Academic journal article The Jewish Quarterly Review

Talmudic Methodology and Aristotelian Logic: David Ibn Bilia's Commentary on the Thirteen Hermeneutic Principles

Academic journal article The Jewish Quarterly Review

Talmudic Methodology and Aristotelian Logic: David Ibn Bilia's Commentary on the Thirteen Hermeneutic Principles

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

R. David ibn B ilia, who lived in Portugal during the first half of the fourteenth century,1 can be considered representative of Jewish scientific and traditional learning in the later Middle Ages. Although his biblical commentary Me'or enayim, perhaps his most important work, was lost, many other treatises on a wide range of topics have survived. Ibn Bilia wrote on religious dogma, poetry, logic, metaphysics, biblical exegesis, and even astrological-magical medicine.2 He also wrote a commentary on the thirteen hermeneutic principles enumerated in the introduction to the Sifra.3 Ibn Bilia's commentary on the thirteen principles is one of his most innovative and creative works. It can be found in three manuscripts.4 A critical edition was published by Shalom Rosenberg in 1996. 5 The commentary's originality lies first and foremost in its comprehensive and consistent application of Aristotelian logic to the realm of talmudic-rabbinic methodology.

The thirteen hermeneutic principles were interpreted m a number of different contexts.6 They were interpreted primarily in commentaries on the Sifra and in treatises on talmudic methodology. In addition, they were interpreted in medieval biblical commentaries and in commentaries on the prayers, since the recitation of the thirteen principles is a part of the morning service/ In 1917 Aaron Freimann listed over fifty different commentaries on the thirteen principles,8 but today more than sixty Hebrew manuscripts containing commentaries on the principles are known, although some of them overlap.

Some scholars argued that the intense interest in this subject was rooted in the debates between Rabbanites and Karaites.9 This opinion, however, must be rejected, since it is based on the erroneous notion that only the Rabbanites required principles of interpretation and inference in order to root their tradition in Scripture, whereas the Karaites, who allegedly followed only the plain meaning of Scripture, had no use for such principles. But although the Karaites may be described as scripturalists, this is true mainly for those who flourished between the late ninth century until the middle of the eleventh.10 Furthermore, since the qiycti (inference) played a dominant role in Karaite thought,11 and since the thirteen principles can be considered rules of qiycU, Karaite sages had good reason to be interested in this set of rules. Indeed, the thirteen principles were interpreted by such prominent Karaites Ya'qüb al-Qirqisânï, Judah Hadassi, and Moses Bashyatchi.12 Moreover, most of the commentaries on the thirteen principles were written in times and places where the KaraiteRabbanite debate was not prominent.

The interest of the Jewish sages in the thirteen principles is rooted in their having been perceived as the basic means by which the Oral tradition was connected to the written, or as basic tools by which new laws could be deduced from Scripture.13 Moreover, the principles were widely known from the morning service in which many are phrased in a concise style, which calls for explanation. In most cases, commentators used only rabbinic sources in order to explain the thirteen principles or to give examples of them. This method of interpretation through providing examples can be traced back to the Scholion in the introduction to the Sifra. 14 In fact, most of the commentaries on the thirteen principles are actually commentaries that both utilize and develop the examples given in the Scholion. Nevertheless, several medieval commentators invented new examples. The most creative efforts are by Saadya Gaon (d. 942), the first medieval commentator on the thirteen principles,15 but innovations may also be found in both Spanish and Ashkenazi commentaries, for example in the one attributed to Rashi,16 the one attributed to R. Asher b. Yehi'el, (c. 1250-1327), u the commentary of R. Bahya b. Asher,18 and the commentary of R. David Abudarham. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.