the beginning of the commentary (with full Hebrew vocalization):28
29








(
-







30
31

.. Ms. A2 / 2 (Basic Manuscript)


Ms. SP IOS B; twelfth century; fols.; approximately . .
cm.; lines per page; square Karaite script;32 very good condition

24 Dan :.
25 = .
26 = .
27 = .
28 For the tentative edition of this poem and its Latin translation, see Bargs, Excerpta,

pp. xxiiixxiv (Heb.) and pp. xxivxxv (Lat.). Cf. also Mann, Texts, pp. (Heb.);
Nemoy, Anthology, pp. (Eng.). Cf. above, p. , n. .
29 = .
30 Ps. :.
31 = .
32 See above, p. , n. .
description of manuscripts

overall; copied by Abraham ben #Amram (ha-Kohen)33 in , Cairo


(along with Mss. SP IOS B, SP IOS B, SP IOS B, SP IOS B,
and SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I , which are all originally parts of one Ms.
containing Yefets commentary on the Book of Genesis).34 Missing fol. r;
also missing leaves after fols. v, v, v, v, v, and v; it has an
empty page after fol. . Moreover, fol. v is out of order and follows
fol. v. There is no colophon. Verses from the Hebrew Bible preceding
their translation into Arabic and commentary are vocalized. Hebrew
lexemes throughout the commentary are only vocalized sporadically,
for the purpose of philological and grammatical interpretation. There
are neither lead words, nor numbers indicating where quires begin and
end. Throughout the Ms., no other exegetes or important personages are
mentioned by name. The Ms. was catalogued by Ginzburg.35 It contains
Yefets commentary on Genesis ::.36
At the beginning of the Ms. (fol. v), there is a note indicating that it
was at some point in the possession of Ab Kahar Josef Cohen, the son
of Kahar Sefanya
. Cohen, who bought it for his son from Netanel Przaz,
the son of Dan"el Rofe":
37


38

At the end of the Ms. (fol. r), it is written:



39

(Blessed be the Lord for ever amen and amen. Finished, with Gods aid
and His grace, the third part of [the commentary on] the parashiyot va-
Yishlah. Ya#aqob mal" akhm [And Jacob sent messengers].40)

33 See above, p. , n.
34 See above, p. , n. .
35 See Ginzburg, Catalog, p. [].
36 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen :

(fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vv).


37 = .
38 = .
39 = .
40 Gen :.
chapter seven

At the end of Ms. SP IOS B,41 which closes Yefets commentary on


Genesis and is a continuation of Mss. SP IOS B and SP IOS B (and
also SP B), there is standard information, written by a different hand,
concerning its content and authorship (fol. v):


42
43

It is followed by two pseudo-poems (also written by a different hand):









.. Ms. A3 / 3
Ms. SP IOS A; thirteenth-fourteenth century; fols.; approximately
. . cm.; lines per page; oriental script;44 relatively good con-
dition overall, apart from the final leaves (fols. rr), which are
seriously damaged in the upper corners; written by one hand. Fols. r,
vv, and vv are empty. There is no colophon. Verses from
the Hebrew Bible preceding their translation into Arabic and commen-
tary are written in enlarged square characters and not vocalized. Only
certain words are vocalized for the sake of philological and grammat-
ical interpretation or precision (e.g., on fol. r). There are lead words
and numbers indicating where quires begin and end. It mentions Saa-
dia Gaon, referred to as the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba),
and Benjamin al-Nahawand, both on fol. r. The Ms. was catalogued
by Ginzburg.45 It seems likely that is a continuation of Ms. B SB Or. Qu.
(= B / ). It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis ::.46

41 See Ginzburg, Catalog, p. [].


42 = .
43 = .
44 Cf. above, p. , n. (p. there).
45 See Ginzburg, Catalog, p. [].
46 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vr); Gen :
description of manuscripts

At the beginning of parashiyot Haye


. Sara (The life of Sarah)47 (fol. r)
and ve-Ele toledot Yis. haq 48 r
. (These are the generations of Isaac), ( ) it
reads:
.

At the end of parashat va-Yera" elav (And the Lord appeared unto him)49
(fols. vr), it is written: , followed by:


Similarly, at the end of parashat Haye


. Sara (The life of Sarah)50 (fol. r),
it states:



. European Collections

.. Ms. L1 / 1
Ms. L BL Or. ; sixteenth-seventeenth century; fols. (there is
fol. r); written by different hands, therefore, it has , , ,
and lines per page; square and rabbinic script;51 general condition
rather good, though a few leaves are damaged: fols. vr (the lower
portions), and fols. vv and vr (the upper portions); written by
four different hands: fols. r, vr, vr, and vr. There
are empty pages after fols. r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r, r,
r, r, r, r, r, r, r. There is no colophon. Quotations from
the Hebrew Bible, preceding their translation into Arabic, are vocalized
on fols. r and vr, whereas on fols. vr and vr, they
are not vocalized at all or only sporadically vocalized. Starting from

(fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen :


(fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vr) (missing Gen
: between fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vr).
47 Gen ::.
48 Gen ::.
49 Gen ::.
50 Gen ::.
51 See Margoliouth, Catalogue, p. .
chapter seven

fol. v, complete verses from the Hebrew Bible, which precede the
interpretation, as well as their translation into Arabic, are written on the
top of the page, while the commentary appears on the bottom. Starting
from fol. v, only the biblical verses are written on the top of the page,
whereas their translation and commentary appear on the bottom. From
fol. v onward, till the end of the Ms. on fol. r, biblical verses and
their translations are written in a small square on the upper right-hand
side of the page. In addition, there are small ornamental designs on the
side of the page at the beginning of a new parasha (fols. v, r, r,
r, r, v), and sometimes also at the end of a parasha (fols. r, r,
v, r). The Ms. contains explanatory additions inserted by the scribe
(usually in the margins). There are lead words and numbers indicating
the beginning and end of quires. It mentions Saadia Gaon, calling him
the Fayyumite (Ar. al-Fayyum), and Benjamin al-Nahawand, both on
fol. r. The Ms. was described and catalogued by Margoliouth52 and
Tamani.53 It contains Yefets commentary on Gen : (fols. r) and
Gen :: (fols. vr).54
At the end of the commentary on parashat va-Yes. e" (And Jacob went
out)55 (fol. r), it reads:
56





At the end of the commentary on parashat va-Yesheb (And Jacob dwelt)57


(fol. v), it states:

52 See Margoliouth, List, p. ; idem, Catalogue, pp. [].


53 See Tamani, Tradizione, esp. p. [].
54 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vv); Gen :

(fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen :


(fols. rv); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. vv) (incomplete);
Gen : (fols. vr).
55 Gen ::.
56 = .
57 Gen ::.
description of manuscripts

.. Ms. L2 / 2
Ms. L BL Or. ;58 fifteenth century; fols. (there is fol. r); lines
per page; square and rabbinic script;59 general condition rather good;
written by two different hands, fols. vr and vr. There are empty
pages: fols. v, r, v, r. There is no colophon. In the first part of the
Ms., quotations from the Hebrew Bible preceding their translation into
Arabic are not vocalized (as in the rest of the text); however, in the sec-
ond part of the Ms., not only are biblical quotations vocalized with the
Hebrew vowels, but the entire text is also vocalized with Arabic vowels.
There are neither lead words, nor numbers indicating the beginning and
end of quires. The Ms. was catalogued by Margoliouth60 and Tamani.61 It
contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :; :, ; : (fols. v
r), Genesis :: (fols. vv) (which is probably a continu-
ation of Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I = Ms. R1 / 1), and Genesis :,
(fols. rr).62
At the end of the commentary on parashat Haye . Sara (The life of
Sarah)63 (fol. r), it reads:


.. Ms. L3 / 3
Ms. L BL Or. ;64 sixteenth-seventeenth century; fols. (there is
fol. r); lines per page; square and rabbinic script;65 rather good
condition overall though some pages are damaged (fols. v, r, v, r,
v, v, r) and fols. rr, v, r are partially unreadable.

58 Excerpts published by Poznanski, Writings, pp. [= Karaite Studies, pp.

] (Gen :); idem, Anan, , pp. (Gen :); idem, Writings, p. [=


Karaite Studies, p. ] (Gen :).
59 See Margoliouth, Catalogue, p. .
60 See Margoliouth, List, p. ; idem, Catalogue, p. [].
61 See Tamani, Tradizione, esp. p. [].
62 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vv); Gen :

(fols. vr).
63 Gen ::.
64 In Margoliouth, Catalogue, and in the Aleph on-line catalogue, the content of this

manuscript is described slightly differently: Gen ::. Excerpts of this Ms. were
published by Zucker, Saadya, pp. , esp. pp. (Gen ) and (Lev
). Cf. Tamani, Tradizione, esp. p. [].
65 See Margoliouth, Catalogue, p. .
chapter seven

There are empty pages: v, r. There is no colophon. Verses from


the Hebrew Bible that precede their translation into Arabic and the
commentary are not vocalized on fols. r and vr, whereas
on fols. vr and rr, they are vocalized with the Hebrew
vowels. Toward the end of the text, not only are biblical verses vocalized,
but also the text itself, which is vocalized with Arabic vowels. There are
lead words and numbers indicating the beginning and end of quires. It
mentions Saadia Gaon, referred to as the head of the Academy (Ar.
ra"s al-mathba), the man (Ar. al-rajul), or this man (Ar. hadha al-
rajul) on fols. v ff., r ff., v, as well as his works, Kitab al-Tamyz
(Book of Distinction) and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation), on fol. v
and fols. r ff. It also mentions #Anan (fols. r, r), Benjamin al-
Nahawand (fols. v, v), Abu #Imran al-Tifls (= Musa al-Za#faran)
(fol. r), and Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (Bakhtawaih) (fol. v).
The Ms. was described by Munk (including small extracts) and Tamani,
and catalogued by Margoliouth.66 It contains Yefets commentary on
Genesis :: (missing: Gen :; :).67
At the beginning of the Ms. (fol. v), there is a note in Hebrew indi-
cating that at a certain point it belonged to the Karaite Faraj Allah (=
Yeshu#ah) ben Mordekhay Rofe"68 ( 69
70 ). Afterwards there is a standard for-
mula cursing any potential thief ( ), followed by a note in
Arabic confirming that the Ms. belonged to the Karaite sage Farj Allah
ibn Mordekhay (,-&. KW. 701. H16-t DLKC P8 U2. KQ H2I- w2C). The
titles of each parasha, and in certain cases the beginning of a new chap-
ter as well, are written in capital letters, and there are small ornamen-
tal designs on the sides, around the word (parshiyot on fols. v,
r, r; chapters on fols. r, r, r). The Ms. was copied by
Shmu#el, as indicated by two notes appearing at the end of parashat

66 See Margoliouth, List, p. ; idem, Catalogue, p. []; Munk, Notice; Tamani,

Tradizione, p. [].
67 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rv); Gen

: (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr);


Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. r
v); Gen : (fols. rr). Cf. above, p. , n. .
68 Cf. Tamani, Tradizione, p. . For the reading of his name as Yeshu#ah b. Morde-

khay, see Poznanski, Kopisten, p. [] (Jeschua [Farag Allah] b. Mordechaj).


