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Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 687 


Four years after Saadyah had published his fundamental 
Book of Beliefs and Doctrines (933 C.E.), a Karaite savant 
wrote a work which had a similar tendency, namely, to 
offer some safe guidance amid the numerous religious 
opinions which were then put forth, and some justification 
for the application of speculative reasoning to things 
religious. The name of this Karaite scholar has long been 
known, Abu Jusuf Ja'qub Al-Qirqisani ; but with regard to 
his work, we now for the first time receive reliable and pre- 
cise information. For this we are indebted to the scholar 
who has already done so much towards elucidating obscure 
points in the domain of older Jewish literature, viz., 
Abraham Harkavy, of St. Petersburg. There recently 
appeared in the eighth volume of the transactions of the 
Imperial Russian Archaeological Society a larger work, in 
the course of which Harkavy published a part of Qirqisani's 
treatise in the Arabic original (pp. 279-319), introduced 
by an exposition and review in Russian (pp. 247-278) of 
the contents of this text published for the first time. 
Although I am only partially able to master this introduc- 
tion, written, as it is, in Russian, I yet undertake to give 
wider publicity to Harkavy 's work, and to reproduce new 
and important particulars derived from the text of Qirqi- 
s&nl itself. 

Abu Jusuf Ja'qub Al-Qirqisani — so called after Qirqisan 
or Qurqusan, the ancient Circesium, Karkemish — wrote 
the said work, as Harkavy pointed out before, in the year 
937. He named it The Book of Lights and the high beacons 

688 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

(Kitab al-anwar wal-maraqib). 1 It consists of thirteen 
parts (nbspa), the contents of which we become acquainted 
with through Harkavy's Introduction (p. 249). The first 
part is the portion edited by Harkavy, and will be further 
discussed later on. The second part, consisting of twenty- 
eight, chapters, demonstrates the duty of Speculative En- 
quiry with regard to religious matters, and establishes 
its conclusive power. The third part, in twenty-five 
chapters, deals with the various adverse religious sects 
and their views. In sixty-eight chapters the fourth 
part contains the fundamental principles, leading to the 
understanding of particular religious statutes. The follow- 
ing parts treat of the religious institutions or precepts 
themselves in systematic order : — 

5th. Concerning Circumcision and the Sabbath (40 chap- 
ters) ; 

6th. The nine other Commandments of the Decalogue 
(104 chapters) ; 

7th. Concerning the New Moon and the First-fruits (21 
chapters) ; 

8th. Concerning the Feast of Weeks (15 chapters); 

9th, Concerning the Remaining Festivals (24 chapters) ; 

10th. The Laws of Levitical Uncleanliness in man and 
beast (66 chapters) ; 

11th. On Forbidden Marriages and the Law of the Levi- 
rate (31 chapters) ; 

12th. On Forbidden Meats, Dress, and Seeds, and the 
fringes (42 chapters); 

13th. On the Laws of Inheritance (14 chapters). 

The above shows that the last nine parts of Qirqisani's 
work, to which the first four are a sort of general introduc- 

1 Hadassi mentions a D*3¥Jn 'D of Qirqisani (vide Pinsker, Lib hadin. 

I. 169), but D'OMD is only an erroneous rendering of "IK13N7N 3NDD, as 
"IX13N in Arabic means " lights " as well as " flowers." The proper render- 
ing would be D'HIKD 'D, as Levi b. Jepheth names the work (». Pinsker, 

II. 90, 193). The book was briefly quoted as IXUK^N 2ND3 (without 
3pN"ID?N1), vide Neubauer, Aus der Petenburger BiHwthek (1866), p. 114. 

Qirqis&ni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 689 

tion, form collectively a Book of Precepts, and this may 
probably be the msan ISD, attributed to our author. The 
MS., Or. 2526 of the British Museum, contains the twelfth 
Maqala (Part) and portions of the fifth and ninth Maqala 
of the m^nn "iSD (vide Margoliouth Descriptive List, etc., 
p. 42); Or. 2578 contain portions of the eleventh and 
twelfth ; Or. 2579 portions of the fifth and sixth parts. 
Or. 2525 of the British Museum contains " an abstract of 
the miStt "ISD of Abu Jusuf Jakub Al-Kirkisani " (v. Mar- 
goliouth, p. 42). 

According to information received from Professor 
Biichler, the MS. contains an explanation of the com- 
mandments of the Decalogue ; and this would, accordingly 
be the sixth part of the Kitab al-Anwar. Finally, in 
Margoliouth's Catalogue, we find the contents of Or. 2524 
thus: "Two fragments of a mi2» ISD, probably by Jakub 
al-Kirkisani, containing refutations of the Christians, 
Mohammedans, and of several individual writers." The 
contents contradict the title Book of Precepts. As a matter 
of fact the title misan 'D never appears, as I was in- 
formed by Professor Biichler (Vide Revue des Etudes Juives, 
XXVI., 311). It contains a number of chapters (nwa), 
marked as those from the seventh to the twenty -third. 
Also the end of the sixth chapter is preserved. The six- 
teenth chapter (v"b« 2N±>S) finds a place in H. Hirsch- 
feld's Arabic Chrestomathy (London, 1892), pp. 116-121 ; and 
when Dr. Hirsehfeld styles the MS. as the Sefer Eammizvoth 
of Jaqub Qirqis&ni, he but follows the designation adopted in 
the official Catalogue of the British Museum : this was un- 
known to me at the time I reviewed the said Chrestomathy 
(Revue des Etudes Juives, XXV. 155). M. Hartwig Deren- 
bourg styles the contents of the MS., " Fragments of a 
•p-rbN bl^M 2NrD Karaite en arabe " (Revue des Etudes Jukes, 
XXIII. 284), without mentioning Qirqisani as the author. 
Now, as we have a means of learning through Harkavy 
the divisions of Qirqisani's work, we are in a position to 
make the statement beyond doubt, that the MS. Or. 2524 

690 The Jewish Quarterly Revieiv. 

of the British Museum contains the greater portion of the 
third part of the Kitab al-anwar (ie., of the twenty-five 
chapters of this part, the sixth to the twenty-third). This 
part is of a polemic nature, and can therefore not properly 
be styled ■ji'fbN blSN 2WD ; and yet this description even 
would be more appropriate for it than that of mison "iDD. 
Really, if any part of Qirqisani's work might be called 
dogmatic (T^N bl2N '3), it would rather be the second 
part, or even the fourth, according to the division given 

