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Saadia(s), Hag-Gaon

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Saadia(S), Hag-Gaon

(הִגָּאוֹן, the majesty), ben-Joseph Ha-Pithomi, Ha-Mizri, called in Arabic Said Ibn-Jaakub al-Fayumi, a learned Jewish rabbin, was born at Fayum, in Upper Egypt, A.D. 892. His contemporary was the Arabian historian Masudi. Saadia enjoyed the tuition of an eminent Karaite teacher. Salomon ben-Jerucham, an advantage that gave him an enlargement of mind beyond many of his colleagues in the Babylonian schools, though he never embraced the Karaite doctrines, but contended for the necessity of oral tradition. Saadia was distinguished alike as philosopher, Talmudist, theologian, orator, grammarian, and commentator, and, when little more than twenty-two (915), he published his first production, written in Arabic, entitled "A Refutation of Anan," or Kitab ar-rud ila Anan. This work has not as yet been found, but from Jerucham's rejoinder to it we learn that the import of it was to refute Anan's doctrines, and to show the necessity of the traditional explanation of the Scriptures as contained in the Rabbinic writings. "He urged in support of tradition that the simple words of the Bible are insufficient for the understanding and the performance of the law, since many of the enactments in the Pentateuch are only stated in outline, and require explanation; as in the case of the general prohibition to work on the Sabbath, where the nature of the labor is not defined; that prayer was not at all ordered in the Mosaic law, while the necessity of it is referred to an oral communication; that the advent of the Messiah and the resurrection of the dead are based upon traditional exegesis; and that the history of the Jews is derived entirely from tradition" (comp. Jerucham against Saadia, Alphabet 3, MS.).

The rapid stride of Karaism, and the fact that the Karaites were now almost the sole possessors of the field of Biblical exegesis and grammatical research, while the orthodox Jews were satisfied with taking the Talmud as their rule of faith and practice, determined Saadia to undertake an Arabic translation of the Scriptures, accompanied by short annotations. His Biblical works are, תורה תפסיר אל, A Translation of the Pentateuch, which he completed A.D. 915- 920. The commentary accompanying this translation, and which Aben-Ezra and Saadia himself mention, has not as yet come to light, but the Arabic version has been published, first with the reputed Chaldee paraphrase of Onkelos, the Jewish Persian version of Jacob Taus, the Hebrew text, and Rashi's commentary (Constantinople, 1546); then in the Paris and London polyglots, with a Latin version:תפסיר ישעיה, A Translation of Isaiah, which H.E.S. Paulus published from a MS. in the Bodleian Library (Cod. Pococke, No. 32) of the year 1244, under the title Rabbi Saadioe Phiumensis Versio Jesaioe Arabica, etc. (Jena, 1790-91), and which called forth a number of dissertations and criticizms, as well as corrections, as may be seen in Eichhorn's Allem. Bibliothek der biblischen Literatur, 3, 9 sq., 455 sq.; Michaelis, Neue oriental, Bibliothek, 8, 75 sq.; Gesenius, Der Prophet Jesaia, 1, 1, 88 sq.; Rappaport, in Bikkure Ha-Ittim, 5, 32, etc.; Munk. Notice sur Saadia, etc., p. 29-62: - תפסיר זבדר דאאּד (שרה ), A Translation of the Psalms of David, with annotations; only parts of this commentary, which is still extant in two MSS. of the Bodleian Library (Cod. Pococke, No. 281 [Uri, No. 39], and Cod, Hunt, No. 416 [Uri, No. 49]), and in one Munich MS., were published by Schnurrer, Hanneberg, and Ewald: תפסיר איוב, A Translation of Job, with annotations, entitled כתאב אלתַעדיל, The Book of Justification, or Theodicoea; excerpts of this version, and annotations from the only MS. extant (Bodleian Library, Cod. Hunt. No. 511). were published by Ewald: פירוש על שיר השירי ם, A Commentary on the Song of Songs, first published by Isaac Akrish (Constantinople, about 1579); then separately by Salomon ben-Moses David, under the title פרוש רסעדיה (Prague, 1608).

Excerpts of the Constantinople edition, with an English translation. were published by Ginsburg in his Historical and Critical Commentary on the Song of Songs (Lond. 1857), p. 36, etc. From quotations made by Aben-Ezra, Kimchi, Salomon ben-Jermecham, and other Jewish expositors and lexicographers, we know that Saadia also wrote commentaries on other books, as on Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, as well as the Minor Prophets and the book of Daniel. Of his grammatical and lexical works, only that on the seventy ἃπαξ λεγόμενα, entitled אלסבעין לפטה אלפרדה תפסיר, was published by Dukes, and again, with important corrections, by Geiger in his Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift (Leips. 1844), 5, 317-324.

