Chapter

The Tension between Literal Interpretation and Exegetical Freedom: Comparative Observations on Saadia's Method

Haggai Ben-shammai

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195137279.003.0003
The Tension between Literal Interpretation and Exegetical Freedom: Comparative Observations on Saadia's Method

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The exact number of biblical books which Saadia Gaon translated into Judeo-Arabic and interpreted in the same language is still debated among modern scholars. Suffice it to say here that Saadia had other priorities, and even if he had intended to write commentaries on the entire canon of the Hebrew Bible, he would not have managed to complete such a task. It may further be said in general that it is certain that Saadia wrote extensive commentaries on Genesis (the first half only?), Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy 32, Isaiah, Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Daniel, The Song of Songs, Esther, and possibly the blessings of Jacob and Moses (Gen 49 and Deut 33). This chapter examines Saadia's method in his interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, focusing on the tension between literal interpretation and exegetical freedom. Jewish biblical exegesis in Saadia's time is discussed, along with Saadia's exposition of his exegetical principles, the use of the term “zāhir” in Qurʼānic exegesis, and exoteric and esoteric biblical interpretation.

Keywords: Saadia Gaon; Hebrew Bible; biblical interpretation; commentaries; exegetical freedom; literal interpretation; exegesis; zāhir; biblical books

Chapter.  10421 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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