In addition to the Kitab al-anwar wal-maraqib, the Im- 
perial Library of St. Petersburg possesses also an exegetic 
work by Qirqisani, viz., Kitab ar-riyad wal-hadaiq" 
(p^Sinbsi V'N'nbH 2Nri5), "The Book of Fields and Gar- 
dens." It is a commentary upon those portions of the 
Pentateuch not devoted to the laws, and is consequently 
supplementary to those portions of the chief work dealing 
with the laws of the Pentateuch. Harkavy cites (p. 250, 
note 1) an interesting passage from this work, bearing 
upon Gen. ix. 27. Qirqisani there gives an explanation to 
the words dt£7 ">VnM2 pttPI, which makes them refer to the 
conversion of the Chazars to Judaism (-if^N i^M 3?An "fb^- 
n1nn p^s). The MS., Or. 2492, of the British Museum 
contains the said portion of this work upon the first two 
pericopes (v. Margoliouth, p. 24; Derenbourg, Revue des 
Etudes Juives, XXIII. 282). 

As Harkavy deduces from quotations occurring in the 
two works which have been preserved, Qirqisani was 
also the author of the following works: — Commentaries 
to Job and Ecclesiastes ; a book on the Unity of God 
(TfTiribN 2NrD) ; a work on the translation of the Bible 

CrnorinbH "bv Vipbw ••a nsro)- 

In the introductory part of his chief work, Qirqisani 
gives a survey of the Jewish sects as they existed in 
ancient times, and also in his own times. This knowledge 
is now made available to all those acquainted with Arabic 
by the excellent edition of Harkavy. Much of that which 

Qirqisani, the Karaite, and the Work on Jewish Sects. 691 

■we read here concerning the various sects and their doc- 
trines has long been known ; but even these data acquire a 
new charm, and further corroboration, when read in the 
context of an original work devoted exclusively to the 
subject in question, composed by one who spoke from 
experience, or who was in a position to obtain his 
materials from ancient documents now lost. Add to this 
that Qirqisani, notwithstanding his Karaite proclivities 
and consequent prejudice against the Rabbis, makes upon 
us the impression of an objective compiler and chronicler, 
who devotes to the subjects he represents a lively interest, 
and conceals nothing which might be of importance. 
At the end of the first chapter, (which, by the way, serves 
as an introduction to the entire work,) he makes the asser- 
tion that he has drawn his materials, not alone from the 
works of his predecessors, but also from his personal 
experience among the learned societies in which he moved, 
and, in the case of such meetings as he did not attend, 
from the verbal reports of its proceedings (pio niJVa N»» 

unmsn >rb& Db«2»b« s o ni «»» n±yzi mnn p ana ^o 
wmsns nb sna "b« TirDH Nai> P- 280 > l - 23-25). 

It is specially interesting to hear what Qirqisani has to 
say regarding the remnants of ancient sects extant in his 
days. The 'Ananites, says he, are very few, and gradually 
decreasing. Only about twenty persons are living at 
Damascus of the adherents of Abu. 'Isa Isfahan! Of the 
Judganites, only few are extant at Isfahan (317, 4-7). 
Not one of the adherents of Ismail the 'Okbarite remains 
at the present day (317, 3). On the other hand, some of 
the followers of Meshuje are to be found in 'Okbara, named 
after their founder; but among them are no persons of 
culture or of speculative turn of mind in religious matters 
(285, 17). The followers of Malik of Ramla are still 
called Rarolites or Malikites (285, 13); while those of 
Abu 'Imran Musa Tiflisi are yet to be found in Tiflis, 
Armenia (285, 11). 

More interesting, however, is the picture which Qirqisani 

692 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

unfolds of the conditions existing in his time within the 
folds of the Karaites themselves. In the last chapter he 
gives so vivid and drastic a picture of the dissensions 
reigning among them in matters of greater or minor im- 
portance, as regards doctrine and practice, that, did we not 
know the portraiture proceeded from the pen of Qirqisani, 
so zealous a Karaite, we might be inclined to put it down 
as a lampoon directed by some opponent in the ranks of 
the Rabbins. He takes occasion to point out their doctrinal 
and ritual differences as he observed them at different 
places— in Bagdad (317, 20; 318, 5 ; 319, 8) ; Tuster (317, 
23, 26; 319, 10); Basra (318, 25, 34; 319, 10); Persia (318, 
25); Chor&san (319, 2); Gebal (319, 4); and Syria (319, 
1) ; and he closes the long list of examples illustrative of the 
differences and doubtfulness existing among Karaites with 
the following words: — "Things are becoming worse day 
by day " (rnsn >*} DV \>2 lasbsi, 319, 24). In another 
passage (285, 23) he says in this connection : — " You can 
scarcely meet two Karaites of one and the same mind in all 
matters : upon one point or another everyone has an opinion 
different from that of the rest." It is worthy of note to 
remark the point to which Qirqisani once takes the oppor- 
tunity of referring, namely, the want of attention among the 
Karaites to the Rabbinic literature — he means the Midrash. 
" Had the Karaites," he says, " obtained an insight into the 
flaws and discrepancies which disfigure this branch of litera- 
ture they would have rendered the task of controversy with 
the Rabbis a much easier one." " It is only of late," he 
continues, " that some few among them occupy themselves 
with the study of that literature, and they soon light upon 
the weaknesses and contradictions referred to " (296, 3-6. 
In line 3, instead of nb'ONpM, read DnVONpN). 

