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Saadia ben Joseph ben Abī yaʿḳūb Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi, Gaon of Sura

Hebrew: סעדיה בן יוסף, גאון, Gaon of Sura
Also Known As: "Saadiah Gaon", "Saadya Gaon", "Sa'adya Gaon", "Saadia ben Josef", "Saadiah ben Joseph", "Rasag", "Saʻadiah Gaon", "سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي‎", "Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi", "Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi", "Saadia ben Yosef aluf", "Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull‎", "סעדי"
Birthplace: Faiyum, Egypt
Death: May 21, 942 (55-63)
Baghdad, Baghdād, Iraq
Immediate Family:

Son of Mar Yosef ben Pinchas, jahābidha al-ḥadra [Chief Abbassid Banker] and 1st Wife of Mar Yosef
Husband of unknown
Father of She'erit ben Sa'adya al-Fayyūmi; Dosa Gaon; Yehuda ben Sa'adya ben Abī yaʿḳūb Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi; unknown and unknown
Brother of ???? bat Mar Yosef ben Pinchas
Half brother of Yosef bar Yosef al-Baghdad, Wakīl al-Tujjār agent of merchants

Occupation: Prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, Sura Yeshiva Chair, and exegete of the Geonic period.
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Saʿadyā ben Yōsēf Gaon of Sura

Saʿadyā Ben Yōsēf, saʿīd ( abī) yaʿḳūb yūsuf al-fayyūmī (269-331/882-942), Jewish theologian, philosopher and philologist who wrote in Arabic, considered through his independence and breadth as the initiator of several Jewish intellectual disciplines, and a pioneer in mediaeval Jewish philosophy; he was one of the very few Jewish thinkers covered by the Arabic biographers (cf. Ibn al-Nadīm, Fihrist, i, 320).

1. Life

He was born at Dīlās in the province of Fayyūm in Egypt, but little is known of his youth except that his father had the reputation of being a scholar. He probably received a solid education in the Biblical and Rabbinical spheres as well as in Arabic culture. Saʿīd began his literary work at a precocious age, writing in 300/912-13 a Hebrew-Arabic dictionary called ʾEgrōn (Hebr. "Collection") (ed. N. Allony, Jerusalem 1969). If the title reminds one of the K. al-Ḏj̲āmiʿ of the grammarian ʿĪsā b. ʿUmar al-T̲h̲akaf̣ī (d. 149/766), its alphabetic arrangement according to the final letters "in order to facilitate the writing of verses" could have been the model for the Ṣiḥāḥ of al-Ḏj̲awharī (d. 398/1007 [q.v.]). Of his K. al-Lug̲h̲a, the oldest Hebrew grammar, ¶ also written at this time, only fragments exist.

In the course of his period of education, he addressed to Isḥāḳ b. Sulaymān al-Isrāʾīlī [Isaac Israeli] (d. ca. 344/955) at Ḳayrawān, a physician at the Ag̲h̲labid court, a philosophical correspondence which did not, it seems, meet with the approbation of this Neoplatonist. In 303/915, he put together his defence of Rabbinical Judaism against the Karaites [q.v.], very numerous in Egypt.

In this same year, Saʿīd left for Palestine [Tiberias], where, according to al-Masʿūdī (Tanbīh, 113), he perfected his education at the feet of Abū Kat̲h̲īr Yaḥyā al-Kātib al-Ṭabarānī (d. 320/932). The latter is also mentioned by Ibn Ḥazm in his K. al-Fiṣlal wa ’l-niḥal, iii, 171, as being, together with David al-Muḳammis and Saʿīd himself, one of the mutakallimūn of the Jews.

In 309/921, very likely with the aim of getting to know the great Jewish academies of Mesopotamia, Saʿīd left for Bag̲h̲dād, stopping en route at Aleppo. In 310/922 he was the main protagonist in the controversy over the calendar, in which the heads of the Babylonian community were in opposition to Aharōn Ben Mēʿīr, head of the Palestinian academy. Saʿīd emerged victorious from this quarrel, which is mentioned even by the Syrian historian Elias of Nisibin (11th century) in his chronology. This victory had a determining influence on his career, since, in recognition of his services to the Rabbanite cause, Saʿīd was elected ʿallūf or master of the Babylonian academy of Pūm Peditha.

