Prophecy pp 27-93 | Cite as

The Book of Beliefs and Opinions

  • R. Saadiah Gaon
Part of the Amsterdam Studies in Jewish Thought book series (ASJT, volume 8)


I shall preface this book that has been my intention to write with an account of the causes of the uncertainties that beset men in their quest [for the truth], and the methods for resolving them so that they may achieve their quest.1


Literal Interpretation Divine Command Special Light Reliable Tradition Rabbinic Literature 
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  1. 1.
    Kitāb al-’ A mānāt wa’l-I’tiqādāt, Joseph Kafih ed. and trans. [Arabic and Heb.] (Jerusalem: Sura Press, 1968): 1. The translations from R. Saadiah’s treatise in this chapter are modifications of the English translation of Samuel Rosenblatt, The Book of Beliefs and Opinions (New Haven: Yale University, 1948). I have also made use of the translation of Alexander Altmann, Saadya Gaon: Book of Doctrines and Beliefs in: Three Jewish Philosophers (New York: Atheneum, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For a general overview of R. Saadiah’s activities and compositions, see Henry Malter, Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1921). There is reason to believe that a number of sections, most notably the second (Unity of God) and tenth (Ideal Human Conduct), were initially written as independent treatises.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Harry Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Kalam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 1976). For the influence of Islamic theology on Jewish thought in general, and on R. Saadiah in particular, see Wolfson’s Repercussions of the Kalam in Jewish Philosophy (Cambidge, MA: Harvard University, 1979).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    R. Saadiah devotes the first section of his treatise to this topic. In the third chapter, he attempts to refute the alternative explanations regarding the existence of the world. For a study of the sources for R. Saadiah’s proofs, see Herbert Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God in medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University, 1987): 86–153.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    R. Saadiah divided his treatise into ten sections. The first deals with God as Greator; the second with divine unity; the third with the commandments; the fourth with obedience and disobedience (focusing on human free will, and divine justice in rewarding and punishing individuals on the basis of their fulfillment of the commandments); the fifth with merits and demerits (the different categories of human beings in terms of their level of obedience); the sixth with the soul (a section which forms a bridge between the preceding sections dealing with obedience to the law and the following sections dealing with reward and punishment); the seventh, eighth and ninth with the various forms of reward (resurrection, redemption and the World to Come). In the final section, R. Saadiah outlines the way of life that is in complete harmony with the fulfillment of the commandments and the variety of character traits and aspirations that God implanted in human beings. For his view on the centrality of the commandments, see also his Commentary on Psalms, Joseph Kafih ed. and trans. [Arabic and Heb.] (Jerusalem: American Academy for Jewish Research, 1966): 23. An English Translation of the introduction to this commentary was published by Moshe Sokolow, “Saadiah Gaon’s Prolegomenon to Psalms”, PAAJR, 51 (1984): 131–74.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Ibid. introduction. 4. R. Saadiah’s theory of knowledge has been explored in studies by Israel Efros and Abraham Heschel in JQR, 33 (1942): 133–70, 265–313.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Ibid. introduction. 4. (Kafih, 13; Rosenblatt, 15).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid. introduction. 5.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Ibid. introduction. 6.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid. introduction. 3.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Ibid. introduction. 6. God’s initial revelation was to Adam. Noah too was the recipient of revelation. All people thus at least had access to a reliable tradition traceable to these revelations.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Ibid. introduction. 6.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Ibid. 2.13 (Rosenblatt, 132–133). This passage is reminiscent of Maimonides’ subsequent approach. For a discussion of this issue see my Maimonides’ Political Thought (Albany: SUNY Press, 1999): 225–266.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Ibid. 2.9–11. For a study of R. Saadiah’s purification of the idea of God along philosophic lines see Simon Rawidowicz, Studies in Jewish Thought, Nahum Glatzer ed. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1974): 246-68.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ibid. 5.8; 7.2 This principle appears also in the introduction to his Commentary on Genesis, Moshe Zucker ed. and trans. [Arabic and Hebrew] (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1984): 17f. (Hebrew, 191f.). For a parallel to this principle in Islamic theology, see Alexander Altmann, Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (Ithaca: Cornell Univeristy, 1969): 146.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    A good illustration of this point is adduced by Haggai Ben-Shammai, “On a Polemical Element in Saadya’s Theory of Prophecy [Heb.]” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Thought, VII, part I (1988): 127–46.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    While many of R. Saadiah’s works have survived, and have been published and translated into Hebrew, other works, known from his writings or from those of others after him, are, unfortunately, lost. This loss is in part mitigated by numerous quotes from these works, particularly from his Torah commentary, in the writings of later authors, such as Abraham Ibn Ezra, Abraham Maimonides, Mubashir Halevi, and Abraham b. Sholomo. Yet one should keep in mind that the medievals frequently introduced modifications in passages they cited. Fragments of R. Saadiah’s Torah commentary have been published in diverse sources, while many continue to exist only in manuscript form. Questions of authorship still surround a number of writings attributed to R. Saadiah. It is not certain, for example, that all of the fragments Moshe Zucker identified as belonging to R. Saadiah’s Commentary to Genesis, and published in his edition of this commentary, were is fact penned by R. Saadiah. Some of the passages should be subject to further linguistic and conceptual analysis to establish his authorship. R. Saadiah’s translation, or tafsir, of the Bible plays a crucial role in this endeavor, as do the citations from his commentaries by subsequent thinkers.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3. 6.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    R. Saadiah is aware of the objection that God could have granted us this state without demanding any effort on our part (an apparently preferable situation). Reason judges that one earning some good in return for the performance of work, he argues, obtains a double portion in comparison to one who receives the good as an act of grace. His remarks suggest that it would be unjust for God to grant the same amount of good to one who earns it and to one who has not. God chooses for humans the path that requires greater effort on their part, but also enables them to earn the greater good. The same argument is advanced by R. Saadiah in explaining the afflictions suffered by the guiltless (Beliefs and Opinions 5. 3).Google Scholar
  20. 21.