With remarkable candour does Qirqisani lash the petty 
and selfish motives which often prompted the Karaite 
teachers in the expression of their opinions. In the first 
chapter, Qirqisani sketches the character of Daniel al- 
Damegani, also called Daniel al-Qumisi (">D»pbN), as the 

Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 693 

latest founder of a sect. He treats of him specially later on, 
in the eighteenth chapter. On the one hand he praises him 
as a person than whom no one was more honest and 
unreserved in the frank avowal of the results of his 
speculations in religious matters. He reports of him that 
he was in the habit of furnishing his followers who pos- 
sessed copies of his works with verbal instructions con- 
cerning alterations which they were to mark in them in 
the event of any change which his opinions had undergone 
since the time his works first appeared. But, on the other 
hand, he reproaches Daniel Qumisi for his unbounded 
hatred of the 'Ananites. At an earlier period, so Qirqisani 
relates, he used to style 'Anan D^botPan ttJN") ; but later on 
he never spoke of him else than as D^DSn tPWi. This, he 
concludes, is one of the great scourges which is rife 
among our people, viz., the way they attack and bear 
hatred against one another. The motive in most instances 
is jealousy and ambition (lonbs "frr *b? urbarv SO "VOW 
nosnbs rfcai. 280, 21). 

In the same introductory chapter, 1 Qirqisani directs 
his remarks also against those Karaites, who, like those 
residing in Tuster (Schuster, the ancient Susa), appear to 
accept the fundamental principle of Karaism, viz., in- 
dependent enquiry and research, while in reality they find 
fault with the rational perception, viz., that of the demon- 
strative sciences, whether it be in Dialectics or Philosophy. 2 
They adopt this course, says Qirqisani, partly through 
dulness of the intellect and the difficulty of this sort of 
speculative enquiry, and partly through their insisting 
upon the idea that the application of the speculative 
methods of philosophy to religious matters is fraught with 
danger to their convictions. Our author cites also the said 

1 The beginning of the chapter, and consequently of the entire work, 
has, unfortunately, not been preserved. 

(279.15) iTBD^N «»W rrVlifot. 

694 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Daniel al-Qumisi as an example of an opponent to ratio- 
nalism as applied to religion. He decisively combats the idea 
that reason opposes religious belief, and asks : Are there 
not many, who are not alone not weakened, but even 
strengthened in their faith by such knowledge, while many 
apostatise from their faith and become the worst heretics, 
who have kept aloof from rationalistic knowledge. Ratio- 
nalism, says Qirqisani — and this he wishes to prove in his 
work — is the foundation upon which every article of faith 
is based, and from which every knowledge flows (280, 7 : 

He proceeds from a similar point of view as Saadyah in 
his chief philosophical work : and it is a particular worth 
mentioning, that the same verse, Psalm cxix. 18, with 
which Saadyah begins his introduction, is employed by 
Qirqisani at the end of his introductory chapter (280, 30). 

A large portion of Qirqisani's history of the sects is 
devoted to polemics against the Rabbins. He regards these 
as a sect of Jews which sprang up at the time of the 
Second Temple. The real founder, however, of the school of 
thought introduced by the Rabbis, was no other than King 
Jeroboam I. He was " the first who brought dissension 
into the religious camp, and sowed the seeds of rebellion 
in Israel," " who altered the precepts of religion, and fal- 
sified them." We cannot here reproduce (as it would exceed 
the limits of this article) the reasoning by means of which 
Qirqisani brings out this idea of identifying the principles 
of Rabbinism, as they appeared to a Karaite, with those of 
the seceding king, who was by no means an idolator 
(Vide p. 281, 1—282, 5 ; 286, 1-5). After giving in the 
second chapter a survey of the sects afterwards to be dealt 
with in detail (282, 16 — 285, 25), Qirqisani devotes two 
long chapters (3rd, p. 285-297 ; 4th, 297-303) to the expla- 
nation of the points of difference between Rabbinism and 
the other Jewish sects. In the former chapter, he enu- 
merates over sixty particulars, mostly of Halacha, in which 
the tradition of the Rabbis deviates from the proper 

Qirqisani, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 695 

explanation of Holy Writ, or in which it contradicts itself. 
At the head of this list, he places the reproach that the 
Rabbis in their work Shiur K&ma, TTOyp "WW, represent 
God as a body (286, 8). A. few more of these faults found 
with the Rabbis are : — that they do not pray the Psalms 
of David, but prayers composed by themselves, though in 
beginning their prayers they say, 1*132 Tl"0 ~i""D "itffM 
IttHp *TEn mm ; 1 that the Psalms which they do adopt, 
they do not rehearse as prayers, but in a sitting posture, 
as though they were reading (286, 22 ; 287, 4) ; that they 
bow at the end of their prayer, in the manner of the 
Christians, to the right and to the left, presumably before 
the two angels appointed for man (287, 7) ; that in the 
prayer tram "CODE they turn to the angels to bring 
their petitions before God's Throne, resting upon the 
Scriptural words of Koheleth x. 20 : — "I3"r TO* D^DDS bj?31 
and taking " winged ones " to mean angels, according to 
Isaiah vi. 2 (287, 10). They further explain that the laws 
of Cleanliness and Uncleanliness are abrogated during the 
exile, asserting : mrta "'Nl nNBtt )>N Bnpan no a-inay nva 
(289, 5) ; they omit an undoubted duty on the day of 
Atonement, viz., the saying of the prayer -pan nwbs 2 i* 1 
place of the daily morning sacrifice, commencing as they 
do with the recital of the confession of sin : while, on the 
other hand, they have made it a duty to repeat at the 
conclusion of the day an unknown prayer called by them 
rfroa (294, 10). 

In the Fourth Chapter Qirqisani gives us a similar 
list of Rabbinic teachings and expressions, but these belong 

1 In that part of the Prayer Book "IDK6? 1113, which introduces the 
Psalms of the Morning Service, it is said : "J^fW "|"I3J? "Ill 'TKOI. The 
Benediction quoted by Qirqisani is one formed after that employed in 
connection with the Haphtara (D"in3l3 nxtl D'31D DW333 "1113 "IB>K). 
It is a question whether such was actually in use at Ms time. 

