In his youth, R. Saadia Gaon (882-942 CE) dreamed of publishing a proper translation of the "Torah" for Arabic-speaking Jews, to replace the overly literal ones in vogue at the time. His dream was fulfilled with the issuing of the "Tafsir", the most important Jewish Bible translation of the Middle Ages. In this monograph, Richard C. Steiner traces the history of the "Tafsir" - its roots, its modest beginnings, and its subsequent evolution. He argues that the first edition was an annotated translation prepared while Saadia was a student in Tiberias and that a page from a copy of it has survived in the Cairo Genizah. Steiner pays particular attention to the history of two innovative features of the translation that were useful in dealing with Muslim polemicists but distasteful to many Jews. These two features, one stylistic and one theological/philological, reflect the intellectual context in which Saadia worked; indeed, they are adumbrated in treatments of the Bible by two prominent Muslim scholars of the ninth century, Ibn Qutayba and Al-Jahiz.
Publisher: Harvard Center for Jewish Studies