The Commentary of Yefet ben Eli- Edited and translated from Judeo-Arabic by Joseph Alobaidi
Preface After more than three decades working on Judeo-Arabic texts it is disheartening to continue facing the same problems, without finding adequate solutions. The importance of Saadia Gaon, Alquerqisani, Salmon ben Yeruham, Yefet ben Eli, Tenchuma Yerushalmi, Almaaribi is beyond dispute. Nevertheless, scholars consecrating their efforts to make available their texts are few and usually reserving only part of their time to such fascinating, yet difficult, endeavors. This, in fact, is the original sin of studies pertaining to the history of biblical interpretations as well as to the history of Judaism. These are two fields where our knowledge is incomplete because of the scarcity of the edited works belonging to that period. Another difficulty comes from the nature of the Judeo-Arabic literature. It is a contrived literature: Using mainly popular Arabic it is written with Hebrew (Aramaic) letters and littered with Hebrew and Aramaic quotations. With few exceptions, the Arabic used is far from classical usage or, often, with many grammatical errors. Wrong plurals, unnecessary vowels, confusion of letters (between ﻅ and ﺽ in Arabic, and, in Hebrew, between ס and ) ֺש are common aspects of the Judeo- Arabic. As to the Hebrew language it is written with the same cursive letters as the Judeo-Arabic. Yet the lemmata of the Song of Songs are written in square-styled letters. The biblical quotations inside the commentary are left in their original Hebrew or Aramaic. The result is a hybrid text where the Arabic is amply contaminated by the Hebrew. It is true that this is the...
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