69 = .
70 = (?).
description of manuscripts

Ele toledot Noah. (These are the generations of Noah)71 (fol. v) and the
end of parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out)72 (fol. v).73
Before the commentary on the first parasha (fol. r), it reads:
74

At the end of the commentary on parashat be-Resht (In the beginning)75


(fol. v), it states:
76

At the end of the commentary on parashat Ele toledot Noah. (These are
the generations of Noah)77 (fols. v) it is written:



78


(
-
(
-

(?)

At the end of the commentary on parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out),79 it
reads: (- , followed by a note (fols. rv):

(!)





71 Gen ::.
72 Gen ::.
73 See the notes cited below.
74 = .
75 Gen ::.
76 = .
77 Gen ::.
78 = .
79 Gen ::.
chapter seven

.. Ms. C /
Ms. C TCL ; fifteenth-sixteenth century; fols.; . . cm.;
lines per page; Maghrebi-rabbinic script;80 general condition good,
though imperfect at the beginning and end; damaged upper corners, and
starting more or less from fol. till the end of the Ms. on fol. r,
the damage becomes more serious and reading becomes increasingly
more difficult, especially towards the end; written by two different hands:
fols. r and fols. vr. Leaves are missing after fols. , , ,
, , , , , , , . There is an empty page (fol. v). At the
end of the commentary on parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out),81 there is
colophon (fol. r), which states:

82

(The commentary on parashat Lekh lekha [Get thee out]83 by the great
teacher,84 Yefet, known as85 Abu #Al al-Bas. r, may God be pleased with
him, is completed on the third day [of the week],86 the thirteenth [day
of] the month Elul, year [] [= ?] [counting] from the Creation
[of the world],87 and peace.) It is followed by a note, which reads:



(fol. r)
(This hand of mine will disintegrate in the soil, while the line remains in
the book. To God should you, O reader of this book, pray for my salvation
from the day of the last judgement.). Subsequently, it states (fol. r):

80 See Loewe, Catalogue, p. .


81 Gen ::.
82 = .
83 Gen ::.
84 The teacher (Heb. maskl)on this meaning of the term (rather than the

learned), see above, p. , n. . Cf. Loewe, Catalogue, p. (the learned, the great).
85 Known as (Heb. ha-nikar)for the reading of this word as grandson (Heb. ha-

nekhed), see Loewe, Catalogue, p. .


86 On the possibility of understanding this as either Tuesday or Wednesday, see Loewe,

Catalogue, pp. .
87 For the possibility of different readings of this date (Friday, August , or

Wednesday, August , ), see Loewe, Catalogue, pp. .


description of manuscripts

:
:

(The line remains a long time after the one who wrote it passes away,
and the one who does good deeds is remembered after death.).
Quotations from the Hebrew Bible are not vocalized in the first part
of the Ms. (fols. r). Throughout the second part of the Ms. (fols. v
r), there is sporadic vocalization, and the following Hebrew
verses are vocalized: Gen :; Gen :; Gen ::; Gen ::
(ending ); Gen :; Gen :: (ending ); Gen :
(beginning ) Gen :; Gen ::. There are lead words,
and numbers indicating where quires begin and end. It mentions Saadia
Gaon, referred to as the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba), or
the man (Ar. al-rajul) on fols. v ff., v ff., v, v, as well as his works,
Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction) and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refu-
tation), on fols. v ff., r ff. It also mentions Abu #Imran al-Tifls (= Musa
al-Za#faran) on fol. r and Benjamin al-Nahawand on fol. v. The Ms.
was catalogued by Loewe88 and Tamani.89 It contains Yefets commen-
tary on Genesis :; :; :; :; :; ::; ::;
:; ::; ::; ::.90
Before the commentary on parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out)91 (fol.
r
), it reads:


Before the commentary on parashat va-Yera" elav (And the Lord


appeared unto him)92 (fol. r), it is written:

At the end of the commentary on each parasha, it reads (fols. r, v):


88 See ibid., pp. [].


89 See Tamani, Tradizione, p. .
90 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vr) (fol. v is

empty); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. r


r); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. v
r) (missing Gen :; fol. r contains a colophon); Gen : (fols. r r);
Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. r
v); Gen : (fols. vr).
91 Gen ::.
92 Gen ::.
chapter seven

.. Ms. P1 / 1
Ms. P BN hb. ; fifteenth century; fols.; lines per page; oriental
semi-cursive script;93 general condition good, though there are empty
leaves (fols. vr, v, r, v, r); there are also empty leaves before
the beginning of new parashiyot (fols. r, r, v, r); written by
one hand. There is no colophon. Quotations from the Hebrew Bible that
precede the translation and Hebrew lexemes throughout the text of the
commentary are vocalized. There are lead words and numbers indicating
where the quires begin and end. It mentions Saadia Gaon, referring to
him as the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba), the man (Ar.
al-rajul), or this man (Ar. hadhihi al-rajul) on fols. v ff., v ff., v,
r. It also mentions his works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction)
and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation), on fols. v ff. In addition, it
refers to #Anan (fols. r, v), Benjamin al-Nahawand (fols. r, r ff,
r), and Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (Bakhtawaih) on fol. r.
The Ms. was described by Munk, Bargs, and Tamani, and catalogued by
Zotenberg.94 It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :: (but
is missing the beginning of the commentary on Gen : and the entire
introduction to the commentary on this book).95
On fol. v, there is a note indicating possession, which states that at
certain point, the Ms. belonged to ha-Sa#d
. Ya#aqob Mas. lah. Lev, the son
of Sa#adia Lev, the son of Abraham ha-Lev:




96
97

98

93 I am grateful to Dr. David Sklare for helping me identify this script.


94 See Bargs, Excerpta, pp. xvxx []; Munk, Nachrichten, pp. ; idem, Notice,
pp. ff.; Tamani, Tradizione, p. ; Zotenberg, Catalogues, pp. [][].
95 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr) (fol. v

is empty); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen :


(fols. vr); Gen : (fols. r r); Gen : (fols. r r); Gen :
(fols. rv); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen
: (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rv).
96 = .
97 = .
98 = .
description of manuscripts

Furthermore, the subsequent parashiyot begin with:


i. Parashat Ele toledot Noah. (These are the generations of Noah)99 (fols.
vr):

100

ii. Parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out)101 (fol. r):


iii. Parashat va-Yera" elav (And the Lord appeared unto him)102 (fols.
vr):



103
104 %


105

The subsequent parashiyot end with:


iv. Parashat be-Resht (In the beginning)106 (fols. rv):




107

99 Gen ::.
100 = .
101 Gen ::.
102 Gen ::.
103 = .
104 = .
105 = .
106 Gen ::.
107 = .
chapter seven

v. Parashat Ele toledot Noah. (These are the generations of Noah)108


(fol. r):




vi. Parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out)109 (fol. v):



vii. Parashat va-Yera" elav (And the Lord appeared unto him)110 (fol.
r):


.. Ms. P2 / 2
Ms. P BN hb. ; fifteenth century; fols.; lines per page; ori-
ental semi-cursive script; general condition very good, though there are
empty leaves before the beginning of new parashiyot (fols. r and r);
written by one hand. There is no colophon. Throughout the text of the
commentary, quotations from the Hebrew Bible preceding the transla-
tion, as well as Hebrew lexemes, are vocalized. There are lead words and
numbers indicating where quires begin and end. The Ms. was described
by Munk, Bargs, and Tamani, and catalogued by Zotenberg.111 It con-
tains Yefets commentary on Genesis ::.112
At the beginning of the Ms. (fol. v), it states that the Ms. contains
Yefets commentary:

108 Gen ::.


109 Gen ::.
110 Gen ::.
111 See Bargs, Excerpta, pp. xxxxi []; Munk, Nachrichten, pp. ff.; idem, Notice,

pp. ff.; Tamani, Tradizione, p. []; Zotenberg, Catalogues, pp. []


[].
112 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen :

(fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rv).


description of manuscripts



113
114

This is followed by an inscription written by a different hand, which


indicates the content of the Ms. and again attributes the work to Yefet:

115


116
117
120
119 118

At the bottom of the same page (fol. v), there is a note testifying to its
purchase by Ele#azar Hazan,
. the son of Aharon Rofe", the son of Yehuda
al-Hakm,
. the son of Josef Hakm,
. from Ele#azar Lev, the son of Kahar
Barukh Lev:
122 121
(?) 127 126 125 124 123
(?) 131 130 129 128
()

The next leaf (fol. v) repeats the information provided on the first leaf:

113 = .
114 = .
115 = .
116 = .
117 = .
118 = .
119 = .
120 = .
121 = / (?).
122 = .
123 = .
124 = .
125 = (?).
126 = (?).
127 = .
128 = .
129 = (?).
130 = .
131 = .
chapter seven

  132
133 !

It is followed by a note indicating that at certain point, the Ms. was in the
possession of ha-Sa#d
. Barukh Lev, the son of Mordekhay ha-Lev, the
judge, the son of Shim#on ha-Lev, the cantor, the son of Ya#aqob ha-Lev,
the teacher:

136 135 134


137

142 141 140 139 138


146 145 144 143

150 149 148 147


152 151

This is followed by another note, which again indicates the content of the
Ms. and the author of the commentary:



153
! 

132 = .
133 = .
134 = .
135 = .
136 = .
137 = .
138 = (?).
139 = .
140 = .
141 = .
142 = .
143 = .
144 = (?).
145 = () or, perhaps, .
146 = .
147 = .
148 = or .
149 = // or, similar to the previous line, .
150 = .
151 = .
152 = .
153 = .
description of manuscripts

At the bottom of the same page (fol. v), there is yet another note
testifying to its purchase:
() () 154 [ ]
[ . . . ]
( = [] =)

The subsequent parashiyot begin with:


iv. Parashat Haye
. Sara (The life of Sarah)155 (fol. r):

v. Parashat ve-Ele toledot Yis. haq 156


. (These are the generations of Isaac)
(fols. vr):

157
158

vi. Parashat va-Yes. e" Ya#aqob (And Jacob went out)159 (fols. vr):



!  160
161

vii. Parashat va-Yishlah. Ya#aqob (And Jacob sent messengers)162 (fol.


r):

viii. Parashat va-Yesheb Ya#aqob (And Jacob dwelt)163 (fol. v):




164

154 = .
155 Gen ::.
156 Gen : :.
157 = .
158 = .
159 Gen ::.
160 = .
161 = .
162 Gen ::.
163 Gen .
164 = .
chapter seven

165

166

ix. Parashat va-Yeh mi-qes. (And it came to pass at the end of two full
years)167 (fols. vr):


!
168

x. Parashat va-Yigash elav Yehuda (Then Judah came near unto him)169
(fols. vr):


! 170
172
171

The subsequent parashiyot end with:


v. Parashat Haye
. Sara (The life of Sarah)173 (fol. v):



vi. Parashat ve-Ele toledot Yis. haq 174


. (These are the generations of Isaac)
r
(fol. ):




165 = .
166 = .
167 Gen ::.
168 = .
169 Gen ::.
170 = .
171 = .
172 = .
173 Gen ::.
174 Gen : :.
description of manuscripts

vii. Parashat va-Yes. e" Ya#aqob (And Jacob went out)175 (fol. v):





178 177 176
179

viii. Parashat va-Yishlah. Ya#aqob (And Jacob sent)180 (fol. r):






181

ix. Parashat va-Yesheb Ya#aqob (And Jacob dwelt)182 (fol. r):



x. Parashat va-Yeh mi-qes. (And it came to pass at the end of two full
years)183 (fol. v):
(!)



