Hebrew Language #13 Hebrew Literature #10 Exegesis

The aim of the grammatical studies of the Spanish school was ultimately exegesis. This had already been cultivated in the East. In the 9th century Ḥīvī of Balkh wrote a rationalistic treatise [A fragment of such a work, probably emanating from the school of Ḥīvī was found by Schechter and published in J.Q.R., xiii. 345 sqq.] on difficulties in the Bible, which was refuted by Seadiah [ed. note: Sa’adiah ben Yosef Gaon] . The commentaries of the Geonim have been mentioned in the previous chapters. The impulse to similar work in the West came also from Babylonia.

In the 10th century Ḥushīel, one of four prisoners, perhaps from Babylonia, though that is doubtful, was ransomed and settled at Kairawan, where he acquired great reputation as a Talmudist. His son Hananeel (d. 1050) wrote a commentary on (probably all) the Talmud, and one now lost on the Pentateuch. Hananeel’s contemporary Nissīm ben Jacob, of Kairawan, who corresponded with Hai Gaon of Pumbeditha as well as with Samuel the Nagīd in Spain, likewise wrote on the Talmud, and is probably the author of a collection of Maʽasiyyōth or edifying stories, besides works now lost.

The activity in North Africa reacted on Spain. There the most prominent figure was that of Samuel ibn Nagdela (or Nagrela), generally known as Samuel the Nagīd or head of the Jewish settlement, who died in 1055. As vizier to the Moorish king at Granada, he was not only a patron of learning, but himself a man of wide knowledge and a considerable author. Some of his poems are extant, and an Introduction to the Talmud mentioned above. In grammar he followed Ḥayyūj, whose pupil he was. Among others he was the patron of Solomon ibn Gabirol (q.v.), the poet and philosopher. To this period belong Ḥafẓ al-Qūṭī (the Goth?) who made a version of the Psalms in Arabic rhyme, and Baḥya (more correctly Beḥai) ibn Paqūda, dayyan at Saragossa, whose Arabic ethical treatise has always had great popularity among the Jews in its Hebrew translation, Ḥōbhōth ha-lebhabhōth. He also composed liturgical poems.

At the end of the 11th century Judah ibn Bal’am wrote grammatical works and commentaries (on the Pentateuch, Isaiah, &c.) in Arabic; the liturgist Isaac Gayyath (d. in 1089 at Cordova) wrote on ritual. Moses Giqatilla has been already mentioned.

Hebrew Literature by Arthur Ernest Cowley


Hivites, an ancient tribe of Palestine driven out by the invading Israelites. In Josh. ix. 7, xi. 19 they are connected with Gibeon. The meaning of the name is uncertain; Wellhausen derives it from חַוָּה “Eve,” or “serpent,” in which case the Hivites were originally the snake clan; others explain it from the Arabic hayy, “family,” as meaning “dwellers in (Bedouin) encampments.”

Ḥīvī of Balkh = a 9th-century member of the Jewish community of Balkh (Afghanistan), considered to be the very first “Jewish” philosopher to subject the Pentateuch to critical analysis. By some scholars he was viewed as an intellectually conflicted man torn between Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Gnostic Christianity, and Manichaean thought. He was a skeptical Jewish pamphleteer, who scandalised the faithful by openly attacking the morality of Scripture and by issuing for schools an expurgated edition of the Bible that omitted “offensive” material (e.g., alleged stories of God acting dishonestly).

Hivi espoused the belief that miraculous acts, described in the Pentateuch, are simply examples of people using their skills of reasoning to undertake, and perform, seemingly miraculous acts.[Gil, Moshe. Hivi Ha-Balkhi Ha-Kofer Me-Horasan, Ketavim. Merhaviah: Sifriyyat Po’alim, 1965]

Books such as that of the Persian Jewish heretic Ḥiwi al-Balkhī, denied the omnipotence, omniscience, and justice of the biblical God and pointed to biblical inconsistencies, which were then popular. In the face of such challenges, the prominent rabbi, gaon, Jewish philosopher, and exegete Saʿadia ben Joseph, Arabic Saʿīd Ibn Yūsuf Al-fayyūmī, marshaled his great talents in the defense of religion in general and Jewish tradition in particular. (Saadia is the first important rabbinic figure to write extensively in Judeo-Arabic Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halakha, and Jewish philosophy, he was a practitioner of the philosophical school known as the “Jewish Kalam“.)