    It is important to stress that utility is not R. Saadiah’s sole criterion for illustrating the “wisdom” exhibited by these laws. He attempts to show that the performance of the actions prohibited by the laws would result in a type of contradiction. Either they would be self-destructive, contradict God’s purpose in creation, or lead to a contradiction in the soul of the perpetrator. For two alternative views on the relation between these two discussions of the law, see Alexander Altmann, “Saadya’s Conception of the Law”, Bulletin of John Rylands Library, 28 (1944): 320–339; R. Saadiah is aware of the objection that God could have granted us this state without demanding any effort on our part (an apparently preferable situation). Reason judges that one earning some good in return for the performance of work, he argues, obtains a double portion in comparison to one who receives the good as an act of grace. His remarks suggest that it would be unjust for God to grant the same amount of good to one who earns it and to one who has not. God chooses for humans the path that requires greater effort on their part, but also enables them to earn the greater good. The same argument is advanced by R. Saadiah in explaining the afflictions suffered by the guiltless (Beliefs and Opinions 5.3 idem., “R. Saadya Gaon’s Classification of the Commandments [Heb.] ”, in Y. L. Fishman ed., Rav Saadia Gaon (Jerusalem, 1944): 658-73; and Haggai Ben-Shammai, “The Classification of the Commandments and the Concept of Wisdom in Saadia’s Thought [Heb.]”, Tarbiz, 44 (1971): 170-82.Google Scholar
  21. 22.
    See articles cited in the previous note. See also Israel Efros, “The Approach of Reason to Ethics according to Sa’ adia and Maimonides [Heb.]”, Tarbiz., 28 (1959): 325–9. For a study of ethics in Mu’ tazilite thought, see George F. Hourani, Reason and Tradition in Islamic Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1985): 57–117; and Majid Fakhry, Ethical Theories in Islam (Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1991): 31–45Google Scholar
  22. 23.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3. 1. Cf. 3.8; 4.5.Google Scholar
  23. 24.
    This notion emerges from R. Saadiah’ s discussion in Beliefs and Opinions 4.5. He addresses the question why God issued commandments to the virtuous (via revelation) when it was known that they would serve God in any case (via reason).Google Scholar
  24. 25.
    R. Saadiah alludes to this position and dismisses it in Beliefs and Opinions 3. 8. For a discussion of the approach of the Ash’ ariyya, see Hourani, Reason and Revelation, 57–66, 124–34; and Fakhry, Ethical Theories, 46–58. Approach of Reason to Ethics according to Sa’ adia and Maimonides [Heb.] “, Tarbiz., 28 (1959): 325-9. For a study of ethics in Mu’ tazilite thought, see George F. Hourani, Reason and Tradition in Islami c Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge Universi ty, 1985): 57-117; and Majid Fakhry, Ethical Theories in Islam (Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1991): 31-45Google Scholar
  25. 26.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3.1, 2.Google Scholar
  26. 27.
    Ibid. 3. 2.Google Scholar
  27. 28.
    Ibid. 3. 3 (Rosenblatt, 145).Google Scholar
  28. 30.
    Aristotle, Rhetoric 1.13, 1373b. Significantly, R. Saadiah does not argue that the prophetically revealed particulars of the rational laws reflect wisdom beyond that which is possible for conventional laws. He focuses instead on the difficulties of attaining a consensus in this area.Google Scholar
  29. 31.
    The philosophical treatise exerting the greatest influence on discussions of divination in medieval Islam is undoubtedly Aristotle’s Parva Naturalia. For a discussion of the reception of this treatise in the Islamic world see Shlomo Pines, “The Arabic recension of Parva Naturalia and the philosophical doctrine concerning veridical dreams according to al-Risāla al-Manāmiyya and other sources”, Israel Oriental Studies, 4 (1974): 104–53 [repr. in his Studies in Arabic Versions of Greek Texts and in Mediaeval Science (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1986): 96-145]. Pines cites much of the ancient and medieval Islamic philosophical literature dealing with this topic. There is no reason to assume that R. Saadiah was directly acquainted with Aristotle’s treatise. Yet he was probably aware of some of the discussions of this topic in Islamic circles.Google Scholar
  30. 32.
    See, for example, Beliefs and Opinions 8. 7–8.Google Scholar
  31. 33.
    Ibid. 8. 6; 9.11.Google Scholar
  32. 34.
    Ibid. introduction. 6 (Rosenblatt, 29).Google Scholar
  33. 35.
    See Sarah Stroumsa, “The Signs of Prophecy: The Emergence and Early Development of a Theme in Arabic Theological Literature”, Harvard Theological Review, 78 (1985): 101–114.Google Scholar
  34. 36.