Shortly after becoming head of the Sura academy in 928, Saʿadya Gaon wrote to Jews in Egypt that they should send him requests and petitions for the government, which he in turn would pass on to the caliphal bankers “such as the Sons of Neṭira and the Sons of Aaron,” who will procure a response from the Ruler for you with the help of the Lord our Fortress” (Stillman, 1979, p. 37). As in later times, these Jewish courtiers came to play an important role in the Jewish community alongside the rabbinic elite. The tenth-century chronicler Nathan ha-Bavlī notes that the scholars and leaders of the congregation would meet in the home “of one of the greatest of the generation, such as Neṭira or the like” (Stillman, 1979, p. 171). The Arab historian Ibn al-Fuwaṭī refers to Abū Ṭāhir ibn Shibr, who was caliphal jahbadh in the early thirteenth century, as “Head of the Jews of Baghdad.”

A Jewish society in full transition, becoming progressively Arabised and intellectually enriched by new philosophical and scientific disciplines, posed challenges, to which the creative genius of Saʿīd was able to respond. Stopping up the breaches, he consolidated Rabbinical Judaism’s authority, faced as it was with the twin threats of schismatic movements, in part inspired by Islamic heresies, and of Muslim polemics. According to Maimonides, “If it had not been for Saʿadyā, the divine religion might well have almost disappeared, for he made clear its mysteries and strengthened its weak points by spreading it and supporting it by his word and pen” (Epistle to the Yemen, ed. A. Halkin, New York 1952, 64). In 316/928, despite his non-Babylonian origin, he was nominated as Gaʾōn or Chief Scholar of the academy at Sūraʾ (whence the name by which he is best known), and under his direction, this institution enjoyed a remarkable renaissance.

Through political intrigues in which the caliph al-Ḳāhir had to intervene, Saʿīd Gaʾōn was deposed in 320/932, but was restored in 327/938 and functioned in the office till his death in 331/942. During the interim years of isolation, he had devoted himself to his literary work.

2. Works

H. Malter, Saʿīd’s biographer, listed over 200 titles, covering almost all the domains of learning cultivated at that time, such as exegesis, philosophy, philology, law, liturgy, polemics and chronology.

In the legal sphere, Saʿīd was the first Jewish author to have composed his decisions in Arabic. He made the first attempts at codification, in the form of monographs whose structure is clearly inspired by the model of the Islamic fatwās.

His main work in philosophy, and the first systematic attempt at a synthesis between the philosophy of kalām and Jewish dogmas, was the K. al-Amānāt wa’l-iʿtiḳādāt (ed. in Arabic script S. Landauer, Leiden 1880, in Hebrew script, ed. Y. Kafih, Jerusalem 1970, Eng. tr. S. Rosenblatt, The Book of beliefs and opinions, New Haven 1948), written in 322/933. It had a deep influence on Jewish thought, ¶ above all in its Hebrew translation Sefer ha-ʾemūnōt weha-deʿōt, made in 582/1186 by Yehūdāh Ibn Tibbon. Its importance only faded with the appearance of Maimonides’ Guide for the perplexed. The arrangement of the work follows, without becoming dependent upon them in a servile fashion, the five principles (uṣūl) of Muʿtazilī doctrine. Thus Saʿīd adopted the proof of the existence of God by the contingency of the world, whilst he denied atomism, the rational basis of universal contingency according to kalām. His doctrine of the relations between reason and revelation and his rational justification for the dogmas of Judaism became the model for later Jewish philosophers. In it, he attacks, in particular, the Muslim theses concerning abrogation (nask̲h̲) of the Mosaic revelation.

There are indications that Saʿīd had presumably at his disposal the Arabic translation of the doxographical compilation De placitis philosophorum made by Ḳusṭā b. Lūḳā [q.v.]. He seems equally to have utilised the K. al-Zahra of his contemporary Ibn Dāwūd (d. 294/907). In his Tafsīr Kitāb al-Mabādī (Fr. tr. M. Lambert, Commentaire sur le Sefer Yesira, Paris 1891, written in 319/931, Saʿīd, as a true mutakallim, was particularly interested in the problem of the origin of things.