All these works Saadia wrote before he was thirty-six years of age, i.e. between A.D. 915 and 928. So great was the reputation which these works secured for him that he was called to Sora, in Babylon, where he was appointed gaon of the academy, a dignity which had never before been conferred upon any but the sages of Babylon, who were selected from the learned teachers of their own academies. After occupying this high position a little more than two years (928-930), he was deposed through the jealousy of others and his own unflinching integrity. In the presence of an anti-gaon, he retained his office fir nearly three years more (930-933), when he had to relinquish his dignity altogether. In Baghdad, where he now resided as a private individual from 933 to 937, he wrote against the celebrated Masorite Aaron ben-Asher, as well as those two philosophical works, viz. the commentary on the Book Jezira, and the treatise commonly entitled אמונות ורעות, Faith and Doctrine, which were the foundation of the first system of ethical philosophy among the Jews. This latter work, which is intended to demonstrate the reasonableness of the articles of the Jewish faith, and the untenableness of the dogmas and philosophemes opposed to them, consists of ten sections, and discusses the following subjects:

section 1, the creation of the world and all things therein;

2, the unity of the creation;

3, law and revelation;

4, obedience to God and disobedience, divine justice and freedom;

5, merit and demerit;

6, the soul and immortality;

7, the resurrection;

8, the redemption;

9, reward and punishment;

10. the moral law.

The original of this work, entitled ואלאעתקאדאת כתאב אלאמאנאת, sand written in Arabic, has not as yet been published. It is in Ibn-Tibbon's Hebrew translation of it, made in 1186, under the title וְהֵדֵּעוֹת סֵ הָאמֵוּנוֹת, and published in Constantinople (1562), Amsterdam (1648), Berlin (1789), in Furst's German translation (Leipsic, 1845), and in Ph. Bloch's translation in the Judisches Literaturblatt (Magdeburg, 1878), which shows that this treatise is accessible to scholars. Saadia also wrote an Agenda, containing prayers and hymns, which are specified by Fü rst. In the year 937 Saadia was reinstalled in his office as gaon of Sura, and died five years afterwards, in 942. See Rappaport, Biography of Saadia in Bikkure Ha-Ittim (Vienna, 1828), 9, 20-37; Geiger, Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift (Frankf.-on-the-Main, 1835), 1, 182; ibid. (Leipsic, 1844), 5, 261 sq.; Judische Zeitschrift. 1868, p. 309; 1872, p. 4 sq., 172 sq., 255; Munk, Notice sur Rabbi Saadia Gaon et sa Version Arabe, in Cahen's Bible (Paris, 1838), 9, 73 sq.; Ewald u. Dukes, Beitrage zur Geschichte der altesten Auslegung des Alten Testaments (Stuttgart, 1844), 1, 1-115; 2, 5-115; Furst, Bibliotheca Judaica, 1, 266-271; id. Geschichte des Karaerthums von 900-1575 (Leips. 1865), p. 20 sq.; Introduction to the Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, p. 24 sq.; Steinschneider, Catalogus Librorum Hebr. in Bibliotheca Bodleiana, No. 2156-2224; Gratz, Geschichte der Juden, 5, 268 sq., 479 sq.; Bloch, in Gratz's Monatsschrift, 1870, p. 401 sq.; Turner. Biographical Notices of some of the most Distiguished Jewish Rabbis (N.Y. 1847), p. 63-65, 1851-90; Ueberweg, History of Philosophy (ibid. 1872), 1, 418, 423, 424; Ginsburg, in Kitto's Cyclop. s.v.; id. Commentary on the Song of Songs (Lond. 1857), p. 34 sq.; Etheridge, Introduction to Hebrew Literature, p. 226 sq.; Dessauer, Geschichte der Israeliten, p. 278 sq.; Steinschneider, Jewish Literature, p. 84, 125, 131, 132, 135, 159, 160, 165, 166; Schmiedel, Saadia Alfajumi und die negativen Vorzuge seiner Religionsphilosophie (Wien, 1870); Kalisch, Hebrew Grammar (Lond. 1863), 2, 5 sq.; Keil, Introduction to the Old Testament (Edinb. 1870), 2, 383; Bleek, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, p. 1101 sq., 104 sq., 744; De Rossi, Dizionario Storico, p. 97 (Germ. transl.); id. Bibliotheca Judaica Antichristiana, p. 98 sq.; Jost, Gesch. d. Judenth. u. s. Secten, 2, 274 sq., 279, 285, 345; Kaufmann, Die Attributenlehre des Saadjac Alfajjumi (Gotha, 1875); Eisler, Vorlesungen uber die judischen Philosophen des Mittelalters, I. Abtheilung (Wien, 1876), p. 1 sq.; Kaufmann, Geschichte der Attributenlehre in der jü dischen Religionsphilosophie des Mittelalters von Saadja bis Maimuni (Gotha, 1877), and review of this work in Z. d. d. M. G. (1878), 32, 213 sq.; Bä ck, Geschichte des jü dischen Volkes (Lissa, 1877), p. 255 sq.; Theologisches Universal-Lexikon, s.v. (B.P.)


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Saadia(s), Hag-Gaon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/s/saadias-hag-gaon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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