The Book of Conviviality in Exile (Kitāb al-īnās bi-ʾl-jalwa): The Judaeo-Arabic Translation and Commentary of Saadia Gaon on the Book of Esther

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This volume presents a critical edition, accompanied by an introduction and extensively annotated English translation, of the Judaeo-Arabic translation and commentary on the book of Esther by Saadia Gaon (882-942). © 2015 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. All rights reserved.

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This year's Jupitcr-Saturn conjunction is an astronomical event that has been noted in yearbooks, even though it occurred too close to the Sun to be readily visible. Astronomical conjunctions are often loosely defined. Four questions need to be answered: Which two astronomical bodies are involved? What co-ordinate system is used to define the conjunction? From what, astronomical body is the event observed? Is the event described apparent or real?Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions are among the most impressive such events, occurring about ever)' 20 years and involving the two outermost visible planets. The timing of apparent retrograde motion of the two planets can also produce an apparent triple conjunction, as happened in 1980-81. Triple conjunctions occur at irregular multiples of the conjunction interval. Occasionally a close grouping of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars is also referred to as a triple conjunction. Successive Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions, slightly more than 2-10° apart, develop an interesting pattern as they step around the ecliptic, a rotating triangle with legs about 120° apart. In relation to the fixed stars, it takes about 854 or 913ycars for the event to return to a point near the start of the sequence. Some scholars have given it as 960years. Relative to a processing co-ordinate system, it takes about 800 (794)years. Medieval scholars in Europe and the Near East were impressed by the above conjunction sequence, and tried to relate it to major events in world history. The earliest kno\vn attempts come from 8"' century Baghdad, but their explanation may have originated in Iran (3rd to 7th centuries). It persisted in Europe into the 17'1' century.
This interdisciplinary commentary ranges from early midrashic interpretation to contemporary rewritings introducing interpretations of the only biblical book not to mention God. Unearths a wealth of neglected rewritings inspired by the story's relevance to themes of nationhood, rebellion, providence, revenge, female heroism, Jewish identity, exile, genocide and 'multiculturalism' Reveals the various struggles and strategies used by religious commentators to make sense of this only biblical book that does not mention God Asks why Esther is underestimated by contemporary feminist scholars despite a long history of subversive rewritings Compares the most influential Jewish and Christian interpretations and interpreters Includes an introduction to the book's myriad representations in literature, music, and art Published in the reception-history series, Blackwell Bible Commentaries.
Jewish participation in the culture of the Arabic-speaking world in the ninth and tenth centuries brought revolutionary changes in many areas of Jewish life and scholarship. One of the areas of change was Bible commentary: during these centuries, Jewish Bible commentary as it is known today was created — compositions that proceed verse by verse, elucidating various and varied aspects of the biblical text, including grammar, context, theology, science and philosophy. This essay focuses on one of these innovations, an approach devoting careful attention to the structure of the Bible and emphasizing its organized presentation. One reason for these new approaches to the Bible was the assimilation of new conceptions of authorship and composition in Arabic. Other possible shapers of this approach include particular needs of the Karaite movement and/or traditional masoretic study of the Bible, as well as the requirements of interreligious and intrareligious polemic.
One of the interesting features of the Pahlavi Bundahišn , the great work on cosmogony and cosmology completed in the ninth century A.D., is the manner in which traditional, orthodox beliefs derived from the Zoroastrian scriptures appear side by side with later and even contemporary scientific opinions. While in some parts, notably the astronomical chapter II, the resulting incongruity is undisguised, in others there has been a conscious effort of syncretism. The astrological sections are a case in point.