    R. Saadiah’s translation into Arabic of the Torah, as well as other books of the Bible, allows us to see how he viewed the correspondence between the Arabic terms and the Hebrew ones. The Arabic term āya normally renders the Hebrew ’ot, though R. Saadiah at times translates the latter term as mu’jiz (for example, Exodus 4:17,30). Burhim corresponds to the Hebrew term mofet in its various senses. ’Alāma is used to translate the term nes (Numbers 26:10), which in the Bible is used more frequently to denote a banner (the biblical term massot, appearing in Deuteronomy 7:19, is rendered in Arabic as ’aliima). Still another biblical term for miracles, nifia’ ot, is translated as ’ajiba (for example, Exodus 34:10). For a discussion of this issue, see Dov Schwartz, “A Note of the Relation between Miracles and Prophecy in Saadia’s Teachings [Heb.]”, Daat, 28 (1992): 117–21.Google Scholar
  35. 37.
    Beliefs and Opinions introduction. 6.Google Scholar
  36. 38.
    Ibid. 3.4 (Rosenblatt, 147).Google Scholar
  37. 39.
    Ibid. 7.1. See also Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 9 (Hebrew trans., 175).Google Scholar
  38. 41.
    Beliefs and Opinions introduction. 6 (Rose nbla tt, 29; Kafih, 26).Google Scholar
  39. 42.
    This position is explicitly stated in a passage cited by R. Saadiah in his commentary on Isaiah 6. See Yehuda Ratzaby ed. and trans. [Arabic and Hebrew], Saadya’s Translation and Commentary on Isaiah (Kiriat Ono: Makhon Moshe, 1993): 165 (Hebrew trans., 263).Google Scholar
  40. 43.
    Beliefs and Opinions introduction.6; 3.5. This passage is cited by R. Judah Al-Barceloni, Perush Sepher Yezirah, S.J. Halberstam ed. (Berlin, 1885): 35. The special light, or Created Glory, appearing to the prophets in order to verify their prophetic experience is also labeled a miracle by R. Saadiah. This phenomenon will be treated in much more detail below. In the Commentary on Daniel 3:25, R. Saadiah maintains that the miracle of the survival of Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace did not result from the cooling of the fire. Rather, God left the nature of the fire as is, but protected them by means of something (an accident) so that the fire would not affect them. He explains that if God had cooled the fire, it would not be considered a miracle, since a cool thing does not burn. The terms for miracle employed by R. Saadiah are āya and ’aj iba. While this approach to miracles appears to elaborate upon his view in the Book of Beliefs and Opinions, it also introduces a subtle and significant change. The miracle does not involve a change in the nature of the substance, but the introduction of something that obstructs its activity. See Joseph Kaifih ed. and trans. [Arabic and Hebrew], R. Saadiah’s Translation and Commentary on Daniel (Jerusalem: Dror Press, 1981): 66, 68. In his description of miracles in the prolegomenon to the Commentary on the Torah he describes miracles as the creation of accidents in a substance or their removal; the annihilation of a substance or its restoration. See Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 9 (Hebrew trans., 175).Google Scholar
  41. 44.
    Beliefs and Opinions 1.3, fifth theory (Kafih, 56; Rosenblatt, 63-4). For the juxtaposition of these two terms, see Wolfson Harry Wolfson, Repercussions of the Kalam, 173-5. Many of Mani’s writings were translated into Arabic well before R. Saadiah’ s period. R. Saadiah’ s summary and critique of Manichaeism may have been drawn from Islamic theological literature. For a description of Manichaeism in the Islamic world, see Geo Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, Charles Kessler trans. (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1965): 127-32, 155–6.Google Scholar
  42. 45.
    Wolfson, Repercussions of the Kalam, 172–5. For a discussion of the denial of causality in the kalām, see Wolfson, Philosophy of the Kalam, 518-51.Google Scholar
  43. 46.
    Ibid. 165–8. For a discussion of the theory of atomism, see Philosophy of the Kalam, 466-95.Google Scholar
  44. 47.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3. 4. R. Saadiah ascribes to many miracles the further function of serving as an instrument of chastisement and punishment, or as a means of protection and bestowing benefits. See Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 9 (Hebrew trans” 175-6).Google Scholar
  45. 48.
    See Michael Schwartz, “Who were Maimonides’ Mutakallimūn? Some Remarks on Guide of the Perplexed Part 1 Chapter 73”, Maimonidean Studies, 2 (1991): 203–4.Google Scholar
  46. 49.
    For a discussion of Al-Nazzam’s view of causality see Wolfson, Philosophy of the Kalam, 559–78. He appears to have influenced R. Saadiah’s thought on a number of other issues as well. R. Saadiah, however, rejects his theory of “latency”. This theory was designed to explain how the infinite may be traversed; see Beliefs and Opinions 1.1. For a discussion of this theory see Philosophy of the Kalam, 495–517. From both a chronological and geographical perspective, there is good reason to hypothesize that R. Saadiah acquired some familiarity with Al-Nazzams views. This well known Mu’tazilite thinker died in 845 in Baghdad. There he had studied under Abū al-Hudhayl, another theologian whose id ea s appear to have exercised some influence on R. Saadi ah’s thought.Google Scholar
  47. 50.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3. 4.Google Scholar
  48. 51.
