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‘Arabic Composition 101’ and the Early Development of Judaeo-Arabic Bible Exegesis 1

Journal of Semitic Studies , Volume 55 (2) – Jan 1, 2010


Oxford University Press
Copyright © 2010 Oxford University Press
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‘Arabic Composition 101’ and the Early Development of Judaeo-Arabic Bible Exegesis 1


Jewish participation in the culture of the Arabic-speaking world in the ninth and tenth centuries brought revolutionary changes in many areas of Jewish life and scholarship. One of the areas of change was Bible commentary: during these centuries, Jewish Bible commentary as it is known today was created — compositions that proceed verse by verse, elucidating various and varied aspects of the biblical text, including grammar, context, theology, science and philosophy. This essay focuses on one of these innovations, an approach devoting careful attention to the structure of the Bible and emphasizing its organized presentation. One reason for these new approaches to the Bible was the assimilation of new conceptions of authorship and composition in Arabic. Other possible shapers of this approach include particular needs of the Karaite movement and/or traditional masoretic study of the Bible, as well as the requirements of interreligious and intrareligious polemic.
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