Saʿīd was also the author of the first translation of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic (Tafsīr). Each book was preceded by an Arabic preface, explaining its structure and contents. Faithful to the rationalist tendencies of the Muʿtazila, Saʿīd endeavoured to attenuate the anthropomorphisms. With the accompaniment of a commentary of a philosophical character, his translation became the Vulgate for Arabic-speaking Jews and served as a basis, too, for the Arabic version adopted by the Samaritans and by the Coptic Church. The first published edition, at Constantinople in 953/1546 within the polyglot Sorcino Pentateuch, was the first Arabic text to be printed in the East. The Arabic versions of the polyglot Pentateuch of Paris (1645), with the Latin translation of Gabriel Sionita, and of Walton (London 1654-7), were those of Saʿīd.


I. Schwartstein, Die arabische Interpretation des Pentateuchs von R. Saadia Hagaaon, Frankfurt a. M. 1882

J. Guttmann, Die Religions-philosophie des Saadiah, Göttingen 1882

H. and J. Dérenbourg, Les œuvres complètes de R. Saadia, 5 vols. (incomplete), Paris 1893-9

P. Kahle, Die arabischen Bibelübersetzungen, Leipzig 1904

H. Maker, Saadia Gaon , his life and works, Philadelphia 1921, repr. New York 1969 (exhaustive bibl.)

idem, Bibliography of the works of R. Saʿadyah Gaʾōn , in J.L. Fishman (ed.), Rav Saʿadyah Gaʾōn , Jerusalem 1942, 571-643 + suppl. 644-57 (in Hebr.)

M. Ventoura, La philosophie de Saadia Gaon , Paris 1934

E.I.J. Rosenthal, Saadya studies, Manchester 1943

Saadiah anniversary volume, American Acad, for Jewish Research, Texts and studies, II, New York 1943 (bibl. by A. Freimann)

G. Vajda, Etudes sur Saadia, in REJ, cix (1948-9), 68-102

S. Skoss, Saadia Gaon , the earliest Hebrew grammarian, Philadelphia 1953

Vajda, Saʿadyā commentateur du “Livre de la Création”, in Annuaire de l’EPHE, Section des Sciences Religieuses, Paris 1956-9

idem, Autour de la théorie de la connaissance chez Saadia, in REJ, cxxvi (1967), 135-89, 375-97

idem, in Mélanges A. Abel, Brussels, ii, 415-20

M. Zucker, Rav Saadya Gaon’s translation of the Torah, New York 1959 (in Hebr., with Eng. summary)

R. Ecker, Die arabische Job Übersetzung des Gaon Saadja ben Josef, Munich 1962

Zucker, Saadya’s commentary on Genesis, New York 1984.

(P.-B. Fenton)

¶ Citation " Saʿadyā Ben Yōsēf." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill Online , 2013. Reference. Jim Harlow. 24 January 2013 <>

Saadia Gaon ‫סעדיה גאון‬ - سعيد بن يوسف الفيومي, Saʻīd bin Yūsuf al-Fayyūmi, Sa'id ibn Yusuf al-Dilasi, Saadia ben Yosef aluf, Sa'id ben Yusuf ra's al-Kull רבי סעדיה בן יוסף אלפיומי גאון‎ / סעדיה גאון; Saadia b. Joseph, Saadia ben Joseph or Saadia ben Joseph of Faym or Saadia ben Joseph Al-Fayyumi ( b. Egypt 882/892, d. Baghdad 942) was a prominent rabbi, Jewish philosopher, and exegete of the Geonic period.

Arabic Translation of the Torah

Saadia's Arabic translation of the Torah is of importance for the history of civilization; itself a product of the Arabization of a large portion of Judaism, it served for centuries as a potent factor in the impregnation of the Jewish spirit with Arabic culture, so that, in this respect, it may take its place beside the Greek Bible-translation of antiquity and the German translation of the Pentateuch by Moses Mendelssohn. As a means of popular religious enlightenment, Saadia's translation presented the Scriptures even to the unlearned in a rational form which aimed at the greatest possible degree of clarity and consistency.

The first important rabbinic figure to have written extensively in Arabic, he is considered the founder of Judeo-Arabic literature. Known for his works on Hebrew linguistics, Halakha, and Jewish philosophy, he was one of the more sophisticated practitioners of the philosophical school known as the "Jewish Kalam" (Stroumsa 2003). In this capacity, his philosophical work Emunoth ve-Deoth represents the first systematic attempt to integrate Jewish theology with components of Greek philosophy. Saadia was also very active in opposition to Karaism, in defense of rabbinic Judaism.