    Ibid. 2. 10; cf. 8.3.Google Scholar
  49. 52.
    One of the signs is the special light accompanying the angels. See Beliefs and Opinions 2.6. R. Saadiah’s discussion of this issue in his Commentary on Genesis 32:25 is cited by R. Avraham ben Shlomo in his Commentary on Judges. See Joseph Kafih trans. [Hebrew], R. Saadiah Gaon’s Commentaries on the Torah (Jerusalem: Mossad Harav Kook, 1984): 52 n.2. In the Commentary on Genesis R. Saadiah distinguishes between angels whose special appearance serves as a sign of their identity, and angels who appear in human form, thus requiring an external sign to prove their identity.Google Scholar
  50. 53.
    For the notion of rebellious angels in Jewish sources see the references in Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1938): Vol. VII [Index: “Angels, the fallen”]. The early history of this notion has been traced by Paul Hanson, “Rebellion in Heaven, Azazel, and Euhemeristic Heroes in 1 Enoch 6–11”, JBL, 96 (1977): 195-233.Google Scholar
  51. 54.
    Beliefs and Opinions 7. 9. R. Saadiah rejects the notion of rebellious angels also in his Commentary on Job 1∶6. Cf. L. E. Goodman, The Book of Theodicy: Translation and Commentary on the Book of Job by Saadiah Ben Joseph Al-Fayyumi (New Haven: Yale University, 1988): 154.Google Scholar
  52. 55.
    Ibid. 2. 12Google Scholar
  53. 56.
    In developing his position, R. Saadiah overlooks some of the miracles associated with Moses, such as his not eating and drinking during his forty days sojourn on Mount Sinai. In other discussions, this miracle is mentioned as a sign of what awaits people in the World to Come (Beliefs and Opinions 7. 7; 9.5 ).Google Scholar
  54. 57.
    Exodus 8:3.Google Scholar
  55. 58.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3.8 (Kafih, 136-7; Rosenblatt, 64). Rosenblatt, following Judah Ibn Tibbon’s Hebrew translation, translates the last example as: “God created the world without thought”, instead of: “God created the world in a year, non-allegorically speaking”.Google Scholar
  56. 60.
    Deuteronomy 18:20–22; Jeremiah 28: 8–9.Google Scholar
  57. 61.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3.4 (Kafih, 126; Rosenblatt, 150).Google Scholar
  58. 62.
    Ibid. 8.6.Google Scholar
  59. 63.
    See Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken, 1961): 111f.; Joseph Dan, The Esoteric Theology of Ashkenazi Hasidism [Heb.] (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1968): 104–168; Elliot WolfsonGoogle Scholar
  60. 64.
    Alexander Altmann discusses this issue at length in “Saadya’s Theory of Revelation: its Origin and Background”, in E.I.J. Rosenthal ed., Saadya Studies (Manchester: Manchester University, 1943): 4–25 [repr. in A. Altmann, Studies in Religious Philosophy and Mysticism (Ithaca: Cornell University, 1969): 140–60]. Altmann maintained that R. Saadiah drew his conception primarily from older Jewish mystical material. Harry Wolfson continued to view R. Saadiah’s conception within the context of Islamic theology. He points out the similarity between R. Saadiah’ s view of the Created Voice and that of Al-Nazzam, ultimately tracing this view back to Philo. Wolfson also presents the midrashic background, in addition to the Islamic, to the notion of the Created Glory. See Repercussions of the Kalam,87–119.Google Scholar
  61. 65.
    This view emerges from R. Saadiah’s discussion of angels in Beliefs and Opinions 3.4; 7.9; 8.3.Google Scholar
  62. 66.
    Ibid. 2.5–6. See Wolfson, Repercussions of the Kalam, 87–93.Google Scholar
  63. 67.
    Ibid. 2.5 (Kafih, 92; Rosenblatt, 105).Google Scholar
  64. 68.
    Ibid. (Kafih, 92; Rosenblatt, 106).Google Scholar
  65. 69.
    Ibid. 1.3 (second theory). For a study of the notion of spiritual beings see Shlomo Pines, “On the term Rūḥhaniyyāt and its Origin and on Judah Halevi’s Doctrine [Heb.]”, Tarbiż 57 (1988): 511–40.Google Scholar
  66. 70.
    Ibid. 2.6 (Kafiḥ, 93; Rosenblatt, 107). R. Saadiah is also well aware of the doctrine of the Karaite Benjamin al-Nahawandi.Benjamin posits a special angel as God’s intermediary in the creation of the world, echoing Philo’s doctrine of the Logos. In this manner he explains the plural form in God’s speech, Let us make man (Genesis 1:26). See Beliefs and Opinions 5.8. A more detailed attack on this view can befound in a passage identified as belonging to R. Saadiah’s commentaryon the Torah.See Saadya’s Commentary on genesis, 51 (Hebrew trans., 253). M. Zucker cites Qirqisani’s references to this doctrine on page 253, n. *267. I will have far more to say about thedoctrine of a divine intermediary in the creation and governances to this doctrine on page 253, n. *267. I will have farmore to say about the doctrine of a divine intermediary in the creation and governance of the world and its relation to R. Saadiah’s doctrines of the Created Word and the Created Glory in the continuation of this section and in the following section.Google Scholar
  67. 71.