184

.. Ms. B /
Ms. B SB Or. Qu. ; thirteenth-fourteenth century; fols.; lines
per page; various different types of scripts; general condition good, but
some leaves are out of order, especially those containing Yefets commen-
tary on the Book of Proverbs. As for the commentary on Genesis, fol. v

175 Gen ::.


176 = .
177 = .
178 = . I am grateful to Dr. Michael Wechsler for helping me decipher the

last two abbreviations.


179 = (Dan :).
180 Gen ::.
181 = .
182 Gen .
183 Gen ::.
184 = .
chapter seven

should follow r. It was written by many different hands. There is no


colophon. In the commentary on the Book of Genesis, verses from the
Hebrew Bible are not vocalized, but this is not always the case in other
parts of the Ms. There are lead words and numbers indicating where the
quires begin and end. It mentions #Anan (fol. v) and Saadia Gaon, who
is called the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba) (fols. v ff.,
r), as well as Saadias works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction)
and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation), on fols. v (ff.). The Ms. was
catalogued and described by Steinschneider and Tammani.185 It seems
likely that the Ms. has a continuation in Ms. SP IOS A (= A3 / 3).
It contains fragments of Yefets commentary on the Books of Genesis
(Gen ::),186 Exodus (Exod :), Joshua (Josh ::;
:), Kings ( Kgs ::), Minor Prophets (Hab ::;
Zeph :), Psalms (Pss :; :; :; :; :;
:; :; ::; :; ; :; :; :),
Proverbs (Prov ::; :; :; :; :; :; :;
:; :; :; :; :; :; ::; :;
:; :; :; :; :; :; :; :;
:; :; :; :; :; :; :; :;
:; :), and Daniel (Dan :).187 There are four empty
leaves after fol. r.
According to Poznanski, the Ms. might have been in the possession of
a Rabbanite Jew named Yom Tob Berakha (Jomtob Beracha).188

185 See Steinschneider, Handschriften-Verzeichnisse, vol. , p. []; Tamani,

Tradizione, p. [].
186 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen :

(fol. v); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fol. r); Gen : (fol. r)
(missing Gen :); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen
: (fols. rr) (missing fol. r containing commentary on Gen :); Gen
: (fols. r v); Gen : (fols. v v); Gen : (fols. v r) Gen
: (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rr)
(with the exception of Gen : [fol. v] and Gen : [fol. r] as listed above).
187 Excerpts published by Kahle, Bibelbersetzungen, pp. (Gen , :);

Poznanski, Miscellanies, pp. (Gen :) [= Karaite Studies, pp. ]; idem,


Allegorische, pp. (Gen :; Sam :); cf. Tamani, Tradizione, esp.
p. [].
188 See Poznanski, Kopisten, p. [].
description of manuscripts

. Firkovitch Collections

.. Ms. R /
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; fifteenth-sixteenth century; fols. (there
is fol. r); lines per page; oriental semi-cursive script;189 general
condition rather good, though some pages are in disorder, destroyed,
blurred or stained. For the most part, the biblical verses included in
the commentary are not vocalized; they are written in slightly enlarged
square characters. It contains sporadic Arabic and Hebrew vocalization
of selected words. There are lead words and numbers, written in Arabic
and Hebrew characters, indicating where the quires end. Some pages
are out of order: fol. v should follow r; fol. v should follow
r. On fols. v and v, it mentions Abu #Imran al-Tifls (= Musa al-
Za#faran), and on fols. v and v, Benjamin al-Nahawand. It also refers
to Abu Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (probably identical with Yusuf ibn Nuh) 190 on
.
fol. , and to #Anan on fols. and . Moreover, it mentions Saadia
v v r

Gaon several times, referring to him to as the head of the Academy (Ar.
ra"s al-mathba) (fols. v ff., v). His works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of
Distinction) and Kitab al-Radd (Book of Refutation), are also mentioned,
both of them on fols. v ff. The Ms. was catalogued and described in
detail (with exemplary citations) by Sklare and Batat.191 It contains
Yefets commentary on Gen ::.192

.. Ms. R 1 / 1
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; fifteenth-sixteenth century; fols.;
lines per page; oriental semi-cursive script. Its general condition is
rather good (it contains a large segment of edited material), although
it is extremely disorganized and numerous pages are out of order. The
pages are only sporadically stained, blurred, or destroyed. It is written by

189 The identification of scripts employed in Mss. from the Firkovitch collections

follows Sklare & Batat, Catalogue.


190 On the possible merging of these two figures, see above, p. , n. .
191 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, pp. .
192 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen

: (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. rv); Gen : (fols. vv);


Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols.
rr).
chapter seven

one hand. There is an empty page, fol. v (before the beginning of a new
parasha). The biblical verses included in the commentary are vocalized
and written in enlarged square characters. It contains Arabic vocalization
of selected words. There are lead words and numbers written in Hebrew
characters indicating where the quires begin and end. On fol. r, there
is a barely readable (blurred) note indicating that the Ms. was at some
point in the possession of Aaron ben Ya#aqob ben Abraham Sa#ir:.


[ . . . ] [ ]
[?] 193 [ . . . ]
[?] 194 [ ]
[]
[?]

There are several mentions of Saadia Gaon, who is called the head of
the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba) (fols. r ff., r, r), as well as ref-
erences to his works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction) and Kitab
al-Radd (Book of Refutation), on fols. r ff. #Anan is also mentioned on
the same fol., whereas Benjamin al-Nahawand is referred to on fol. r.
The Ms. was catalogued and described in detail (with exemplary cita-
tions) by Sklare and Batat.195 It contains Yefets commentary on Gene-
sis :; :; ::; :; ::; :; :; :
; :; :; ::; :; :; :: (most probably
continued in Ms. L BL Or. = Ms. L2 / 2, fols. vv); :
:; :; :; :; :; :; :; :
; :; :; :; :; :; :; :;
:; :; :; :; :; :; :; :
:; :; :; :; :; :; :; :; ::;
:; :; :; ::; :; ::; :
:; ::; ::; :; :; :; :; :
; :; :; Deut :. Fols. v and rv are empty; leaf
is missing.196

193 = .
194 = .
195 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, pp. .
196 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. vr) (fol. v is

empty); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. v


r); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fol. v
r); Gen : (fols. v); Gen : (fols. vr) (incomplete); Gen :
description of manuscripts

At the beginning of parashat Lekh lekha (Get thee out)197 (fol. r),
there is an ornamental design on the side, around the word ,198 which
reads:
199

At the beginning of parashiyot va-Yera" elav (And the Lord appeared


unto him)200 (fol. r) and Haye
. Sara (The life of Sarah)201 (fol. r),
there are also ornamental designs on the sides, around the word ;202 it
states:

At the end of parashat Ele toledot Noah. (These are the generations of
Noah) (fol. r), it reads:203
[ . . . ]


204

.. Ms. R2 / 2
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; fifteenth century; fols.; lines
per page; oriental semi-cursive script; general condition good overall,

(fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen :


(fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (incomplete) (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols.
rr); Gen : (fols. v r); Gen : (fols. v r); Gen : (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. v r); Gen : (fols. v r and vr); Gen :
(fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vv, fols. vr, and fols. vr); Gen
: (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr);
Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen :
(fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen
: (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. rr);
Gen : (fols. rv) (some parts of Gen : are missing between fols. v
r); Gen : (fols. vr).
197 Gen ::.
198 = .
199 = .
200 Gen ::.
201 Gen ::.
202 = .
203 Gen ::.
204 = .
chapter seven

and only a few pages are stained (at the beginning and end of the Ms.). It
is relatively well ordered (with the exception of several pages that are in
disorder, mainly at the beginning of the Ms.). Yet, it contains a relatively
large number of mistakes made by the copyist (lapsi calami), along with
the corrections. The biblical verses included in the commentary are not
vocalized; they are written in enlarged square characters. It contains no
vocalization whatsoever. There are lead words, but no numbers indicat-
ing where quires begin and end. It mentions Saadia Gaon, who is called
the head of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba) (fols. v ff., v), and
refers to his works, Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction) and Kitab al-
Radd (Book of Refutation), on fols. v ff. The Ms. was catalogued and
described in detail (with exemplary citations) by Sklare and Batat.205
Another page from this Ms. is found in Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (=
R7 / 7), and its continuation is likely to be found in Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-
Arab. II (= R6 / 6). It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :
; :; :; :; ::; ::; ::; :; :;
:; ::; ::.206 Leaf is empty.

.. Ms. R3 / 3
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; fourteenth century; fols.; lines
per page; oriental semi-cursive script; general condition good overall,
and pages well ordered. The biblical verses included in the commentary
are not vocalized; they are written in enlarged square characters. It con-
tains no vocalization whatsoever. There are lead words, but no numbers
to indicate where the quires begin and end. The Ms. was catalogued and
described in detail (with two exemplary citations) by Sklare and Batat.207
It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :.208

.. Ms. R4 / 4
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; eleventh-twelfth century; fols.;
lines per page; oriental square script; general condition is not good; it is

205 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, pp. .


206 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen
: (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv);
Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. vv); Gen : (fols. v
r).
207 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, p. .
208 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rv).
description of manuscripts

lacunal, and some pages are destroyed, stained, and blurred. The biblical
verses included in the commentary are not quoted in their entirety (just
the first one or two words). It contains no vocalization. There are no
lead words and no numbers to indicate where the quires begin and end.
On fol. r there is a reference to Saadia Gaon, who is called the head
of the Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba), while on fol. r, his work, Kitab
al-Tamyz (Book of Distinction), is mentioned. The Ms. was catalogued
and described in detail (with two exemplary citations) by Sklare and
Batat.209 It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis :; :; :
:; ::.210

.. Ms. R5 / 5
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; eleventh century; fols.; lines
per page; oriental square script; general condition not good; it is lacunal
and the pages are partially destroyed, stained, and blurred. It was written
by two different hands. The biblical verses included in the commentary
are not quoted in their entirety; only the first one or two first words are
cited. It contains no vocalization whatsoever. There are no lead words,
and no numbers indicating where the quires begin and end. The Ms.
was catalogued and described in detail by Sklare and Batat.211 It contains
Yefets commentary on Genesis : and :.212

.. Ms. R6 / 6
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. II ; fifteenth century; fols.; lines
per page; oriental semi-cursive script; general condition rather good,
though lacunal, and some pages are damaged. The biblical verses
included in the commentary are written in enlarged square characters
and not vocalized. Only single words are sporadically vocalized with
Hebrew vowels. There are lead words, but no numbers indicate where
quires begin and end. Saadia Gaon, referred to as the head of the
Academy (Ar. ra"s al-mathba), is mentioned on fol. v, where mention
is made of Benjamin al-Nahawand as well. The Ms. was catalogued and

209 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, p. .


210 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen :
(fols. rv).
211 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, p. .
212 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fol. r); Gen :

(fols. vv).
chapter seven

described in detail (with five exemplary citations) by Sklare and Batat.213


It is likely that the Ms. is a continuation of Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
(= R2 / 2) and that another page from this Ms. is found in Ms. SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I (= R7 / 7). It contains Yefets commentary on Genesis
:; ::; :; ::; :.214

.. Ms. R7 / 7
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I ; fifteenth century; folio; lines
per page; oriental semi-cursive script; general condition rather good,
though the pages are damaged on the edges and in some instances it
is somewhat blurred. The biblical verses included in the commentary
are written in enlarged square characters and not vocalized. Only single
words are sporadically vocalized with Arabic vowels (shadda). There is a
lead word, but no number to indicate the beginning or end of a quire. The
Ms. was catalogued and described in detail (with one exemplary citation)
by Sklare and Batat.215 It is probably a continuation of Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-
Arab. I (= R2 / 2), and it is not unlikely that it constitutes a part of Ms.
SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. II (= R6 / 6). It contains a passage from Yefets
commentary on Genesis :.

