Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān "Yeshua" ben Yehudah ibn Asad (Qara'im) (c.995 - c.1070) MP

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Nicknames: "Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad"
Birthplace: Jerusalem, Israel
Death: Died in Jerusalem, Israel
Managed by: Jaim Harlow
Last Updated:

About Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān "Yeshua" ben Yehudah ibn Asad (Qara'im)

Jeshua ben Judah (also known as Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad) was one of the most renowned Karaite scholars in eleventh-century Jerusalem. An outstanding Karaite philosopher and Bible exegete who flourished circa 1040-1060, he was a student of Levi ben Japheth, Yūsuf al-Baṣīr, and Abū ʾl-Faraj Hārūn.

Following his mentor Yūsuf al-Baṣīr, Jeshua became a prominent exponent of the Jewish kalām (scholastic theology), which was influenced by the Baṣran school of the Muʿtazila. The philosophical work of al-Baṣīr and Jeshua became the recognized theology of Karaism for many centuries. This philosophy, among other historical and cultural factors, helped to change the polemical style of Jerusalem Karaism from the militancy of the ninth and tenth centuries to the more scholarly approach of the eleventh century. Jeshua, had good relations with rabbinic scholars in Jerusalem and mentions in his writings discussions with them. His extensive knowledge of rabbinic literature (tannaitic, amoraic, and gaonic) is demonstrated by the many quotations (some of them translated into Arabic) in his treatises. Jeshua cites significantly more rabbinic sources than any other early Karaite scholar. The fact that the quoted materials are sometimes accompanied by punctuation marks and accent signs suggests that he had rabbinic manuscripts in his library. Naturally, Jeshua also relied on and quoted from the works of earlier Karaite scholars, and even from Muslim Muʿtazilite sources.

Jeshua was a prolific scholar whose exegetical, philosophical, and halakhic treatises were written in Arabic. In addition to confirming his comprehensive mastery of Karaite and Rabbanite literature, as mentioned above, they testify to his broad knowledge of contemporary science, geography, and Hebrew linguistics. Jeshua composed two commentaries on the Pentateuch in which he also translated the biblical verses into Arabic. His detailed exegesis, known as al-Tafsīr al-Mabsūṭ (The Long Commentary) or al-Mashrūḥ (The Interpreted), includes comprehensive discussions of topics that arise from the cited biblical verses. Only parts of this commentary on Leviticus have been identified so far. Jeshua began his short commentary on the Pentateuch, which is short only in comparison to the long commentary, in 1054, in response to a request by a Karaite dignitary from Egypt. Numerous incomplete manuscripts of this commentary have been preserved, some of them penned in Arabic script with the Hebrew text transcribed into Arabic (see also Transcribed Hebrew texts). Jeshua also composed a long exegesis of the Decalogue, the Tafsīr ʿ Aseret ha-Dibberim al-Mabsūṭ (A Long Commentary on the Ten Commandments).

The important philosophical treatise Kitāb al-Tawriyya (Book of Concealment) by Jeshua questions whether the commandments in the Torah were all set forth unambiguously or whether their real intent is concealed by allusive expressions. Composed in 1046, the Kitāb al-Tawriyya was one of Jeshua’s early works. He also composed an important halakhic treatise on the topic of incest and forbidden marriages, in which he opposed the catenary theory (rikkuv) of incest. This work, known as Sefer ha-ʿArayot (The Book of Incestuous Marriages), was translated into Hebrew by the Byzantine Karaite Jacob ben Simeon in the eleventh century. Portions of the original Arabic version have been preserved. Other works by Jeshua are the Tafsīr Torah Ṣivva Lanu (Commentary on: “He [Moses] Commanded Us a Law”), the Kitāb al-Nudhūr wal-ʾAymān (The Book of the Vows and Oaths), and possibly also a lamentation on the destruction of Zion. The attribution of the lost work entitled Bereshit Rabba to Jeshua ben Judah, not to be confused with the earlier midrashic work of the same name, is probably erroneous.

Ofra Tirosh-Becker

Bibliography

Ben-Shammai, Haggai. “Yeshuah ben Yehudah—A Characterization of a Karaite Scholar of Jerusalem in the Eleventh Century,” Peʻamim 32 (1987): 3–20 [Hebrew].

Nemoy, Leon. Karaite Anthology: Excerpts from the Early Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1952), pp. 123–132.

Polliack, Meira. The Karaite Tradition of Arabic Bible Translation: A Linguistic and Exegetical Study of Karaite Translations of the Pentateuch from the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries C.E. (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 46–53.

Schreiner, Martin. Studien über Jeschuʿa ben Jehuda (Berlin: Itzkowski, 1900).

Tirosh-Becker, Ofra. “A Linguistic Study of Mishnaic Quotations Embedded in Yeshuʻa ben Yehuda's Commentary on Leviticus,” Massorot 7 (1994): 145–186 [Hebrew].

Citation Ofra Tirosh-Becker. " Jeshua ben Judah (Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān ibn Asad)." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2012. Reference. Jim Harlow. 09 July 2012 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/jeshua-ben-judah-abu-l-faraj-furqan-ibn-asad-SIM_0012000>

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Abū ʾl-Faraj Furqān "Yeshua" ben Yehudah ibn Asad (Qara'im)'s Timeline

995
995
Jerusalem, Israel
1020
1020
Age 25
Jerusalem, Israel
1070
1070
Age 75
Jerusalem, Israel