Browse results

Robert Jones


This paper evaluates the attitudes toward the contemporary Jerusalem priesthood and cult on evidence in the Visions of Amram. To the extent that this issue has been treated, scholars have generally argued that the Visions of Amram originated among groups that were hostile to the Aaronid priesthood. Such treatments, however, have left some of the most germane fragments unexamined, several of which deal directly with matters pertaining to the cult, Aaron, and his offspring (4Q547 5 1–3; 8 2–4; 9 5–7; 4Q545 4 16–19). My study incorporates these fragments into the larger discussion, and in so doing demonstrates that many of the views expressed in the secondary literature require revision. My analysis shows that, though the social location of the Visions of Amram is difficult to determine, we should not be too quick to dismiss the possibility that the writer was a supporter of the contemporary status quo in the temple, given the elevated status afforded to both Aaron and his eternal posterity throughout the text.

Stefan Schorch


In the 10th/11th century, Arabic became both the vernacular and literary language of the Samaritan community, along with the two languages of the liturgy: Samaritan Hebrew and Samaritan Aramaic; Samaritan Neo Hebrew was also employed at this time mainly for the composition of religious poems. Together with the introduction of the Arabic language, the Samaritans started to use the Arabic script, along with the Samaritan Hebrew formal and cursive scripts. In comparison with the use of the Arabic script, the Samaritan Hebrew script served mostly for more sacred texts or was employed in order to mark certain textual passages with a higher degree of sacredness. Allography of Arabic in Samaritan Hebrew letters is attested in Samaritan manuscripts since the beginning of the 13th century, although it was introduced most probably at an earlier date. This allography is employed mainly for the Arabic translation of the Samaritan Torah, for the Arabic translations of prayers, and for Samaritan Hebrew or Samaritan Aramaic quotes in Arabic texts. The replacement of Arabic by Modern Israeli Hebrew as the primary vernacular among the Samaritans living in the State of Israel led to a revival of Samaritan Hebrew allography for Arabic texts in the 20th century, mainly in festival poems in Arabic language, which are performed at certain occasions, although not all congregants are still familiar with the Arabic language and script. A close analysis demonstrates that Samaritan Hebrew allography of Arabic is the result of an intense contact between two scribal cultures, both of which were well established amongst the Samaritans. The allographic use of the Samaritan Hebrew script for writing Arabic texts originally did not aim to make these texts more accessible to Samaritan readers, but rather was employed to mark Arabic texts as belonging to the realm of the sacred.

Bedross Der Matossian


Armeno-Turkish played an important role in the lives of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. At a time in which more than half of the Armenians of the Empire did not speak Armenian, Armeno-Turkish came to fill an important gap. It led to the proliferation of literacy among Armenians and allowed them to mark and strengthen their ethno-religious boundaries vis-à-vis other ethno-religious groups in the Ottoman Empire, while simultaneously allowing for the crossing of these boundaries which, in general, were characterized by fluidity. The 19th century represents an important phase in the development of Armeno-Turkish. Its development cannot be attributed to one factor; rather to a host of factors that include the impact of the Armenian Zart‘ōnk‘ (awakening), the spread of Catholicism and Protestantism, the impact of the Tanzimat Reforms (1839–1876), the development of Armenian ethno-religious boundaries, and the role of print culture. Finally, Armeno-Turkish raises important questions regarding identity formation, belonging, and cross-cultural interaction.

Tamar Zewi


Saadya ben Joseph al-Fayyumi (Saˁīd b. Yūsuf al-Fayyūmī, Saadya Gaon, b. Egypt 882—d. Baghdad 942) translated the Pentateuch as well as several other parts of the Bible into Arabic in the first half of the 10th century. The translation, named tafsīr by Saadya himself, was transmitted in two versions, one in Hebrew letters, probably intended for and used by Jewish-Rabbanite communities, and another in Arabic letters, probably intended for and used by other communities. Several manuscripts holding a Saadyan version in Arabic letters were used by Christian communities in the Near East. Some of these manuscripts probably reached the Samaritans, or at least one Samaritan community. The main source consisting of the Samaritan version of Saadya Gaon’s translation of the Pentateuch is MS London BL OR 7562. The article discusses the status of this manuscript among the other Samaritan Arabic translations, its characteristics, and demonstrates the reflections of Arabic and Syriac vocabulary in its Samaritan script.

Spanish Islam in Arabic Script

Language, Identity, and Community Boundaries in the Literature of Religious Polemics of the Muslims of Late Medieval Christian Iberia

Mònica Colominas Aparicio


The present study discusses language as a tool of identity construction by Muslims from the Late Medieval and Early Modern Christian Iberian Peninsula who could practice Islam by law in exchange for paying taxes (Mudejars). Their writings, as well as those of the group who were later forced to convert to Christianity (Moriscos), are in various languages and scripts. The Arabic (Aljamiado) used to transcribe Romance is distinctive and abundant evidence of it is left from the later Morisco period. The earlier uses of language by the Mudejars are nonetheless essential to understand how Muslims negotiated their community boundaries within a Christian majority society. My analysis will concentrate on two Mudejar polemics against the Christians and the Jews, which were most likely composed in fourteenth-century Aragon. In these works, approaches to language and the interplay of Arabic—both as a target language and as a script—with Romance escape discrete definitions of religion and culture.1

E. Khayyat


Beginning late nineteenth century Ottoman-Turkish intellectuals fought for an orthographic revolution to change the spelling of the name Türk—which was once used to refer to the “simple folk” or Muslims generally and was written as ‮ترك‬‎ (t-r-k) in Arabic letters—by adding the letter ‘wāw’ (‮و‬‎) to it, spelling the name as ‮تورك‬‎ (t-u-r-k) in print. The additional letter was a necessity in the minds of the revolutionaries to make visible the Turkish nation as opposed to the multitude. The paper interprets these intellectuals’ thoughts and assumptions on scripts, writing and language as they relate to politics and identity and as part of the history of Ottoman-Turkish literary modernity, which would culminate in the adoption of Roman letters in the modern Turkish Republic.

Tzahi Weiss


The Babylonian Talmud contains a tale about the creation of an artificial calf by two sages who dealt with hilkhot yetzirah, or laws of formation (b. Sanhedrin 65b). Already in the eleventh century CE the phrase “Laws of Formation” was being used to refer to the short, enigmatic, and influential treatise Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), which depicts the creation of the world by means of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The connection between hilkhot yetzirah and Sefer Yetzirah is of great consequence in determining the period in which the latter was edited, as well as its reception history.

Rachel Adelman


This paper compares the Babylonian and Palestinian talmudic traditions on the fate of the ark of the covenant—either lost before or during the Babylonian conquest, or buried in the Temple precincts (b. Yom’a 53b–54a; y. Sheqalim 6:1–2, 49c). In the Babylonian Talmud, the ark and the cherubim are described in highly erotic, feminized terms, blurring traditional gender categories of Israel and God. The feminization of the ark serves as a “survival strategy” to counter the defiling gaze of the gentile conqueror, but also preserves the sacred center as a locus of longing for Jews in diaspora.