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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

The Spanish School (10th–11th Centuries)

In the late geonic period (10th–11th centuries), the intellectual and spiritual center of medieval Jewry moved to Muslim Spain, where the grammatical and exegetical work begun by Saadia Gaon and the Karaites was continued and reached new levels of sophistication. The first significant work to be produced in Spain was the Maḥberet (Notebook) of Menaḥem ben Jacob Ibn Saruq, (mid‐10th century) the secretary of Ḥisdai Ibn Shaprut (ca. 915–ca.970), a prominent minister in the court of the Caliph 'Abd al‐Raḥman. The Maḥberet is a Hebrew dictionary of biblical roots, the first of its kind to be produced in Hebrew. Though not a commentary, this work elucidated many difficult biblical verses, and represented the purest form of philological exegesis. The Maḥberet proved to be controversial and elicited a spirited response from Menaḥem's contemporary Dunash ben Labrat. The students of these grammarians carried on the discussion in a series of exchanges. They focused on the basic meaning of biblical roots and verses, many of which had theological and doctrinal implications. For instance, Dunash accused Menaḥem of preferring Karaite interpretations to those of the Rabbanites. Indeed, Menaḥem is singleminded in his devotion to the biblical language and text, insisting that they needed to be understood on their own terms, without recourse to other sources. Thus, he avoids comparative philology as much as possible, even shunning Aramaic and Mishnaic Hebrew for the most part. Dunash is much more of a traditionalist, relying on the Masorah, comparative philology (Arabic, Aramaic), and traditional rabbinic interpretation. The works of these early grammarians would soon be surpassed by their successors, but the fact that they were written in Hebrew made them accessible to and extremely influential among the North‐ ern French exegetical school of Rashi and his disciples.

One of the weaknesses of the grammatical theories of Menaḥem and Dunash was their adherence to the biliteral theory of “weak” Hebrew verbs (instead of the triliteral root theory that was later accepted). Indeed, in the case of some weak verbs, Menaḥem assigned them only one root letter. This understanding of the verbal root and other linguistic matters was improved considerably by the important grammatical work of Judah Ḥayyuj (ca. 945–ca. 1000) and Jonah Ibn Janaḥ (11th century), who raised the scientific study of Hebrew grammar to new heights. Ḥayyuj wrote three grammatical treatises, including Sefer ha‐Shorashim (Book of Roots), and a grammatical commentary on the Prophets entitled Kitab al‐Nutaf (Book of Plucked Feathers). These works contain a great deal of exegetical material, which greatly influenced subsequent exegetes. Ḥayyuj is credited with introducing the concept of the triliteral Hebrew root, which he applied to the weak verbs and which revolutionized the study of Hebrew grammar.

Ibn Janaḥ refined Ḥayyuj's theories in several grammatical treatises, including Kitabal‐Luma (Sefer ha‐Riqmah, Book of Variegated Flowerbeds) and Kitab al‐Usul (Sefer ha‐ Shorashim, Book of Roots). Much of the former deals with exegetical tools, including various kinds of substitutions, perhaps the most daring and controversial of his methods. For example at Eccl. 1.8 , he explains kol ha‐devarim yege'im (lit., “all things are weary”) as kol ha‐devarim meyage'im (“all things make one weary, are wearisome,” substituting a verb for an adjective). At Exod. 21.8 , “he shall not have the right to sell her to a foreign people ('am nokhri), he substitutes 'ish (man) for 'am. Similarly, when Abimelech pleads with God, “will you slay a nation (goy) though it be innocent?” (Gen. 20.4 ), Ibn Janaḥ insists that one must substitute 'ish (man) for goy (nation). Many believe that Ibn Janaḥ is here anticipating the conjectural emendation, a significant tool of modern biblical scholarship, but it is more likely that these interpretations are based on established exegetical principles, many borrowed from Quranic exegesis. Most of these substitutions were accepted by his contemporaries, but some were criticized for exceeding the limits of the acceptable. For instance, Ibn Janaḥ proposes that in 1 Kings 2.28 , “for Joab sided with Adonijah, and did not side with Absalom,” Absalom should be replaced with Solomon, which makes more sense in the context. However, most of Ibn Janaḥ's critics accept the Masoretic Text and interpret the text as referring to Joab's lack of support for Absalom in the past. Ibn Janaḥ was also a pioneer in comparative philology and solved many an exegetical difficulty through recourse to Rabbinic Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic. Some of his solutions have been proposed by modern Bible scholars who were unaware that Ibn Janaḥ had anticipated them. An example of his technique is his explanation of Num. 16.1 : vayikaḥ koraḥ, “and Korah took.” Exegetes throughout the ages, beginning with the Targumim and midrashim, have puzzled over what it was that Korah took and made various proposals for filling the gap. Ibn Janaḥ, on the basis of comparison with the Arabic equivalent of the word lakaḥ (the root of vayikaḥ), suggests that the word here means “to begin” and does not require a direct object. It is rather connected to the verb in the following verse vayakumu, “they rose up,” and means Korah and his men began to rise up against Moses.