213 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, pp. .


214 Portions employed for the present edition: Gen : (fols. rr); Gen :
(fol. v); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. vr); Gen : (fols. r
r); Gen : (fols. rr); Gen : (fols. vv).
215 See Sklare & Batat, Catalogue, p. .
chapter eight

EDITING OF THE MANUSCRIPTS

. General Assumptions

The present edition is non-eclectic, and manuscripts SP IOS B (A1 /


1) and SP IOS B (A2 / 2) serve as the basic text (mother manu-

script) to which all the other manuscripts listed above (from the collec-
tions of London, Cambridge, Paris, Berlin, and St. Petersburg) are com-
pared. Therefore, no attempt has been made to reconstruct the original
autograph version of the text, all the versions divergent from the basic
text being supplied in the footnotes, irrespective of their closeness to
what could be conceived of as the Urtext of Yefets commentary. The only
exceptions to this rule (indicated in footnotes) are made in those places
where there are obvious elisions of letters and words,1 or mistakes made
by the copyist (lapsus calami), or where the folios are out of order.2

. Choice of Manuscripts

The reasons behind the choice of manuscripts SP IOS B and its


continuation in SP IOS B as the basic text for the present edition
are their various inherent characteristics, such as: . age (dating back
to the twelfth century, it is one of the oldest Ms. of Yefets commentary
on Genesis preserved to our time,);3 . length (together with Mss. SP
IOS B, SP IOS B, and SP IOS B, they encompass the entire
commentary on Genesis); . general condition (they are relatively very
well preserved and error free); . continuity (most folios are in the proper
order); and . completeness (it is practically complete). The choice of
comparative manuscripts employed in the present edition is dictated

1 E.g., commentary on Gen :, the last word on fol. r.


2 E.g., commentary on Gen :, where fol. v comes after v.
3 They are only two Mss. older than our basic text (SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I [=

R5 / 5] and SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I [= R5 / 5]) but they include only a few leaves.
chapter eight

by similar considerations in that the oldest, longest, and best preserved


manuscripts are given preference, while the criterion of age is of utmost
importance. At the same time, manuscripts that preserve an odd or
unusual tradition of transmitting Yefets texts have not been included.4

. Editing Policy

Notwithstanding the conjecture that Yefet might have originally written


his commentaries in Arabic script (and only afterwards transliterated
them into Hebrew characters), no manuscript of his commentary on
the Book of Genesis, which could testify to this theory, has as yet been
discovered or preserved.5 The current edition reflects this situation in that
it is written in Hebrew script.
In the edition of the basic Ms. and the notes, the following practices
have been adopted:
. The sequence of Mss. compared in the footnotes is the following: SP
IOS B (A1 / 1), SP IOS B (A2 / 2), L BL Or. (L1 / 1),
L BL Or. (L2 / 2), L BL Or. (L3 / 3), C TCL (C / ), P
BN hb. (P1 / 1), P BN hb. (P2 / 2), B SB Or. Qu. (B /
), SP IOS A (A3 / 3), SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (R / ), SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I (R1 / 1), SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (R2 / 2), SP RNL
Yevr.-Arab. I (R3 / 3), SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (R4 / 4), SP
RNL Yevr.-Arab. I (R5 / 5), SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. II (R6 /
6);

. The edited text does not reflect the basic Ms. from the perspective
of graphics in that its page layout follows neither the page layout of
the basic Ms., nor its division into pages, paragraphs, and lines;
. The numbers of leaves of the basic manuscript in folio are indicated
on the margins;
. Blurriness and lacunas in the basic manuscript are annotated and
completed or restored on the basis of other manuscripts (the blur-
riness and places of ambiguous reading in the basic text are placed
between two slashes; lacunas of single words or expressions are

4 E.g., Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I and its alleged continuation in Ms. SP RNL

Yevr.-Arab. II containing an Aramaic translation of biblical verses (in addition


to the Arabic translation). For a detailed description of these Mss., see Sklare & Batat,
Catalogue, pp. and .
5 See Ben-Shammai, Transmission.
editing of the manuscripts

placed in square brackets; lacunas of longer passages are indicated


in the footnotes);
. The choice of Ms. for restoration of a longer passage is dictated by
its general condition, length, age, completeness, and resemblance to
the basic Ms.;6
. The diacritical marks in all Mss. are indicated by a dot above a given
letter, following the transliteration policy used in Blaus Grammar,7
irrespective of diverging practices evident in various Mss., which
employ disparateand not infrequently inconsistent or sporadic
signs, or omit them entirely;
. Notwithstanding the lack of superlinear dots denoting ta marbut. a
in the basic Ms., as well as in some other Mss., they are restored
throughout the edition, for all the Mss., except for the obvious
Hebrew words (e.g., ). Yet, if the
Hebrew word appears in its Arabicized form (e.g.,
), or when it has become part of the Judaeo-
Arabic vocabulary, as confirmed by Blaus Dictionary (e.g., ),
the ta marbut. a is also indicated;
. The punctuation (colons in the Hebrew verses and their translation
into Arabic) follows the basic Ms., whereas other punctuation (peri-
ods) is added by the editor;
. Exclamation marks are used to indicate obvious errors in the vari-
ants;
. Question marks are used to indicate suspected errors in the variants;
. Various signs employed in different Mss. to denote abbreviation
(often by superlinear dots or lines) are indicated by a single apostro-
phe for one word or sequence of semantically independent words
(e.g., ), and by a double apostrophe for two or more words when
they constitute a semantic unity (e.g., ). The exception to
this rule are various substitutes for the Tetragrammaton (the inef-
fable name of God) employed by different Mss., which are recon-
structed in the edition according to their original appearance (e.g.,
,
);
. All abbreviations (including quotations from the Hebrew Bible) are
reconstructed in the footnotes, except for the most frequent and
obvious ones (e.g., = ; = ; = );

6 Mainly Ms. SP IOS A, but if the necessary passages are also missing in this Ms.,

then Mss. P BN hb. and hb. .


7 See Blau, Grammar, pp. , .
chapter eight

. Citations from the Hebrew Bible (entire verses that open the com-
mentary, shorter quotations that serve primarily as proof-texts, or
Hebrew lexemes throughout the commentary) are boldfaced;
. Citations from the Hebrew Bible deviating from the MT of codex
Leningradensis B A per BHS8 in terms of consonants (including
the omission of vowels, letters, and errors) are annotated;
. The vocalization of the Hebrew verses appearing either in the basic
Ms. or in other Mss. is omitted entirely;
. The vocalization of the Arabic translation of the Hebrew verses
(tarjama) and the commentary follows the basic manuscript;
. In general, if the entire Mss. is vocalized (whether by Hebrew or
Arabic vowels), the vocalization is not reflected in the edition,
whereas if only sporadic words are vocalized in a given Ms., the
vocalization is indicated (in the edited text for the basic Ms. and
in the footnotes for other Mss.), since it seemed important to the
copyist (e.g., in Mss. P BN hb. and hb. ). Biblical verses and
Hebrew lexemes throughout the commentary are systematically
vocalized, so their vocalization is not reflected in the edition, as
opposed to the vocalization of other single vocalized words and
expressions, which is reflected in footnotes;
. Erasures, erroneous readings that have been corrected, false starts at
the end of the line, as well as single words and entire phrases written
above and below the line, or in the margins are annotated for all the
Mss.;
. The beginning and end of all Mss. are indicated in the footnotes by a
comment Here begins/ends the Ms. X, on fol. Y (/
. . . . . . );
. The missing folios of all Mss. are indicated in the footnotes by a
comment here Ms. X breaks off on fol. Y and starts again on fol. Z
( . . . . . . . . . );
. When the definite article appears on one page and the word it
defines on the next, the definite article is attached to the word it
defines.9

8 See Elliger & Rudolph, Biblia.


9 I.e. Gen , fols. v and v; Gen , fol. v; Gen , fols. r and v; Gen ,
fol. v; Gen , fol. v; Gen , fol. r.
editing of the manuscripts

. Dual Apparatus

.. First Apparatus
The first apparatus comprises semantic variants, including variant read-
ings from different Mss., as well as alternative readings of the basic Ms.
where the text is unclear. It also includes semantically identical yet dis-
tinct forms of the same words and expressions (e.g., and ;
and ; and ; and ; and ;
and ; and ), renderings of the same words in a dif-
ferent language, which are identical in meaning, including proper names
( and ; and ; and ; and ; and ;
and ; and ; and ; and ;
and ), as well as semantically similar or synonymous though dif-
ferent words (e.g., and ; and ; and ; and
; and ; and ). Moreover, it includes additions and
omissions, save for those made by mistake. Singular versus plural or dual,
and feminine versus masculine forms are also included in the first appa-
ratus (e.g., and ; and and ), as well as the same
roots in different conjugations (e.g., and ). Finally, it records
differences between the qer and the ketb of the biblical text.

.. Second Apparatus
The second apparatus comprises non-semantic variants, including purely
orthographic variants of the same words, expressions, and proper names
(e.g., and ; and ; and ; and
; and ; and ; and ;
and ; and ; and ; and
), explanations of abbreviations appearing in the basic text,
abbreviations appearing in other Mss. though written in full in the basic
Ms. (especially numerals, often rendered as Hebrew letters in the basic
Ms.), as well as alternative abbreviations from other manuscripts (e.g., ,
, (- ). It also provides information about different Mss. (with exact folio
numbers) according to which the basic Ms. was completed when a word
or passage is blurred or missing. It indicates scriptio plena and scriptio
defectiva (e.g., and ; and ), as well as the use of vowels
where they were either not used at all or used differently in the basic Ms.
(except for the biblical verses vocalized in full in the basic Ms., as well
as in some other Mss., a fact which is not noted for any of the Mss.).
In addition, it contains references to biblical verses quoted in the text
chapter eight

and to the existing critical edition of selected passages of the text edited
by Ben-Shammai.10 Also included are notes concerning various scribal
features, such as change of hand, marginalia, and words or passages
written above or below the lines, as well as codicological data, such as
notes indicating the beginning and end of manuscripts. Furthermore, it
provides comments on various lexicographical and syntactical features
(e.g., asynthesis) with ample references to the most important reference
works (primarily Blaus grammar, and his dictionary of medieval Judaeo-
Arabic). Finally, it includes all errors, indications of corrected errors, and
obvious mistakes made by the scribe or a later hand (lapsus calami), such
as those resulting from homoioteleuton and homoioarcton.

10 See Ben-Shammai, Doctrines, II, pp. .


chapter nine

SIGNS AND ABBREVIATIONS


EMPLOYED IN THE CRITICAL EDITION

. Sigla, Symbols of Manuscripts, and Abbreviations

() Contain verse numbers or parenthetical clarifications, and full


spellings of abbreviations in the edited text or variants.
[] Enclose completion on the basis of other manuscripts, if the text
of the basic manuscript is missing due to a lacuna or an obvious
omission.
 Indicate words written above and below the line, or inserted in the
margin.
// Occur in places of ambiguous reading, where the text is blurred,
badly faded, or illegible, and where it has been restored on the
basis of other manuscripts.
1 Ms. SP IOS B
2
Ms. SP IOS B
3 Ms. SP IOS A
Ms. B SB Or. Qu.


