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About Mar Rab Judah 'Hazub' bar Pinchas, Exilarch, Gaon, haSofer of Pumbeditha
Abū 'l-Kathīr Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyāʾ
Abū ʾl-Kathīr Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyāʾ (d. ca. 932) was a Jewish theologian and Bible translator from Tiberias whose main claim to fame is the fact that Saʿadya Gaon studied with him at some point. He is not mentioned in any Jewish source, and apart from the Andalusian heresiographer and polemicist Ibn Ḥazm (d. 1064), who mentions him as a Jewish mutakallim (free-thinking theologian), our main source of information is Kitāb al-Tanbīh (ed. De Goeje, 1894) by the well-known Muslim historian al-Masʿūdī (d. 956). In his brief survey of Arabic translations of the Bible, al-Masʿūdī states that the Israelites rely for exegesis and translation of the Hebrew books—i.e., the Torah, Prophets, and Psalms, twenty-four books in all, he says—on a number of Israelites whom they praise highly, almost all of whom he has met in person. He mentions Abū ʾl-Kathīr as one of them, and also Saʿadya, whose name al-Masʿūdī gives as Saʿīd ibn Yaʿqūb (as opposed to Yūsuf) al-Fayyūmī.
Al-Masʿūdī adds that he and Abū ʾl-Kathīr often engaged in disputations in Palestine and Jordan. These covered a range of topics, but the only one he specifies is the question of the abrogation of revealed laws and the difference between abrogation (Ar. naskh) and changes occurring in the divine will as a result of the emergence of new circumstances. Although al-Masʿūdī does not mention his own view on abrogation, it may be assumed that he subscribed to the general Muslim position, which is that Jewish law was superseded and invalidated first by Christianity, and thereafter by Islam, and that no change in the divine will is implied, since God had decided in advance how long each set of precepts would be in force.
It is unclear whether Saʿadya participated in the discussions with the other the two, but he discusses the issue of abrogation in great detail in his Kitāb al-Amānāt wa ʾl-Iʿtiqādāt (The Book of Beliefs and Opinions), in which he defends the eternal validity of the Torah and refutes, on scriptural grounds, the Muslim (and Christian) claim of its abrogation. The extent of Abū ʾl-Kathīr’s influence on Saʿadya’s thought cannot be established, however.
Abū ʾl-Kathīr’s profession is also unclear. al-Masʿūdī calls him a kātib , which has been variously interpreted as secretary, government official, (biblical) scribe, Masorete, and book copyist. For lack of further information, some scholars have tried to identify Abū ʾl-Kathīr with the Hebrew grammarian Abū ʿAlī Judah ben ʿAllān, likewise of Tiberias, who seems to have been a Karaite. However, al-Masūdī unequivocally describes Abu ʾl-Kathīr, as well as his student Saʿadya, as an ashmaʿathī, that is, a Rabbanite.
Adang, Camilla. Muslim Writers on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible. From Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm (Leiden: Brill, 1996).
Gil, Moshe. A History of Palestine, 634–1099, trans. Ethel Broido (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).
Kahle, Paul E. The Cairo Geniza, 2nd ed. (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1960).
Malter, Henry. Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works (repr. New York: Sepher Hermon Press, 1969).
Citation Camilla Adang. " Abū 'l-Kathīr Yaḥyā ibn Zakariyyāʾ." Encyclopedia of Jews in the Islamic World. Executive Editor Norman A. Stillman. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 28 January 2013 <http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-jews-in-the-islamic-world/abu-l-kathir-yahya-ibn-zakariyya-COM_0000600>
He was the son of Pinchas ben Abdimi and Head of the Sanhedrin; he was deposed by Fatimide Caliph Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mu'izz li-Dīn Allāh (Mu'ezz-li-Din-Allah), who took Jerusalem in 969, Hazub the last legitimate Davidic prince of Palestine in "Seder Olam Zuta".
Beginning 767 CE, Anan ben David, the founder of the Karaite movement within Judaism, emigrated from Babylonia and settled in Jerusalem where he, and his descendants styled themselves "Patriarchs of Israel”, effectively making Jerusalem, the renewed seat of Jewish leadership. They were in constant conflict with the Pharisaic rabbis in Tiberias who sought to undermine Anan's authority. But Karaite authority in Palestine continued to hold out for another 2 generations. While deposed, Mar Rab Yehuda was haSofer of Pumbeditha.
In Tiberias, Chazub was succeeded by Yehudah ben Anan, Musa, and Aharon ben Meir. It was about this time, 915 CE, that the Karaites under Zemach were overthrown and the Jewish leadership, under Aharon ben Meir and his descendants, a branch of the House of David, was transferred from Tiberias back to Jerusalem. Hazub has one son, David )a/k/a Rabbi David).
"Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages",
Volume 28 of Etudes sur le judaïsme médiéval Authors Moshe Gil, David Strassler Translated by David Strassler Publisher BRILL, 2004 ISBN 900413882X, 9789004138827
Mar Rab Judah 'Hazub' bar Pinchas, Exilarch, Gaon, haSofer of Pumbeditha's Timeline