Since Hivi’s views contradicted the views of both Rabbanite and Karaite scholars, Hivi was declared a heretic. In this context, however, we can also regard Hivi, while flawed, as the very first critical biblical commentator; zealous rationalistic views of Hivi parallel those of Abu al-Hasan Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Ishaq al-Rawandi, commonly known as Ibn al-Rawandi

Chushiel ben Elchanan = Husiel = Chusiel, president of the bet ha-midrash at Kairouan, Tunisia toward the end of the 10th century. He was most probably born in Italy, but his origins and travels remain obscure, and his eventual arrival in Kairwan is the subject of a well-known story.
Ḥushiel was certainly one of the greatest of the Talmudical teachers of the tenth century. Samuel ha-Nagid, recognised his importance and value, and ordered that memorial services in his honor should be celebrated in Granada, Lucena, and Cordova. Samuel also wrote a letter of condolence to Ḥushiel’s son Hananeel. This has been published by Firkovich in “Ha-Karmel,” viii. (“Ha-Sharon,” No. 31, p. 245), and in Berliner’s “Magazin,” v. 70 et seq. (“Oẓar Ṭob,” p. 64), the German translation being by David Kaufmann. The letter, ending with a Hebrew poem in the “Hazaj” meter, and written in a very difficult style, praises Ḥushiel’s knowledge and virtue, and compliments Hananeel.

Rav Nissim Gaon = Nissim ben Jacob, African Talmud exegete and moralist; lived during the first half of the eleventh century in Kairwan, a rabbi best known today for his Talmudic commentary ha-Mafteach, by which title he is also known.  He received his early instruction from his father, Jacob ben Nissim, president of the yeshibah of Kairwan. After Ḥushiel ben Elhanan’s arrival in Kairwan, Nissim continued his studies under that teacher, and at Ḥushiel’s death succeeded him in the presidency of the yeshibah.African Talmud exegete and moralist; lived during the first half of the eleventh century in Kairwan. He received his early instruction from his father, Jacob ben Nissim, president of the yeshibah of Kairwan. After Ḥushiel ben Elhanan’s arrival in Kairwan, Nissim continued his studies under that teacher, and at Ḥushiel’s death succeeded him in the presidency of the yeshibah.
Nissim did not confine himself to quoting references, but expounds them in their connection with the text; thus his work is at the same time a Talmudical commentary. He quotes from the Tosefta, Mekilta, Sifre, Sifra, from the old midrashim, and above all from the Palestinian Talmud, the explanations of which he sometimes prefers to those of the Babylonian Talmud. The second part of the “Mafteaḥ,” divided by Nissim into fifty subdivisions, is intended to give a collection of halakot which in the Talmud are to be found in places where nobody would expect them. The enumeration of these fifty subdivisions is an important contribution to the methodology of the Talmud. The “Mafteaḥ” is written in a sort of mixed language, both Arabic and Hebrew being used as the character of the subject seemed to demand. It has been supposed that Nissim wrote this work about 1038 or 1040 (see “Orient, Lit.” viii. 606).

Samuel ibn Nagdela = Samuel ibn Nagrela = Sh’muel HaLevi ben Yosef HaNagid = Ismail Ibn Nagrelʿa = Samuel ibn Naghrillah = Samuel ha-Nagid = Samuel the Nagīd or head of the Jewish settlement. He was a medieval Jewish Spanish Talmudic scholar, grammarian, philologist, soldier, merchant, politician, and an influential poet who lived in Iberia at the time of the Moorish rule, who died in 1055.
He was perhaps the most politically influential Jew in Muslim Spain.
Father of the Spanish statesman Nagdela (Nafrela), Abu Ḥusain Joseph bin, who completely ruled King Badis, and whose wife was a daughter of R. Nissim ben Jacob.