Early life

Saadia, in "Sefer ha-Galui", stresses his Jewish lineage, claiming to belong to the noble family of Shelah, son of Judah (see Chronicles 1 4:21), and counting among his ancestors Hanina ben Dosa, the famous ascetic of the first century. Expression was given to this claim by Saadia in calling his son Dosa (this son later served as Gaon of Sura from 1013–1017).

Regarding Joseph, Saadia's father, a statement of Aaron ben Meir has been preserved saying that he was compelled to leave Egypt and died in Jaffa, probably during Saadia's lengthy residence in the Holy Land.

The usual epithet of "Al-Fayyumi" refers to Saadia's native place, the Fayum in upper Egypt; in Hebrew it is often given as "Pitomi," derived from a contemporary identification of Fayum with the Biblical Pithom (an identification found in Saadia's own works).

At a young age he left his home to study under the Torah scholars of Tiberias. At age 20 Saadia completed his first great work, the Hebrew dictionary which he entitled Agron. At 23 he composed a polemic against the followers of Anan ben David, particularly Solomon ben Yeruham, thus beginning the activity which was to prove important in opposition to Karaism, in defense of rabbinic Judaism. In the same year he left Egypt and settled permanently in the Land of Israel.

Dispute with Ben Meir

In 922 a controversy arose concerning the Hebrew calendar, that threatened the entire Jewish community. Since Hillel II (around 359 CE), the calendar had been based on a series of rules (described more fully in Maimonides' Code) rather than on observation of the moon's phases. One of these rules required the date of Rosh Hashanah to be postponed if the calculated lunar conjunction occurred at noon or later. Rabbi Aaron ben Meir, the Gaon of the leading Talmudic academy in Israel (then located in Ramle), claimed a tradition according to which the cutoff point was 642/1080 of an hour (approximately 35 minutes) after noon. In that particular year, this change would result in a two-day schism with the major Jewish communities in Babylonia: according to Ben Meir the first day of Passover would be on a Sunday, while according to the generally accepted rule it would be on Tuesday.

Saadia was in Aleppo, on his way from the East, when he learned of Ben Meir's regulation of the Jewish calendar. Saadia addressed a warning to him, and in Babylon he placed his knowledge and pen at the disposal of the exilarch David ben Zakkai and the scholars of the academy, adding his own letters to those sent by them to the communities of the Diaspora (922). In Babylonia he wrote his "Sefer ha-Mo'adim," or "Book of Festivals," in which he refuted the assertions of Ben Meir regarding the calendar, and helped to avert from the Jewish community the perils of schism.

Appointment as Gaon

His dispute with Ben Meir was an important factor in the call to Sura which he received in 928. The exilarch David ben Zakkai insisted on appointing him as Gaon (head of the academy), despite the weight of precedent (no foreigner had ever served as Gaon before), and against the advice of the aged Nissim Nahrwani, a Resh Kallah at Sura, who feared a confrontation between the two strong-willed personalities, David and Saadia. (Nissim declared, however, that if David was determined to see Saadia in the position, then he would be ready to become the first of Saadia's followers.) Under his leadership, the ancient academy, founded by Rav, entered upon a new period of brilliancy. This renaissance was cut short, though, by a clash between Saadia and David, much as Nissim had predicted.

In a probate case Saadia refused to sign a verdict of the exilarch which he thought unjust, although the Gaon of Pumbedita had subscribed to it. When the son of the exilarch threatened Saadia with violence to secure his compliance, and was roughly handled by Saadia's servant, open war broke out between the exilarch and the gaon. Each excommunicated the other, declaring that he deposed his opponent from office; and David b. Zakkai appointed Joseph b. Jacob as gaon of Sura, while Saadia conferred the exilarchate on David's brother Hassan (Josiah; 930).

Hassan was forced to flee, and died in exile in Khorasan; but the strife which divided Babylonian Judaism continued. Saadia was attacked by the exilarch and by his chief adherent, the young but learned Aaron ibn Sargado (later Gaon of Pumbedita, 943-960), in Hebrew pamphlets, fragments of which show a hatred on the part of the exilarch and his partisans that did not shrink from scandal. Saadia did not fail to reply.

Later years

He wrote both in Hebrew and in Arabic a work, now known only from a few fragments, entitled "Sefer ha-Galui" (Arabic title, "Kitab al-Ṭarid"), in which he emphasized with great but justifiable pride the services which he had rendered, especially in his opposition to heresy.

