Karaite Commentaries on the Song of Songs from Tenth-Century Jerusalem

Frank Daniel

in With Reverence for the Word

Published in print January 2003 | ISBN: 9780195137279
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199849482 | DOI:
Karaite Commentaries on the Song of Songs from Tenth-Century Jerusalem

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For both Jews and Christians, the Song of Songs posed a special problem. If its Solomonic authorship assured its scriptural standing, its frank eroticism demanded allegorization. In its depiction of love lost and regained, Jews discovered a parable for the historical relationship between God and Israel, one that sat well with such other biblical passages as Hosea 1–2, Isaiah 54:4–7, Jeremiah 2:2, and Ezekiel 16. But the allegory still required interpretation. Determining the significance of its elaborate symbolism and fashioning a coherent reading of the work as a whole would engage many Jewish exegetes in the Middle Ages—and this even before the philosophers and kabbalists began to read the Song of Songs in new ways during the 12th and 13th centuries. Two Jewish commentaries on the Song survive from 10th-century Jerusalem. Written in Judeo-Arabic by the Karaites Salmon b. Jeroham and Japheth b. Eli, both include substantial introductory observations on the nature of biblical song and incorporate full Arabic translations and verse-by-verse exegesis.

Keywords: Song of Songs; Karaites; commentaries; Jerusalem; exegesis; Jews; symbolism; Salmon; Japheth; Middle Ages

Chapter.  10664 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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