    See Wolfson, Repercussions of the Kalam, 90–1.Google Scholar
  68. 73.
    beliefs and Opinions 2.6. Already in one of his early works, R. Saadiah distinguishes between the light of God and the three men who appear to Abraham, with the purpose of negating corporeality from God. See Israel Davidson, Saadia’s Polemic against Hiwi al-Balkhi (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1915): 68–9. It should be noted thatin this passage, R.Saadiah treats the three men as human beings, and not as angels. In a passage identified by Zucker as part of R. Saadiah’s Commentary on Genesis, the three men are considered to be angelsappearing in human form. See Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 122–4 (Hebrew, 373–6). For the identification of the light with the Glory or Indwelling see Beliefs and Opinions 2.10; 3.10. Cf. Commentary on Isaiah, 165 (Hebrew trans., 263).Google Scholar
  69. 74.
    For a discussion of this point see Rawidowicz, op. cit. (n. 14), 139–165.Google Scholar
  70. 75.
    Beliefs and Opinions 2.10.Google Scholar
  71. 76.
    Ibn Tibbon followed by Rosenblatt translate the Arabic’ arsh as “firmament”. Wolfson and Kafih, on the other hand, translate the term as “throne” and treat it as identical to the previous term in the passage, kursi.Google Scholar
  72. 77.
    Bliefs and Opinions 2.10 (Kafih, 103–4; Rosenblatt, 121).Google Scholar
  73. 78.
    Beha’ alotekha 12:8. See H.S. Horovitz ed., Siphre d’be Rab (Leipzig, 1917): 276. This midrash from Sifre Zutta was preserved in Midrash Ha-Gadol. The latter work was compiled after R. Saadiah and shows some influences of his thought. The midrash, however, presents Numbers 12:8 as its proof text, while R. Saadiah bases this view on Deuteronomy 34:10. For a discussion of Sifre Zutta, see Saul Lieberman, Siphre Zutta [Heb.] (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1968). In Sifre Zutta 12:5, the midrash, based on Psalms99:6, presents the view that just as God spoke to Moses and Aaron from the pillar of cloud, God spoke to Samuel in a similarmanner. In Beliefs and Opinions 3.5, R. Saadiah presents this view and builds upon it in developing his argument.Google Scholar
  74. 80.
    Beliefs and Opinions 2.11.Google Scholar
  75. 81.
    Ibid. 2.3.Google Scholar
  76. 82.
    Ibid. 2.12 (Kafih, 111; Rosenblatt, 129).Google Scholar
  77. 83.
    R. Saadiah juxtaposes his interpretation of “face to face” and that of the seeing of the back in several other writings. See, for example, Commentary on daniel, 134–5. This suggests that he saw no incompatibility in these two views, though he does not deal with the relation between them.Google Scholar
  78. 85.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3.10 (Kafih, 127; Rosenblatt, 151).Google Scholar
  79. 87.
    These problems were probably raised by Hiwi al-Balkhi. See Davidson, Saadia’s Polemic against Hiwi al-Balkhi, 15, 25.Google Scholar
  80. 88.
    Beliefs and Opinions 3.10 (Kafih, 146; Rosenblatt, 177).Google Scholar
  81. 89.
    Ibid. 8.6.Google Scholar
  82. 90.
    Ibid. 9.5.Google Scholar
  83. 91.
    Ibid. 6.3.Google Scholar
  84. 92.
    Ibid. introduction. 5 (Kafih, 17-8; Rosenblatt, 20–1).Google Scholar
  85. 93.
    Joseph Kafih ed. and trans. [Arabic and Hebrew], Sefer Yeżirah’ im Perush ha-Gaon Rabbenu Sa’adya ben R. Yosef Fayyumi (Jerusalem, 1972).Google Scholar
  86. 94.
    An English translation of this work can be foiund in David Blumenthal, Understanding Jewish Mysticism (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1978): 15–44. For a brief description of this work see Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism 75f. Parallels between this tract and the fourth century Pseudo-Clemintine Homilies are presented by Shlomo Pines, “Points of Similarity between the Exposition ofthe Doctrine of the Sefirot in the Sefer Yeżira and a Text of the Pseudo-Clemintine Homilies”, Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 7 (1989): 63–142. The evidence presented by Pines for an early dating of this work notwithstanding, there are reasons to maintain that this work was compiled in the ninth century and should be viewed in light of the Islamic cultural milieu. See Steven M.Wasserstrom, “Sefer Yeṣira and Early Islam: A Reappraisal”, The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, 3 (1993): 1–30.Google Scholar
  87. 95.
    Commentary on the Book of Creation, 33, 139. R. Saadiah does not accept the view that Abraham was the actual author of the text. Rather, he sees the text composed in the period of the Mishnah, and stemming from a tradition that can be traced to Abraham.Google Scholar
  88. 96.
    See Haggai Ben-Shammai, “Saadya’s Goal in His Commentary on Sefer Yezira”, in Ruth Link-Salinger ed., A Straight Path: Essays in Honor of Arthur Hyman (Washington D.C., 1988): 1–9; Raphael Jospe, “Early Philosophical Commentaries on the Sefer Yezirah: Some Comments”, REJ, 149 (1990): 372–81.Google Scholar
  89. 97.
    Commentary on the Book of Creation, 31; cf. pp. 42, 72–3.Google Scholar
  90. 98.
