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The History of the Hasmonean Period in the Judeo-Arabic Literature of the Middle Ages / זיכרונות התקופה החשמונאית בספרות הערבית היהודית של ימי הביניים

שולמית סלע and Shulamit Sela
Michael: On the History of the Jews in the Diaspora / מיכאל: מאסף לתולדות היהודים בתפוצות
כרך יד‎ (תשנ"ז / 1997), pp. ט-כח
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23497174
Page Count: 20
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The History of the Hasmonean Period in the Judeo-Arabic Literature of the Middle Ages / זיכרונות התקופה החשמונאית בספרות הערבית היהודית של ימי הביניים
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Abstract

It is common knowledge that continuous Hebrew historiographic literature ceased with the canonization of the Bible. This impoverishment was doubly compounded by the disappearance of the scant historical literature not included in the Bible from the library of the Jewish people. Thus, our main historical knowledge of the Second Temple Period is derived from Jewish literature that was preserved by the Christians in the Greek original or in ancient Latin and Syriac translations. Talmudic literature contains vague allusions to the history of the Hasmonean era, and the few remaining references occur in the context of Jewish holy days (particularly Hanukkah) and the Hasmonean kings. In post-Talmudic Jewish literature, we discern a dual trend: a reluctance to rely on Apocryphal historical descriptions of the Hasmonean era coupled with renewed interest in the history of the period. In this article, I will attempt to describe these two processes from a unique standpoint — the history of the Hasmonean Period in the Judeo-Arabic literature of the Middle Ages. Judeo-Arabic culture flourished at the start of the Middle Ages, when most Jews were living in the Lands of Islam. Evidently, with the transition to writing in Arabic, the two aforementioned trends continued. The present study attempts to demonstrate the obscuring of the Hasmonean Period through the evolution of the story of the mother and her seven sons into the "Story of Hanna", and the "belated return" to Hasmonean history through the Book of Josippon, with an emphasis on its ancient Arabic versions. It also demonstrates how, at least starting with Rav Saadya Gaon, some of our sages incorporated the Josipponic tradition on the false enthronement of Johannan Hyrcanus I into Rabbinical chronological literature. The article discusses how Rav Saadya Gaon's knowledge of the Book of Josippon had a bearing on predating the ur-Josippon to at least the first half of the tenth century. The article refers to the Judeo-Arabic exegesis that made use of the Apocryphal tradition for the Hasmonean Period. Finally, it discusses how Maimonides rejected the attempt to integrate history and Rabbinic tradition, while his grandson, R. David ha-Nagid, wove the Scroll of Antiochus and Apocryphal tradition in the guise of Josippon into a single narrative devoted to the festival of Hanukkah.

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