In another important contribution, Ibn Janaḥ applied rhetorical principles to biblical usage, especially with regard to poetic repetition or parallelism. Thus, for example, one finds synonyms in Isa. 41.4 , “Who has made and done?” and in Isa. 43.7 , “I have created, fashioned and made him.” Are these synonyms to be explained as having different meanings? The midrashic tradition and many medieval exegetes saw a distinct meaning in each word, assuming that since in the Bible no words are superfluous, each word had its own meaning. Ibn Janaḥ argued that the use of such synonyms and repetitions is rhetorical, to add elegance and beauty to the language; they do not add further meaning. If one should ask, then, why bother repeating the same idea in different words, Ibn Janaḥ would respond that in the art of rhetoric, elaboration is more elegant and artistic. This view was adopted by many Spanish and Provençal exegetes, especially Abraham Ibn Ezra and Radak, and was criticized by others who favored the midrashic method. In recent times, this question has again become a topic of dispute among interpreters of the Bible.

The two most important exegetes in Muslim Spain were Moses ben Samuel Gikatilla of Saragossa and Judah ben Samuel Ibn Bal'am of Toledo and later Seville, who were both active in the second half of the 11th century. Gikatilla translated the Arabic grammar books of Ḥayyuj into Hebrew and wrote a commentary on the Bible; most of it is lost. From the extant fragments of his commentary one can see that he was heavily influenced by Ibn Janaḥ in matters grammatical, but did not confine his exegesis to grammar and philology; he also commented on matters of content and general meaning. Notable is his severe rationalism, especially in dealing with miracles. He was also the first exegete to assign the secondpart of the book of Isaiah (chs 40–66 ) to a second prophet (called by modern scholars Second Isaiah or Deutero‐Isaiah).

Judah Ibn Bal'am's works have fared better than Gikatilla's and most have survived, although, until recently, few had been published. His commentaries are very selective, focusing on verses about which he disagrees with his predecessors. In his introduction to the Prophets, he spells out his exegetical method, explaining that he will treat difficult words in three ways: by translating them into Arabic, by comparing them with cognate words in the Bible, and, wherever possible, by relating them to equivalents in Rabbinic Hebrew, Aramaic, or Arabic. Although some have considered him an epigone (a follower of lesser abilities) of Ibn Janaḥ, he was clearly an independent thinker, who struggled with the text, rejected opposing views, and offered many innovative interpretations. In some cases, if he was not satisfied with previous solutions to a problem and could not provide a better solution of his own, he preferred to leave the problem unsolved. Only in matters of halakhah did he bow to tradition, as did most of the peshat (contextual) exegetes of the Middle Ages. Like his mentor Ibn Janaḥ, he was concerned with identifying geographical names, objects, flora, and fauna.

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