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Saʿadya's Introduction to Daniel: An Essay on the Calculation of the End of Days according to Prophecy against the Speculations of Astrologers and Magicians / הקדמת רב סעדיה גאון לדניאל: מסה על חישוב הקץ על פי הנבואה כנגד ניחוש הקץ של האסטרולוגים והקוסמים

חגי בן-שמאי and Haggai Ben-Shammai
Sefunot: Studies and Sources on the History of the Jewish Communities in the East / ספונות: מחקרים ומקורות לתולדות קהילות ישראל במזרח
New Series / סדרה חדשה‎, כרך ח (כג‎) (תשס"ג), pp. 13-59
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23415026
Page Count: 47
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Saʿadya's Introduction to Daniel: An Essay on the Calculation of the End of Days according to Prophecy against the Speculations of Astrologers and Magicians / הקדמת רב סעדיה גאון לדניאל: מסה על חישוב הקץ על פי הנבואה כנגד ניחוש הקץ של האסטרולוגים והקוסמים
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Abstract

In this article almost the full text of Saʿadya's introduction to his Judaeo-Arabic commentary on Daniel is published for the first time with an annotated Hebrew translation. The text is based on two long fragments (St. Petersburg, Russian National Library, Antonin 476; Cambridge University Library, T-S Ar. 33.33) and two short ones (Oxford, Bodl. 2486, fol. 1 [previously published in J. Qāfiḥ's edition]; Cambridge University Library, T-S Ar. 26.54 [previously published by Y. Ratzaby]). For much of the text there are at least two witnesses. A central theme of the introduction is Saʿadya's discussion of astrology. He discusses it in connection with the question of the ability of human beings to know the future. According to Saʿadya, the future cannot be known by human means since all human knowledge is based on sense perception. The claim of astrologers to know the future through scientific methods is flawed because astrology has no scientific validity. Astrology is based on historical experience, not on sound theoretical principles. In this fundamental characteristic it is very similar to "lower" kinds of non-scientific magic. The only legitimate and true means to know the future is prophecy, which is revealed by God, who is omniscient. The prophecy that is particularly aimed at conveying to the Jewish people the pattern of the End of Days is the Book of Daniel. Like other introductions of Saʿadya to biblical books, this one too has a distinct polemic aspect. In the Geonic period many Jews in the East were attracted to astrology, and some of them contributed considerably to its development. Many astrological works in Arabic had been associated with the name Daniel, thus confusing the legendary figure of a magician of that name with the biblical character, who was for Saʿadya a true prophet. Deeming this trend very dangerous to basic Jewish beliefs, Sa'adya set out to refute — with its own means and on its own terms — what had been presented as pure science. His goal was to draw a sharp distinction between his version of rabbinic Judaism rephrased in Judaeo-Arabic in accordance with contemporary scientific achievements on the one hand, and complete assimilation of Jews in the cultural environment on the other. To do so he acquired a firsthand acquaintance with the basic terminology and theories of astrology, as is well reflected in his discussion. Saʿadya's seems to be the earliest systematic refutation of astrology by a Jewish medieval thinker, and one of the earliest such statements in Arabic literature in general.

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