2 Vide the same expression, 294, 21 ; what is meant is rVW Jl?")"!. 
The prayer in the Liturgy of the Day of Atonement called 1VTIK> 'J1, is 
not regarded by Q. as such, inasmuch as it has included in it the Confes- 
sion of Sin. 

zz 2 

696 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

to the Agada. In this chapter he also begins with the 
book n»lp ""iWtP ; then he adduces expressions from the 
pseud-epigraphic writings fcO^pB '"H niWlN and H2j"D 
SsSEttT (=nb^r\), and from the Talmud. He reproduces 
in detail the legends of Rabba b. Nachmani (he con- 
sistently puts N3"i) taken from Baba-Mezia 86#, and of 
Elieser b. Hyrcanus from B. M. 595. He criticises most 
vehemently the Talmudic account of the origin of the 
Septuagint (Megilla 9a), which he places side by side with 
the Christian account. Lastly, he refers to the extra- 
ordinary appreciation by the Rabbis of the translation of 
the Pentateuch by Onkelos (nan Dlbp3N), selecting a few 
examples of renderings which he considers perfectly 
absurd, viz., that of Gen. xxviii. 21 ; xlix. 11 ; Exod, xii. 48 ; 1 
Deut. xxiii. 18. Qirqisani does not admit the defence 
put forth by some Rabbis that such passages of the 
Agada have to be regarded not as belonging to the 
general traditions, but as the opinions of individuals, or 
that they were the expressions of enemies of the Rabbis, 
which had become incorporated among their own (302, 16). 
With apparent delight and avowed tendency does Qirqi- 
sani include within the limits of his picture the well- 
known differences in matters of ritual, specially between 
the Palestinian and Babylonian Jews. He adduces this 
divergence within the folds of Rabbinic Judaism in the 
matter of religious opinion as a strong argument against 
the genuineness and truth of Rabbinic tradition, and as a 
weapon on his side against the reproach, so fondly levelled 
by the Rabbins at the Karaites, that of want of unanimity 
and certainty (vide 308, 24; 319, 27). According to 
Qirqisani, these differences between the Jews of Palestine 
and Babylon are connected with the ancient feud between 
the schools of Hillel and Shammai (284, 2), and upon 
the strength of this assumption he refers, in the list of 

1 He quotes (as a translation of 13 !>3W *6 bt]} ^3) : fb 10J?B»0 ^D 

Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jeivish Sects. 697 

the various sects, to the said differences in chronological 
order in that part (ch. 10), in which we should have 
expected, according to the introductory survey of the 
Second Chapter, a mention of the Schools of Hillel and 
Shammai, concerning whose controversies he also intro- 
duces several notices (309, 2-18). He derives his know- 
ledge of these differences between the Palestinian and 
Babylonian Jews, as he asserts at the end of the chapter 
dealing with them (311, 15), from the writings of the 
Rabbis themselves, one of their number having collected 
them in a separate volume. In the beginning of the 
Chapter (308, 20) he remarks that these differences amount 
to about fifty, and enumerates amid polemical expressions, 
sixteen of them. Of the fifty-five entries of differences 
found in Joel Miiller's treatise, 1 we find quoted by Qirqi- 
sani the following numbers: 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 
23, 31, 40, 41, 51. He includes two numbers which are 
missing in the sources from which Miiller drew his 
materials. 2 

From what has already been stated, it will easily be 
seen that Qirqisani studied with industry, for polemical 
purposes, the Literafaire of the Rabbis. In addition to the 
Mishna and Talmud, and those works of mystic and pseud- 
epigraph ic literature already mentioned, we learn from the 
text before us of the following works which he cites : — 

1. A book, Nton nST, from which he quotes this ex- 
pression: "You will have no reward for studying and 

> ^NIS" pN m^> ^>33 '33 J' 3 O'JHJD ep^n (reprinted f rom Jhg. VII. 
and VIII. of "Wil), Vienna, 1878, 
2 In a Hebrew translation the two numbers would have to run thus : — 

i. (310, 11), ton mip "iunn *?n rmpn tin nvzh on*n» bn hmk 
onDiN w n wni rom bvinnw hd nae>n ; 2. (310, 5) px "733 »bok 
pit DnTiD btrw ptf *boki wikti roea Hcsn m &ipb onmo. 

This latter number must undoubtedly be based upon some misunder- 
standing. In the original there occurred the word IVJPS&JO (='£» niT'D3 
or 'V '•013), and Q. thoughtlessly took it to mean JVJP3ETI (1355*3. Cf . the 
Commentary "170? n3C?D on Maimuni's Mishne Torah, Hilch. Ishuth, V. 3. 

698 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

searching the Torah, but only for your searching the 
teachings of the Rabbis " (248, 10 : D^b NOD nWT» ^Q Nlbspl 

V3M3-iVm nsoa ">s Nbx nmnba ^s D-nm vnpn ?m i3H -jb). 

The book is evidently the same that, as Azulai (ed. 
Benjacob, II. 62a) remarks, is referred to by Salomon b. 
Al-Kabez in his commentary to Ruth i. 21, by the name 
NOn riK-P 'DO. Harkavy (p. 298, note 10) is, therefore, 
wrong in saying it is quite unknown. It is an ethical 
treatise similar to y-iN T^ ' d O. Two MSS. of the 
Bodleian (No. 120 and 380, vide Neubauer's Oat., Col. 
19 and 83) contain the tractate son /TN")\ between 
the tractates Aboth and Derech Erez. Qirqisani's citation 
is a testimony to its age. 

2. D3rP3 -no (298, 16), not identical with the D37T3 rDDO 
(published in Jellinek's Beth-Hamidrash, I. 147, 9), for 
Qirqisani's quotation is not to be found in the latter. 

3. aNI7N i"QWn, probably an Agadic work based upon 
the Biblical story of King Ahab's repentance (1 Kings 
xxi. 27-29). Qirqisani quotes from this and the afore- 
mentioned work the Agada occurring in both, according 
to which God himself, in Isaiah xxii. 12, makes use of 
weeping and lamentation. This bold Agadic conception 
which presents God as weeping over the destruction of his 
sanctuary, is already met with in older Midrashic writings 
(Vide Die Agada der Palastineiisischen Amoraer, I. 145 ; 
note 4). 

