The Hebrew epithalamium in late antiquity: new evidence from the Cairo Genizah and beyond

Yehoshua Granat*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several anonymous Hebrew epithalamia (wedding poems), preserved in manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah, can be dated, in view of their specific literary characteristics, to Byzantine (and early Muslim) Eretz Israel (Palestine): noteworthy evidence of the flourishing of non-liturgical Hebrew poetry in late antiquity. The article demonstrates and analyses these poems' affinities to Jewish Palestinian Aramaic epithalamia, in terms of subject matter and rhetoric, as well as their resemblance to classical Hebrew piyyut, in terms of language and style. They are also examined against the background of the performance of Hebrew wedding songs as reflected in Talmudic sources, and it is suggested that the influence of such non-liturgical epithalamia can be detected in the earliest known piyyut composition which marks the occasion of marriage, a Qedushta by El'azar birabi Qillir (Kalir). Some comparable characteristics of these non-liturgical Hebrew wedding poems and the epithalamium genre in Greco-Roman late antiquity are also considered. The article includes critical editions and English translations of two Hebrew epithalamia from the Cairo Genizah.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)59-76
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

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