    Ibib. 71.Google Scholar
  91. 99.
    Ibid. 105.Google Scholar
  92. 100.
    R. Saadiah also discusses the notion of “wisdom” in an earlier passage, negating the notion that it is a hypostasis. See Commentary on the Book of Creation, 36f.Google Scholar
  93. 101.
    Ibid. 106. For a discussion of possible sources of this passage see below. I have pointed out the similarity between the description of God’s relation to the world brough here and the ones found in Halevi, Kuzari 4.3, and Maimonides, guide of the Perplexed 1.72 in “Judah Halevi’s Influence on Maimonides: A Preliminary Appraisal”, Maimonidean Studies, 2 (1991): 112–13.Google Scholar
  94. 102.
    Ibid. 108.Google Scholar
  95. 103.
    Ibid. 109.Google Scholar
  96. 104.
    Ibid. 125.Google Scholar
  97. 105.
    Beliefs and Opinions 2.13.Google Scholar
  98. 106.
    R. Saadiah may well have influenced Maimonides’ view of the “holy spirit” as presented in Guide of the Perplexed 2.45. For a discussion of this point see chapter 3.Google Scholar
  99. 107.
    For references to the “holy spirit” in rabbinical literature see Epraim Urbach, The Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs, Israel Abrahams trans. (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1975): 564f., 577f. In some of Urbach’s citations the two phenomena are treated as coextensive, if not identical. In others, the descent of the “holy spirit” is seen as a broader phenomenon, extending also to non-prophets.Google Scholar
  100. 108.
    R. Saadiah may have posited this distinction in order to explain how prophetic types of experiences were attained by those who were not considered to be prophets, particularly the talmudic sages. He refers to the talmudic tradition of the removal of prophecy, an apparent allusion to B. T. Sanhedrin 11a (cf. B.T. Sota48b; B.T. Yoma 9b). Yet R. Saadiah’ s ostensible sources speak of the departure of the “holy spirit” rather than “prophecy”. The distinction between the “descent of the holy spirit” and prophecy is not found in R. Saadiah’s earlier writings, nor in his later ones.Google Scholar
  101. 109.
    This view emerges indirectly from R. Saadiah’s discussions in the Book of Beliefs and Opinions. In 1.3 (eighth theory), he attacks the notion that the heavens are composed of a fifth element. Instead, he treats fire as the substance of the heavens. Both in 4.2 and 6.4, he equates the substance of the stars and that of the angels.Google Scholar
  102. 110.
    Commentary on the Book of Creation, 109. The application of this verse to the notion of bat qol is already found in B.T. Megilla 32a.Google Scholar
  103. 111.
    It is important to note that the distinction between bat qol and prophecy does not appear in the Book of Beliefs and Opinions. Nor does R. Saadiah appear to be concerned with the issue of the manner in which prophecy is received by all of Israel during the time of the redemption. Even in the Commentary on the Book of Creation he brings the verse from Isaiah in the context of addressing a different problem.Google Scholar
  104. 112.
    See, for example, Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:6; 9:23; Numbers 14:10; 14:22; 16:19; 17:7; 20:6; Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 10:19.Google Scholar
  105. 113.
    Exodus 40:34.Google Scholar
  106. 114.
    I Kings 8:11; II Chronicles 7:1.Google Scholar
  107. 115.
    Isaiah 40:5.Google Scholar
  108. 116.
    Isaiah 6:3.Google Scholar
  109. 117.
    Isaiah 60:1; Ezekiel 43:5.Google Scholar
  110. 118.
    For a discussion of shekhinali in rabbinic literature, see Urbach, The Sages, 37–65. For rabbinical references to the idea of the omnipresence of the shekhinah, see pp. 48–51.Google Scholar
  111. 119.
    Scholem, followed by Urbach, argue that the shekhinah in rabbinic literature does not refer to a hypostasis, but to God’s immanence in the world. It is only in the later midrashim, most notably Midrash Proverbs 22:29, that Scholem finds the beginning of a distinction between God and shekhinali. Urbach maintains that even in this midrash, the term shekhinab should not be interpreted as referring to a hypostasis. The question of in terest to us, however, is how R. Saadiah may have understood the notion, shekhinali as it appears in traditional texts, not what was the conception of the sages in the use of this term; see The Sages, 63. See also G. Scholem, “Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der kabbalistischen Konzeption der Shechinah”, Eranos-Jahrbuch, 21 (1952): 58–9.Google Scholar
  112. 120.
    See Guide of the Perplexed 1.21. For a further discussion of this issue see chapter 3, “Prophecy in Part 1 and in the Beginning of Part 2 of the Guide”.Google Scholar
  113. 121.
    Exodus 19:19; Deuteronomy 4:12,33; 5:23; I Kings 19:12.Google Scholar
  114. 122.
    See Urbach, The Sages [Index: “Heavenly voices”].Google Scholar
  115. 123.
    See, for example, Song of Songs Rabbah 1:13; 6:3.Google Scholar
  116. 124.
    See Wolfson, Repercussions of the Kalam, 87–93.Google Scholar
  117. 125.
    Wolfson, Philosophy of the Kalam, 141; Repercussions of the Kalam, 91.Google Scholar
  118. 126.