4. An Agadic work known as vn "Oa Yiobn (299, 4: 
•O-i 13a TloVn rpyn dnb /TttN). He quotes from the same 
an Agadic passage which, rendered into Hebrew, would 
probably run thus :— in« ' rrooo rf'aprr nob cmm nt&bt& 
-IOSE7 103 bN-w -on Tot»nb nai -ibwo b33>n ntpsoa 
■room vssb mco -10s dbam ona ^sm -im *? nrron prim 
-p-ma "omnn rfapn ib -ion 'tn -froa nbvn -o nnso 
n"zpn -ionkd jirTO n»»oa nt&m ♦ "on tj obis') -iON3tp 
wbi m»o "o^a nann -ittr» sb noribo ia -onm nt»ob 
mo-rp -moo c s 3«bo nbtrsi -losaa? n"apn lrmtc no na?x> 
ntco ib -10MI rfapn r^sa "W ntcrtc noi "im prro bs 

Qirqisani, (he Karaite, and Ms Work on Jewish Sects. 699 

■o nr -ins -i»st» nn -p-o-r ns n^psi nm ns ^s biaaa 
'131 T»y bs mpn. 

The third point, referred to in the opening words, which 
God learnt from Moses, is missing. 

Qirqisani adds the remark : " I think that this passage is 
taken from the Talmud" (nnbnbs p bltfbs sin ]S 3DmO- 
Perhaps he was thinking of the passage in Berachoth, 32a, 
where we may read almost literally part of the first Agada 
based on Exod. xxxii. 10 and Numb. xiv. 13, 16, and 21. 
The second Agada, which brings into connection Deut. xx. 
10 and Deut. ii. 24 and 26, is to be found in the Midrash 
Tanchuma in the frame of a similar three-fold Agada. 1 
What the " Talmud of the Sons of Rabbi," as the title of 
an Agadic work, is to signify, is beyond even conjecture. 

5. A work of Hai, Chief of the College, in which he 
attributes to R. Jizchak Nappacha, the Palestinian Amora, 
the rules for fixing the Calendar (293, 5). This work of 
Hai the elder (Hai b. David), is known also to later Karaite 
writers, beginning with Jepheth b. Ali, as Pinsker has 
shown (Likkute Kadmonijoth, II., 94, 148-151). According 
to Levi b. Jepheth it was a controversial work against the 

6. Not from personal observation, but from the rela- 
tions of others, Qirqisani was acquainted with a trans- 
lation made by the same Chief of the College, Hai, It is 
said of the latter, that he in conjunction with his father 
(ni2S1 in, perhaps niDST in) he and his brother) translated 
the book of f Anan from Aramaic into Hebrew "osmsbs ]n 
"OS-QSbs ^bs). The two translators, as we are further told 
in this remarkable account, had found nothing in 'Anan for 
which there was not some support in the teachings of the 

1 Taneh. Wtm, fine : ft'ipn DODHl HK>D ilCy Dnm rV'b'C "l 1 ? TX 

my Dr6n -\b ropn V'x Jiyi tirro *»»3 nnxi \n lbxi • it by 

b"H ' Doxto rb&a) -idxjc p n&y vh ncoi ht> wnn nox tod 
"?x-ie» by Tnto ncj>» -p^eV tt by ^x d»3do Mxna rvtry y-n rrspn 
ub&b n'Vx nxipi n<by Dn'pn 1 ? tj/ bx aipn -3 crh icixv Conf. 

Deuteronomiu m Rabba, o. W.Jin. 

700 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

Rabbins, with the exception of one ordinance concerning 
the firstborn of cattle. Ultimately they even found this 
point in the ritual of the Paitan Jannai (i^i fl3MTn '•d)* 
284, 17-22. 

7. The ritual of Eleasar (nrown "»Q ITS^N), ie., of Kalir, 
from which Qirqisani quotes (300, 1-3) a piece belonging to 
the Liturgy of the Day of Atonement, and beginning 
mil \>~iN -f->. He cites from it the words ntCH nmn T»nl 
rniDS tarro. This same quotation, probably derived from 
our author, is to be found several times in Hadassi (vide 
Zunz, Literaturges. d. Syn. Poesie, p. 63). 

Qirqisani in one place makes mention by name of a 
Rabbinic authority (312, 2). I asked — so he relates — 
Ja qub Ibn Ephraim, the Palestinian (*>aMt» 1 7«) : Why do 
you (Rabbis) attract to yourselves the 'Isavites (the ad- 
herents of 'Isa Isf ahani) and intermarry with them, seeing 
that they (as you are well aware) ascribe the prophetic 
spirit to such individuals as were no prophets, namely, 
Jesus and Muhammed ? His reply was : — Because they do 
not differ from us in the matter of the Festivals. Harkavy 
remarks that the person here named, Jacob b. Ephraim, is 
identical with the man whose Commentary to the T. 
Sabbath of the Jerusalem Talmud was brought from Pales- 
tine to Babylon by Salmon ben Jerucham (Pinsker, 
II., 14). 

The most important authority whom Qirqisani follows 
in his account of the sects, is one who, as a philosophical 
writer, is highly esteemed on the Rabbinic side since Bachja 
Ibn Pakuda, viz., David Almuqammes (or, as his name was 
also pronounced Almiqmas, VNDpbbN). Concerning this per- 
sonage, around whom there has gathered some inexplicable 
mystery, we learn from this work of Qirqisani the most 
astounding particulars. In the chapter on Christianity he 
states that he is indebted' for his statements on this subject 
to the accounts of David b. Merwan Al-Raqqi. He then 
proceeds : " This person, known by the name of V^P^bw, 
was a philosopher. First he was a Jew, and then he be- 