The seven years which Saadia spent in Baghdad did not interrupt his literary activity. His principal philosophical work was completed in 933; and four years later, through Ibn Sargado's father-in-law, Bishr ben Aaron, the two enemies were reconciled. Saadia was reinstated in his office; but he held it for only five more years. David b. Zakkai died before him (c. 940), being followed a few months later by the exilarch's son Judah, while David's young grandson was nobly protected by Saadia as by a father. According to a statement made by Abraham ibn Daud and doubtless derived from Saadia's son Dosa, Saadia himself died in Babylonia at Sura in 942, at the age of sixty, of "black gall" (melancholia), repeated illnesses having undermined his health.


Some key aspects of Saadia's thinking

  • The laws of the Torah can be divided into two groups.

1. The first set encompasses those laws which human reason immediately identifies as necessary for human society, such as the prohibition against murder. Such laws are common-sense.

2. The second set of laws, however, are far less obvious and their purpose often eludes people. Included among these are Shabbat observance, kashrut, and the laws of family purity.

Saadia tells us that if we examine these laws closely we will discover that they do, in fact, yield benefits for individuals and society, though sometimes these benefits are not immediately apparent. As an example, abstaining from work on holy days leads to more study and the development of family relationships.

  • Free will to make choices.

1. Saadia maintained that human beings possess free will, the capacity to make choices about their behavior.

2. Muslim philosophers at this time promoted the Kallam, a system of thought which denies the existence of free will as an allusion and even denies causality of events in the universe, ascribe all power and will to Allah.

Saadia parted company with Muslim philosophers over the issue of free will, for several reasons.

a. First, if God is the first and only cause in the universe, then there is no difference between the righteous and sinners; all do the will of God. Hence there is no difference between a righteous deed and a sin.

b. Second, if God is fully in control of people's behavior, then it makes no sense to punish one who breaks the law, since s/he is merely doing the will of God.

c. Finally and most importantly from a Jewish perspective, in a universe totally dominated by the will of God, mitzvot have no purpose or meaning, since people are incapable of "obeying" or "disobeying" them. There can only be a commandment if there is someone capable of accepting the commandments.

In an effort to emphasize the role of free will in Jewish thinking, Saadia placed great emphasis on the covenant made at Sinai, in which the Israelites freely obligated themselves to God. Hence Saadia maintained that God created us with free will, a concept that has always been central to Jewish thinking. Source



Saadia translated the Torah and some of the other books of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic, adding an Arabic commentary.

Hebrew Linguistics

  • Agron
  • Kutub al-Lughah
  • "Tafsir al-Sab'ina Lafẓah," a list of seventy (properly ninety) Hebrew (and Aramaic) words which occur in the Hebrew Bible only once or very rarely, and which may be explained from traditional literature, especially from the Neo-Hebraisms of the Mishnah. This small work has been frequently reprinted.

Halakhic Writings

  • Short monographs in which problems of Jewish law are systematically presented. Of these Arabic treatises, little but the titles and extracts is known, and it is only in the "Kitab al-Mawarith" that fragments of any length have survived.
  • A commentary on the thirteen rules of Rabbi Ishmael, preserved only in a Hebrew translation by Nahum Ma'arabi.
  • An Arabic methodology of the Talmud is also mentioned, by Azulai, as a work of Saadia under the title "Kelale ha-Talmud".
  • Responsa. With few exceptions these exist only in Hebrew, some of them having been probably written in that language.
  • The "Siddur": see Siddur of Saadia Gaon. Of this synagogal poetry the most noteworthy portions are the "Azharot" on the 613 commandments, which give the author's name as "Sa'id b. Joseph", followed by the title "Alluf," thus showing that the poems were written before he became gaon.

Philosophy of Religion

  • Emunoth ve-Deoth (Kitab al-Amanat wal-I'tikadat): This work is considered to be the first systematic attempt to synthesize the Jewish tradition with philosophical teachings. Prior to Saadia, the only other Jew to attempt any such fusion was Philo (1989 Ivry).
  • "Tafsir Kitab al-Mabadi," an Arabic translation of and commentary on the Sefer Yetzirah, written while its author was still residing in Egypt (or Israel).