Dozy, Supplment
Blau, Grammar
Blau, Emergence
Hava, Dictionary
Wehr, Dictionary


1
Ms. L BL Or.
2 Ms. L BL Or.
3 Ms. L BL Or.
Lauterbach, Substitutes
Lane, Lexicon
Blau, Dictionary
Elliger & Rudolph, Biblia
1 Ms. P BN hb.
2 Ms. P BN hb.
Ms. C TCL

chapter nine

Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I


1 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
2 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
3
Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
4 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
5 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
6 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. II
7 Ms. SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. I
Wright, Grammar
Ratzaby, Dictionary
Ben-Shammai, Doctrines

. Abbreviations of Books of the Hebrew Bible

Genesis Gen
Exodus Exod
Leviticus Lev
Numbers Num
Deuteronomy Deut
Joshua Josh
Judges Judg
Samuel Sam
Samuel Sam
Kings Kgs
Kings Kgs
Isaiah Isa
Jeremiah Jer
Ezekiel Ezek
Hosea Hos
Joel Joel
Amos Amos
Obadiah Obad
Jonah Jonah
Micah Mic
Nahum Nah
Habakkuk Hab
Zephaniah Zeph
Haggai Hag
Zechariah Zech
Malachi Mal
Psalms Ps/Pss
Proverbs Prov
Job Job
Song of Songs Song
Ruth Ruth
signs and abbreviations

Lamentations Lam
Ecclesiastes Eccl
Esther Esth
Daniel Dan
Ezra Ezra
Nehemiah Neh
Chronicles Chr
Chronicles Chr
BIBLIOGRAPHY

. Abbreviations

AJS Association for Jewish Studies


BEK Bulletin d tudes karates
BJGS Bulletin of Judaeo-Greek Studies
BMQ Beit Miqra Quarterly
DSD Dead Sea Discoveries
BZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fr die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft
HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual
IA Israelitische Annalen
IOS Israel Oriental Studies
JA Journal Asiatique
JBL Journal of Biblical Literature
JHQ Jewish History Quarterly
JJS Journal of Jewish Studies
JQR Jewish Quarterly Review
JS Jewish Studies
JSAI Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam
JSIJ Jewish Studies an Internet Journal
JSJT Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought
JSS Journal of Semitic Studies
MGWJ Monatsschrift fr Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums
MS Maimonidean Studies
n.s. new series
o.s. original/old series
PAAJR Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research
RBL Review of Biblical Literature
REJ Review des tudes juives
SBB Studies in Bibliography and Booklore
SMJR Studies in Muslim-Jewish Relations
ZDMG Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlndischen Gesellschaft
ZfHB Zeitschrift fr Hebraeische Bibliographie

. Manuscripts

Bibliothque nationale, Paris (P BN): hb. , hb. , hb. , hb. .


British Library, London (L BL), Oriental Collection (Or.): Or. , Or. , Or.
, Or. , Or. .
Institute of Oriental Studies of Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg /
- -
bibliography

(SP IOS): A, A, B, B, B, B, B, B,
B, B, B, B, B, C, C, C.
Russian National Library, St. Petersburg / - -
(SP RNL), Firkovitch Judaeo-Arabic collection (Yevr.-
Arab.): Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-
Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab.
I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. I , Yevr.-Arab. II , Yevr.-Arab.
II , Yevr.-Arab. I .
Stadtbibliothek, Berlin (B SB), Oriental Collection (Or.): Qu. .
Trinity College Library, Cambridge (C TCL): TCL , TCL .

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INDEXES

. Manuscripts

Bibliothque nationale, Paris: B n, n, n,


P BN hb. n, n, n,
n, n, , , n, n, n,
n, , n, n, n,
n, , , n, n, n, n,
, n, , , ,

British Library, London, Oriental B n, n
Collection: B n
L BL Or. B n, n, n,
n n, n, n,
n, , , n, n, n,
, , n, n, n,
, , , n, n, ,
n, , ,
Institute of Oriental Studies of B n, n, n,
Russian Academy of Sciences, St. n, n, n,
Petersburg: n, n, n,
SP IOS n, n, n,
A , , , n, n, n,
A n n, , , ,
B n, n, n, , , ,
n, n, n, B n
n, n, n, B n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, C n, n, n
n, n, n, C n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n
n, n, n,
, , , , Russian National Library, St.
B n, n, n, Petersburg:
n, n, n, SP RNL Yevr.-Arab.
n, n, I , ,
n, n, n, I , , ,
n, n, , I , , ,
, I n
indexes

SP RNL Yevr.-Arab. (cont.) n, n, n,


I , n, n
I n I
I n I , n, n, n,
I , , n
I n I , n, n,
I n, n,
I , n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, II n
n, n, n, II , , , ,
n, n
I , , Stadtbibliothek, Berlin, Oriental
I , , , n Collection:
I B SB Qu.
I , n , , ,
I
I , , , n Trinity College Library, Cambridge:
I C TCL
I n, n, n, n, , ,
n, n, n, n
n, n, n,

. Hebrew Bible and Qur"an

Genesis :
: ,
: n, , , : n
, :
: n :
:: n, n : n
:: : ,
:: : n, n,
:: n n, n
:: : n,
:: :
:Deut : n : n, n
: n, n :
: : n,
: n : n
: , n : n
: , : n, n,
: n n, n, ,
: n n, , n,
: ,
: n : n
indexes

: , n n, n
:: n : n, ,
: n n
:: n : n
: n : n
: n : n
n, : n
: n,
: n
: n :
: n :
: n :
: , :
: n, n :
: : n
: : n,
: n, n,
n :
: n, :
: , :: n, n,
:: n, n,
: n n, n,
: n
: n ::
: n, n :
: , , :
: n, n, ::
:: n :
: n ::
: n ::
: ::
: n ::
: :
: n n, n
: n, , :
n : n
: n :
: n ::
: n : n, n
: n : n,
: n ::
: n, n ::
: n, n, : , n
: n
: : n, n
: , ::
: n : n
indexes

Genesis (cont.) : n
: : ,
: : n
: , n, : , n
: : n
: : n
: : n
: , n ::
: n, n, : n
, n : n
: , n : ,
: n, n, : ,
n : n
:: : n
: :
: n : n
: : n
: n : n, n,
: n n, n,
: , n, n
: , n, :
n :
n : n
: n :
: n :
: , : n, , ,
:
: n : n
:: : , n
:: : n
: n, n, :
n, n, : , n
n n, , n
:: n, n,
n, n, : , n,
n, n, n
n, : n
n, n : n
: n, : n, n,
: n n, n,
: n, n
: :
: , : n
: : ,
: , , , :
: , n : ,
: , n : ,
indexes

: n : n, n,
: n, n,
: n,
: , n, n
: n : , ,
:: : ,
: n : , , ,
: , , n
: n, : , n
, , n ::
: n, n : n
: n : , n
: n : n
: n, n, :
n, n : , ,
: :
: n, n : ,
: n :
: n : n
: , n : n
: n ::
: n, : n, , ,
: , n
: n : n
: n n
: n : ,
: : n
: : n
: , : n
:: : n, n,
: n n, n,
: n n
: n, : , ,
: n, n, n n
: n :
: n, n : n
: : ,
: : ,
: : ,
: : n
: n, n, , : ,
: n
: , : n, , ,
: n
: : n, ,
n, ,
: , , n n
indexes

Genesis (cont.) : ,
: n, : ,
: n, , :
: n : n
: n : n,
:: :
: : n,
: n : n, n
: : n
: :
:: : , n, ,
: n
: n, :
: , n : , n
: n : n
: , , n :
: n : n
: , : ,
: : n
: ::
: , : n
: n : n, n
, ::
:
: n : n,
: n n, n,
: n n, n,
: n, n, n, n
n : , n
:: n, n, : n, ,
n, n, : n
n, n : n
:: :
: , :
: : , n
: n : ff. n
:: :
: n, : n
: : n,
: , , , n, n,
, , n,
: , n
: , :
: : , n
: , n, , : n
: , n, :
: n
indexes

: ::
: : n
: :
: : , n,
: n n
: n, n, : n
n, n : n, n,
:: n
: n : n
: : n
: n :
: : n
: ::
: n :
: :
: : n,
: , n, n,
: n, n
:
:
: n, , :
: , : ,
: n : ,
: n :
: n, n, :: n, n,
n, n n
: n, :
: ::
: n : n
: n :
: n , n
:
: n :
: :
: , :
: :
: :: n, n,
: , n n
n : n
: n, n :
: n :
: n, n ::
:: n, n, : n
n, n, :
n, n :
:: :
: , n ::
indexes

Genesis (cont.) : n
: :
: :
: : ,
: ::
: : n
: : n
: n : n
: : n
: :
: :
: :: n, n
: n : n
: : n
: : n,
: , n : n
:: n, n : n
: n : n
: :
: :
: :
: : n
: ::
: :
: ::
: :
: ::
: :: n
: ::
: : n
: , : n
: ::
:: ::
:: : n
: :: n
:: n : n,
: n :
: : n
: :
: n
:
: :
: : n, n
: : n
: :
: :
: :
indexes

: n Numbers
: :
: : , n
: : n
: : n
: :
: : n
: :
: n
Exodus :
: : n
:
: n Deuteronomy
: : , n
: n :
: n
: : n
: : n
: : n
: n :
: :
: n
: : n
: :
: n : n
: n, n : n,
: :
:: n : n
: n :
: n :
: :
: n, n : n
: n : n
: n
Leviticus : n
: n :
:: n : n
: n :
n
: : ,
:: n :
n : n
:: n : n,
: : ,
: : , n
: n : ,
indexes

Joshua : n
: n : n
:: : n
: : n
: : n
: : n
: : n
: : n
:
Joel
Judges : n
:
: Amos
: n
Samuel : n
: : n
: n : n

Kings Obadiah
: : n
:: : n
: n
Kings Jonah
: : n

Isaiah Nahum
: : n
: : n
: : n
:
: Habakkuk
: n, ::
n : n
: n : n
:
Zephaniah
Jeremiah :
: n
Zechariah
Ezechiel : n
: : n
: : n
: : n
: n
Hosea : n
: n : n, n,
: n n
indexes

: n, n, :
n, n :
: n :
: n : n
: n :
: n : ,
: n : n, n,
: n n
: n :
: n, n
: n Proverbs
: n ::
: n :
: n :
: n : n
: n,
Malachi :
: n : n
: n :
:
Psalms :
n, n :
:
: :
: n, :
: n :
: n :
: n :
: n :
:
: :
: , ::
: : n
: n : n
: :
: , n, n : n
: :
: : n
: :
: :
: :
: :
: : n
: :
:: : n
: :
:
indexes

Proverbs (cont.) : n
: : n,
: n
: : n
: n : n
: : n
: : n
:
: Esther
: : n
: : n
: : n
: n
Job : n
: n
: n Daniel
: n : n
: n :
: n : n
: n : n
: n : , n
: n : n
: n :
: n
: : n
: : n
: n : n
: : n
: n
Ruth :
: n :
: : n
:
Ecclesiastes :
: n : n
: n : n
: n n
: n : n
: n : n
: n : , n,
: n n
: n, n : n
: n, n : n
: n : n
: n, n
: n Ezra
: n :
indexes