Qirqisani, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 701 

came converted in Nisibis to Christianity, under the lead 
of a man named Nana (=Nonnus, vide p. 259, note 3). The 
latter was much esteemed among Christians, as he was a 
perfect philosopher and practised medicine. David Almu- 
qarames was for many years his pupil, and thus it was that 
he learnt the principles of Christianity so thoroughly, and 
distinguished himself in philosophy. Later on he wrote two 
books concerning the Christians, in which he attacked them ; 
both works are known. He further translated from among 
their books and commentaries a Commentary upon Genesis, 
which he termed npibbbw 2STD (Book of Creation), and 
also a Commentary upon Koheleth " (306, 16-23). These 
data impress one with their own historic truth, and we 
have no reason to doubt their being facts. Qirqisani seems 
to have spent some time in Raqqua, David's native place 
( V. Munk, Melanges de Philosophie, p. 474), for he receives 
information from a scholar of this town concerning some 
particulars in the ritual of Jerusalem (310, 29 : ^tP 'OfT) 
np"ibN "T'NtPD fa)- He could thus have gathered from that 
place authentic details regarding the life of Almuqammes. 
With reference to this surname, we have the ingenious 
suggestion of Harkavy, viz., " the leaper, jumper " (cf. 
Arabic V" a P, Aram. N^ap, grasshopper, sauterelle), this sur- 
name having been intended to point to the fact that David 
changed his religion twice, "jumped " from one to the other, 
seeing that he was converted to Christianity, and then re- 
turned to Judaism. David's Commentary on Genesis, to 
which reference is made, Harkavy found quoted in a frag- 
ment of an anonymous Arabic Commentary on Genesis. 
It is stated in this fragment (p. 261) : " David b. Merwan 
Al-Raqqi, called Almuqammes, wrote a book in explana- 
tion of Genesis, which he translated from the commentaries 
of the Syrians." The fragment lays stress upon a charac- 
teristic of this Commentary on Genesis by David b. Mer- 
wan, stating that it is now defective, now unnecessarily 

The work of David b. Merwan, from which Qirqisani 

702 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

drew most of the materials for his chapter on Christianity 
(p. 305-307), he calls in another passage (308-316) 2«ro 
nNisbS' Kitab-al-Dhara, Book of Fierce Attack, a character- 
istic title for a controversial work. He also refers in his 
accounts of individual sects (304, 9 and 16) to David b. 
Merwan as his authority, and we may infer that even in 
those parts in which he does not refer to him specially, he 
drew from him as his source. The same source supplied in 
later times (twelfth Century), Jehuda Hadassi with material 
for Nos. 97 and 98 of his Eshkol Hakkofer on Jewish sects. 
This account, hitherto regarded as the chief source of 
information on the subject, can now be controlled and 
supplemented with the assistance of Qirqisani. 

Qirqisani sets to work chronologically in his accounts 
of the Jewish sects, as well in his introductory survey in 
the second chapter, as in the later chapters devoted to 
the individual sects. Here follows an enumeration of the 
various sects in the same order as he mentions them, with 
details of special interest or such as have been hitherto un- 
known. 1 

1. The Samaritans, " called by the Jewish people £3^113 " 
(282, 16). It is related of them, that to this very day, they 
revere the memory of Sanballat the Choronite as one of 
their princes (285, 21). During their prayers they turn 
to Shilo (303, 11). They reckon the new moon according to 
a calendar supposed to have been fixed by Jeroboam ("TCE 
OWi\ 303, 15). They are divided into two sects, one 
called 1^13, the other 'jMriDT (Dustan= Dositheos). One 
of these sects denies the Resurrection. They, having made 
a few alterations in the text of the Thora, accordingly 
add in Gen. iv. 8, mvm N23 Dp (303, 18-22). 

2. The Sadducees ((nplTsibs)- Zadok, their founder, 
wrote books against the Rabbanites, without adducing 
proofs, in behalf of his views which were opposed to those 
of the Rabbanites (283, 11-13). Boethus, the other founder, 

1 Concerning the Rabbanites, this has appeared in the f oregoinj'' remarks. 

Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 703 

taught, as the 'Ananites and all other Karaites, that the 
Feast of Weeks could only be held on a Sunday (283, 15 ; 
304, 22). The Sadducees prohibited divorce, as Jesus did 
later (304, 3 ; 305, 12) They explained (according to the 
statement of David Almuqammes), the bodily attributes 
ascribed to God in Holy Writ in their literal signification 

3. The Magarites (rpiNaabs)- They are so called from 
the fact that their books were found in a cave ("1N2Q, Hebr. 
msa). The "Alexandrine" belongs to them, whose work is 
known and famous ; it is the best of the " Books of the 
Cave." Then comes a little work called SIT ~1QD, also a 
beautiful book. The remaining works of the Magarites 
are mostly devoted to idle, senseless talk (283, 18-20). It 
is said that some of this sect held laughing as prohibited 
(304, 14). They explain several passages of Scripture in 
an improbable, senseless (allegorical) manner (304, 15). 
They insist upon the bodily attributes referred in Scripture 
to God being taken to have reference to an Angelic Being, 
to whom even the creation of the world is ascribed (304, 
18-21). On this last point, Qirqisani remarks, they agree 
with the view expressed by Benjamin Nehawendi. By the 
term " Alexandrine " (•ONTTODNbN) we have to understand 
Philo, as Harkavy rightly assumes (p. 256, etc.). The title 
of the work BYT» ISO may be read 31*1* T> or SW_ 'D (p. 
257). The phrase " dwellers in caverns " reminds us, says 
Harkavy, of the Egyptian Therapeutse. The references to 
the allegorical explanation of Scripture, and to the angels 
creating the world (Logos, Demiurgos) agree with the 
mention of Philo's name in connection with this sect, which, 
according to Qirqisani's chronology, sprang up before the 
rise of Christianity. The existence of an account of 
Philo and his writings among Jewish circles (which may 
probably have been drawn from Christian literature, through 
David Almuqammes) is a highly interesting piece of 
information in the history of literature, which has become 
known through Harkavy 's edition. 

704 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

4. Jesus and the Christians. In the chapter on 
Christianity, Qirqisani reproduces (as he states in the 
heading of the chapter) mostly that which he found in the 
work of David Almuqammes. It is a short sketch con- 
taining the chief doctrines, and a few details concerning 
the history of Christianity, and it also includes a sort 
of criticism. The religion of the Christians, as at present 
existing, was introduced and diffused by Paul (vbis)- 
He ascribed Divinity to Jesus and the prophetic spirit 
to himself. He denied the necessity for carrying out the 
commands, and taught that religion consisted in humility 
O^NiribN). All animals may be eaten, " from the fly to 
the elephant" (305, 14-19). The later Christian philo- 
sophers OnNSabH riDDNba p vmnnbs) assert, that the re- 
ligious ordinances were given to the Israelites in Divine 
wrath. The Israelites chose these ordinances for them- 
selves because they resembled those of the Sabians ; while 
those of the Egyptians, to which those of the Sabians were 
related, were known to them through their stay in Egypt 
(306, 4-7). The Nicsean Council, at which 318 bishops were 
assembled, determined upon precepts which occur neither 
in the Thora, nor the Gospel, nor in the articles of faith of 
Peter and Paul (vblBl DYiBia 713«p •»&), (306, 29-32). 

