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The Hexateuchal narrative arc begins with Abram’s encounter with Yhwh in Shechem in Gen 12:6–7 and ends with Joshua’s covenant at the same place in Josh 24:25–26. These “bookends” make mention of a particular tree in Shechem, which also features in Gen 35:1–4. The inherited Priestly tradition claimed that none of the ancestors in Genesis knew the name Yhwh, but the Hexateuchal editors of the Persian period insist that both El and Yhwh were known in Shechem and Bethel. In effect, these editors defend northern Yahwism against its southern detractors, and resist any supersessionist proposal that would turn the ancestral memories of the Samarian province into mere history. Israel was born in the house of El, and the ancestors of Israel, who came from beyond the riverine borders of the Euphrates and the Nile, had no clear understanding of Yhwh until they set foot in Canaanite country.
This paper examines various ways in which apocalyptic studies can benefit from the introduction of the term and concept of gilayon, a reconstructed Hebrew counterpart of the Judeo-Greek apocalypse. The term gilayon, which combines the meanings of “revealed book” and “book of revelation,” refers to a central image of early Jewish revealed literature and could serve to define an important corpus, the boundaries of which might well overlap with (but still differ from) what is understood by the “genre apocalypse” in modern research. Moreover, this reconstructed concept uncovers additional meanings and associations, which shed light on texts known as “apocalyptic,” and has explanatory power for many phenomena associated with them. The introduction of gilayon may modify the entire paradigm of our understanding of early Jewish mysticism and help to divert the discussion of textual genres associated with it from a phenomenological to a historical route.
The proper place of Judah Halevi’s thought in the initial emergence and subsequent development of medieval kabbalah has been the subject of debate for centuries. The general consensus has it that the Kuzari was not much more than a convenient repository of terms. This study measures the extent of Halevi’s impact on early kabbalah by using the Kuzari’s reasons for the sacrificial rite as a test case.
Halevi offered an exoteric, more rationalistic explanation and alluded to an esoteric one. Catalonian kabbalists in fact engaged for generations with these two reasons offered by the Kuzari, displaying a shared yet variable approach to Halevi’s thought. Unsurprisingly, some grabbed the low-hanging fruit by interpreting Halevi’s esoteric reason, which he refused to disclose, in terms of theosophical kabbalah. More unexpected, however, is the possible conceptual indebtedness of the earliest Catalonian kabbalists, like Ezra of Gerona, to Halevi’s theurgic conception of the commandments and doctrine of the Godhead. Of particular interest, too, is the fact that later generations of kabbalists interpreted the Kuzari using paradigms they also employed in their conceptualization of theosophical kabbalah, such as astral magic or neoplatonic psychology and spiritual eschatology.
Halevi’s work was not simply scavenged for its well-wrought nomenclature. If one looks closely, evidence for the Kuzari’s significant and lasting imprint can be found throughout kabbalah: in the doctrine of the Godhead, in the theurgic conception of religious ritual, in the development of an esoteric interpretation of religious praxis, in the establishment of an esoteric reading of Sefer yeẓirah, and more.
This article examines the way in which Manuel Kalekas describes the procession of the trinitarian persons in one of his earliest systematic treatises. As a member of so-called “Kydones circle,” Kalekas was part of a fourteenth-century group of Latinophrone Byzantine theologians who were interested in ecclesial union with the Latin West and in Latin theological sources. In addition to certain texts from Augustine, during the fourteenth century several works by Thomas Aquinas became available in Greek translation. Kalekas’s De fide is of interest because it integrates conceptual and structural insights from Aquinas even as it draws on Greek traditions from Cappadocia and Byzantium. Although the importance of Aquinas’s Summa contra gentiles for the work of the Kydones circle is often cited, this article argues that Aquinas’s Summa theologiae was also a significant influence for Kalekas.
By the end of the sixteenth century, textual manifestations of kabbalah—a variety of Jewish mysticism that first emerged in medieval Provence and Catalonia—achieved the status of elite but authoritative lore in Eastern and Central Europe, even if at times they stirred religious opposition. At the same time, and especially in the seventeenth century, the so-called practical kabbalah, associated with magic and a talismanic approach to religious ritual, gained substantial popularity among Ashkenazi (i.e., Eastern and Central European) Jews. This study centers on a multiple-text and composite codex, Oxford-Bodleian MS Michael 473, and throws into relief the dynamics of circulation of various kabbalistic traditions in early modern Eastern and Central Europe. By zooming in on a single codex, this article foregrounds the hermeneutic potential of contextual reading of texts in complex manuscripts and of interpreting material choices taken by their cocreators. It does so with a methodological agenda that goes beyond tracing of authorial genealogies, and beyond the sociology of texts and their producers, toward exploring the interpretive relations of literary and material form in early modern handwritten kabbalistic texts. The article showcases a single textual unit, Qabbalat ‘Eser Sefirot, that MS Michael 473 contains, in order to focus on the position of practical kabbalistic texts and practices within the spectrum of kabbalistic traditions of seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Eastern and Central Europe, ushered in by the contemporary modes of reading and transcription of texts.