Nehemiah : n
: : n

Chronicles Qur"an
: : n
: : n
:

. Early Rabbinic and Midrashic References

Targum Onqelos Pesahim


. b n
: n Rosh ha-Shana b
n
Mishnah Sanhedrin a n
"Abot : n
Jerusalem Talmud
Babylonian Talmud Ta#anit c n
Bava Batra ba
n, n Midrash Genesis Rabbah
Bava Mes. i#a a , n
n , n
Berakot b , n , n, n
Makkot a n , n
Megillah a n

. Medieval Authors

Abraham ibn Ezra. See Ibn Ezra Bashyachi, Elijah. See Elijah
Abu "l-Faraj Harun
. ibn al-Faraj , Bashyachi
, n, , n, n, n, Benjamin (ben Moses) al-Naha-
, wand , , , n, n,
Abu "l-Faraj Furqan ibn Asad. See n, , n, , , ,
Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah , , , , , , ,
Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw. See ,
Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw His Book of Precepts (sefer mis. vot)
Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Nuh.. See Ibn
Nuh. His Book of Rules (sefer dnm)
#Al ben Sulayman See #Al (Abu
"l-Hasan)
. ibn Sulayman al-
Muqaddas Daniel (ben Moses) al-Qumis ,
#Al (Abu "l-Hasan)
. ibn Sulayman , , n, , n, n
al-Muqaddas , , His Book of Precepts , n
#Anan ben David , , , , , David (Abu Sad) ben Bo#az (David
n, , , n, , , ha-Nasi) , , , n
, , , , His Kitab al-"Us. ul (The Book on
His exegetical dictum , n the Principles of Faith)
indexes

Elijah Bashyachi n His Mishneh Torah (Laws of


Prayer :) n
al-Fas, David (ben Sulayman) ben al-Muqammis. , Dawud ibn Marwan
Abraham , , n, n, n, , n
, n, n, n,
n al-Nahawand, Benjamin. See
His Kitab Jami# al-Alfaz. , Benjamin (ben Moses) al-
n, n, n, Nahawand
n, n, n Nathan ben Yehudah n

Halevi, Judah , n, n, al-Qirqisan, Abu Yusuf Ya#aqub ibn


n, , n, n, n, , , n, , n, n,
n, n n, n, n, , n,
His Kuzari n, n, n, , , n, n, n, ,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, , n,
n , n, n, n, n,
Hasan
. ben Mashiah. n, n, n, n,
al-Ht. See Ibn al-Ht , n, m, n,
, n, , , n,
Ibn Ezra, Abraham , n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n,
Ibn al-Ht , His Kitab al-Anwar wa-"l-Maraqib
His Chronicle of the Karaite (The Book of Lights and
Doctors n, n, n, Watchtowers) n, ,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n n, n, n, n,
Ibn Nuh,
. Abu Ya#qub Yusuf n
(= Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw?) , , His Kitab al-Riyad. wa-"l-Hada"iq
.
, , n, , n, , , (The Book of Parks and
n, n, , , , n Gardens) , n, ,
n, ,
Jacob ben Reuben , n, al-Qumis, Daniel. See Daniel (ben
n Moses) al-Qumis
His Sefer ha-#Osher (The Book of
Riches) , n Rashi n, n
Jacob ben Samuel the Obstinate
n Saadia Gaon , n, , ,
Joseph ben Abraham (Abu Ya#qub n, , n, n, n,
Yusuf al-Bas. r) n, n, n, n,
n, , , n, , n,
Levi ha-Levi (Abu Sad) ben Yefet n, n, , n,
(Yefets son) n, n n, , n, n,
n, n, n, ,
Maimonides, Moses n, , n, n, n, , ,
n, n n, , n, , ,
His The Guide for the Perplexed , , , , , , ,
n, n, n , ,
indexes

His Kitab al-Mukhtar f "l-Amanat , , n, n, , , ,


wa "l-I#tiqadat (The Book of n,
Beliefs and Opinions) n, His Milhmot
. Adonai (Wars of the
n, n, n, n, Lord)
n, n, n, Shemuel ben Hofni n
n
His Kitab al-Tamyz (Book of Tobiah ben Moses ha-abel (ha-
Distinction) n, , , ma#atiq) , n
, , , , , , His Sefer Os. ar Nehmad
. le-va-
Yiqra" (Book of Delightful
His Kitab al-Radd (Book of Treasure on Leviticus)
Refutation) n, , ,
, , , , , Yeshu#ah ben Yehudah (Abu "l-Faraj
His Tafsr (translation of Genesis) Furqan ibn Asad) , , , ,
, . See also Zucker n
Sahl (Abu "l-Surri) ben Mas. liah. ha- His Mushtamil n
Kohen , n, , n, Yusuf al-Bas. r. See Joseph ben
, n, n, n, , , Abraham
n, n, n Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw (or Bakhta-
His Book of Precepts waih), Abu Ya#qub (= Yusuf ibn
Said Shiran n Nuh?)
. n, n, , ,
Salmon ben Yeruham . (Yeruhi/m)
. , ,
(Sulaym/Sulayman b. Ruhaym) . Yusuf ibn Nuh. . See Ibn Nuh.

. Modern Authors and Editors

Adang, Camilla n Bargs, Jean Joseph Landre n,


Alobaidi, Joseph n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Alter, Robert n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, , n,
Ankori, Zvi n, n, n, , n
n, n, n, n, Baron, Salo Wittmayer n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n Basal, Nasir n
Astren, Fred n, n, n, Batat, Efrat n, n, n,
n, n , n, n, ,
Auerbach, Erich n n, , n, n,
Auerbach, Zacharias n, n, , n, n, ,
n, n, n n, n, n
Avni, Tzvi n, n, n, Becker, Dan n
n Ben-Sasson, Haim Hillel n
Ben-Sasson, Menachem n
Bacher, Wilhelm n, n Ben-Shammai, Haggai n, n,
Baneth, David Tzvi n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n n, n, n, n,
indexes

Ben-Shammai, Haggai (cont.) Blumfield, Fiona Eve n, n,


n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Brin, Gershon n
n, n, n, n, Broyd, Isaac n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Butbul, Sagit n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, ,
n, Chiesa, Bruno n, n,
Beit-Arie, Malachi n n, n, n, n,
Birnbaum, Philip n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, n, Cohen, Gerson D. n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Cook, Michael n, n
n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, Davidson, Israel n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Dozy, Reinhart, P.A.
n, n, n, n, Driver, Samuel Rolles n
n, n, n, n, Drory, Rina n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Dukes, Leopold n, n
n, n, n,
n Epstein, Isidore n
Bland, Richard M. n, n, Elliger, Karl n
n, n, n, n, n, Erder, Yoram n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n n, n
Blau, Joshua n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, Feuerstein, Salomon n
n, n, n, n, Firkovitch, Abraham n. See
n, n, n, n, also Firkovitchs collections
n, n, n, n, Fleischer, Heinrich n
n, n, n, n, Fenton, Paul B. n, n, n,
, n, , n, n
indexes

Frank, Daniel n, n, n, n, Gnzig, Israel n, n, n,


n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, Hacohen, Ofra n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Halkin, Abraham S. n
n, n, n, n, Harkavy, Abraham Elijah n,
n, n n, n, n, n,
Friedman, Mordechai Akiva n n, n, n
Friedmann, Richard, Elliott n, Hava, J.G.
n Heinemann, Isaac n
Friedmann, Eissler n Hirschfeld, Hartwig n, n,
Frst, Julius n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n n, n, n, n,
n
Geiger, Abraham n Heller, Bernhard n, n
Gil, Moshe n, n, n, n, Hofmann, Theodor n
n, n, n, n, Hussain, Haider Abbas n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n n, n, n, n,
Ginzberg, Louis n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Ginzburg, Yonah Yosifovitch n, n
n, n, , n,
n, , n, , Jankowski, Henryk n
n, n Jung, Paul Achilles n
Goldstein, Miriam n, n, n, Juynboll, G.H.A. n
n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, Kahle, Paul n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Khan, Geoffrey n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Kizilov, Mikhail n
n, n, n, n, Kugel, James n
n, n, n, n,
n, n Lane, Edward, William
Gordon, Nehemia n, n, Lasker, Daniel L. n, n, n,
n, n, n, n n, n, n, n
Gottlober, Abraham Baer n Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel
Graetz, Heinrich n, n, Lazarus-Yafeh, Havah n,
n, n n, n
indexes

Lehrman, S.M. n, n, n, Nadler-Akirav, Meirav n


n, n, n, n, Nemoy, Leon n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n n, n, n, n,
Leibovitz, Yeshayahu n n, n, n, n,
Linetsky, Michael n n, n, n, n,
Livne-Kafri, Ofer n, n n, n, n, n,
Lockwood, Wilfrid n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Loewe, Herbert n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, , n, n
n Neubauer, Adolf n, n, n,
n, n, n
Mahler, Raphael n
Mann, Jacob n, n, n, Paul, Andr n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Perlmann, Moshe n
n, n, n, n, Pinsker, Simha n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Margoliouth, David Samuel n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Polak, Frank n, n
n, n, n, n, Polliack, Meira n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n n, n, n, n, n,
Margoliouth, George n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, , n, n, n, n,
n, , n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, , n n, n, n, n,
Markon, Icchak D. n, n n, n, n, n, n,
Marmorstein, Abraham n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n n, n, n, n,
Marwick, E. Lawrence n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n n, n, n, n,
Munk, Solomon n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, , n, n, n, n,
n, , n, , n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
indexes

n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, nm n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n, Schechter, Solomon n
n, n, n, n, Schlossberg, Eliezer n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n n, n, n, n, n,
Poznanski, Samuel n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, , n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
, n, n n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n,
Qafih. (also Kafih)
. Joseph. See Saadia n, n, n, n,
Gaon (Kitab al-Mukhtar f "l- n, n, n, n,
Amanat wa "l-I#tiqadat) n, n
Schorstein, Nahum n, n,
Ratzaby, Yehuda n, n, n, n,
Revel, Bernard n n
Riese, Moshe n Schwarb, Gregor n
Rippin, Andrew n, n, Scheiber, Alexander n
n, n Schenker, Adrian n, n
Rudolph, Willhelm n Scholem, Gershom, G. n
Schreiner, Martin n
Sabih, Joshua A. n, n, n Schur, Nathan n, n
Sanders, James, A. n Shunary, Jonathan n
Sasson, Ilana n, n, n, Simon, Uriel n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n
indexes

Sirat, Colette n, n, n, Vajda, George n, n, n,


n n, n, n, n,
Sklare, David n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, , n, n, n, n, n,
n, , n, , n, n
n, n, , n, Vidrio, Nadia n
n, , n, n, Vreugd, Kees de n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Skoss, Solomon L. n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, , n. See also n, n, n, n,
al-Fas, David ben Abraham (and n, n
His Kitab Jam# al-Alfaz)
.
Sokolow, Moshe n, n, n, Walfish, Barry Dov n, n
n, n, n, n, n, Wechsler, Michael G. n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n, n,
Spinoza, Benedict de n n, n, n, n,
Stauber, Simon n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n, n, n,
Steiner, Richard C. n, n n, n, n, n,
Steinschneider, Moritz n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, , n n, n, n, n,
Stern, David n n, n, n, n,
Stern, Samuel Miklos n n, n, n,
Sternberg, Meir n, n, n
n Wehr, Hans n,
Stroumsa, Sarah n, n, Weiss Halivni, David n,
n, n, n, n, n
n, n, n, n Wendkos, Philip David n,
n, n, n, n,
Tamani, Giuliano n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, , n, n, n
, n, n, , Wieder, Naphtali n, n, n,
n, n, , n, n, n, n, n,
, n, , n, , n, n, n, n,
n, n n, n, n, n,
Tirosh-Becker, Ofra n n
Tomal, Maciej n, n, n, Wolfson, Harry Austryn n
n Wright, William
Tttermann, Klas August Reinhold
n Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim n
indexes