    For an extensive discussion of the issue of the nature of God’s Word, see Philosophy of the Kalam, 235–78. Wolfson discusses Al-Nazzarrr’s doctrine on pp. 274–6. See also A.S. Tritton, “The Speech of God”, Studia Islamica, 36 (1972): 5–22. The approach of’ Abd al:Jabbar, a younger contemporary of R. Saadiah, has been analyzed in-depth by].R.T.M. Peters, God’s Created Speech (Leiden: E.]. Brill, 1976).Google Scholar
  119. 127.
    See Wolfson, Philosophy of the Kalam, 140–1; Repercussions of the Kalam, 121–3; Pines, “Sefi rot in the Sefer Yezira and the Pseudo-Clemintines”, 129–30.Google Scholar
  120. 128.
    See Shlomo Pines, Studies in Arabic Versions of Greek Texts, 252–5.Google Scholar
  121. 129.
    See F.W. Zimmerman, “The Origins of the Theology of Aristotle”, in: J. Kraye, W. Ryan, C. Schmitt eds., Pseudo Aristotle in the Middle Ages (London: Warburg Institute, 1986): 196–8. The latter source may have influenced R. Saadiah directly. Other views adopted by R. Saadiah in his Commentary on the Book of Creation bear similarity to the views expressed in this treatise. See Wasserstrom, “Sefer Yesira and Early Islam”, 12.Google Scholar
  122. 130.
    The views of the earlier Mu’tazilite thinkers wer e primarily known by means of reports by subsequent thinkers. This indicates the importance of an oral tradition in preserving their views until they were recorded. Works appearing after R. Saadiah’s time also appear to rely on much earlier traditions that may have been known to R. Saadiah. Approximately a century later there appeared a work ascribed to Avicenna, Epistle Concerning Dreams. The treatise deals at length with a divine force that “pervades the whole of the world, penetrating equally all its parts, just like rays of light spread out in the air”. The force at the same time is said to have independent existence. It exercises providence and is responsible for veridical dreams. “Every group and sect designates this force by a different name... The Syrians call it the Word (kalima); it is this [force] which is called in Arabic the Indwelling (sakina) and the Holy Spirit... The Arabs call it the angels”. The ones who receive the force in fullest measure are the prophets. Also partaking of the force are the philosophers and the rulers. For a discussion of this treatise see Pines, “The Arabic Recension of Parva Naturalia”, 104–53. This tr eatise may help to illuminate some of the views we encounter later in Jewish philosophy, particularly by Maimonides. Yet it may also throw some light backwards in time on those of R. Saadiah. The parallels are significant-the identification of the Speech, the Spirit, and the Indwelling with a force found in all parts of the world that is the instrument of divine providence. The force, though omnipresent, exists also as an independent entity. It is responsible not only for prophecy, but also exceptional wisdom (as well as governance). A common source may ultimately lie at the root of these parallels. To these notions R. Saadiah adds those that form the foundation of his approach that is, the visible and audible manifestations of this force.Google Scholar
  123. 131.
    For an analysis of Philo’s Logos doctrine see David Winston, Logos and Mystical Theology in Philo of Alexandria (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1985): Ronald Williamson, Jews in the Hellenistic World: Philo (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1989): 103–143.Google Scholar
  124. 133.
    David Winston trans., The Wisdom of Solomon (New York: Doubleday and Co., 1979): 313.Google Scholar
  125. 134.
    See also Targum Onqelos to Genesis 3:8; 9:17; 21:20; Exodus 18:19; 19:17. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan makes even more extensive use of the term memra in reference to God. Targum Yerushalmi goes so far as to suggest th at the memra was an intermediary in creation too. See its rendition of Genesis 1:27 “ and the memra of God created man in its image”. Altmann regards the notion of the memra as the source of R. Saadiah’s notion of Created Speech; see his “Saadya’s Theory of Revelation”, 157–8.Google Scholar
  126. 135.
    Nahawandi speaks of a special angel who serves as God’ s intermediary in creation and governance. Altmann discusses this doctrine and the relevant literature in: “Saadya’s Theory of Revelation”, 140–142, 154. He argues against the view that this doctrine was the source of R. Saadiah’s notions of the Created Glory or the Created Speech, given the striking difference in the terminology used. However, he sees R. Saadiah’s doctrine of the Created Glory, drawn from the ancient Jewish mystical tradition in his view, as designed to replace Nahawandi’s doctrine. Altmann also rules out Mu’tazilite sources but agrees that R. Saadiah shared a common cause with them in this matter.Google Scholar
  127. 136.
    Siddur R. Saadja Gaon, I. Davidson, S. Assaf, B.I. Joel eds. Jerusalem: Mekitzei Nirdamirn, 1963: 139.Google Scholar
  128. 137.
    See Shmuel Safrai and Ze’ev Safrai, Haggadah of the Sages [Heb.] (Jerusalem: Carta, 1998): 11, 273; see also E.D. Goldschmidt, The Passover Haggadah: Its Sources and History [Heb.] (Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 1977): 44 n.60.Google Scholar
  129. 138.
    For the order of R. Saadiah’ s Writings, see Yehuda Ratzaby’s introduction to his Saadya’s Translation and Commentary on Isaiah, 8. A bibliography of R. Saadiah’ s published works is found on pp. 378–9.Google Scholar
  130. 139.