With Restaurant El Pimpi in background, statue of Málaga-born Solomon ibn Gabirol, 11th-century Jewish Andalusian poet and philosopher with “an irrascible temperament.” • Con el Restaurante El Pimpi de fondo, la estatua del malagueño Solomon ibn Gabirol, poeta y filósofo judío andaluz del siglo XI con “un temperamento irrascible”. {The pimp and art / El pimpi y arte}

Solomon ibn Gabirol = Solomon ben Yehuda Ibn Gabirol, = Solomon ben Judah = Shlomo Ben Yehuda ibn Gabirol = Abū ’Ayyūb Sulaymān bin Yaḥyá bin Jabīrūl = Avicebron or Avencebrol: Andalusian poet and important Jewish philosopher in the Neo-Platonic tradition, and one of the outstanding figures of the Hebrew school of religious and secular poetry during the Jewish Golden Age in Moorish Spain (8th-12th century).
Ibn Gabirol is well known in the history of philosophy for the doctrine that all things, including soul and intellect, are composed of matter and form (“Universal Hylomorphism“), and for his emphasis on divine will.
Ibn Gabirol’s dual education, typical for the Jewish intelligentsia in the larger cities, must have encompassed both the entire Hebrew literary heritage — the Bible, Talmud, and other rabbinic writings and, in particular, Hebrew linguistics — and the Arabic, including the Qurʾān, Arabic secular and religious poetry and poetics, and the philosophical, philological, and possibly medical literature.

Ḥafẓ al-Qūṭī  = Hafs ibn Albar al-Qūṭī = al-Qurṭubî = Hafz the Goth: 9th–10th Century Visigothic Christian count, theologian, translator and poet, often memorialised as the ‘Last of the Goths’. He wrote in Arabic, which had then become the common language of Mozarabic Christians living in al-Andalus.
Hafs ibn Albar’s work in translating the Psalms and other theological works has been characterised as integral to the preservation of the Iberian Church under Islam as it allowed Christians who had been raised in an Arabic culture to fully participate in the Christian faith.[Marinas, Iván Pérez. Hafs ibn Albar al-Qûtî: el traductor mozárabe del Salterio.]

Bahya ibn Paquda = Bahya ben Joseph ibn Paquda = Beḥai ibn Paqūda = Rabbeinu Behaye: a Jewish philosopher and rabbi who lived at Zaragoza, Al-Andalus (now Spain). He was one of two people now known as Rabbeinu Behaye, the other being Bible commentator Bahya ben Asher.

Bahya ben Asher = Bahya ben Asher ibn Halawa: considered by Jewish scholars to be one of the most distinguished of the biblical exegetes of Spain. He was a pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ibn Aderet (the Rashba). Unlike the latter, Bahya did not publish a Talmud commentary. In his biblical exegesis, Bahya took as his model Rabbi Moses ben Nahman (Nachmanides) or Ramban, the teacher of Rabbi Shlomo ibn Aderet, who was the first major commentator to make extensive use of the Kabbalah as a means of interpreting the Torah. He discharged with zeal the duties of a darshan (Hebrew for “expounder”) in his native city of Zaragoza, sharing this position with several others.

Judah ibn Bal’am = Judah ibn Balaam = Yehuda ben Shmuel ibn Balaam = Abu Zakariyya Yahya ibn Balaam: Andalusian rabbi of the eleventh century whose works are written in Arabic and who in his old age devoted himself to the study of halakhah and wrote two treatises on it, Sefer Hatsimud (Book of the Union) and Sefer Hahakhra’a (Book of Decision).

Isaac Gayyath is with ibn Gabirol, Moses ibn Ezra, Abraham ibn Ezra, Judah ha-Levi, Moses ben Nahman (Nahmanides), Isaac Luria, and Joseph ibn Abitur, one of the important writers of the Spanish school. He died in 1089 at Cordova.



Hebrew Language #2 The name “Hebrew” and Speech of Canaan

Hebrew Language #3 Among Christian scholars

Hebrew Language #4 Hebrew Literature #1 Old Testament

Hebrew Language #5 Hebrew Literature #2 Torah, Apocryphal literature and Targum

Hebrew Language #6 Hebrew Literature #3 Halakhah

Hebrew Language #7 Hebrew Literature #4 Mishnah and Midrash

Hebrew Language #8 Hebrew Literature #5 Talmud and Masorah

Hebrew Language #9 Hebrew Literature #6 Hebrew Liturgy

Hebrew Language #10 Hebrew Literature #7 The Geōnīm

Hebrew Language #11 Hebrew Literature #8 The Qaraites or Karaites

Hebrew Language #12 Hebrew Literature #9 Medieval scholarship



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