Zajaczkowski, Ananiasz n Zucker, Moshe n, n,
Zawanowska, Marzena n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n, , n, n, n, n, n, n, n,
n n, n
Zotenberg, Hermann n, ,
n, , n

. General Index

Aaron n, , , Anachronism/anachronistic
Aaron ben Ya#aqob ben Abraham statements , n, ,
Sa#ir Angel/angels n, , , ,
.
Ab Kahar Josef Cohen (the son of , , , , n, ,
Kahar Sefanya
. ha-Cohen) , n, , , n, ,
,
Abimelech , n, , , Anthropomorphism/anthropomor-
n, , n phic descriptions of God , ,
Abraham/Abram , , , , , ,
n, n, n, , n, #Aql (reason) , ,
, , , , n, #Aqliyyat (rational command-
, n, , n, , ments) n,
n, n, , , , Asaph ,
n, , , n, , Asbab al-nuzul (circumstances of
, , n, n, , revelation)
, , , , , n, Ashteroth-karnaim
, n, , , , Assyria
, , , , , , al-Awliya". See al-Wal
n, , n, n, #Ayn Shams
, n, n, ,
n, , , , , , Badriyyah , , n,
, , , , n Baghdad
Abraham ben #Amram (ha-Kohen) Bahth
. (research) n, n
, n, Banias ,
Abu #Imran al-Tifls (= Musa al- Basra
Za#faran) , , , Bat. in (hidden [aspect of Scrip-
, ture])
Adab/adab (morals, good Bayt al-maqdis (Jerusalem, the Holy
manners) , , n, Temple) . See also Jerusalem
Adam n, n, , , n, Bela
n, , n, , , , Belbes (Abbasseh) n
n Bethel
Admah Bid#a (modification) n
Allegorical interpretation , Blessing/blessings , ,
n, n, . See also Ta"wl Brahmins , n,
Alteration (of Scripture). See Tabdl Byzantium
indexes

Canaan, the land of , , , Eliezer (Abrahams servant) ,


, , ,
Canaanite/Canaanites , , Eliezer, Rabbi n
Chelus Eliezer ben R. Jose ha-Gelili, Rabbi
Chiasmus/chiastic structure , n, n
n Elijah n
Christianity/Christians , , El-paran
n, n, En-gedi
Circumcision n, , En-mishpat
n, , n, Eve n, n
Convention, linguistic , , Exegetical principles. See Herme-
, . See also Isti#mal neutic propositions, Middot
al-lugha, Mashhur al-lugha Exile (galut, jaliya) n, , n
Conquest of Jerusalem n Ezra-#Uzayr n
Covenant , n, , , ,
Falsification (of Scripture). See
Crusaders , n Tahrf
.
Crux interpretum/exegetical Faraj Allah (= Yeshu#ah) ben
conundrum, difficulty , , Mordekhay Rofe"
, , , , , Fas. l/fus. ul (thematic passage,
chapter) , n, n,
Damascus ,
Dan , Festival/festivals n,
Dar li-"l-ilm (Karaite house of Firkovitchs collections , n,
study or house of learning) , n
, n, , , n, n Flashback (narrative retrogression)
Dastarians. See Tustarians n, . See also Ikhtis. ar
David , n, , Flood , n
Day of Judgment n Forehsadowing (narrative anticipa-
Destruction (of Karaite community tion) n, , ,
in Jerusalem) n n. See also Ikhtis. ar
Destruction (of the sinful cities) Forgery (of Scripture). See Tahrf .
, , Four Kingdoms, the (in Daniel)
Distortion (of Scripture). See Tabdl n, n, , n
The kingdom of Ishmael (Arabs)
Eden . See also Garden, , , ,
Paradise The kingdom of Chaldees (Persia)
Egypt/Egyptian Nile , n, ,
, , , , , , , The kingdom of Edom (Rome)

Elam, the land of Four rivers, the (that flowed out of
Ele#azar Hazan
. (the son of Aharon Eden)
Rofe", the son of Yehuda al-
Hakm,
. the son of Josef Hakm)
. Garden, the n, , n,
, . See also Eden, Paradise
Ele#azar Lev (the son of Kahar Gaza
Barukh Lev) Gentiles ,
indexes

Geography (interest in) , , , Holy Land, the ,


Holy language/tongue, the ,
Gerar n
Ghabajib Holy Spirit, the n, ,
Gilead, Mount Holy Trinity, the , n
Gilgal House of learning (house of study),
Glory, the (of God) n, the. See Dar li-"l-ilm
Gomorrah , , , Hujja
. (proof, argument)
Goshen, the land of , n Hyperbaton (anomalous word
Grammar (interest in) , n, order)
n, n, , , , , , Hyperbole/hyperbolic expression
n, , , , n,
n, Hysteron proteron (inverted
Greek language and culture , , chronological order in a chain
of events)

Hadth
. Idafa
. (addition [of explanatory
Hagar , , , , , , comment]) . See also
, n, , , , , Ziyada
, Ijma# (consensus) n, ,
Halakhah/Halakhic n, , ,
n, , Ikhtis. ar (abridgment, ellipsis,
Halal
. and haram
. (dietary laws elision, omission, delay,
concerning permitted and retardation) , , n,
prohibited foods) , , ,
Ham Introduction (to Bible commentary)
Hapax legomena to Genesis by al-Qirqisan ,
Haran , n, , n, , n,
Hazara
. meqasheret (resumptive n, , n, n, ,
repetition). See Resumptive n, , n, ,
repetition n, , n
Hazazon-tamar to Genesis by Yefet n, ,
Hebron , , , ,
Hereafter , , n, , to Exodus by Yefet n, ,
Heretics , to Numbers by Yefet
Hermeneutic propositions (funun) to Deuteronomy by Yefet , ,
by al-Qirqisan , n, , n
n, , n, n, , n, to Hosea by Yefet n
n, , n, , n, to Proverbs by Yefet n,
, n, , n to Job by Yefet n, n
Hikaya
. (reported story) , Iraq , , , ,
n, Isaac , , n, ,
Hikma
. (wisdom) , , n n, , , , ,
Hillel n n, , , , ,
History (interest in) , , n, , Ishmael , , , , , ,
n, , n, , , , , , , n, , ,
, , , n, ,
indexes

Ishmael, Rabbi Khatima/khatm (also tamam,


His exegetical dictum conclusion, denouement)
Islam (religion) and Islamic culture
n, , , n, n, Khurasan , n
n, n, , , Khuzistan
n, n, , Kitab (the Book, Scripture) ,
Israel, the land of , , n, n,
n Kiriat-arba
Israelites/children of Israel n, Korah
n, , , , , , , , Koran (Koranic revelation). See
, n, n, n, , , Qur"an
, , , ,
Istiftah. (li-"l-kalam) (opening to Lasha ,
speech) , n Lexicography (interest in) , n,
Isti#mal al-lugha (common usage , , , , n, ,
of language) , , . Literal approach to Scripture ,
See also Convention, Mashhur n, , n, , , n,
al-lugha , , , , , , , , ,
, . See also Zahir
.
Jacob , , , n, n, Luz
, , , , , , , Mahanaim
, Majlis n
Jeduthun Majr (pattern)
Jerash, Mount Mamre n, , ,
Jerusalem , , n, n, , Masa"il (theoretical objections)
n, , , , , , ,
n, , , , n, . Maskl (teacher, sage; honorific
See also Bayt al-maqdis title) , n,
Jifar, the land of Mashhur al-lugha (linguistic
Jordan (region, country of the custom) , . See also
Sabaten) , Convention, Isti#mal al-lugha
Jordan, the plain of , n, Media ,
, Messianism and Messiah , n,
Jordan river , , n, n,
Joseph n, n, n, Middot (early rabbinic exegetical
n, , principles) n, n
Joshua n, , , , , Miracles/signs and wonders (divine)
n, , , , , n
Judah, Rabbi n Miriam n,
Monotheists n
Kadesh More s. edeq (teacher of righteous-
Kahar Sefanya
. ha-Cohen , , ness, the teacher of right [inter-
pretation]) , n
Khabar, akhbar (report, trans- Moses , , , , n,
mitted information, thread of n, , n, n, n,
the plot) n, , , , n, , n, n, , n,
, n, , , , , ,
indexes

, , , , , , n, Noah , , , , , ,
, n , ,
Mosul ,
Mourners of Zion (Jerusalem Obedience (to God, Ar. t. a#a)
community, Shoshanim) , n, , , n, n
n, n Offering/offerings , , , ,
Mudawwin , n, n, , , , ,
, , n, n, , Omniscience (of God) ,
n, , , n, Omnisignificance (in Scripture)
, , n ,
Muhammad
. n, , , Oral Law n, , , , n,
n , n, , , , n
Muhk
. (storyteller, narrator, the Oral explanation/opinion/tradition
one who reports the words of , n,
God) , , ,
Mufs. al/afs. ala (separated, separate Palestine and Palestino-centrism ,
[statements, accounts]) , n, n, ,
Mujawara (immediate context) Paradise , n. See also Eden,
, n Garden
Muqaddima (introduction, Paran
exposition) , n, , Pedagogical benefits of the Bible
(and its exegesis) n,
Muqdam u-me"uhar . (anterior and , n, n, , n, ,
posterior) n, , n, ,
Musa al-Za#faran. See Abu #Imran Persia , , , , ,
al-Tifls Peshat. (literal exegesis) n
Mus. haf
. (the final version of the Pesher n, n
complete text of the Qur"an) Pharaoh , n, n, n,
Muttas. il/ittas. ala (connected, , , n, ,
connect [statements, accounts]) Philosophy (interest in) n, , ,
, , n, , n, , n, ,
Mu#tazilite , n , , , n
Pluralis majestatis , n
Nablus Polemics , n, n, , ,
Nasaq (successive arrangement) n, n, n, , , ,
, , . See also Vav al- , , , , n,
nasaq Polyptoton (repetition of words
Naskh (abrogation) , n derived from the same root)
Naz. ar (rational inquiry, or
rational speculation) n, Priest/priests n, n
, n, n, Prognostic or applied exegesis (also:
Nehemiah, Rabbi n actualization) , n,
Netanel Przaz, the son of Dan"el n,
Rofe" , , Promises (divine) , , ,
Niz. am (order, thematic link, n, , n, , ,
congruent, convenient) , , n, , , , ,
n, , , , n , n,
indexes

