The Book of Conviviality in Exile (Kitāb al-īnās bi-ʾl-jalwa)

The Judaeo-Arabic Translation and Commentary of Saadia Gaon on the Book of Esther


This volume presents a critical edition of the Judaeo-Arabic translation and commentary on the book of Esther by Saadia Gaon (882–942). This edition, accompanied by an introduction and extensively annotated English translation, affords access to the first-known personalized, rationalistic Jewish commentary on this biblical book. Saadia innovatively organizes the biblical narrative—and his commentary thereon—according to seven “guidelines” that provide a practical blueprint by which Israel can live as an abased people under Gentile dominion. Saadia’s prodigious acumen and sense of communal solicitude find vivid expression throughout his commentary in his carefully-defined structural and linguistic analyses, his elucidative references to a broad range of contemporary socio-religious and vocational realia, his anti-Karaite polemics, and his attention to various issues, both psychological and practical, attending Jewish-Gentile conviviality in a 10th-century Islamicate milieu.

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Michael G. Wechsler, Ph.D. (2006), University of Chicago, is Professor of Hebrew Bible at the Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. He has published several volumes and articles on Semitic Bible translation and Judaeo-Arabic exegesis, including Strangers in the Land: The Judaeo-Arabic Exegesis of Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi on the Books of Ruth and Esther (2010), The Arabic Translation and Commentary of Yefet ben ʿEli the Karaite on the Book of Esther (2006), and Evangelium Iohannis Aethiopicum (2005).
Transliteration Tables

Methods and Themes in Saadia’s Exegesis of Esther
1 The Methodological Framework: Balancing Reason and Tradition
2 Interaction with Rabbinic Tradition
3 Polemics
4 Exploring the Exigence of Dissimulation

Publication History
Written Witnesses Employed for the Present Edition
1 Primary Witnesses to Saadia’s Commentary on Esther
2 Secondary Witnesses to Saadia’s Commentary on Esther:
Judaeo-Arabic Reworkings, Précis, and Citations by Later Medieval Writers

Editorial Method
1 The Basic Text
2 The Apparatuses

Some Methodological Remarks on the Annotated English Translation
Signs, Sigla, and Abbreviations

The Title and the Introduction
1 The First Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-ūlā)
2 The Second Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-thāniya)
3 The Third Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-thālitha)
4 The Fourth Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-rābiʿa)
5 The Fifth Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-khāmisa)
6 The Sixth Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-sādisa)
7 The Seventh Section (al-Qiṣṣat al-sābiʿa)

Appendix, Bibliographical Abbreviations, Indices, and Plates
Appendix: Secondary Judaeo-Arabic Witnesses to Saadia’s Commentary on Esther: Edited Texts of the Reworkings and Précis
1 An Anonymous Condensed Reworking of Kitāb al-īnās
2 A Condensed Reworking of Kitāb al-īnās, Encompassing the Commentary on 1:1–11
and the Introduction, in the Commentary of Isaac Gaon ben Israel on Pārāshat Tĕrūmā (Exod 25:1–27:19)
3 An Anonymous Précis of Saadia’s Comment on Esther 3:1–4
4 An Anonymous Abridged Reworking of Saadia’s Comment on Esther 1:1

Bibliographical Abbreviations
1 Libraries, Institutes, Organizations, and Manuscript Collections
2 Books, Articles, and Works in Manuscript

Scriptural References
1 Hebrew Bible
2 Qurʾān
Rabbinic Literature
Medieval Authors and Works
General Index

The Edited Text
Editorial Introduction (Abridged)
The Judaeo-Arabic Text of Kitāb al-īnās bi-ʾl-jalwa
All those interested in exegesis of the book of Esther, Saadia Gaon, the history of Jewish Bible translation and exegesis, Rabbanite-Karaite polemics, Islamicate Jewry, Islamic-Jewish conviviality, and Judaeo-Arabic literature.
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