5. The Qar'ites (n^ipbw). s0 called because they only 
made use of vessels fashioned out of gourds (Vlp) (283, 
28). They reside near the Nile, twenty parasangs from 
Fostat. According to one writer, they trace their descent 
to Jochanan b. Kareach (Jer. xliii. 4), 1 who emigrated to 
Egypt (283, 30). They are said to celebrate the Sunday 
in addition to the Sabbath, and this is an evidence of their 
leaning towards Christianity (308, 11). If David Almu- 
qammes be right, that Christianity is based upon the 
teachings of the Sadducees and the Qarites, then the 
latter must naturally have existed before Christianity 
(308, 14-18). The exclusive use by them of vessels made 

1 This is also the view of the Karaite lexicographer David b. Abraham 
(vide Pinsker, I. 166). 

Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 705 

of gourds is explained by Qirqisani (308, 2-10) by the 
assumption that the Qar'ites, like the Samaritans, avoided 
as unclean contact with other people, and consequently 
made use of gourd vessels fashioned by themselves. Qir- 
qisani found particulars concerning this sect in a book 
which he calls nsbMpabH Tl^n (308, 14), which, according 
to Harkavy's ingenious conjecture, is the Kitab al maqalat 
(nsbNpobN SNJ-D) of Abu 'Isa al-Warraq, from which also 
Al-Beruni derived many details regarding the Jews 
{Revue des Etudes Juives, XII. 258). 

6. Obadja, known by the name Abu 'Isa Al Isfahan!. 
He declared himself a prophet in the days of the Chalif 
Abdulmelik b. Merwan. As the sign of his mission, his 
adherents regarded the fact which they alleged of his 
having been an ignorant tailor, who could neither read nor 
write, and yet composed books and scrolls without his 
having received instruction from anybody (284, 5-11 ; 311, 
20-23). Relying on Ps. cxix. 164, he prescribed seven 
prayers daily ; upon the strength of a revelation which he 
said was vouchsafed him, he prohibited the enjoyment of 
meat and wine, though having no Biblical evidence for it. 
He regarded the Rabbins as upon the same footing as the 
prophets, and insisted that he received a command from 
God to pray according to the prescription of the Rabbis, 
the Eighteen Benedictions, and the Shema' (311, 23-27). 
He recognised the prophetic mission of Jesus and Muham- 
med, and ordered the Gospel and the Koran to be read 
(312, 5-7). 

7. Abu 'Isa Judgan. His followers call him the Shep- 
herd (^HnbN), i.e., the " Shepherd of the Nation." He is 
said to have been a disciple of Abu 'Isa Obadja (Isfahani), 
and he also ascribed the spirit of prophecy to himself. His 
disciples look upon him as the Messiah (284, 12-14 ; 312, 
16), and they await his return (312, 17). The Judganites 
prohibit meat and wine, and spend much time in praying 
and fasting. As regards Sabbaths and Festivals, they are 
but kept as memorials (312, 17-19). 

706 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

8. 'Anan the Exilarch. Qirqisani enumerates over thirty 
lessons and precepts, mostly belonging to the Ritual, as 
those of 'Anan (312, 23; 313, 30), the first point being an 
Halacha expressed in Hebrew ^ron N^N Nttfn T'S, 1 whereby 
it is permitted to carry on Sabbath articles of light weight. 
He states as a last point, that 'Anan taught the transmigra- 
tion of souls (-iDNanbw) and is said to have written a 
work on the subject. 2 

9. Benjamin Al-Nehawendi. He was well versed in 
Rabbinic utterances and in the knowledge of Scripture. He 
is said to have been judge (N3W , "T) for many years (285, 1-3). 
Qirqisani attributes to Benjamin the second important 
founder of Karaism, about a dozen instructions, mostly 
bearing upon Religious Law (314, 3-24). At the head 
of these stands his well-known doctrine concerning the 
Demiurgos, which reminds us of Philo's Logos : — " God 
created an angel which created the entire universe. It 
is this angel which gave the prophets their commission, 
which allowed miracles to be performed, and gave com- 
mands and prohibitions." 

10. Ismail al-'Okbari (vQ33>bN). He lived in the days 
of the Chaliph Almu' tasim billah (834-842). Most of his 
utterances border on insanity ; nevertheless, he was full 
of self -admiration, and in his writings disparaged 'Anan 
(314, 3). When on the point of death, he is said to have 
bidden his followers place upon his tomb the words : — 2D"i 
V2TID1 bs~it» s (284, 24-28). He did away with np and 
3TD and insisted upon the Bible text being read as it is 
written. This is, however, contrary to what he himself is 
said to have asserted on several occasions, viz., that there 
are passages in Scripture which were originally different 
from what they appear in our present text : e.g. Gen. 
iv. 8, where the words mt£?n N22 were added; Ex. xx. 18, 
where, instead of D^WTi, there stood originally DiSQW; 

1 Perhaps based on Numbers vii. 9, 1KB* f]J"D3. 

2 Vide Schreiner, Der Kalam in der jiidisehen Literatur (Berlin, 1895), 

page 66. 

Qirqisdni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 707 

in Exod. xvi. 35, where was ^P^"* instead of Tb3S ; in Gen. 
xlvi. 15 there used to be QvjtPl awbw instead of Q>wbw 
wbw\ : this is an error of the sacred text (aNTObN ]» taba 
314, 27 — 315, 7). As regards the first point, Qirqis&ni 
remarks (319, 2) that it was also the custom of some 
Karaites in Chorasan to read only according to the Kethib: 
in the same place (319, 3) he says of other dwellers in 
Chorasan, that with regard to the pronunciation of the 
Tetragrammaton they hold that he who does not pro- 
nounce it as it is written (mrf) but as *0"tn, is guilty of 

11. Musa al-Sa'frani (vjfcnDStbs), known by the name of 
Abu 'Imran al-Tiflisi. He was a contemporary of Benjamin 
Nehawencli and Ismail 'Okbari, and came from Baa-dad. 
His surname he received on account of his having settled 
in Tiflis, a town of Armenia, where followers of his are yet 
to be found (283, 8-12). He wrote replies to questions 
attributed by him to Chiwi (Albalchi) (Vndid nfrONia nbl 
rT>Y>n "'bw Hmoa 1 *), and also some leaves concerning the 
permission of enjoying flesh food (315, 21 sq.). 