Prophecy and Prophets , n, Resurrection of the dead n


, , , , n, n, n, Reward (divine) , , , ,
, n, , n, n, n, , n, ,
, , , , , n, , Rhetoric (interest in) , n,
n, n, n, , , ,
n, , , , , n, ,
, n, , n, , , , Sabbath
, , , n, n, Sabians n
Sadducee/Sadducean n, ,
Punishment (divine) , , , ,
Sadr, the land of , n
S. adr (introduction, preface)
Qant. ara al-Hijz . , , n, ,
Qarna (context) , n, Ha-Sa#d
. Barukh Lev (the son of
, n, Mordekhay ha-Lev, the judge,
Qes. (the end, eschatological the son of Shim#on ha-Lev, the
concept) n cantor, the son of Ya#aqob ha-
Qis. s. a/qus. as. (story, account) , Lev, the teacher)
, Ha-Sa#d
. Ya#aqob Mas. lah. Lev (the
Qumran n son of Sa#adia Lev, the son of
Qur"an/Qur"anic revelation , , Abraham ha-Lev)
n, n, n Sama# (revelation)
Sam#iyyat (revealed command-
Rabbanites/rabbinic Judaism/rabbis ments) n, , n, ,
, n, , n, , , n,
, , n, , n, , , al-Sanamayn
.
n, n, , , , n, Sarah/Sarai , , n,
n, , , n, n, n, , , n,
n, , , , n, , , , n, n, ,
n, n, n, , , , , , , , ,
n, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
n, n, , n,
, n, , n, , Scripturalism , n, , n, ,
n n, n
Rabbinic script , , Sects and sectarians n, n,
Rachel , ,
Rameses, the land of Seth
Rationalism (rationally oriented exe- Shar#a (Law) ,
gesis, rationalistic interpretation) Shechem
, , , n, , n, , Simeon, Rabbi n
, , , , , , , Simhah. Isaac Luzki n
, Sharh/shuru
. h. (commentary) ,
Raw (transmitter [of revelation])
n Shinar
Resumptive repetition (hazara
. Shoshanim. See Mourners of Zion
meqasheret) , . Shur ,
See also Chiasmus Sodom n, n, n,
indexes

, , , n, , , Tilawa (biblical passage) n


n, , Transitional statements (combined
Sola scriptura speech) , , n
Solomon , , , Tree of Knowledge , n
Sudan , n Tree of Life ,
Superfluity (in Scripture) , , Tustarians/Dastarians ,
, , , , n, ,
n, , , ,
Ur (of the Chaldees)
Syria n, n
Vav al-nasaq (vav of conjunction)
t. a#a. See Obedience , ,
Tabdl (distortion, alteration)
Wadi al-#Arish
Tadwn (the act of writing down, Wadi al-Takaw (?)
composing, recording, compiling, al-Wal/al-awliya" (the holy man,
committing to writing) , the forefathers) ,
n, , , , n, , , Wasit. a (intermediary [in revela-
, n, . See also Mudawwin tion]) , n, n, n,
Tafsr/tafasr (translation, com- n,
mentary) , . See also Saa-
dia Gaon (Tafsr) Yom Tob Berakha (Jomtob Beracha)
Tahrf
. (forgery, falsification) ,
n
Tamz (discernment) n Zahir
. (plain, literal, apparent,
Ta"wl (non-literal interpretation) or external [sense of Scripture])
, n, n, . See also , n, ,
Allegorical interpretation Zeboiim
Taqld (tradition) n Zidon
Tarjama/tarajim (translation) , Zippora n
, Ziyada (addition [of explanatory
Tawatur (transmission of divine comment]) . See also
revelation) Idafa
.
Terah , n, n, Zoar
, Zughar ,
Threats (divine) n
The Arabic Translation and Commentary of
Yefet ben #Eli the Karaite on the Abraham Narratives
(Genesis 11:1025:18)
tudes sur
le Judasme Mdival
Fondes par
Georges Vajda

Diriges par
Paul B. Fenton

TOME XLVI

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.nl/ejm


Karaite Texts and Studies
Edited by
Meira Polliack
Michael G. Wechsler

VOLUME 4
The Arabic Translation and
Commentary of Yefet ben #Eli the
Karaite on the Abraham Narratives
(Genesis 11:1025:18)
Edition and Introduction

By
Marzena Zawanowska

LEIDEN BOSTON
2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Bible. O.T. Genesis XI, 10-XXV,18. Judeo-Arabic. Japheth ben Ali.


The Arabic translation and commentary of Yefet ben 'Eli the Karaite on the Abraham
narratives (Genesis 11:10-25:18) / edition and by introduction by Marzena Zawanowska.
p. cm. (tudes sur le Judasme mdival, ISSN 0169-815X ; t. 46) (Karaite texts and
studies ; v. 4)
Biblical text and commentary in Judeo-Arabic; introd. and critical apparatus in English.
ISBN 978-90-04-19131-0 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Bible. O.T. Genesis XI,
10-XXV,18Commentaries. 2. Karaites. I. Japheth ben Ali, ha-Levi, 10th cent. II. Zawanowska,
Marzena. III. Title.

BS1234.J83J37 2012
222'.1106092dc23
2011042183

ISSN 0169-815X
ISBN 978 90 04 19131 0 (hardback)
ISBN 978 90 04 22638 8 (e-book)

Copyright 2012 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in
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This book is printed on acid-free paper.


Im just pointing out the different opinions
about it. You shouldnt pay too much atten-
tion to peoples opinions. The text cannot be
altered, and the various opinions are often no
more than an expression of despair over it.
Franz Kafka, The Trial

To my mother and in memory of my father


CONTENTS

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xv
Transliteration Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xvii

PART I
INTRODUCTION

Chapter One. Yefet and His Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3


. Biography and Works. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
. Yefets Commentary on Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
.. Dating and General Description . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
.. Language and Style . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
.. Structure and Composition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
. Earlier and Contemporary Karaite Commentaries on
Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
.. Benjamin al-Nahawand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
.. Daniel al-Qumis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
.. Ya#qub al-Qirqisan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
.. Salmon ben Yeroham . ...................................... 20
.. Sahl ben Mas. liah. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
.. Yusuf b. Nuh. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
.. David ben Bo#az . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
.. David ben Abraham al-Fasi . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
. Later Karaite Commentaries on Genesis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
.. Judaeo-Arabic Commentaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
.. Hebrew Commentaries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Chapter Two. Who Wrote the Torah? Yefets View on the


Authorship of the Pentateuch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
. Formal Statements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
. One Book, Various Authors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
.. God as the Divine Author of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
.. Moses as the Earthly Author of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
.. Joshua and Other Co-Authors of the Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
.. The Anonymous Mudawwin as the Final Author of the
Torah . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
contents x*

. The Term Mudawwin as Camouflage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45


. The Karaite Innovation of the Biblical Mudawwin . . . . . . . . . . . . 49
.. Internal Jewish Debate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
.. The Karaite Approach to the Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51
.. Polemical Response . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
.. The Impact of Arabic Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

Chapter Three. In Quest of Truth: Yefets Hermeneutic Concepts . . . 59


. Rational Inquiry as a Divine Commandment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59
. Bible Study as a Religious Duty . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
. The Pedagogical Purpose of Cumulative Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63
. A Selective and Critical Approach to Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
. Epistemological Principles of Biblical Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
. The Literal-Contextual Approach to Scripture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70
. Hermeneutical Tenets Underlying Yefets Exegetical
Approach. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
. The Ideal of Comprehensive, yet Focused Bible Commentary 77
. Following the Holy Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
. Pragmatic Aspect of Bible Exegesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80
. Beneficial Purposes of Biblical Narratives . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
. The Restricted Interdisciplinarity of Biblical Exegesis . . . . . . . . . 86
. The Limits of Human Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 88
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89

Chapter Four. Between the Holy Text and Its Unholy Context:
Polemical Overtones in Yefets Commentary on Genesis . . . . . . . . . . 91
. Christianity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
. Rabbinic Judaism and Jewish Sects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
.. The Rabbis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
.. Saadia Gaon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95
.. The Brahmins . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98
. Karaism and Karaite Sects . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
.. Benjamin al-Nahawand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99
.. #Anan ben David. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100
.. Abu #Imran al-Tifls . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 102
.. The Tustarians . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
.. Abu Ya#qub Yusuf ibn Bakhtaw . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 104
. Islam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108
xi* contents

Chapter Five. Scripture as the Supreme Composition: Literary


Aspects of Yefets Exegesis of Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
. The Biblical Narrative: The Story and Its Composition. . . . . . . . 113
.. The Multi-layered Structure of Biblical Narratives . . . . . . . 114
.. Structural Elements of the Biblical Text . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
.. The Cohesive Organization of the Scriptural Text . . . . . . . . 118
.. The Principle of Thematic Arrangement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 122
.. The Principle of Complementary Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . 123
. The Art of Narration: Biblical Style and Its Fundamental
Tenets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
.. Gradual Disclosure of Information . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 124
.. Non-Chronological Arrangement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 126
.. Purposeful Elisions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
.. Meaningful Repetition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 130
.. The Art of Reticence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
. Methods of Narration: Rhetorical and Stylistic Devices,
Linguistic Conventions, and Patterns of Expression . . . . . . . . . . 135
.. Rhetorical Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
.. Stylistic Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136
.. Patterns of Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
.. Linguistic Conventions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 138
.. Tension Building Devices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
. Biblical Narration: The Role of the Muhk . and the
Mudawwin in Shaping the Biblical Narrative . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 140
.. Recounting the Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 141
.. Combined Speech and Transitional Statements . . . . . . . . . . 141
.. Omission to Avoid Superfluity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
.. Adding Explanatory Comments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 144
.. Inserting Anachronistic Statements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 145
.. Fashioning Form to Convey Meaning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 146
.. Flashbacks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
.. Foreshadowing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 148
.. Building Tension within the Account . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151

Chapter Six. The Limits of Literalism: Yefets Approach to Bible


Translation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155
. The Literalistic Ideal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
. The Limitations of Literalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
.. Linguistic Limitations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
contents xii*

.. Limitations of Usage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 161


.. Concessions to Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
.. Rational Restrictions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
.. Paraphrasing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165
.. Purposeful IndecisivenessAlternate Translations . . . . . . 170
.. Specification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 172
.. Non-Literal Ideological Translations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
.. Identification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177
. The Complementary Aspect of Translation and
Interpretation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186

PART II
INTRODUCTION TO THE CRITICAL EDITION

Chapter Seven. Description of Manuscripts Employed for the


Present Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
. Russian Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
.. Ms. A1 / 1 (Basic Manuscript) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
.. Ms. A2 / 2 (Basic Manuscript) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 194
.. Ms. A3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 196
. European Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
.. Ms. L1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
.. Ms. L2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
.. Ms. L3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 199
.. Ms. C / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
.. Ms. P1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
.. Ms. P2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 206
.. Ms. B / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
. Firkovitch Collections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R / . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R1 / 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
.. Ms. R2 / 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 215
.. Ms. R3 / 3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
.. Ms. R4 / 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
.. Ms. R5 / 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
.. Ms. R6 / 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 217
.. Ms. R7 / 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 218
xiii* contents

Chapter Eight. Editing of the Manuscripts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219


. General Assumptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
. Choice of Manuscripts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 219
. Editing Policy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
. Dual Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
.. First Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
.. Second Apparatus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223

Chapter Nine. Signs and Abbreviations Employed in the Critical


Edition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
. Sigla, Symbols of Manuscripts, and Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
. Abbreviations of Books of the Hebrew Bible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 226

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Manuscripts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
. Primary Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
. Secondary Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 234
Indexes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 257

PART III
EDITION

Text. Genesis : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 99*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 193*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 209*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231*
Text. Genesis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243*
Text. Genesis :. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 273*
PART III

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