Polemical writings

  • Refutations of Karaite authors, always designated by the name "Kitab al-Radd," or "Book of Refutation." These three works are known only from scanty references to them in other works; that the third was written after 933 is proved by one of the citations.
  • "Kitab al-Tamyiz" (in Hebrew, "Sefer ha-Hakkarah"), or "Book of Distinction," composed in 926, and Saadia's most extensive polemical work. It was still cited in the twelfth century; and a number of passages from it are given in a Biblical commentary of Japheth ha-Levi.
  • There was perhaps a special polemic of Saadia against Ben Zuta, though the data regarding this controversy between is known only from the gaon's gloss on the Torah.
  • A refutation directed against the rationalistic Biblical critic Hiwi al-Balkhi, whose views were rejected by the Karaites themselves;
  • "Kitab al-Shara'i'," or "Book of the Commandments of Religion."
  • "Kitab al-'Ibbur," or "Book of the Calendar," likewise apparently containing polemics against Karaite Jews;
  • "Sefer ha-Mo'adim," or "Book of Festivals," the Hebrew polemic against Ben Meir which has been mentioned above.
  • "Sefer ha-Galui," also in Hebrew and in the same Biblical style as the "Sefer ha-Mo'adim," being an apologetic work directed against David b. Zakkai and his followers.


Saadia Gaon was a pioneer in the fields in which he toiled. The foremost object of his work was the Bible; his importance is due primarily to his establishment of a new school of Biblical exegesis characterized by a rational investigation of the contents of the Bible and a scientific knowledge of the language of the holy text.

Saadia's Arabic translation of the Torah is of importance for the history of civilization; itself a product of the Arabization of a large portion of Judaism, it served for centuries as a potent factor in the impregnation of the Jewish spirit with Arabic culture, so that, in this respect, it may take its place beside the Greek Bible-translation of antiquity and the German translation of the Pentateuch by Moses Mendelssohn.

As a means of popular religious enlightenment, Saadia's translation presented the Scriptures even to the unlearned in a rational form which aimed at the greatest possible degree of clarity and consistency.

His system of hermeneutics was not limited to the exegesis of individual passages, but treated also each book of the Bible as a whole, and showed the connection of its various portions with one another.

The commentary contained, as is stated in the author's own introduction to his translation of the Pentateuch, not only an exact interpretation of the text, but also a refutation of the cavils which the heretics raised against it. Further, it set forth the bases of the commandments of reason and the characterization of the commandments of revelation; in the case of the former the author appealed to philosophical speculation; of the latter, naturally, to tradition.

The position assigned to Saadia in the oldest list of Hebrew grammarians, which is contained in the introduction to Abraham ibn Ezra's "Moznayim," has not been challenged even by the latest historical investigations. Here, too, he was the first; his grammatical work, now lost, gave an inspiration to further studies, which attained their most brilliant and lasting results in Spain, and he created in part the categories and rules along whose lines was developed the grammatical study of the Hebrew language.

His dictionary, primitive and merely practical as it was, became the foundation of Hebrew lexicography; and the name "Agron" (literally, "collection"), which he chose and doubtless created, was long used as a designation for Hebrew lexicons, especially by the Karaites. The very categories of rhetoric, as they were found among the Arabs, were first applied by Saadia to the style of the Bible. He was likewise one of the founders of comparative philology, not only through his brief "Book of Seventy Words," already mentioned, but especially through his explanation of the Hebrew vocabulary by the Arabic, particularly in the case of the favorite translation of Biblical words by Arabic terms having the same sound.

Saadia's works were the inspiration and basis for later Jewish writers, such as Berachyah in his encyclopedic philosophical work Sefer Hahibbur (The Book of Compilation).

Saadia likewise identifies the definitive trait of "a cock girded about the loins" within Proverbs 30:31(Douay–Rheims Bible) as "the honesty of their behavior and their success", rather than the aesthetic interpretations of so many others, thus identifying a spiritual purpose of a religious vessel within that religious and spiritual instilling schema of purpose and use.

Relations to Mysticism

In his commentary on the "Sefer Yetzirah", Saadia sought to render lucid and intelligible the content of this esoteric work by the light of philosophy and scientific knowledge, especially by a system of Hebrew phonology which he himself had founded. He did not permit himself in this commentary to be influenced by the theological speculations of the Kalam, which are so important in his main works. In introducing "Sefer Yetzirah"'s theory of creation he makes a distinction between the Biblical account of creation ex nihilo, in which no process of creation is described, and the process described in "Sefer Yetzirah" (matter formed by speech).