    Joseph Kafih extracted from R. Saadia h’s Arabic translation of the Torah many of the passages that reflect these concerns and translated them into Hebrew in: R. Saadiah Gaon’s Commentaries on the Torah. For example, R. Saadiah tr an slates Numbers 11:25, And God caused to emana te from the light that was on him [Moses] and cover the seventy elders and when that light rested up on them they prophesied. The term light, nūḥr translates the Hebrew ruah and it clearly refers to the Glory. In tr an slating Numbers 12:8, And the similitude of God does he [Moses] behold, R. Saadiah renders the verse, and the visions of God that were created for him does he behold. See Kafih, 152–3.Google Scholar
  131. 140.
    In the treatise falsely attributed to Bahya Ibn Paquda, Kitāab Ma’ ani al-Nafs, a passage from R. Saadiah’s Commentary on Exodus is cited. This passage deals with God’s creation of sounds and words in the air, which were heard by the people. See Isaac Broyde ed., Sefer Torat ha-Nefesh (Paris, 1896): 68. Geniza fragment T.S. Ar. 46, 247 preserves a passage identified by Colette Sirat as belonging to R. Saadiah’s Commentary on Leviticus. This passage al so deal s with the Created Voice, expanding upon motifs found in Sifra parshat va-yikra (dibbura d-inda va), chap. 2. A French translation of the passage is found in Colette Sirat, Les théories des visions surnaturelles dans la pensée juive du moyen-âge (Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1969): 27–8.Google Scholar
  132. 141.
    Commentary on Isaiah, 195 (Hebrew trans., 300); Commentary on Daniel Google Scholar
  133. 142.
    See Yehuda Ratzaby ed. and trans. [Arabic and He brew], Rav Saadya’s Commentary on Exodus (1998): 392 (Hebrew trans., 220–1). Significantly, in his commentary on Exodus 33:18 R. Saadiah offers also alternate explanations of the “glory” that Moses requested to behold. He indicates that it may refer to all the good things of the world or to all its afflictions; see p. 390 (Hebrew, 217). The “face”, however, is interpreted as the face of the light of the Indwelling (pp. 219–20, 391).Google Scholar
  134. 143.
    Commentary on Daniel, 138.Google Scholar
  135. 114.
    Sec Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 9, (Hebrew trans., 175–6).Google Scholar
  136. 145.
    Ibid. 134. For a further discussion of this point, see below.Google Scholar
  137. 146.
    Commentary on Psalms, 28–9.Google Scholar
  138. 147.
    See Sirat, Les theories des visions sumaturelles, 27.Google Scholar
  139. 148.
    Commentary on Psalms, 24, 53. For a discussion of the polemical contro versy underlying R. Saadiah’s position see Haggai Ben-Shammai, “On a Polemical Element in Saadya’s Theory of Prophecy”, 127–46.Google Scholar
  140. 149.
    At the end of his introduction to his commentary (p. 50), R. Saadiah deals with the notion of the “light of the countenance” of God. Instead of applying it to the Glory, he treats it as a figurative expre ssion denoting God’s quality of mercy or of inspiring awe, depending upon the context.Google Scholar
  141. 150.
    Commentary on Psalms, 27–9.Google Scholar
  142. 151.
    Haggai Ben-Shammai in an unpublish ed talk has identified Geniza fragment T.S. Ar. 33,33 as most of the missing part of R. Saadiah’s introduction to the Commentary on Daniel. He has shown that according to the introduction, one of the primary purposes of the commentary is to attack astrology and to establish prophecy as the only reliable mode of foretelling the future and predicting the tim e of redemption. Another missing part of the introduction, as well as other passages of the commentary not included in Kafih’s edition, has been published by Yehuda Ratzaby, “R. Saadiah’ s Tafsirto Daniel [Heb.]”, Sinai, 104 (1989): 97-108.Google Scholar
  143. 152.
    Commentary on Daniel, 44.Google Scholar
  144. 153.
    Ibid. 120.Google Scholar
  145. 154.
    R. Saadiah explicitly refers to the dreams influenced by one’s thoughts, by food and drink, and by the pains one is suffering. A fuller treatment of this point is presented in his Commentary on Daniel, 42.Google Scholar
  146. 155.
  147. 156.
    Ibid. 160au]157_Ibid. Commentary on Daniel 134.Google Scholar
  148. 158.
    Perush Sepher Yezirah, 20–2. This lost treat ise is not R. Saadiah’s polemic against Hiwial-Balkhi. In the passage brought by R. Judah Al-Barceloni, R. Saadiah cites his earlier polemic aga inst Hiwi in the course of his present polemic.Google Scholar
  149. 159.
    Cf. Commentary on Isaiah, 195 (Hebrew trans., 300).Google Scholar
  150. 160.
    B.T. Berakhot 7a.Google Scholar
  151. 161.
    Perush Sepher Yezirah; 20–1.Google Scholar
  152. 164.
    The anthropocentrism of R. Saadiah’ s worldview is most clearly reflected by his remarks in Beliefs and Opinions 4.introduction. R. Saadiah, however, maintains in 3.10 (fifth objection) that God bestowed a far greater portion of his light upon the angels than upon humanity. This view suggests the superiority of the angels. Abraham Ibn Ezra already pointed to the discrepancy between these two views, as did Mubashir Halevi. See Zucker, Saadya’s Commentary on Genesis, 197 n. 191Google Scholar

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