12. Malik al-Ramli lived at Ramla. His followers are 
still called Ramlites or Malikites (285, 13-14). It is related 
of him that once during a stay in Jerusalem he swore that 
upon the altar of this sanctuary the cock was brought as a 
sacrifice (Cf. Pinsker, II. 84), (315, 23). Neither Malik al- 
Ramli nor Abu 'Imran al-Tiflisi wrote a work upon the 
precepts, and they differed only in a few minor points from 
the general body of Karaites (315, 17-19). 

13. Meshawaih (or Meshuje, mttPD) al-'Okbarl lived, 
as the afore-named Ismail, in 'Okbara (285, 15). 1 His 
opinions on Ritual Law savour of ignorance. An 'Okbarite 
told Qirqisani that Meshawaih adopted and spread many 
of the customs of the Jews living in Gebal (the Median 
mountain lands), among whom there exist many un- 
warranted innovations in the Ritual (316, 1-3). The Qibla 

' Q. mentions nothing about Meshawaih having lived in Baalbek, and 
having, in consequence, borne the name Baalbeki. 

708 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

(facing at the time of prayer) should according to his 
opinion, always be to the west, even though in places 
situated to the west of Palestine, like Egypt and Maghreb, 
the back instead of the face would thus be turned 
towards Jerusalem (316, 11, 13). 

14. Daniel al-Damegani, known as Al-Qumisi (''DftlpbN), 
the last one who formulated a special doctrine, wrote a 
work and found adherents (285, 19, 20). 1 In his view upon 
angels, he deviates from that held by any of the Israelites 
(bw-W bs, Rabbanites as well as Karaites). He regards 
them, namely, not as living, reasoning creatures, entrusted 
by God with missions as prophets are ; but he regards them 
as bodies, by means of which God produces effects, as fire, 
clouds, winds, etc. (316, 17-21). He is said to have taught 
that the obligation to carry out the precepts of religion 
only begins with the twentieth year of one's life (316, 25). 
He forbade certain things to be done on Sabbath, as e.g., 
the washing of the hands with soap (316, 26). He declared 
as permissible the testimony of Mohammedans with regard 
to the observance of the New Moon (316,- 28). 

From the preceding survey we gain an insight into the 
multitude of Jewish sects, as they presented themselves in 
a chronologically arranged table to the imagination of 
Qirqisani. The perspective from which these sects were 
viewed is that of a keen Karaite, to whom the large 
majority of the professors of Judaism appeared but as a 
sect, which had rebelled against the true principles of the 
Faith, represented as these were by the Karaites them- 

In addition to this, small groups which clustered around 
the peculiar opinions of a certain teacher, are treated as 
real sects. It is surprising that only a passing reference 
is made to Chiwi Albalchi, and that he is not spoken of 
under a special heading. As we learn from Saadyah, he 
exercised a great influence, and his heretical opinions 
concerning the Bible had a far different scope from the Bible 
1 Vide above, p. 692 concerning him. 

Qirqis&ni, the Karaite, and his Work on Jewish Sects. 709 

criticism — if we may use the term — equally remarkable, of 
Ismail al 'Okbari. 

I regard it as superfluous to enter into details as to the 
value of Qirqisani's work, made accessible to us by Harkavy, 
for the purposes of correcting and supplementing the 
accounts of Jewish sects which we have hitherto 
possessed, and which, in the main, are drawn from the self- 
same sources. 

One thing is certain, the first part of Qirqisani's Book 
of Lights l will have to be consulted as the most important 

1 Harkavy fixed the text upon the basis of two MSS. which mutually 
supplemented each other. Yet there are laeunce, as both MSS. had them 
in the same places. The Arabic text is written in Hebrew characters ; the 
Teshdid sign is nowhere inserted, which, perhaps, would have done no 
harm here and there. I have found only unimportant printer's errors and 
other corrigenda, and I herewith place the list at the disposal of the 
editor and the readers of the book. 

Page 279, line 5, for DDN^Sa read nDK^Ka 

„ 279, „ 15, „ rpMoa^K „ ftoKrro^N 
„ 280, „ 29, „ ma „ mm 

„ 281, „ 8, „ IN HT „ iN HT 

„ 281, „ 19, delete one DfllK. 

,, 282, „ 6, in place of the words supplied by Harkavy in paren- 
theses, np ^n, supply np &6bk, or np d^bk (cf. 301,5). 

Page 284, line 10, delete the stop before "intbKB. 
„ 284, „ 14, for n^'obni rend nTCi6ni 

rme»» „ .two 

■orv j?d „ w ND 

D .. JO 

Dipjo^s rva „ nD-noW rva 

24, after Tin, a verb has been omitted, say, KlinSC. 
Page 301, line 27, for nS?W read fi]»1B> (= nj?}--", (cf . lblV, p. 287, 19). 
„ 302, „ 22, „ "laNDM „ -QKm(ef. p. 311, 17). 

„ 315, „ 21, „ ri3N13 „ nN3N13 (Harkavy writes thus in Stu- 
dies, und Mittheiluvgen, V. 147, note 2). 
Page 316, line 17, for T\^T\ S read rQJV 

„ 318, „ 36 „ IDt „ "01 (cf. p. 312, 1.9). 
„ 319, „ 29 „ ^1 „ ih 
VOL. VII. 3 A 


„ 15, 


„ 16, 


„ 16, 


„ 22, 


„ 21, 


„ 30, 


„ 24, 

710 The Jewish Quarterly Review. 

source of information for this chapter of Jewish History, 
side by side with, or rather in preference to Jehuda 
Hadassi, Shahrestani, and Makrisi. M. Harkavy deserves 
the thanks of all those who are interested in the history of 
the age of Saadyah, and of Judaeo-Arabic literature in par- 
ticular. May he have the good fortune to bring to light 
yet many such jewels out of those treasures of the St. 
Petersburg Library which are committed to his care and 

Budapest, September, 1894.