The cosmogony of "Sefer Yetzirah" is even omitted from the discussion of creation in his magnum opus "Kitab al-Amanat wal-I'tiḳadat." From this it may be concluded that he regarded the "Sefer Yetzirah" as presenting one among many competing theories of creation, and not as authoritative. Concerning the supposed attribution of the book to the patriarch Abraham, he allows that the ideas it contains might be ancient, but that grammatical analysis shows that the text could not predate the Bible. Nonetheless, he clearly considered the work worthy of deep study and echoes of "Sefer Yetzirah"'s cosmogony do appear in "Kitab al-Amanat wal-I'tiḳadat" when Saadia discusses his theory of prophecy.


  • ^ Gil, Moshe & Strassler, David (2004). Jews in Islamic countries in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill. p. 348. ISBN 90-04-13882-X.
  • ^ SAADIA B. JOSEPH (Sa'id al-Fayyumi),; Article
  • ^ The traditional birth year of 892 was exclusively cited before 1921 and is still occasionally cited. It rests on a statement by the twelfth-century historian Abraham ibn Daud that Saadia was "about fifty" years old when he died. The modern birth year of 882 rests on an 1113 CE Genizah fragment containing a list of Saadia's writings compiled by his sons eleven years after his death, which stated that he was "sixty years less forty … days" at death. Henry Malter, "Postscript", Saadia Gaon: His life and works (1921) 421–428. Jacob [Jocob] Mann, "A fihrist of Sa'adya's works", The Jewish Quarterly Review new series 11 (1921) 423-428. Malter rejected 882 because it was in conflict with other known events in Saadia's life. He suspected an error by a copyist. 882 is now generally accepted because its source is closer in both time and space to his death.
  • ^ Bar Ilan CD-ROM
  • ^ Scheindlin, Raymond P. (2000). A Short History of the Jewish People: From Legendary Times to Modern Statehood (Illustrated ed.). Oxford University Press US. p. 80.. ISBN 0-19-513941-0, 9780195139419.
  • ^ Laws of the Sanctification of the Moon, chs. 6-10, written c. 1170.
  • ^ Various suggestions have been made as to where Ben Meir got this figure. A contemporary author, Remy Landau, suggests that he wanted to optimize the rule and thereby reduce the frequency of this postponement (The Meir-Saadia Calendar Controversy).
  • ^ Yuchasin, section 3, account by Nathan the Babylonian.
  • ^ Letter of Sherira Gaon.
  • ^ PROVERBS 10-31, Volume 18 - Michael V. Fox - Yale University Press 2009 - 704 pages

Schechter, Saadyana. no. xxxv. The MS. was already out of my hands, when another portion of this panegyric was published by Mr. Jacob Mann (,JQR., N. S.. vol. IX (igiS-igig), pp. 153-160). Mr. Marm dismisses Schechter's tentative identification of the hero of the poem with Saadia as out of£ the question, because in the acrostic of the poem the author styles himself 133T (our teacher) which, had Saadia been the subject of the eulogy, he would certainly not have done. Space forbids to enter here upon a detailed discussion of the new portion of the panegyric. But it may be pointed out that we learn that he had three sons and two married daughters. There were also a brother and nephews, the sons of his sisters, who apparently were con- sidered members of his family." In two passages we are informed that Saadia's wife, " though advanced in years, was still fresh and vigorous and bearing fruit," and the writer expresses his wish that the child to which she was about to give birth should be a son." Now it is known from historical sources that Rabbi Dosa, the only son of Saadia who acquired prominence as a scholar, was born during this period.


  • This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
  • Salo W. Baron, "Saadia's communal activities", Saadia Anniversary Volume (1943) 9-74.
  • M. Friedlander, "Life and works of Saadia", The Jewish Quarterly Review 5 (1893) 177-199.
  • Ivry, Alfred L. (1989). "The contribution of Alexander Altmann to the study of medieval Jewish philosophy". In Arnold Paucker. Leo Baeck Institute Year Book XXXIV. London: Secker & Warburg. pp. 433–440.
  • Henry Malter, Saadia Gaon: His life and works (Morris Loeb Series, Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1921, several later reprints).
  • Stroumsa, Sarah (2003). "Saadya and Jewish kalam". In Frank, Daniel H.; Leaman, Oliver. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 71–90. ISBN 978-0-521-65207-0
  • Wein, Berel (November 1993). Herald of Destiny: The Story of the Jews 750-1650. Brooklyn, NY: Shaar Press. pp. 4–12. ISBN 0-89906-237-7.
  • SAADIA B. JOSEPH (Sa'id al-Fayyumi),; Article
  • Resources > Medieval Jewish History > Geonica The Jewish History Resource Center - Project of the Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry


  • Rapoport, Toledot R. Sa'adyah Gaon, in Bikkure ha-'Ittim, 1828, ix. 20-37;
  • S. Munk, Notice sur R. Saadia Gaon, Paris, 1838;
  • Geiger, in his Wiss. Zeit. Jüd. Theol. v. 267-316;
  • Steinschneider, Cat. Bodl. cols. 2156-2224;
  • idem, Die Arabische Litteratur der Juden, pp. 46-69(comp. Kaufmann Gedenkbuch, pp. 144-168);
  • Grätz, Gesch. v.;
  • Weiss, Dor, iv.;
  • David Kohn, , Cracow, 1891;
  • M. Friedländer, Life and Works of Saadia, in J. Q. R. v. 177-199;
  • A. Harkavy, Leben und Werke Saadia's Gaon, i. (in Studien und Mittheilungen, v.), Berlin, 1891;
  • W. Engelkemper, De Saadiœ Gaonis Vita, Bibliorum Versione, Hermeneutica, Münster, 1897. On linguistics and exegesis:
  • Dukes, in Ewald and Dukes, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Aellesten Auslegung, ii. 5-115;
  • Bacher, Abraham ibn Esra's Einleitung zu Seinem Pentateuchcommentar, Vienna, 1876;
  • idem, Die Anfänge der Hebräischen Grammatik, pp. 38-62, Leipsic, 1895;
  • idem, Die Bibelexegese der Jüdischen Religionsphilosophen des Mittelalters vor Maimuni, 1892, pp. 1-44;
  • idem, Leben und Werke des Abulwalid, 1885, pp. 93-97;
  • idem, in Winter and Wünsche, Die Jüdische Litteratur, ii. 138-141, 243-246;
  • M. Wolff, Zur Charakteristik der Bibelexegese Saadia's, in Stade's Zeitschrift, iv. 225, v. 15;
  • L. Bodenheimer, Das Paraphrastische der Arabischen Uebersetzung des Saadia, in Monatsschrift, iv. 23-33;
  • Schmidl, Randbemerkungen zu Saadia's Pentateuchübersetzung, ib. xlv.-xlvii.;
  • A. Merx, Die Saadjanische Uebersetzung des Hohenlieds, 1882 (comp. Loevy in Berliner's Magazin, x. 39-44; Bacher in Stade's Zeitschrift, iii. 202-211);
  • also the introductions and notes to the editions of Saadia's works mentioned in the body of this article. On the Halakah:
  • the introduction to the ninth volume of the Œuvres Complètes. On the philosophy of religion:
  • in addition to the general works on this subject and its special branches, J. Guttmann, Die Religionsphilosophie des Saadia, Göttingen, 1882;
  • M. Schreiner, Der Kalam in der Jüdischen Litteratur, pp. 5-22, Berlin, 1895 (Thirteenth Report of the Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums);
  • D. Kaufmann, Gesch. der Attributenlehre, pp. 1-90. On polemics:
  • H. J. Bornstein, , pp. 19-189, Warsaw, 1904;
  • A. Epstein, La Querelle au Sujet du Calendrier, in R. E. J. xlii. 179-210, xliv. 220-236;
  • S. Poznanski, The Anti-Karaite Writings of Saadiah Gaon, in J. Q. R. x. 238-276;
  • idem, Saadiah and Salomon b. Jeroḥam, ib. viii. 684-691;
  • A. Harkavy, Fragments of Anti-Karaite Writings of Saadiah, ib. xiii. 655-668. On the Sefer ha-Galui:
  • in addition to Harkavy, Studien und Mittheilungen, v., Margoliouth, Harkavy, and Bacher, in J. Q. R. xii. 502-554, 703-705;
  • Bacher, in Expository Times, xi. 563. Various genizah fragments referring to Saadia have been edited by Schechter, under the title Saadyana, in J. Q. R. xv.-xvi., and also separately, Cambridge, 1903 (comp. Poznanski in Steinschneider, Hebr. Bibl. vii.). Miscellaneous:
  • Poznanski, in Monatsschrift, xxxix., xli., xliv., xlvi.;
  • Harkavy, in Ha-Goren, i. 89 et seq.
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