Comparative Semitic Philology in the Middle Ages: From Sa'Adiah Gaon to Ibn Barun (10th-12th C.)

By Aharon Maman; David Lyons | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
MENAḤEM B. SARUQ

10.1 Menaḥem b. Saruq and his opinion on Hebrew comparison with Arabic

Did Menaḥem, in his maḥberet, use comparisons with Arabic for the elucidation of biblical entry words? Discussion of this question has continued incessantly ever since the maḥberet was compiled (around 950 CE). Dunash b. Labrat, his rival and critic, interpreted the term

, which occurred frequently in the maḥberet, as a technical term intimating comparison with Arabic. At the entry (Sáenz-Badillos, p. 113; ibid. 1981, p. 367) Dunash responds: . Dunash reiterates this claim, in his preface to the Hebrew/Arabic comparison excursus appearing in Dunash's response to the entry word (ibid., pp. 88ff.) which reads: (“And if you argue: “What right have we to compare the Hebrew language with the Arabic language?” I respond as follows: “But you yourself have interpreted several words (= in their literal meaning, as they sound in Arabic!).” In his footsteps followed his disciple Yehudi b. Sheshet (p. 43) who also imputed to Menaḥem comparison of Hebrew with Arabic on the basis of the expression . Superficially, this seems irrefutable proof that Menaḥem used the comparison. But Menahem's disciples very soon took up the cudgels for their master, proposing to rebut the criticisms that Dunash had aimed at Menaḥem, they set out to bolster their opposition to the comparison of Hebrew with Arabic: they were thus forced to take up the issue of the term . Their reply is as follows: (the word here signifies “sense”) (talmidei Menaḥem, p. 103). In contra-distinction to the entry words that Dunash and B. Sheshet had singled out as evidence that Menaḥem compared Bib. Heb. with an Arabic cognate, Menahem's disciples adduced other entry words, for which Menaḥem employed the term and concerning which there was no possibility of adducing the existence of an Arabic

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